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Hunting the Wind


I am sure by the title you have already made up your mind what the story is about. Most deer hunters know about hunting the wind. But this is a bit different. As summer gives way to autumn, we in the south become blessed with a variety of weather patterns. From low pressure systems moving in from the southwest, to high pressure Canadian air from the northwest. It is these latter ones that often are accompanied with strong winds. It is not uncommon for cold fronts to be accompanied with winds in excess of 15 to 20 miles per hour.

For many hunters this is the death nail on their hunting plans. Often thwarting otherwise well-made strategies. However, if used appropriately, a high wind doesn’t have to be the end of a planned hunt.

I know from experience that hunting in high winds can bring about motion sickness if sitting high in a loblolly pine tree over a well-established food source. None of us enjoy sitting in a stand while the trees are swaying five to eight feet in each direction. Visions of rescuers discovering our body pinned to the ground beneath a huge tree creep into our minds. Not to mention the inability to execute an accurate shot while the tree is swaying. It’s far better to hunt closer to the ground when the wind picks up.

Deer also do not like the high winds, their senses are diminished, scent is blowing all around and their ability to detect danger is skewed. Couple this with the noise and deer become very paranoid during these windy days.

In the piedmont and mountainous regions, you will more often find the bucks lounging in the deeper valleys, drains, and gullies. These places of refuge seem to keep the deer happier and more confident during this time. If you haven’t established stands in these areas yet, now is the time to get into these areas and hunt. Places where the wind swirls on more calm days are good bets on blustery days. The wind is strong and steady preventing the swirling action often associated with these cliffs, draws and drains. Look for the bucks to be nestled right up against the banks, or edges of these sharp terrain changes. Bucks who normally bed along ridges will move to more secure places during this these wind storms.

And they will hold very tight, uncertain if they can trust their noses and ears to what they smell or hearing. Most notable, these bucks know where to head during this time, they have locations already selected for just this weather, knowing or at least having a good idea where these are can be very beneficial.

While some have written that bucks will seek thick shelter during wind storms, my experience tells me otherwise. It seems in the southern pine plantation where many of us hunt, the planted pines are abandoned during this time, and bucks are found in more open country. Whether it’s due to the constant movement of the thick pines or the uncertainty of the scattered scent, bucks tend to seek out more open terrain when the wind blows.  I have seen and killed more bucks in the open hardwoods during windy conditions than anywhere else.

Here more than any other time you will want to use the wind to your advantage. If you suspect a location where a big buck may seek refuge during these windy days, move in slowly. I often seek out these days to employ still hunting. The wind will hide my noise and with everything in the woods moving, my advance is more subdued. Plan your movements with the gusts, when the wind is at its peak; move some, when the wind stops, you stop. Try and move from tree to tree, looking as far ahead as you can possibly see. I like to stop behind trees big enough to hide my outline, then peeking around the tree I will use my binoculars to study everything I can in front of me. This can take as long as five to ten minutes. But when using this technique, it’s not about covering a lot of ground, it’s about covering the ground well. It is not uncommon for a morning hunt to cover only a few hundred yards over several hours. But I know that when I have completed the section, I have not left a leaf uninvestigated or rock unturned. If I didn’t kill a buck in there, it’s simply because he wasn’t there.

If you do not prefer to hunt this way, sitting on stand can also be productive, now more than ever you will want to get in to these areas and sit – using a method I call “turkey style”. I take my seat normally used for turkey hunting and plop myself against a giant hardwood and watch the drains from a safe distance. I know if a deer moves he will move along this deep ditch, staying out of the blowing wind. Trying as best he can to use the terrain to funnel scent to him while feeling safe.

Sure, windy days are not the best days to be afield, they can be very frustrating for hunters. But every day we can spend afield is a great day. Get out there and enjoy the day, you will never learn to hunt these types of days if you never hunt them. As I have said in previous stories, hunting during these “off weather” days brings a new and exciting appreciation to the outdoor experience.