The latter part of hunting seasons can be the most challenging time of the year for whitetail deer hunters. Weather conditions can be very unpredictable. It can be sunny and warm one day, and turn to wet, windy and snowing the next, sometimes even in a matter of hours. Some hunters see that its raining outside and go back to bed, thinking that there’s no way the deer will be moving around in the rain. The truth is actually the opposite. Don’t let harsh weather stop you from filling that last tag. Deer hunting in the rain, snow or harsh weather conditions may have some disadvantages but it could actually work in your favor if you know what you are doing. Let’s go over everything you need to know to hunt deer in late season rain and snow.
Are Deer Active in Rainy or Snowy Weather?
In a word, yes, but deer movements will be limited. Basic biological needs require whitetails and other species of deer to eat and find water regardless of the weather. But how much they will move and the time of day they are most active varies depending on conditions.
Deer Hunting in the Rain
While deer hunting in the rain can be uncomfortable for the hunter, it can be great for deer activity.
Deer do not seem to mind drizzle or light rain. Their movements will remain almost the same as in dry weather. However, they tend to bed down for longer periods in moderate rain. Just like us, deer like to find shelter and hunker down in a downpour.
Light Rain or Drizzle
There is pretty much no difference in deer activity from a normal weather day, as long as it’s not too windy out. Their activity may increase, especially if it is in between storms or if the weather has been gloomy for several days. Deer tend to use the time between storms looking for food and shelter, so they are really on the move. So actually, light rain is great for hunting.
Staying in your stand is a good bet during light rains. This is especially true during the rut. During other parts of the season deer will move back out into relatively open areas of woods and crop fields if downpours and showers only last a few hours.
Heavy Rain or Downpour
It’s pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to heavy all day rainfall/downpour and storms. The deer do not want to be out and about when it is pouring. They will seek shelter and bed down completely until the heavy rain or storm passes. Deer will wait out this kind of weather in thick cover and bedding areas.
Because the conditions are just as miserable for the hunter as the deer, you’re best off staying home in conditions like this. If you are out already and have good shelter, I would suggest waiting out the rain because when it passes the deer will be very active. Just make sure you have proper clothing and protection from the rain.
There are many advantages to hunting in the rain.
Most hunters don’t want to go out when its raining, so there is a good chance you will have the woods (or field) to yourself.
There is a significant reduction in the noise walking through damp woods. The rain makes the leaves and grass wet and soft, so you can easily walk around without making much noise.
A deer’s sense of smell decreases in the rain, which is great news for hunters.
How far human scent carries is also reduced when the air is damp. A rain that occurs right after you set up a treestand or blind quickly washes away residual human scent. This applies to wet snowy conditions too.
Deer also seem to be less skittish in the rain, and aren’t too alert in their surroundings.
During the light rain is a great time to walk/stalk hunt. Some hotspots tend to be trails, runs, and known feeding areas.
While the advantages of hunting in the rain are great, there are a couple disadvantages that should be mentioned.
If you are to take a shot at a deer, it is more difficult to track a wounded deer in the rain. Rain will wash away any blood trail very quickly. Because of this, its a good idea to do some rattling or grunting to attempt to bring the deer in closer. To get around this you might want to hold out for a shot that’s well inside your comfort range and reasonably sure to put an animal down quickly. This will minimize any tracking you may have to do. This is also important for when bow hunting in the rain as rain and damp air affect arrow flight more than dry air.
Hunters will also suffer from less visibility when it’s raining or foggy. Sure, deer are less likely to see and smell you, but you are also less likely to see them until they are almost within range.
Deer Hunting in the Wind
Slight to moderate winds don’t bother deer, but they do not like strong winds. This is because wind limits their ability to see and smell danger. If very cold temperatures accompany heavy winds, deer will seek shelter in heavy cover and stay there.
On light windy days almost any hunting technique can be equally effective. Steady wind makes selecting a treestand or blind location easy. Good locations are downwind of a food source or along a travel route.
A moderate steady to gusty wind is trickier but you can use it to your advantage. In open plains, deer may remain predictable in their movements and locations. Staying downwind of them is as crucial now as it is on less windy days. Stand locations on the downwind side of woodlots, bedding areas, and travel corridors are the best options in areas where deer have timber and other cover to bed in during daylight.
