Can you hunt deer during the rain? Hunting deer in cold, rainy and windy conditions is possible, in fact, it might even be one of your most successful and rewarding experience as a hunter. The harder you work for your prize, the higher sense of achievement you will experience.
The fact is, any type of inclement weather conditions affects both hunter and deer, but unless the weather conditions are extreme, it will be more of an inconvenience to the hunter than to the deer.
Therefore, harsh weather conditions and especially strong winds and hard rain can demotivate hunters to leave the campsite to hunt and some even pack up and leave.
This might not be necessary at all since deer will be more active all day during steady, continuous soft rain, even if it lasts for days. They have to eat and socialize, so, if there is a quick, hard rainstorm, just hang in there and wait until it passes.
Do deer move in the rain? Although it is true that deer movement is not determined only by weather conditions, it sure plays a significant role in it.
Most experienced hunters agree that rain is no deterrent to deer movement unless it pours down cats and dogs. Of course, when that happens, wildlife activity will stall momentarily until the storm is over.
The reason being, that during periods of heavy rain, deer have difficulty smelling, seeing and hearing approaching predators and would thus be less active until the rain subsides.
However, as mentioned above, the opposite is true when it comes to light rain and drizzles as deer would simply go about with their daily business as usual without changing their habits.
Now, the problem comes in when we attempt to define what “light” rain is. See, what might seem like a real soaker to us humans, might only be “light” rain in deer language.
There’s one additional and interesting phenomenon that is observed by most hunters. Deer seem to have some instinctive sixth sense warning them about approaching storms and they tend to feed more actively during the couple of days prior to storms.
It is suspected that they exhibit this behavior as a precaution in case the storm lasts long, preventing them from leaving their bedding areas to feed.
In short, deer are active in the field every day except:
- on very hot days,
- on extremely windy days,
- during torrential downpours.
Rain and more so light rain seems to make deer more relaxed and less wary. We can only guess the reason for this; which could be that the continuous hum of the rain through the woods together with the movement of twigs and brush caused by falling raindrops, and the dreary appearance of the woods gives animals the impression that everything is just fine.
Although deer move a lot in cold weather and even in light rainy conditions, strong winds on the other hand, might discourage them from leaving their bedding areas.
Just the same as during rainstorms, they tend to bed down during strong winds, because it limits two of a deer’s most important senses, being that of hearing and smell.
Consequently, when the wind is strong enough to snap off branches from the trees, deer will rarely move.
An interesting observation that was made regarding deer movement in strong wind, showed that during the initial first days of high winds (above 25mph), deer movement was quite limited. However, when the strong wind persisted, deer seemed to become accustomed to it and moved away.
One contradictory study conducted in Oklahoma indicates that there is little change in the distance traveled by whitetails as a result of wind speed. Although fewer deer is spotted when the wind is blowing, they concluded that deer movement at dawn and dusk mostly stayed the same regardless of wind speed or direction.
The truth is, temperature, barometric pressure and humidity all influence deer movement significantly and thus it cannot be attributed solely to wind speed.
How do windy conditions influence your hunt?
One of the first things you should do when hunting in heavy wind is to get on the ground since high winds will cover your sound and movement to a large extent. Additionally, if it is a steady headwind, it will guarantee that your scent stays behind you.
In windy conditions, you may hunt deer anywhere between bedding and feeding areas that they can move without being exposed to gusty winds.
Without a doubt, deer move well in light snow conditions and let’s face it, one of the most beautiful scenarios for any deer hunter is a buck coming through timber with a thin layer of snow covering its back.
Consequently, as a deer hunter, you want to get out there and hunt without giving a second thought to the fact that it snows.
However, just as expected, their movement and behavior patterns change when heavy snow storms are imminent. Similar to other extremely harsh weather conditions, such as heavy rain and robust winds, we often see deer increasing their feeding activities as soon as they sense a looming snow storm.
Before a storm arrives, they will also feed throughout the day as opposed to feeding primarily at dawn and dusk.
Interestingly enough, they are also observed feeding heavily and vigorously after the passing of a snowstorm. The reason for this being that they, quite expectedly, are rather hungry after spending long periods of time bedding during severe storms. This is a result of the fact that unlike humans, they have a high metabolic rate and therefore burn energy at a much faster rate than us. Furthermore, they have no way of gathering or storing food for consumption at later times.
Now, for a hunter, this is crucial information since it creates the opportunity to hunt more intensively right before and immediately after a severe storm.
Another phenomenon hunters should consider, is where deer “yard” up during the extremely harsh winter conditions in especially Maine, Michigan, and Minnesota. Deer yard habitat basically means the places where they go in order to avoid strong winter winds and deep snow.
Ideal conditions and areas for deer yards are valley bottoms with conifer cover because:
- it could have up to 40% less snow than hardwood forests,
- Cedar, hemlock, fir or spruce is perfect for shielding deer from snow.
Hunting Strategies for Cold Weather
Make no mistake, deer are more active during cold weather, making it an ideal time to hunt because when temperatures are too high, the chances are slim that they will step out to feed.
To make your hunt easier you should be paying attention to:
- Finding areas rich in grains, for example, corn and soybeans since they contain much-needed carbohydrates.
- Finding water sources which are not all frozen up.
- Scout for areas rich in forbs.
- Get as close to their bedding areas as you possibly can.
- This time of year doe fawns are entering estrus so throwing an estrus bleat at bucks could motivate them to get out of bed early.
Hunting Strategies for Rainy Days
Yes, you will get wet, but since a successful hunt will not happen if you are on the couch, you should step into your rain boots and get out there.
