By Mark Fike
When the wind blows hard I enjoy deer hunting. Call me crazy if you want, but there are some very distinct advantages to hunting on a windy day. Of course there are also disadvantages. The first disadvantage being that the deer can easily smell you if you are not careful. Second, the deer can be skittish and spook easily. Sometimes they even prefer not to move much and will bed down.
Some of my most successful days hunting deer have been on windy, nasty days. What makes these types of days so good? In short, the deer are more predictable and more easily stalked. Cold windy days are not the best days to sit in a stand with one exception and that would be the rut.
Where to look
Windy days coupled with cold temperatures put deer in the habit of seeking cover. While they will go to the oak lot to eat acorns, they spend an awful lot of time in cutovers that have grown to head height or better, fencerows and of course pine thickets.
Spend time analyzing these types of cover and you will see more deer on windy and cold days. To sweeten the pot, look for these types of cover that are also on the lee side of the hill opposite the wind source such as a hill sloping towards the east when the wind is blowing from the west or northwest.
If it is windy and blowing from the north and cold be sure to look at a thicket or thick spot with a southern exposure. The deer are bound to be in the area.
Use a topo map to determine where you have seen deer feeding in the past. Analyze the map to find the known travel corridors and feeding areas. Then find nearby cover.
Biologists call thick cover offering protection from cold and wind, thermal cover. Pine thickets, vines, honeysuckle and wild grapes offer such cover. Laurel and holly also are good thermal cover sources. Small funnels and ravines that traverse through or near thermal cover are good ambush sites.
Take a walk on a windy day
A novel but crazy idea some would say. I say it works and it works well. I often take deer on such days while walking and stalking slowly at a crawl.
The key to being successful on such a day is to know the land and know where deer travel, feed or bed. Next, determine the wind direction and consult a topo map if necessary. At this point I take one of two approaches.
The high road
Use ridge fingers to access from downwind or crosswind if necessary the areas where you feel the deer might be hiding out from the wind. Move slowly. Move only when the wind blows in fitful gusts.
Every time I stop I look around and I move so slowly that I blend with the swaying bushes and trees. Avoid sharp movements and sudden movements. Using ridge tops will allow the hunter to look down into a gully on each side. Don’t be afraid to sit for twenty minutes or so if you feel you are in a good area.
The low road
The low road allows you to see less at times, but sometimes get much closer to deer. Deer will bed down and be near the tops of small ridges in a thermal cover location. Be careful as you move and look hard. Deer will stare at movement for a while on a windy day before spooking.
It is possible to walk to within ten yards of deer when the wind is howling and the trees are swaying. Be ready to shoot, but be sure of your target. If using a ravine or bottom, be aware that the bottoms are full of dry leaves and therefore the sound gets pretty loud as you walk along.
Last, when you do see a deer, be very careful. Where there is one on a windy day, there is likely to be more. That can add up to a lot of eyes looking around. Caution is the word of the day here. Use it and you just might get a good shot before the deer know you are even there.
This season when the wind gets to whipping around and the cold bites, take a walk on the wild side of things and see if you come back with one less deer tag. Keep your eyes open, stop often and be aware of your surroundings. Wear blaze orange and be sure of your target before shooting. Great hunting to you!