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Field Guide -Hunting Tips

How to Hunt the Wind Like a Pro

Every hunter 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. However, as a deer's number one defense against predators, many hunters often overlook their sense of smell.

Learning to play the wind can become as much art as technique. In all aspects of scent detection, deer have an incredible advantage. Every step you take in the woods leaves a spider web of scent. Learning to play the wind to your advantage by minimizing the odors on you, your clothing, and your equipment is key. 

As hunters, we understand the importance of setting up downwind. However, wind is much more complex. Topography, terrain, thermal currents, and much more play into how the wind carries scents to a deer's powerful nose. The bottom line is that if you beat the deer's nose, you increase your opportunities for success.

Let's dig into how to hunt the wind like a pro!

The Truth About Hunting Whitetails in the Wind

Most hunters believe that hunting whitetails in high wind is a waste of time; however, studies have proven the contrary.  

A 2015 Penn State study, "Wind's Surprising Effects on Deer Movement," analyzed deer movement in relation to high, moderate, and gentle winds. The study concluded 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. 

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 avoid going out at all and potentially miss a big buck! If played correctly, wind limits a deer's ability to detect predators and increases your chances of success.

A deer standing on the edge of a forest, hunting the wind concept.

The Basics of Understanding the Wind

On the day you are planning your hunt, check the wind direction and then choose a stand site that will allow you to hunt without having your wind blow into an area where deer will likely be present, such as a bedding area or feeding area. 

You must 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 a buck will use to enter the field. 

How Terrain Affects the Wind 

You don't want your scent blowing into sanctuaries or bedding areas. Be aware of your scent when setting up or checking trail cams. 

Use HuntWise to 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 almost 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. 

Learn more about analyzing the terrain to choose the best spot for hunting deer on a windy day in this video from our friend John Dudley. 

Integrate HuntWise

HuntWise makes it easier than ever to find an ideal location, increasing your chances of finding a whitetail on a windy day and decreasing the chances of your cover being blown. 

With an improved algorithm offering better weather predictions and more data points to inform you about your hunt, HuntCast is the most powerful deer prediction algorithm the market has ever seen. 

Effectively monitoring weather conditions weekly, daily, and hourly is essential for whitetail hunters. 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 the WindCast feature periodically and compare the conditions of each stand on a specific day and time. HuntWise will notify you which stand placement is ideal based on current conditions. 

Close-up of a hunter using HuntWise on a phone and laptop, how to hunt the wind concept.

Learn how to Hunt the Wind With HuntWise

A windy day doesn't mean you have to skip that day in the field and miss out on filling your tag for the season. 

When you hit the woods, always be aware of the direction of the wind and the implications it may have on your hunt. Nothing is more important to a deer; the same should be said for you as a hunter.

Get ahead of the wind and use it to your advantage. Download HuntWise and try the HuntCast and WindCast features free for a week! 


Content updated May 24, 2024. 

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