TOMMY: The wind is the breath of the world. Without the wind there would be no changing of the seasons and basically the world would wither and die. For a whitetail hunter, the wind is of great importance because a deer virtually lives and dies by his nose. Understanding the wind and the role it plays in a deer's world is of vital importance.
If you have ever stood and watched the water in a clear stream tumble toward its destination, which is ultimately the sea or ocean, you can better understand the wind. As the water gushes downstream it encounters rocks, logs, islands, dikes, the bank and other obstacles in its path. Each obstacle disrupts the flow of water, causing the water to swirl, often causing a backwash or a reversing of direction of the flow. Anywhere there is a good downstream current; there will be areas where there is a backflow. Have you ever seen a bottle, Styrofoam cup or bobber floating upstream? I have many times and each time I get a better understanding of the water flow. Sometimes the water rolls from top to bottom or side to side in a whirlpool, where whatever is caught in the whirlpool stays in its revolution until something happens to disrupt the flow.
The air currents act exactly like the flow of water as it blows across the topography of the earth. At each obstacle the air currents flow over, around and otherwise reacts to the shape, size and location of the object whether it is a mountain, cliff, hill, woods line on a field or thick stand of evergreens like cedar, pine and spruce. The air also reacts to temperature changes which create thermal currents with warm thermals rising and cool thermals falling.
The adaptable whitetail knows these patterns explicitly, though they might not understand them as we do, but they know exactly how to take advantage of them. This is why they know that a strong wind works against them and most of the time they curtail their activity in strong wind, relative to the area. I killed my biggest whitetail on a miserable, extremely cold, windy day, so you might expect me to jump up and hail the great benefits of hunting whitetails in the wind, but I cannot. The buck being on his feet in that exact place had more to do with the fact that the rut was in full swing and it was the first day of modern gun deer season with some hunter pressure in that particular area. One of my buddies killed another nice buck less than an hour later. His buck was trailing a hot doe and both of these bucks were killed after 10:30 a.m., and we were on the back side of a front where the barometric pressure was high and the sky crystal clear. Each of these aspects are addressed in Lynn's charts as is the wind. Normally, buck movement is not good on days with high wind and Lynn's documentation over thirty five years reflects that trend.
What is considered a strong wind in the south may not be considered a strong wind in the mid west. That's why Lynn's chart on wind is applicable in every region; it does not go by wind velocity, but by what is average or normal vs. that which is not normal or not average.
LYNN: Looking at the chart on wind it is very obvious when deer movement is greatest. By an overwhelming margin, most deer were seen when winds were calm to light. I have found if the pre-dominant wind is light and associated with a clear sky and cold temperatures, this is the very best conditions you can have for buck movement. The chart on (deer movement in the wind) strongly indicates that is the case from three and a half decades of observation. Most of the deer that I have seen and taken were under such conditions.
There are times though deer will actually move in high winds. They may break from cover and cross an opening due to being nervous from the sounds made by the wind or a tree may fall and spook a deer causing them to get up and move. Another hunter may bump a deer and run it over you, so there is always the unknown element that may put a buck in your lap under windy conditions.
During high winds, I have seen rutting bucks use the wind to their advantage while looking for does. Even though most deer are very nervous during strong or high winds, the older mature bucks sometimes seem to be more composed than the other deer, especially if it is around the time of the rut. Normally, in most regions deer seek cover in moderate to heavy winds, but keep in mind what may be a heavy wind in one area, say in the southeast may not be a strong or heavy wind in the mid-west. This makes the chart on wind (and the others as well) relevant in every area because I did not document the wind in Miles per Hour or Velocity. What is considered only a moderate wind in Kansas may be a strong wind elsewhere.
I have killed some good bucks in heavy wind, but most of the time I don’t. In the regions that I normally hunt in, deer activity during high winds is very minimal. I do think that in areas where the wind blows a lot the deer get accustomed to it and it may not affect them as much. I talked with a hunter who had just returned from Montana where he killed an exceptional buck and he was seeing fifty to sixty deer a day in an alfalfa field with the wind blowing at forty miles per hour. You simply can’t do that anywhere in the east or southeast.
On the other hand, I have hunted hard in big buck areas during periods of high winds and not see any deer at all. On one particular hunt, I spent six days hunting in Saskatchewan. There were five other hunters in camp and they had all tagged out by the fourth day. I had yet to find a buck that I wanted to shoot. With two days left in the hunt, my outfitter took me to the very edge of his territory to a stand overlooking a clear cut and food plots. The wind was blowing hard and I thought that it may not even be possible for me to hit a deer if I shot at one. About mid morning the outfitter came back and told me that it simply was too dangerous for me to be in the woods because of the high wind, so for safety reasons we ended our hunt early that day.
The Meteorologists on the local news said the weather would be changing over night, the wind would die down and the temperature would drop. On the last day of my hunt the weather did change, the wind was not as strong and the temperature dropped. I immediately started seeing deer. One hour and forty minutes before I had to leave I pulled the trigger on a very nice buck, the kind that I had made the long trip from Georgia to shoot. He truly was a last minute buck, and I may not have killed one if the wind had not calmed down.
During windy conditions, a person may choose to still hunt and take advantage of the movement and sounds made by the wind to help them not be detected as easily. When still hunting, remember to always have the wind in your face or at least a cross wind. Also, whether still hunting or stand hunting be aware that deer do not always travel with their nose into the wind. There have been many times I have seen deer actually traveling with the wind.
I also have observed that the wind can be too calm for deer movement. On those dead calm mornings when there is no breeze at all, the deer do not seem to move; neither do any of the other creatures in the woods. I personally feel deer know that they can be heard walking from a long distance when it is extremely still and it is much harder for them to use their noses to detect danger. Most of the country has coyotes and other animals that prey on deer and I suspect that the deer are aware that they can be detected by the noise they make when it is too calm.
I have been on a stand in this situation and see nothing, but during mid morning, if the wind picks up a little, the animals start to move. It is very important to be on your deer stand when this happens.