By Mark Fike
I have been deer hunting for over 40 years now and I have heard countless theories, stories and opinions about the best times to go deer hunting. Arguably the rut is hands down a great time to be in the deer woods. However, I would say that almost any time you can go hunting is a good time to go.
Some people would argue and say that windy, or rainy and windy days should not be wasted in the woods. I would agree only part of the time with that statement. However, I have had great success putting meat in the freezer on windy days.
To be successful on windy days you have to learn how to stalk and how to become part of the woods and be extremely observant. Deer probably get a bit more nervous on windy days. Some people claim they will bed down more on such days. I prefer to think that they are more alert but during the early fall are just as active on these days because the wind is knocking acorns and other mast out of the trees. The rut is near and deer just don’t hunker down unless it is bitterly cold.
Picking the right windy day to hunt is a matter of what you can spare timewise. However, if I can be choosy, I like to go afield in the earlier part of the season when acorns are falling and/or the rut is coming on or going on. Picking a day when a front is starting to roar through midday is a prime afternoon to be in the woods in my opinion.
If it is later in the season, the deer may tend to be hunkered down behind logs, brush piles or in thickets and I would choose to be out in the warmer part of the day to hunt. I have rarely gotten deer early and at dark on days when the wind is howling, it is bitterly cold and the sun is not up warming the landscape.
Early in the season, I find success when fronts are passing through by ensuring that I don’t smell like a take-out window at the fast-food joint. I keep my truck free of obvious smells that are not natural. When I park, I try to park on the downwind side of the property or I park where the home or other people normally park so I don’t alert any nearby deer.
My stalking begins right out of the truck. I walk very slowly unless the woods or area I am hunting is hundreds of yards away. Once in the woods, I head upwind and I stop every few steps and scrutinize my surroundings, keeping track of the wind, ducking down to peer at deer level under branches as far as I can see.
Stooping down and peering a long way ahead has helped me get dozens of deer in the thick woodlands of the Southeast. Sometimes I only see deer legs or a tail but then I know where the deer are and then I can make my way towards them to line up a shot between the trees or bushes.
Look for movement contrary to the wind. In other words, a deer tail or ear will flick one way while the wind is blowing leaves the other way. Look for horizontal lines such as the back or belly.
When I stalk areas that have drainages, gullies or little valleys, I get in them and ease up the sides every seventy yards or so and peer around on the ridgetops or flats where I typically find mast trees. My scent does not disturb the deer as much it seems. Hunting thick areas like this is great. You can usually get closer when you have more cover to use to your advantage. BUT, this means you need to really look hard at all that cover before you move. Deer will often stand and stare at your movement feeling safe as they are behind a bush or thicket and hope you pass by.
Look for heads and antlers on the other sides of logs that are on the ground too. I have seen countless bucks lie next to logs if the log is big enough and wait for danger to pass while watching downwind and sticking their nose up to catch the breeze from their back to keep track of threats from the upwind side.
This season when the wind gets to blowing, don’t give up the hunt. If the wind is bad it can help cover your noise and movement. Just move slower, look harder and hunt smart. You just might leave the woods with a deer tag punched!