Busted! That’s the thought that goes through my mind on those occasions that I see a beautiful buck walking down a game trail towards my tree stand with his head down feeding on whatever may be along his way. Then all of a sudden, his head comes up, there’s a slight twitch, and in 3 great strides he is into the dense brush or over a fence, leaving me cursing under my breath. It’s my own fault as it is quite obvious he caught my scent and took off like a bat out of hell. Whether you are hunting with a bow from a tree stand, or at greater distances with your favorite deer rifle, not understanding how wind direction and velocity plays a crucial part in hunting Whitetail Deer, Elk or just about any similar game animal, is probably one of the greatest reasons for going home disappointed. Using the wind to your advantage just requires a little understanding and some common sense.
Wind velocities also have a great effect on how scent disperses, light winds and thermals can dictate which tree stand, or direction you enter a hunting area from as opposed to winds of greater speeds. Thermals are usually lighter winds that are generated from air that is warming or cooling, often depending on the time of day. Much of the land I have access too is in hilly areas or in valleys, so understanding thermals is of great importance. In the morning when it begins to warm, this warming air will tend to rise and move up a hill, while in the evening a cooling trend will let air drop back down the hills and into valleys. By understanding this you will know whether to hunt above or below specific areas or deer trails.
When wind is moving at higher velocities, it’s important to understand how the topography can affect its movement and thereby the scent that this wind carries. Look at a stream and see how various rocks and obstructions change the course of the water before it converges again. Now picture that as wind moving around hills, cornfields and stands of trees. Trees and foliage can push air higher or force it down quicker along with your scent. Get the picture? For this reason I usually have several tree stands set up so I can take advantage of the current and prevailing wind conditions. I may also consider several possible directions to get to that stand as well. If it gets too windy or blustery then its quite possible deer will feel more comfortable staying bedded down to avoid make a mistake as its harder to pick up scent and sound in really windy conditions of perhaps over 20 mph.
Try and do as much scouting as possible before the season begins. Using Game camera’s that log the time and temperature can actually be a great help, especially if you log your results in order to figure out the Whitetail Deer movement patterns in specific conditions. By doing this and setting up several stands or blinds to take advantage of your recognition of these patterns you can really enhance your chances of a
successful hunt. Don’t forget that humidity will also play a huge part in the deer’s ability to not only pick up scent in the air, but on the ground as well. Humid air or a slight mist will hold scent on the longer and also give a Deer a better idea of the direction and movement of any potential danger. Think of an old fashioned Television antenna that when turned around a bit, the picture becomes clearer. Older, Trophy Deer have learned how to use their senses better, that is how they grew to be Trophy Deer and harder to harvest. This doesn’t always hold true during “the Rut” as adult Bucks can become just plain stupid when their need to reproduce takes over for common sense.
Let’s briefly talk about what we wear when going into the woods hunting. The bottom line is although we can minimize our scent to a great extent we really never completely eliminate it, so no matter what products you use, it important to use it in conjunction with an understanding of wind direction. When you wash your clothes make certain you are using a scent free or scent eliminating detergent, meadow fresh ultra-Tide will not do! Make certain all your clothes are scent free and its best to place them immediately in a sealed plastic bag to avoid them being contaminated with any household scents. I prefer to put on my layers of clothes once I get to where I am parking the car and do it outside. I also make sure I take a shower before I go Deer hunting and use only scent free soaps and shampoos. Remember, the less attention you pay to clothes and hygiene, the more you need to pay to wind direction. They even have scent eliminating chewing gum. Once you are geared up and ready to move into your hunting area, it’s always a good idea to spray down with a scent eliminating spray. Don’t forget your boots as they will give you away to any Whitetail Deer that cuts your path. Many people prefer rubber boots to minimize this possibility.
Ok, you are now ready to move to a deer blind or tree stand but which one? You should have already chosen this by checking wind directions. There are even apps for smart phones that use GPS and weather stations to give you wind direction at your location, but I still prefer a Puff bottle filled with some type of scent free powder that when squeezed will show you the direction of the wind at your location. Watching leaves and grass works too. Move towards the stand that will place you on the downwind (or semi-downwind) side from the Deer trail you are covering. Deer coming from the upward side will have difficulty smelling you if you have prepared properly. I have had Deer walk right under my tree stand when I was positioned properly in regards to wind direction. I have seen them walk by me and then pick up my scent about 20 yards downwind and then take off like a bat out of hell!
Like the wind these rules concerning wind can change quickly depending upon velocity and other conditions and terrain. These are just some general rules to assist you in understanding how to hunt Whitetail Deer by understanding wind.
