If you are new to hunting or even if you have a couple years under your belt understanding the importance of the wind can be a large learning curve. Trust me I’ve been there. Every hunter has at some point in their journey. For some like myself you learn the hard way. Hopefully this article will help you see less white flags bounding through the woods as you wonder what just happened.
Why the wind matters is a key ingredient for understanding how to hunt for deer. Your success will increase dramatically once you start to use the wind to your advantage. For this article I will break it down into the following.
- Why It Is Important
- How To Play The Wind
- How To Detect Wind Direction
- How Topography Can Affect The Wind
Why It Is Important
Deer are amazing animals. Able to adapt and live in just about any environment. From the over populated suburbs in the east and south, to the big woods of the north, and the mountains in the west. Deer are able to survive do to their ability to detect predators and their nose is the number one tool in how they determine threats.
How good is a deer’s nose? That’s a great question. Olfactory receptors are what allow us to smell and detect odors. A deer has about 800 times more receptors than humans do. This alone would make it an incredible tool but deer have a couple more traits in their scent detecting arsenal.
An organ in their mouth called the Jacobson’s organ allows them to smell the air they breathe in. Stop and think about that for a second. Imagine being able to smell an apple pie by just breathing through your mouth. Also, a deer’s brain is much smaller than humans but they use a larger part of their brain to decipher scent. Research has show that deer can decipher 6 different scents at once.
Once you know all this you can start to understand why deer hunting can be such a challenge. Don’t get to down on yourself if you have not had any luck starting out. Hunters are already behind as soon as we step foot in the woods.
So what can a hunter do to beat a deer’s nose? Use the wind to your advantage.
Let’s go over how to do that.
How To Play The Wind
Unfortunately your never going to beat a deer’s nose every time but here is how to use the wind to level the playing field.
Imagine yourself as pigpen from Charlie Brown. Your scent (body odor, food, soap fragrance, etc) follows you around like a cloud of dirt just like Pigpen. As the wind blows, your scent is being pushed in that direction. You will often times hear this called your scent trail or stream. This is because your body is continually producing odor and it is being carried away by the wind much like water flows down a stream. Your odor will always be there.
Knowing this you can position yourself so that your scent stream is carried away from likely deer travel/bedding areas.
Let’s breakdown a couple examples.
As you can see in this photo, the wind in a southeast, south or southwest direction would be the optimal wind for a stand placed in the location of the green “X”. Your scent stream would be pushed out into the field and away from deer that would be heading to the field to feed for the evening.
Once you can start to understand how to use the wind to your favor you can look at better stand locations that will work for more wind directions.
In this next photo you can see the increase in wind direction that would play into your favor by making a little effort to move your stand into a new location. Once you understand the importance of the wind you can start to analyze a certain area and pinpoint stand locations that are the very best option to sit.
Just as important as stand location is how you access your stand. This took me a while to fully understand and implement but once I did the number of deer I would see on stand increased. You always want to access your stand with your scent in mind. Here are a couple examples from my experiences.
Example 1: I have access to family land that is partially surrounded by a subdivision. The only suitable hunting area is at the back of the property where it meets up with the subdivision. The first couple years I hunted it I would access my stand through my family property. No matter the wind direction my scent would be blown into areas that I expected deer to be.
It wasn’t until I was looking at aerial maps I noticed a cleared path from natural gas line that ran in between 2 houses in the subdivision. This trail ran into the back of my family property. Using this as an access route the wind would blow my scent into the subdivision and it also would cut the distance I walked to the stand by more than half. I did ask both houses for permission to use this path as it was an easement agreed upon by both property owners.
Example 2: After gaining permission to hunt a 22 acre property I started to think about the best way to access a pinch point location that I thought would be a great rut stand location. Due to the overgrowth of honey suckle on this property it made sneaking through the woods almost impossible.
I decided the best plan of action would be to use a chainsaw and cut a trail (after gaining permission from the land owner) along the southern border of the property to access this pinch point. With this trail I can quickly and quietly access my stand while the wind blows my scent out into a neighbors’ backyard and a small section of the crop field.
