Wind GameBy Scott Stankowski - November 17, 2016
The weather for that day is cold and brutally windy. Winds in excess of 40 mph will affect hunters and the landscape. Who wants to hunt in that? No one does, and in fact weather does keep people indoors, but if it is the only day you get off or it is the opening day of the season you might head out.
How you prepare for such weather and go about hunting in it can determine your success. Two years ago I stayed in on a cold very windy day during the rut. My cameras told me it was a huge mistake and I would have cashed in on two different respectable bucks at two different stand locations.
I think first and foremost a hunter needs to consider the elements and how they affect themselves. Most hunters will look at the temperatures and forget about the wind chill. By the time it starts getting good and light out they are already shivering in their boots. Tack on the mild fall we have had and no one has experienced really being cold yet. If you are like me, that typically means you have to learn from trial and error. Depending on your hunting location you may be protected from the wind by a blow down or your stand. Chances are you will have to go back and get warm clothes or cut your hunt short, unless you plan wisely.
Keep in mind that the wind will whisk away all the heat you are producing so keeping those warm temperatures inside of your shell are important. Layering clothing and providing some sort of a wind break is important.
Do not forget to stay hydrated, as the wind will take the moisture away from you. A dehydrated hunter is a weary hunter.
The elements will wear on you mentally. A sharp alert hunter, will notice more deer and be more effective in making a quick clean kill. That may mean limiting your exposure to the elements and the time you spend on stand. Hunting alert on stand for two hours is better than being sleepy and out of it for four. Other hunters in the area may be moving around a bit more due to their own shortcomings in dealing with the wind. Keep that in mind as you decide when and where you move to.
Safety should also be considered. If you are hunting in an elevated stand be sure that it is safe. In addition make sure the tree itself is safe. Are there trees nearby that could fall on you? I have hunted in strong winds before and have seen trees go down, if you are near one of those you have no chance in making it so taking an inspection above of dead limbs, snags or even trees is important. With the leaves off of the trees it is difficult to tell if a tree or branch is alive. Take a close look and see if you can find the buds for next spring indicating that the tree is alive. Look on the ground underneath to see if there are already some branches that have fallen. Be sure to tie into the tree, the wind can affect your balance on stand and if you have been sitting for a while and finally do stand-up you should be secure.
Finally and most importantly is considering what the wind does to deer. Common human sense says they move less because that is what we would do. Surprisingly, research shows that they may actually move more in these conditions. I would guess it is easier for deer to detect what is around them with a stronger wind. They live 24-7 in the elements and a hard wind does not bother them the same way it does to us. With cooler temperatures and wind chills the deer will need to keep their energy reserves going and may be seen in the wind feeding.
According to expert whitetail author, Dr. Robert Sheppard his research shows that deer do increase activity in the wind. Contrary to belief as the wind speed increases, his research shows that deer sightings increase. If that is the case then a hunter needs to stay alert and be ready for the opportunity when it presents itself. Sitting on a stand listening for a deer to come is ideal but that will never happen in a strong wind. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to work a piece of property on a slow walk into the wind. Deer are on high alert and will be looking downwind of them while they use their nose upwind. Use that knowledge to your advantage.
Playing the high wind game is more complicated but by putting together an more comprehensive game plan where you take care of yourself, stay on high alert, stay safe and understand deer movement may put a tag on the buck of your dreams.
Until next time, shoot straight.