When most bowhunters talk of ‘hunting the wind’ they are referring to the hunter’s need to make sure he or she has a relatively steady wind, which will prevent the distribution of human scent in a direction that may alert the hunter’s quarry.
What is often neglected when referencing ‘hunting the wind’ is taking into consideration how a mature buck may use the wind to his advantage when traveling to and from bedding or food sources.
And just because the wind is favorable for the hunter, does not mean it is favorable for a mature buck to travel in a given direction.
Whitetail Are Unlike Us
If my wife ever saw me stop, lift my nose and circle downwind to see what odors may come drifting from my bedroom – I’m sure she would be making an appointment with a psychologist. And I am quite sure if any of my friends watched me approach downwind and sniff before entering my favorite restaurant they would declare me certifiably insane.
As hunters, we recognize the ways of the Odocoileus virginianus do not resemble that of Homo sapiens. Whitetail survive by using over 297 million olfactory receptors – humans do not. When attempting to harvest a mature whitetail these behavioral characteristics must be taken into consideration before hunting season arrives. Planning an overall strategy begins when scouting new or existing hunting property.
Off Season Scouting And Prevailing Winds
Shed hunting and spring turkey hunting not only allow time to locate bones and beards, but also provide time to scout for the upcoming season. From these scouting efforts we can form a strategy and within the strategy needs to be the understanding of prevailing winds.
No matter what state or county you may hunt in, each particular hunting area has a prevailing wind. Prevailing wind is defined as the wind direction with the highest percent of frequency within a given area.
Meteorologists record this data by using a Wind Rose such as can be found on windhistory.com. This data also provides the months in which these winds are most prominent.
But, it’s not only meteorologists who know what direction the wind normally comes from, so do the deer.
With almost 60 times more olfactory receptors than a human, deer use their unique ability to smell to aid in their survival. To deer, a steady wind is a close friend who warns of danger within a given parameter. This is why most mature bucks will travel into or at a 45-degree angle to the wind. The wind provides them with details of who and what lies ahead of their current location.
It’s a well-known fact that a buck will use the wind to check the security of a food source or bedding area before exposing himself to the unknown. Even circling around the bedding area in a semi-circle / j-hook in an attempt gather as much data possible before deciding to bed. The key is for the bowhunter to use these behavioral characteristics to his advantage.
During pre-season or post-season scouting, the tendency is to look for stand placement based upon wind direction that solely benefits the hunter. But in reality, stand placement should be based upon both travel characteristics of the deer and the best possible position for the hunter.
Tools such as Deer Lab’s trail camera photo management software will help you understand how a particular buck may be using a particular wind to travel. These types of tools are invaluable when pinpointing perfect stand placement.
Connect The Dots
When analyzing trail camera photos, travel corridors, bedding and food sources, use online wind records to verify the best place to hang a stand based upon how a buck is or will travel according to what the wind is telling him. Also consider when the rut begins, how will prevailing winds affect a buck’s ability to check scrapes from a downwind vantage point or hone in on a doe in heat within a particular area.
While pre-season scouting take time to consider all of these variables. Remember, a prevailing wind direction may be suitable for the hunter to hunt a particular treestand and at the same time not be ideal for a mature buck to travel within bow range of that setup. Hunting the wind isn’t only about you.
In the photo below you will notice the stand location is marked by a green X. The prevailing winds are marked by a yellow arrow and WSW. The main deer trail and general travel pattern are marked by a red line. What is not visible is a creek that runs on the west side of the main trail. These terrain features, combined with the prevailing winds, provide a narrow funnel in which the deer travel.
The stand is then placed to where the scent is blowing downwind of or over the deer (depending on where the deer travel) and the hunter is within close proximity for a bowshot. Having hunted this pinch point for a couple of years now, I can confirm the deer travel through this corridor, heading to a much larger woodlot – while using the wind to their advantage.
These types of setups also allow the hunter to access the stand without alerting deer to his or her location.
The Wind Is Always Part Of The Equation
Much emphasis is made during this time of year concerning rubs, sheds and beds, but if you’re hunting a mature buck, take the time to think about ‘hunting the wind’ even in pre-season scouting.
Much more could be said about wind speeds, barometric pressure, weather, and how they all work together, but we’ll save that for a later date. Do your homework and when season rolls around, you’ll consider the wind your friend.