Most avid hunters have their own personalized hunting strategies for rainy days, but there most certainly are generally accepted guidelines which will add to the success of your somewhat wet hunting expedition.
First of all your primary consideration should be to establish whether it is a light rain or drizzle, moderate rain or heavy rain since that will determine your hunting strategies.
Now, for light rain, your strategy need not really be adapted since it causes little change in deer movement patterns. If any, it could cause their feeding activities to be extended into the late morning or early evening which is, in fact, beneficial to any hunter.
Moderate rain, on the contrary, requires some improvisation on your side. This is the time when you should locate corn fields, reverting pastures, field edges, pine stands and clear-cuts. In such conditions and locations, your best option is to implement still-hunting, but keep in mind that your eyes and not your legs are now key to your success.
Finally, it is never ideal to hunt in heavy rain downpours. Deer will most certainly seek cover and protection which makes spotting them extremely difficult.
Experienced hunters agree that when hunting in the rain, you could easily leave behind some of your usual gear such as electronic equipment, wallet, keys, pocket knives, camera, cooking gear, space blankets or any other items that could be damaged/ruined by rain. You basically need only the gear needed to shoot, tag and bag your buck.
Since getting wet is a given, you might want to consider adapting your clothing to make provision for this. Some hunters prefer wearing wicking-type long johns to keep them warm even when wet. In addition to that, you may choose to wear your usual camouflage pants and shirt, add a fleece jacket to that, as well as a hat, a face mask, and gloves.
Equipment that you do should pack:
- Your bow or gun,
- A sharp knife,
- Bottle of water,
- Climbing stand,
- Strap-on umbrella to prevent your boots filling up with icy water.
Rainy weather conditions will also affect the places that you will be hunting in. Your focus will be on previously scouted trails, runs, and feeding areas, but make sure to include ridge spines, saddles, river crossings field edges and almost any areas close to natural food sources.
Then, of course, there is a distinct advantage to hunting in rainy conditions – you can hunt in places such as small woodlots, urban areas and almost any other site where human activity normally prevents serious hunting.
When it gets down to specific tactics, it is important to keep in mind that rainy conditions make it difficult to track down a wounded buck. The most efficient way to solve this problem is to pay close attention to your shooting lanes. Avoid long-range opportunities and pick your shots so that after climbing down from your stand you merely have to walk over and tag your deer.
In addition to this, you should also consider aiming right behind the shoulder, in the middle of the deer. Placing a shot here will result in killing the deer.
Hunting Strategies for hunting in the Snow
What makes this one of the most challenging hunts, is that footpaths are covered up with snow. However, as difficult as it might seem to hunt in the snow, it does offer distinct advantages too.
Firstly, deer movement changes and so we find them grouping up, becoming more mobile and feeding for hours at a time. The result being, they will be out in the open for longer periods of time feeding much later into the morning.
Secondly, tracking deer in fresh snow is incredibly easy. You will know where they are going and thus where to find them. It is crucial though, that you are able to tell how fresh the tracks are, otherwise, it will send you on a wild goose chase without any success.
Thirdly, blood trails in the snow are priceless once you have placed your shot. It makes tracking down your prey so much easier.
Tips for hunting deer in the snow:
- Avoid areas of hard, crusty and frozen snow and rather go for wet snow as it means soft food, more movement and requires less energy to stay warm.
- Locate winter whitetail food sources such as hardwood regen, shrub tips and upland mixtures.
- Morning temperatures of 35 degrees or higher is a huge motivation for increased deer activity.
So far, we have established that hunting in light to moderate wind, rain and snow can be successful, rewarding, and sometimes even advantageous.
There is no doubt about it that we humans love our comfort. And as much as we acknowledge that hunting out in cold, rainy conditions is fun, we still like to add some degree of comfort to it.
Comfort when hunting in the rain includes proper preparation, keeping warm and dry on the stand, as well as being confident with your shotgun, bow, boots, gloves, face mask, hat, and jacket, in fact, each and every part of your equipment. I found this Jteng Rain Poncho on Amazon that is perfect for hunting in rainy weather.
An important aspect to remember when preparing and practicing pre-season is to keep it as close to the real thing as possible. The more realistic your approach and preparations are, the more comfortable and successful your hunting trip will be.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that proper preparation not only consists of your equipment but also your gear. In order to be as comfortable as possible when hunting in unpleasant weather conditions, you have to make provision for a super-efficient raincoat, adequately warm pants, hood up, and hood down, add a long-billed hat and definitely throw in efficient rain boots too.
Can deer smell better in the rain? Unfortunately, deer’s smell is negatively affected by rain. The most basic explanation is that scent molecules are literally washed from the air which makes it difficult for them to smell.
Do Deer move more on full moons? Although it used to be believed that moon activity influences daily deer movement directly, more recent research explains that the moon is merely a minor, secondary factor. It is now widely accepted that additional factors such as wind speed, hunting pressure, and air temperature are important contributing elements too.
Although daily deer activity might not be determined by mere moon phases, most hunters agree that moon phases can be significant in predicting rutting seasons in northern latitudes, i.e. the Northeast, Midwest and Northwest.
To learn more about rutting season, check out this article, about hunting during the rut.
Making use of eight years of data, accurate predictions can be made when the rut will be the “hottest.” According to research conducted by Alsheimer, “serious rutting activity begins shortly after the “rutting moon,” the second full moon following the fall equinox (September 21), and peak breeding will occur during a two-week period starting one week after the rutting moon.”