Everyone knows how keen a whitetail deer’s sense of smell is. Some studies estimate that the deer's ability to smell is about 10,000 times stronger than a human's. Their number one defense against predators; a deer's sense of smell is incredibly overlooked by many hunters. Learning to play the wind can become as much art as it is technique.
Everyone knows how keen a whitetail deer’s sense of smell is. Some studies estimate that the deer’s ability to smell is about 10,000 times stronger than a human’s. Their number one defense against predators; a deer’s sense of smell is incredibly overlooked by many hunters. Learning to play the wind can become as much art as it is technique.
In all aspects of scent detection, deer have an incredible advantage. When taking to the woods, every step you take leaves a spider web of scent. Learning to play the wind to your advantage by minimizing the odors on you, your clothing, and equipment is key.
As hunters, we understand the importance of setting up downwind. However, wind is much more complicated and complex. Topography, terrain, thermal currents, and much more play into the way wind carries scents to a deer’s powerful nose.
The bottom line is, if you beat the deer’s nose, you increase your opportunities for success.
The Truth About Hunting Whitetails in the Wind
It is a popular belief by most hunters that hunting whitetails in high wind is a waste of time, however, studies conducted have proven the contrary.
A Penn State study from 2015, “Wind’s Surprising Effects on Deer Movement,” analyzed deer movement in relation to high, moderate, and gentle winds. In the end, this study came to the surprising conclusion that “deer move MORE during a windy day, but they’ll move LESS during a windy night.” This means a windy day could potentially reap some great benefits.
Also, in 2009, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Oklahoma undertook a similar study which concluded, “very little change in the distance traveled by whitetails as a function of wind speed.” Certainly, there are always exceptions.
There is no doubt that wind may shift whitetail movement, but it is certainly worth the effort to get out and hunt despite a windy forecast. There are many ways to use wind to your advantage when you hunt than to not. If played correctly, wind limits a deer’s ability to detect predators and increases your chances of success.
On the day you are planning your hunt, check what the wind direction will be and then choose a stand site that will allow you to hunt without having your wind blow into an area deer will likely be present such as a bedding area or feeding area.
It is crucial that you set up downwind of heavily traveled areas. You never want to hunt the wind where deer are coming from or where they want to be. Give a buck the confidence to move before detecting your scent trail. Be sure you are in a position that is not only downwind of the food source, but also downwind of the travel route you believe that buck will use to enter the field.
How Terrain Affects Wind
You do not want your scent blowing into sanctuaries or bedding areas. Be aware of your scent when setting up or checking trail cams. Also, look for topographic changes and be aware that terrain features can uniquely impact wind direction. Where there are hills, you can cheat the wind and use it to your advantage. Wind can be impacted by hills, ridges, cliffs, trees, and most any other terrain or habitat feature you can think of.
Thermals, or temperature related wind direction changes are important to understand. In areas with hills, terrain changes, and elevation, wind direction can be changed in the morning as the cool air warms and begins to rise. Thermals should impact tree stand locations at different times.
HuntWise makes it easier than ever to find an ideal location to increase your chances of finding a whitetail on a windy day and decrease chances of your cover being blown.
With an improved algorithm offering better weather predictions and more data points to inform you on your hunt, HuntCast is the most powerful deer prediction algorithm the market has ever seen.
Being able to effectively monitor weather conditions on a weekly, daily, and hourly basis is essential for whitetail hunters and HuntWise’s reinvigorated algorithm offers a 15-day forecast of peak movement times to provide insights that up your odds of success in the field.
Wind direction while entering and exiting a tree stand is incredibly overlooked- never underestimate the power of a scent trail! Using HuntWise, toggle map layers, drop pins for tree stands, and set ideal wind for those pins. Most importantly, check your ScentDrift periodically and compare the conditions of each stand on a specific day and time. HuntWise will notify you which stand placement is more ideal.
When you hit the woods this season, always be aware of the wind direction and the implications it may have on your hunt. There is nothing more important to a deer, and the same should be said for you, the hunter.