While so many of us are grabbing whatever little bit of summer that is left by hanging out at the beach or the local swimming pool, there are those that are quietly preparing for the upcoming hunting season. These folks are trying to gain every little edge they can, which means more than just checking your equipment and wondering where in the basement you put your hunting boots or walking through your local Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s to see what sales are going on to buy the newest equipment for this season. Here are some great tips to help you gain an edge over your quarry, and over the other guy who just doesn’t think about putting in a bit more effort.
One of the first thing hunters need to do is to decide how they are going to hunt this season, and if you are planning on being one of the growing number of bow hunters heading into the woods this year, you will have to take even more time for preparation. Practice, practice, practice; and look over your equipment to replace anything that may be worn or troublesome before it causes you aggravation. You need to get out and shoot at least once or twice a month, I prefer shooting outdoors, but if you can only get to an indoor range, so be it, but remember, there isn’t any wind indoors. The key to successful bow hunting is knowing what your comfortable distance to your target is and being able to accurately judge that distance accurately. At the range you will have your distances marked for you but remember that you are shooting flat. If at all possible try shooting from a tree stand outdoors to more precisely simulate your hunting situations. A rangefinder is of great help if you are having trouble correctly judging distances. When you are sighting in your bow get a good idea of how small corrections on each sight pin changes your shot. I have gone back to using only one pin that is sighted in for 20 yards which is an easy shot for me and I am very accurate with only slight trajectory changes from this one pin. After 30 yards, I am hesitant to take a shot in wind beyond 20 yds as my average ability could make this an irresponsible shot. One or two pins should cover most situations with dedicated practice. If you don’t have a range finder, count out the comfortable yardage from your stand and place a marker there for some idea of distance when hunting.
Whether you are hunting with a gun or a bow, it is important to practice from where you will be hunting, this means the tree stand or the ground blind, not in the exact spot you will be hunting. I tend to frown from practicing in the exact spot you plan to hunt as even though it may be a while before you use that spot to hunt, why take the chance on polluting the area with scent, or giving the critters something to get nervous about. If you do go to place your tree stand or ground blind in the woods, (and perhaps place a trail cam), then bring along your weapon by all means, and make certain you have adequate shooting lanes and are comfortable with the stand, Also remember that the prevailing winds may be a bit different by the time hunting season rolls around, so take that into consideration when placing your tree stand or ground blind. If you are hunting on public land and must remove your blind each time you hunt, try marking your trail with tape, reflecting tacks or something that will assist you to find your spot. Also become proficient in setting up your ground blind or tree stand in the dark. This you can do in your backyard or a local park, the quicker and quieter, the better.
I have recently begun hunting with my Ruger Super Red hawk .44 cal handgun with leupold scope, and god only knows that I need lots of practice with this. I will try to get to the range a few times a month before season opens to know what my comfortable shooting distance is and how many yards out I feel I can take a responsible shot. I’ve used the term responsible shot a few times in this article, there is nothing sensible in taking a shot that requires more luck than skill. If you aren’t reasonably certain you will make a clean kill, don’t take the shot, there is no feeling worse when hunting than wounding an animal that you will not be able to harvest. If you are planning on hunting with a rifle or shotgun, practice at the outdoor range and know the distance and comfortable range for the weight of the bullet you will be using. The folks at Bass Pro Shops have helped me a lot with instruction on various techniques for using my Ruger Super Red hawk, and I now feel comfortable out to 35 yds. Funny, all I had to do is ask for some assistance at the range, don’t be afraid to ask for help!
It is so important to do some serious scouting well before the season opens not only to familiarize yourself with the area so you can easily and safely get to and from your stand but to also learn what animals are frequenting the area. In addition to placing a few inexpensive trail cameras in the area, you may want to take some walks or sit in an area that you have found deer sign so as to actually see some of the deer moving about. This is done well in advance of the season as we do not want to pollute the actually area we would like to hunt. Take a leisurely walk through the woods and look for deer scat, deer scrapes and converging game trails. These are usually great spots to place a trail camera. My good friend and hunting buddy Dave Sumner, owner of Turkey Dave’s Footrests and Flirty Girty Panfish jigs in Wisconsin always has a hot cup of coffee ready in the early morning hours when I visit. This and an extra set of binoculars and then we are off to ride around the local farms and fields in order to see what the coming dear season may hold for us, (before he kicks my butt in a “friendly” round of golf). The point is; do your homework, see where the deer want to be, and with the camera, when they want to be there. Look for a good tree or area for your tree stand or ground blind and perhaps cut some shooting lanes.