Example 3: Hunting public land there is an area I found where a ridge flows down into a swamp. On top of the ridge are Oak trees that when dropping acorns is a great spot to sit. By using my canoe I can access this spot via the creek that flows along the western side. This method of access drastically reduces my foot print on the area. The flow of the cold water pulls the air in the general area down stream so I can access this location on different wind directions and reduce the amount of noise and disruption I would have made walking through the woods.
Hopefully these 3 examples will get you brain storming and analyzing how you can access your stand location to make the least amount of impact on the area.
How To Detect Wind Direction
With today’s technology you can find out the wind direction on your phone for a general area. I use the word “general” because the wind can be blowing in the complete opposite direction in the specific area for a couple reasons. Topography is a big factor and I will go more in depth on that below in the next section. Being able to determine how the wind is reacting is an important tool to learn and implement.
So how can you detect the wind direction for an exact location? You will need to put boots on the ground.
Before heading into your stand location try these simple tactics.
1. Dirt or Grass: This is the simplest way to detect wind direction. Very Straight forward. Get a handful and toss it straight up into the air. Watch which direction it falls in.
2. Wind Indicator: White powder in a small bottle that you squeeze and then watch which way the puff of white goes. This is a great option when there is a light wind as dirt and grass is heavier and may not give the best wind direction. Also, if your in a position where you need to check the wind constantly maybe on a spot and stalk type of hunt. Keep it in an easily accessible pocket.
3. Milkweed: In my mind this is the best option because it’s free (you just need to find milkweed pods) and secondly because the milkweed is light enough to float along with the wind. This is a great tool used to determine not only the wind direction but also how the wind is reacting further away from you. You can easily tell if the wind is swirling or changing direction to provide you with greater detail on the specific location you plan to hunt.
Nothing beats learning an area and the knowledge you will receive from firsthand experience. Be a student of the woods, learn from your failures and then implement that information to help you fill a tag. The woods are always talking. It’s up to you to learn the language.
How Topography Can Affect The Wind
Now that you have the basic understanding it’s time to dive a little deeper into how the wind can behave with terrain features. Below is a list that I have had personal experience with and how each affects the wind.
River/Creek: As mentioned above I have a couple spots on public land that I use my canoe to access via water. This has quickly become one of my favorite ways to access certain areas. Around a river the wind gets pulled downstream because of the cooler temperature of the water. Just this year I hunted a couple yards off the river and was not winded by 6 does who came in behind me and what should have been the down wind direction.
Valleys/Lowlands: The wind can swirl very easily in this type of topography. As it might be very tempting to hunt at the bottom where a couple ridges run into each other be very cautious. This would be a great time to utilize milkweed or constantly check the wind direction with a wind indicator mentioned above.
Open Fields: Depending on wind direction open fields where they meet up with the woods or 2-tracks can make the wind change direction. For example, I was hunting on a familiar property this year. The property has an open grass area that connects 2 wood lots together and on each side has a 2-track trail. The forecast called for a northwest wind. As I made it into the open field I noticed the wind was out of the south. Puzzled, I decided to continue into the woods via one of the 2-tracks. Once I was approx 60 yards into the woods I checked the wind again and it had changed to be out of the northwest.
I continued to my stand checking the wind periodically and it always remained out of the northwest.
As the wind was coming through the woods it was being diverted down the 2-track near the edge of the open field and pushed out into the field in a southerly direction.
The wind can drive you crazy. It can be your worst nightmare or best friend. Use it to your advantage and you will see improved success out in the field.
Wrapping It Up
Once you understand the wind and how it can react and flow through a certain area you will dramatically increase your odds of filling your tag.
Will you fail and get busted? No doubt in my mind, that’s part of the hunt. In those situations ask yourself why, analyze what happened, and what you could have done better.
Wind direction will always be a part of the equation. Will you use it as a tool or let it take the chance of filling your freezer out from your grasp?
Have any tips or tricks I missed? Share them in the comment section below.
Let me know if you have any further questions. I would be happy to help anyway I can.