March 10, 2022 6 min read

Hunters often go to great extents to fool the senses of deer. Quiet gear and camouflage suits can help you with getting closer to deer, but it is largely about understanding the wind, which determines whether you go home empty handed or with a punched tag. Simply put, keeping your scent out of the nose of a buck matters most in deer woods.

Here are some proven tips that can help you see and shoot more deer. Even if you are already hunting the wind, this guide will enable you to step up your deer hunting game.

  1. Getting the Right App: Understanding the direction of the wind is the first step in hunting. An app on your smartphone will help you know this at any time, no matter where you are. Some apps give weather forecasts, including wind direction, on an hourly basis, depending on the location of your choice, while a few advanced ones show you a map with the most recent wind direction.


  1. Having the Map: If you don’t have an intelligent app on your phone, knowing the orientation of your stands will help you find the direction of the wind. When hanging a stand, keep a compass to determine in which directions you can (or you can’t hunt) from that location. You can also consider dropping a pin for every stand on your mapping app, and further referring to the same when assessing the wind direction. Don’t trust your sense of direction as you need to be as precise as possible.


  1. Double-Checking the Wind: Weather apps are handy, but they just give you regular wind direction, without factoring in other things that may affect it. An app is a great way to start, but remember that several elements may come into play: valleys, hills, river corridors, and thick woodlots can funnel or deflect wind in unwanted directions. Moreover, weather apps may give inaccurate readings at times. Therefore, you may require double-checking the wind when you reach your hunting zone and continue to check it on a regular basis as you hunt.


  1. Knowing the Actual Situation: In general, flat country or the top of plateaus and hills means steady winds, whereas hilly country means unstable winds. If given a choice, you would always want to select the former. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot hunt the valleys or hillsides. Rather, it means that you would have to deal with the changing currents, which may require you to check the wind direction more often.


  1. Letting Them Pass: “Keeping the wind in your face,” is an excellent rule of thumb, but it works only if you are facing the deer or you know where you expect the deer to show up. In case you know how deer would walk through a specific area (for e.g., through a hard funnel or on a heavy trail), it’s best to set up in a way to have the wind blowing perpendicular to the line of travel of the deer. This will allow small bucks (you probably don’t want to shoot) to easily get past you without picking your scent or alerting the other deer in your hunting area.


  1. Understanding the Ups & Downs: Air rises when it gets hot, and falls when it cools. Such flows are known as thermals, which can remarkably impact your hunt, particularly in hill country. If the air is falling or rising in flat terrain, it is hardly a matter of concern since the deer are neither below nor above you. However, when the sun touches a woody slope you are on and the heated air starts to move up the hill, the deer above you will sense you. In general, thermals fall in the evening and rise in the morning; so accordingly, you may require being below or above the deer.


  1. Waiting for the Right Moment: Of course, thermals rise in the morning, but the air on the hillside should be warm enough to start rising, which usually happens an hour or two after the sun rises. Likewise, thermals start to fall in the evening usually an hour or two prior to dusk. If you have a superb stand location on a hillside and the deer are above it, simply set up on the ground several hundred yards away from your stand and wait until the thermals start to fall. When this happens, quietly move to your stand and wait for the right moment.


  1. Planning Your Approach: After following all the steps above, if you still fail to see deer, the underlying issue may not be with the destination, but the journey. Deer may sense your smell when you’re walking to your stand, and if the wind on that path carries your scent toward something (such as a bedding area), you will get busted before you start hunting. A map can come in handy in such a situation. Drop pins and outline potential food sources and bedding areas. Once you find where they are, simply mark your stands. The next thing is your route to the stand. If your stand has been set for a particular wind, ensure that the wind on your path is not carrying your smell to the areas, where there may be deer. Even if you require spending some extra time following the long way, it is still a better idea than being in a stand for several hours without observing any deer altogether.


  1. Not Getting Busted Again: A steady wind typically overrides thermals. In nearly every area, there are almost always some perfect locations, where the deer won’t be able to sense your smell, no matter how they approach. You just need to set up and hunt the right way. Experts recommend replicating them as and when possible. The best example is a stand with a steep downhill slope on one side. Bucks often use beaver dams to cross from one side of the pond to the other, so as long as the wind blows over the pond, you will not get busted.


  1. Giving a Buck the Wind: Another fantastic trick used by hunting mavens is to deliberately hunt a nearly wrong wind. Many older bucks move only if the wind is in their face. So, you broadly kill one by giving them the wind. For instance, if the buck is traveling straight toward the south to a feeding area and you set up your stand on the west side of his route with a south-southeast wind, there is ample angle to the wind that they will not be able to get your scent, even when you are upwind.


  1. Putting a Cheek to the Wind: Experienced hunters mostly still-hunts with a crosswind. This is because, it allows them to shoot bumped bucks. You can up your odds multiple times if you cross-cut the wind, rather than still-hunting into it; whether or not you jump a deer. If you jump a deer, move forward at an angle of 45 degrees toward the downwind side around 80 to 100 yards. Thereafter, take a position on one knee and wait for 10-15 minutes. When that deer will circle downwind to find what frightened it, you can surely get a shot.


  1. Stalking Backwards: If a buck is bedded with the wind at its back with the eyes forward, sneak in from upwind, but not directly. Move at an angle from behind the buck while staying to one side in a way that your smell moves just past him. You may need a steady breeze, but when this happens, the buck is caught completely off guard.


  1. Understanding the Wind during the Rut: During the rut, bucks use the wind to stay alive, as well as to find does. Pay attention to the thermals and winds during the rut. Search for vague buck trails that are perpendicular to the direction of the wind and set up stands on the downwind side of the trail. If your stand is above the trail, you can maximize on the morning thermals on a calm day. Walk up to your stand before first light while the thermals are driving wind down the mountain and then wait for the sun to rise so that the thermals rise back toward you. Focus your stands on saddles and choke points to ensure there is no deer above you. Don’t forget to double-check the wind from the stand as the terrain changes.


Turning a Deer Drive into a Wind Bump: The wind bump is an approach to hunting that combines a classic deer drive strategy with wind direction. Start by locating the deer-holding thicket you want to drive. Next, position your rifle downwind at escape routes while making sure the deer approach with the wind in their favor. Ultimately, surround the thicket and allow them to catch your scent. They will then start walking toward the shooters, allowing for way safer and easier shots.

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