So I’ve been inundated with information regarding hunting deer in these awful drought conditions. Add to that the heat and dry crunchy ground, the relentless hunters like me are slowly wearing down, becoming more frustrated, and all but throwing in the towel this archery season.
And in the midst of my depressed state, behold a good chance of rain for Northern California this weekend. But in the height of my epiphany, I remember that I forgot how to hunt in the rain.
Seriously though, rainy days, especially during archery season are rare and everyone kind of spazzes out on a collective level. There are a few things to remember if you want to give yourself the best chance of getting a shot when it rains.
The jury is out on a couple of key issues regarding deer and their movement during rainy weather. I think the information I’m throwing out here would probably be true anywhere where conditions mimic the ones that have been going on in the west for the past several years.
The bottom line is that deer will be moving a lot. The past couple weeks have told me that, with the heat and lack of water, the deer bed down all day long. The few deer I kicked up were well protected and in areas that remained the coolest throughout the day. These guys are tired of being hot and bothered. When the rain comes and the temperatures drop, I guarantee you that they will be doing the tango. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Think about it . . . what would you do?
Now, a couple of other factors come into play here as well, benefiting both the deer and the hunter. Wet conditions quiet down the forest floor. Moving can be done less noisily and as beneficial as it is to us, remember, they are very likely to take advantage of the quiet ground too and move around with less stress. The other thing that rain affects is scent. This is a tricky one because torrential rain and heavy winds decrease a deer’s ability to smell. If it’s raining hard and blowing, they’re likely to play it safe. Here’s the tricky part; as soon as the air becomes moist, their sense of smell gets supercharged and they are going to rely on it (remember, it’s their number one defense mechanism) and move around. What the hunter needs to think about is his scent, what the wind is doing, and how he will get in the right position to take advantage of this movement.
Another thing to consider in the rain is the length of time you plan to hunt. Current conditions are limited to early morning and late afternoon. Unless you’re doing a drive, the deer will usually stay put. If it’s a nice steady rain, I will stay out almost all day and take a break around noon. By 1:30 or 2, I’m back out for the duration. From what I’ve experienced, a rainy day provides all day opportunities if you’ve planned ahead and know where to go. If you move, do it between 11 am and 1pm and stay put. If you’re quiet, well camouflaged, doing the wind right, and are patient, you will see and hear deer moving around. Especially with what we’ve been experiencing lately weather-wise. As much as a soft couch and the Discovery Channel appeals to you, this is your chance and chances like this are few and far between. There will be plenty of guys sitting on their couches. Deer hunting (especially blacktail hunting) takes commitment.
Lastly, I try to travel light, leaving the usual plethora of gadgets back at camp. I want to be able to slither around without unnecessary bulk. I even forgo the rain gear and opt for toughing out the wetness. Here in the west, this time of the year is never too cold for a tough deer hunter. And, the best thing is that the guys I run into, if any, are thinking exactly what I am, and that’s really cool!
Photo credit: Dreamstime