OK, so the key tips for a successful deer hunting season are practice, practice, practice, make sure you are skilled enough with your weapon of choice and the maximum comfortable distance for taking a shot whether it be bow hunting or rifle. Familiarize yourself with the area you wish to hunt, including scouting possible locations for a tree stand or ground blind. Place trail cameras at those areas in which you have found substantial deer activity, such as deer scrapes, game trails and bedding areas, this includes scouting the area from time to time with binoculars in advance of the hunting season. If you put the time and effort into preparing properly, you will not only give yourself the best chances for harvesting a great buck, but you will more than likely have a nice end of summer and be ready for an even better fall!
We may see someone walking into the woods with visions of a 10 point bucks dancing through a hunter’s head on the first day of deer season, only to see that same person walk out of the woods wondering where all the deer went, or what happened to make them miss an easy shot. Well, even a even a broken clock is right twice a day and even someone new to deer hunting can also just be in the right place at the right time, but it is still preferable to take the time to learn deer hunting tips, and basic woodsmanship in order to prepare for deer hunting season.
The basics or deer hunting 101 should begin by finding areas that not only have game activity but that you also have permission to hunt. If you are scouting public land, make sure that hunting is permissible on that land, and if there are any special conditions or quota restrictions that must be considered to deer hunt. I was very lucky to have two friends who spent the time to teach me what to look for when pre-season scouting and teach me where to place my tree stands for deer hunting. Being from Miami, Florida this took quite a few trips up to Wisconsin and many hours in the woods.
It’s not enough just to know that there are deer in the area merely by seeing tracks on game trails, you will want to know where they are going and why. Pay attention to any nearby fields that have been harvested or have crops of corn or soy bean or some other food source that deer will be attracted to. You will want to know about nearby water sources as well. Once you have figured out all these possibilities, it then narrows down to a situation of not so much where a deer will come by, but when. Aerial maps are great for finding natural funnels to certain areas. A much overlooked component to deer hunting but incredibly important is knowing the prevailing winds for the time of the year and that area. Setting up with the wind at your back is like sending a telegram to the deer telling them exactly where you are. There are products on the market that can help mask your scent and scent blocking clothing that can assist in minimizing the scent dispersal, but these should be used in conjunction with proper tree stand and blind placement to give the deer hunter the best possible chance of success.
Now that you have decided on several prime pieces of real estate that you feel will give the best chance of harvesting a deer you will need to decide whether you will be hunting from a ground blind or a tree stand. There are several options for each. Bow hunters tend to prefer tree stands as they give a much better view of any animals coming in and they assist in scattering your scent above and away from any nearby deer allowing them to come very close to the stand without detecting your presence. You will also be above the animal’s line of sight, so if you don’t twitch around too much it will be much harder for a deer to realize you are there. If you are planning on a tree stand, take into consideration your physical abilities in order to determine what type of stand best suits you, and the method of climbing into that stand as well. Before climbing into the stand it is good practice to mark off some yardage to assist in properly gauging distance for a shot. Remember, you may be 20’ above the ground so take all recommended safety precautions seriously. If you are hunting from a ground blind it is important to position the blind so that you have a good field of view and clear shooting lanes, and don’t forget enough brush behind you to breakup the outline of the blind. If you are not using a portable climbing stand, you may consider placing several stands (on private land) depending on conditions and wind directions and use the one that seems most optimal for that day.
The clothing that will be worn on this deer hunting adventure depends upon where and the time of year your will be hunting. Boots can not only be a lifesaver by being comfortable and waterproof, but depending on what kind you are wearing they may assist in keeping your scent as you walk into the woods down to a minimum. I take my stealth ability very seriously and shower with unscented soap and shampoo as well as doing laundry with unscented detergent. I then immediately place my clothing in a sealed bag and do most of my dressing once I park my car and prepare to move out. This was very awkward on afternoon when I was stopped for blown brake light. Some of my friends tend to think less of their scent in favor of properly utilizing wind direction. Weather can change significantly during the hunting hours and it pays to dress in layers as it’s much easier to remove layers in a tree stand or blind then to put more on. Be prepared for most possibilities including rain. Gloves, boots and layers of scent blocking clothing should work nicely and be given considerable thought. You may also want to spray yourself down with one of the many scent blocking products available before heading into the woods.
Finally, if you are new to deer hunting, I will give you this word of advice from personal experience, if the gods are with you and you do harvest a deer, it might pay to have a plan with your buddies to come and assist in the tracking and field dressing of the animal. This is especially true if you have never done this before. My first deer with a bow is a source of amusement to my friends whom not only had to calm me down (yes, I called them from my cell phone!) but before they could help track and teach me to field dress the animal, they had to help get me down from the tree stand as I was having a mild panic attack! All in all, I put in the time and did my homework which put me in a position to succeed. If you take the time and prepare properly, you may not be guaranteed a big buck, but you will be guaranteed your best chance and have a heck of a great time in the process.
** We encourage all accomplished hunters to add to this article with comments so that your experiences may help others enjoy the great outdoors!