Although deer hunting season varies from state to state, and even from county to county, the need to factor in the effects of weather and pressure is always an integral part of a hunt. Both whitetail and mule deer have finely tuned senses, including an innate ability to adjust their feeding and movement according to pressure changes. This means that pleasant weather for the outdoors isn’t necessarily the best weather for deer hunting. So before slipping into some camouflage and heading downwind, check out our quick primer on the effects of weather on deer.
Barometric Pressure Influences Deer Movement
Similar to fish, deer are more active when the barometer is on the move. They can sense impending storms or changes in barometric pressure that a hunter may not notice without the help of portable weather forecasting equipment like AcuRite’s Weather Sportsman Forecaster. Those who live or spend long amounts of time outdoors have often relied on deer as an early warning sign of approaching bad weather, as deer tend to hunker down when the pressure drops anticipating a storm. When the barometric pressure rises, typically after a storm has passed, expect deer to be on the move, and thus more likely to stray from their trusted hiding places.
The Effects of Temperature
Deer hunting season typically spans the last days of summer through winter. This makes it difficult to present a consistent rule for when is the best time to hunt. In hot weather, deer movement is limited as they retreat to the cool temperatures of the forest. Whitetails, in particular, stick to a nocturnal schedule, leaving a fairly narrow window around dawn and dusk when a hunter might get lucky. Come winter, whitetails can spend as much as 90 percent of their time bedded. Again, that can make for long, cold hours in a hunting blind without much action. Things heat up noticeably in rutting season, roughly from late October to December, when bucks are more likely to drop their guard. Likewise, an incoming cold front usually signals a spike in activity, as deer will feed up 24 hours ahead of any storm.
Does Heavy Rain Affect Deer Movement?
Rain affects the mood of the camp more than the behavior or movement of deer, and hunters who hunker down undercover are often missing out on a great opportunity. Deer pack some robust natural weatherproofing and will still feed during rain. In fact, they tend to be less nervous and unpredictable while it is raining. For the hunter, scents are less likely to carry and sounds tend to be obscured, which can add to stealth. The exception is if it’s pouring heavily, deer cannot distinguish predators and tend to retreat.
Deer Hunting in Windy Weather
As well as using their impressive sense for barometric pressure, deer also rely heavily on their hearing as a natural defense. If they can’t hear well, they don’t come out to graze. So if the winds are strong, pickings will be slim, not to mention the chances of making a clean shot for a bowhunter. Although studies are not unanimous on the effects of wind on deer, a reliable tip is that strong winds make for poor deer hunting. Deer can’t detect predators or pick up scents, making them skittish. However, if the wind is steady from the same direction, they should be more relaxed.
What’s the Best Weather for Deer Hunting
Such as the vast range of weather conditions and terrain across the U.S., a general rule on the best weather for deer hunting is hard to apply. The deer species on either side of the Rockies aren’t even the same. Many hunters relish the icy temperatures of snow season, particularly in the north where deer are accustomed to the winters. It’s understandable because hunters can track prints more easily and pick out deer against the landscape. With less ground vegetation or foliage to plunder, deer are also obliged to move around more to find food.
Any responsible hunter will keep one eye on their target and the other on the weather. Deer hunting often means heading deep into the wilderness and there’s always a risk of falling prey to bad weather. That’s why a portable weather device is an essential part of a hunting kit and a simple way to stay safe out in the woods.