Winds and Hunted Whitetails

There are quite a few elements that shorten morning and/or afternoon hours whitetails are active (most vulnerable) during hunting seasons. One of the most profound is wind. While winds exceed 15 mph, blowing steadily or gusting, few whitetails will be active during daylight hours (except, perhaps in west Texas where deer might consider a 15 mph wind to be relatively calm). While winds are 10–14 mph, daylight portions of morning and evening feeding periods will be reduced 60–90 minutes, about 30 minutes for winds 6–9 mph. While the wind is calm to light (5mph), whitetails are most active, not uncommonly active an hour longer than normally in the morning (until 11 AM) and beginning an hour earlier in the afternoon (2:30 to 3 PM). Why?

It’s because a whitetail’s most reliable means of detecting the approach of a predator or hunter from any direction, 24/7, its sense of hearing, is seriously handicapped by sounds caused by stronger winds. Winds that cause tree trunks and heavy branches to rock, scrape and screech against one another, cause branches to break, cause dead trees and branches or clumps of snow to fall to the ground or merely cause leaves, grasses and corn stalks to rustle loudly effectively mask sounds made by passing or approaching predators or hunters. Under such circumstances, the best way for a whitetail to avoid danger during daylight hours is to remain motionless and stubbornly bedded in the safest place it knows: its secluded bedding area.

Typically, however, winds strong enough to greatly alter periods whitetails are active in the morning do not ordinarily become strong enough until 9–10 AM — another good reason to be at your stand site 30 minutes before the first legal hunting minute of the day. Unfortunately, strong winds, steady or gusting, late in the day do not ordinarily abate until the onset of darkness (dusk). Once a strong wind, steady or gusting, becomes light or calm, however, whatever the time of the day, within minutes every whitetail in the woods is going to be up and about, feeding.

To be ready to take full advantage of periods whitetails will be predictably active (or not), keep track of local weather reports daily while hunting, beginning upon rising from bed in the morning. Then, despite predicted ruinous winds, hunt anyway. Endure the mild nausea (motion sickness) caused by your rocking stand tree because you never know, old mossy horns might show up regardless. Though uncommon, this has been proven in my deer camp several times (mostly by my son, Ken).

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