Tips for Using Wind to Hunt Mature Bucks

Mature bucks are constantly using the wind in order to detect danger and find food (even love).

Knowing how bucks use the wind during certain times of the year could really make a difference in getting that once-in-a-lifetime shot….or no shot at all.

Note, using wind when hunting mature bucks is different than how deer move. Be sure to check out our in-depth article on if and how deer move in the wind, backed by wildlife biologist insights.

Using wind when hunting deer

To understand how to hunt bucks using the wind, you first need to understand how the wind works. No, I’m not trying to insult your intelligence. Of course, we all know how the wind works when it’s moving through our hunting area without interference. But what happens when it bumps into topography (mountains, small hills, valleys, and ridges)? How does it act in the morning as opposed to evening? And, how can you actually use that info to your advantage?

Wind Direction Models: Think Air & Water

Air blowing across an open food plot is pretty easy to figure out to determine sites for your hunting stands. The goal is to place yourself “downwind” of approaching deer. In other words, the wind should be blowing from the dee - to you. Not the other way around.  But what happens when there is an obstacle between you and the deer? Specifically a change in the terrain.

Well, it doesn’t take a great deal of topography to change the direction of the wind. And when it does, it is important to understand what happens. The best learning example, at least for me, is watching the water in a creek. More specifically, the way it ebbs and flows around rocks and pockets of land jutting out into it.

It is a good idea to constantly monitor the wind along with the deer behavior in your particular area. Doing so only increases knowledge which in turn increases your chances of success. Knowledge is power.

You will see that it will either go over it when the water meets rock. Pretty simple. However, when there is nowhere for the flowing water to go, it will start to swirl and roll back onto itself.

You’ve probably witnessed this where a large piece of land or rock juts out into the stream of water. The water will swirl behind it over and over again. Eventually, it moves on but not until it has flowed back onto itself for several minutes. Wind reacts much the same way. However, each scenario is different because of the variables involved in the obstruction's speed and size/shape.

Air Flow and Terrain

The next time you contemplate air in your hunting area, think back to the water example—the least amount of obstacles the wind has to collide with, the better. Naturally, the more mountainous the region, the more complicated things can get.

However, even in the predominately flat Mid-West, you will still find subtle valleys, ridges, and steep draws and/or hollows to contend with. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the wind does not influence the outcome of your hunt just because it is blowing in your face and you aren’t in a typical “mountain” setting.

topo maps can help predict wind movement
Topo maps can help predict wind movement

Depending on the severity of the drop in terrain, you can actually hang a stand for deer approaching on the “downwind” side of you. Topo maps are a great tool for locating such areas where the wind will actually be carried out over them.

I have hunted in my home state of Southern West Virginia, where the wind hit me in the face, collided with the steep mountain face behind me, and then rolled back onto itself, hitting the ground somewhere out in front of me. Much like the swirling water that rolls back on itself.

I’ve tested this occurrence with milkweed pods, pieces of cotton balls, and powdered wind detectors and found it to be true on hunts in my home state and the mid-west, where one would believe the wind to be constant most of the time.

The Ups and Downs Of Thermals

There is another sort of predicament the wind will cause you. However, it is much less obvious (or talked about) but just as powerful at making or breaking your hunt. It’s called thermals, and they work their magic in a mostly unannounced manner.

In simplest terms, thermals work like this. In the mornings, as the heat from the sun warms the air, it begins to rise. Therefore, any scent or odor that is floating around in the air will rise uphill. On the other hand, as the sun goes down in the evening, the air begins to cool and fall. When that happens, it will pull any odor that is present to the ground with it.

Wind direction and tree stand placement go hand and hand
Wind direction and tree stand placement go hand and hand

Savvy hunters will spend the off-season hanging multiple stands to adapt to prevailing winds and the effects of morning and evening thermals.

Smart treestand strategies would have you perched above game animals and trails in the morning and below game animals and trails in the evening. That way, the thermals (and any odor) will be rising or falling from them to you. It is the same principle as staying “downwind” but in a much more subtle manner.

Deer & Wind Direction    

For the most part, a mature buck is going to use the wind to the utmost level to not only stay alive but to check out areas without actually having to step near them. This is especially true during the rut when cruising bucks can scent-check doe hangouts from afar.

Big bucks are also notorious for circling on the “downwind” side of a hunter who uses rattling antlers, buck grunts, or doe bleats to confirm what his ears have heard. When that happens, and he gets a whiff of the real source (you), the game is over, and the buck walks away from all the wiser.

What if hunters knew what the wind direction was on any given day that an image was capture? It could open up a world of possibilities when deciding when and where to hunt a particular buck on a particular day.

One way to fix this problem is to locate an area that will provide an obstacle on the downwind side of your treestand site. This can be an open CRP field, a rock cliff, a large creek crossing, etc. Anything that would deter a buck from going where you don’t want him to…downwind of you.

The point is if you’re using an attractant to bring a particular buck into your setup, the odds are good he could circle downwind to confirm his hunch while checking for danger. If that happens, at least make sure you have a shooting lane cut to kill him before he gets there. Such obstacles can also prevent a buck from approaching the downwind side altogether, which is a big plus.

Your Stench Can Blow It

All of the technology, tips, or tactics in the world aren’t going to help you locate and monitor trophy bucks if you stink. So, before you start delving into the wind and how it can hurt or help your chances of tagging a mature buck, first consider your own scent control system. In all honesty, if it isn’t spot-on, you can forget about any consistent success.

Conclusion

When it comes to mature bucks, nothing is set in stone. However, they will have tendencies when it comes to the wind. Understanding those tendencies and, more importantly, knowing which way the wind is blowing can be very advantageous information to have.

Up until now, the only way to acquire that information was through firsthand observations or going back and checking the wind direction for particular days of the season. However, DeerLab is set to introduce wind data within their trail camera software. In my opinion, this could prove to be a game-changer.

I mean, if I had to choose between having the wind direction or moon phase stamped on an image or provided for each image in my catalog, then I’m sorry, but the wind info will triumph every time. The bottom line is programing like that could give hunters another weapon in their arsenal to locate, monitor, and tag mature bucks. And isn’t that the goal of a trail camera?

Stay tuned. Wind direction and speed reports are the next items to be released for DeerLab. If you haven't tried the hunting application out yet, sign up for a free DeerLab trial.

Steve Flores
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