Like all animals–predator or prey–deer live with their noses to the wind. They can smell a thousand times better than you and I. Many hunters have experienced the frustration of observing a big buck coming straight toward their tree stand, then suddenly bolting away for no discernible reason. In hearing, vision, and especially scent, deer have humans beat. Deer practically read the wind as you would the newspaper. Here are the ways you can expect the wind to affect your deer hunt.
Upwind and Downwind
When moving through the woods, you want to move upwind toward the deer–that is, you want the wind blowing toward you from the direction of where the deer is located. If deer are upwind from you, they are less likely to smell you since the wind is blowing your scent away from them. When they are downwind from you, and you are upwind, they easily detect your presence. Even the lightest breeze will carry your scent toward them.
The Wind’s Effect on Deer Movement
Typically deer move during the dusk and dawn hours, which have a predominant effect on their daily routine. However notable changes in wind speed and direction can influence deer behavior, as they count on it for information about food and water supplies, predators, etc. With this in mind, if the wind changes, you may want to adjust your behavior as well.
High Wind Hunting
Many hunters call it quits in high winds, thinking the hunt is hopeless. But that’s not true at all. According to an article in “Outdoor Life,” Pope and Young records affirmed that a multitude of monster bucks were taken after a high wind of 30mph had decreased down to 10mph or less. As the determined hunter, you can either be patient, and wait out the wind from your tree stand, or you can work with the wind, and hunt the old fashioned way.
Stalking prey may be an art form, but it can yield awesome results if you use the wind to your advantage. A strong head wind will carry your scent behind you as you move, and cover any noise you might make. Deer will be sticking to areas that provide shelter from the wind, so think “low.”; deer gravitate toward lower ground in heavy wind, particularly toward bowls, drainage valleys, and slopes with thick tree lines that reduce the wind and its ability to carry their scent toward you.
Understanding how thermals work can help too. A thermal is air that travels up and down, rather then the more easily recognized sideways action of the wind. These rise as the sun warms the day, and settle as the sun sets. Deer are sensitive to this change, and it is part of the reason they move the most during the mornings and evenings. A good rule of thumb is to hunt on high ground in the mornings, and lower elevations in the later hours of the day.
The Wind is Your Friend
Being an amateur meteorologist and planning a hunt around well-researched weather patterns will improve your hunting success rate, as will being able to adapt to unpredicted changes in wind directions and speed. Keep the wind in your face, use it to your advantage, and bag that trophy deer.