Breezier days also make hunting from the ground more effective. Wind in the trees masks your footsteps as you move through the woods. Waving branches, weeds, and brush also help break up your outline. Damp ground and a windy day are perfect conditions for the ground hunter.
Heavy wind is arguably the worst condition to hunt in but you can still kill a deer if you’re careful and patient. Gusty, heavy wind will put deer onto the lee side of ridges and drainages in rugged wooded terrain. Deer will also move to dense cedar or spruce thickets and large blow downs. In swampy areas you will find deer in cattail and willow bogs. Whitetails spend the majority of time bedded during extremely windy days but will get up occasionally to browse and relieve themselves.
One of the most important things to remember when it’s windy is too keep your shots relatively short. This is crucial for bowhunters because wind has a dramatic effect on arrow flight. It’s also important for rifle hunters. Accurate windage calculations are a must, especially on long shots.
A quick recap of hunting in the wind…
Deer tend to be fairly active in the wind. When there is no wind, they aren’t very active at all.
Their scenting ability is reduced when it is too still, and they become skittish because they can hear every noise so well.
A light breeze is ideal for deer activity.
When its windy, be sure to hunt either into the wind or across the wind. This is important to keep the deer from catching your scent easily.
While a light breeze is good for hunting, anything over 10 mph seems to be the opposite.
Deer tend to get very skittish when it’s very windy because their senses are decreased, and they cant tell where a scent is coming from. This makes them nervous, so they will likely find shelter and bed down until the wind dies down.
High winds are also bad for shooting accuracy. When taking a shot, its important to try take into account the wind and how it will affect the travel of your bullet.
Deer Hunting in the Snow
Deer hunting in the snow is very similar to hunting deer in the rain. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Just like in the rain, too much can be a bad thing. Many seasoned deer hunters look forward to a little snow cover on the ground. It makes spotting deer in the timber and other cover easier. Deer trails also stick out like a sore thumb.
Deer will wait out a snowstorm in thick cover but then resume their usual activities. Hunting from treestands, ground blinds, and still hunting are all good tactics in anything but heavy snow. Stalking on the ground with snow still falling helps cover your movements. Puffy, dry snow is best for this method. Snow that’s crunchy or squeaks when you walk is not.
There is not much difference in deer activity at all in light snow. In between snow storms their activity increases. You are likely to find deer hunting for food and shelter, so this is a great time to be out hunting.
Heavy Snow/Blizzard Conditions
Just like hunting in heavy rain, hunting in heavy snow/blizzard conditions is not a good idea. Because of the high winds and heavy snow, deer are almost definitely going to be taking shelter and waiting out the storm. The only times they are likely to be active is in between storms when they will be hunting for food. Deer hunting during a heavy snow is possible but it’s difficult to see them. Stay near the edges of bedding and thick cover.
There can be many advantages to hunting in the [light] snow. First of all, snow makes it much easier to track deer. It is a lot easier to tell how far a deer is in front of you by noting how fresh the track is.
It is also easier to spot a deer when their surroundings are all white. The only difference between hunting in the rain, is that its much easier to track a wounded deer in the snow. A blood trail will be very easy to spot on the white snow.
Besides being cold, there aren’t any disadvantages to hunting in the snow. Of course, this is not true if it is blizzard conditions outside. You should not be out in a blizzard, that can get pretty dangerous especially if it is very windy. When its heavy snow and wind, deer activity decreases greatly as well.
One of the great advantages to deer hunting when its rainy or snowy is that you could very well have the woods to yourself. Less intrepid hunters stay home when the weather turns bad. This is particularly helpful to those who hunt public lands.
The worst weather of the season is often well after the rut, so your strategy should revert back to where you likely hunted deer during the beginning of the season – near bedding areas and food sources. This strategy works in any type of wet or snowy weather but is very important when the temperature plummets. The last few hours before dark are the best times to hunt food sources but be aware that deer can feed at just about any time of day if they are not pressured.
Another thing to consider when thinking about hunting in the rain or snow is the kind of shelter, or stand you should hunt in, if any. While both have their advantages, its important to think about every aspect when deciding how you would like to hunt. Some people prefer to walk around in these conditions because you’re less likely to be spotted when its raining or snowing. Lets dive into each strategy…
Deer hunting from a treestand during wet, windy and snowy weather works if these types of weather are on the light to moderate side. When in a tree stand, you have greater visibility. You also can stay hidden pretty well, as most deer wont notice small movement up that high. The trees also do a good job at keeping your scent hidden when up in the canopy.
The disadvantages of hunting in a tree stand are that you have little to no protection from the wind. When up in a tree on a small platform, you have limited room to move and may find it hard to change positions. Hunting in the rain or snow can be especially dangerous because tree stands and their steps up can get slippery, increasing your chances of falling.
Be sure to remove all ice and snow before stepping onto the stand platform. Climbing stands can be a safer choice as long as there is no ice or show on the tree trunk.
Ground blinds are an excellent tool anytime of the year but they pay for themselves when hunting deer in wet, windy, and snowy weather. They keep you dry in the rain and provide shelter from winds that can make hunting from treestands unbearable. You can move around easier without being spotted, and it seems to contain your scent in the confines of your blind. You can get in and out of a ground blind easily, without the risk of slipping and falling.
Probably the most important thing to consider when hunting deer in the rain or snow from a blind is placement. Since deer stay close to their food sources, you should make sure your setup is close enough to their entry and exit trails for a good shot. It may not be possible to move the blind when it’s muddy or there is heavy snow on the ground.
The only downside really, is that hunting in a ground blind can decrease your range of visibility, making your field of vision limited.
Still hunting along the edges of shelter cover is a good tactic when the weather turns fowl. Wet ground makes moving silently much easier. Add a steady light to moderate wind and you have almost perfect conditions for fooling deer from the ground.
In the snow following trails leading to bedding areas can work. Taking a position downwind of dense thickets and waiting is another good trick.
The last subject I want to cover is all about safety. It’s important to remember that hunting in bad weather comes with a few risks. When hunting in the rain and cold, be sure to know and recognize the signs of hypothermia. Hypothermia is one of the top ranking causes of fatal hunting accidents. Be sure to keep as dry as possible and know when to call it quits and go inside for a bit to warm up.
If you are hunting in a tree stand, always wear a fall arrest system in case of falling. When raining or snowing your steps or ladder are likely to be slippery. Be sure to climb slowly and carefully when climbing up or down. If possible, bring an umbrella or canopy for your stand to keep dry if it is raining.
Another tip to stay warm is to eat a good, high calorie meal containing both protein and carbohydrates before heading to the field. Your body uses a lot of energy to keep itself warm. You also need the energy for the extra exertion hunting in bad weather requires. Eat plenty of venison before hunting for your venison! ????
When hunting deer in harsh weather it is crucial for you to dress appropriately. Dress warm and wear waterproof gear if necessary.
Dressing for the Weather
Cold, wet and windy weather calls for good clothing. Dressing in layers starting with a moisture-wicking base will keep you warmer than wearing one thick outer garment. Hypothermia can happen in 40-degree temperatures if you get too wet from rain or sweat. Carry your outer layers and put them on later if you have a long walk to your stand to avoid sweating.
Wearing something with a water repellent shell makes a long sit in the rain and snow more tolerable. And don’t forget to wear a warm hat. Most body heat escapes from the head.
Keeping your hands warm is crucial but it can be difficult to handle a rifle or bow with thick gloves and mittens. To prevent fumbling and still keep your fingers warm, consider wearing a thinner glove on your shooting hand while on stand and keeping it in a pocket with a hand warmer.
Good quality waterproof boots are must in cold and wet conditions. Few things make a hunt more miserable than cold feet. Thermal socks with a light silk or polyester under sock will keep your feet drier and warmer than several layers of thicker socks. If the snow is deep you should consider gaiters to keep snow from going inside pant legs and down the tops of boots.
There you have it. Deer hunting in the rain and snow are part of the deal for the serious deer hunter. Don’t let harsh conditions stop you from filling that last tag. The deer are still out there. Go get them.