Looking to make small talk on your first hunting trip? One topic that’ll get seasoned deer hunters talking is: ‘do deer move in the wind?’
Deer move during wind, sometimes more than when there’s no wind at all. The idea that deer don’t move on windy days is an old hunting adage that is still widely believed.
To be fair to the believers of this conspiracy, it makes a lot of sense. Wind causes all kinds of noises to occur in the wild. Noise is, of course, the biggest deterrent to the noise-sensitive buck. However, research has shown that this old saying has little truth in it.
In many cases, how deer move in windy conditions comes down to chance. Let’s take a closer look at how much the wind influences the movement of deer.
Can a Deer Move in the Wind?
Windy weather does not affect deer like it affects humans. Wind, rain, and other unfavorable weather conditions do not phase bucks that are out in the open.
The biology of a deer allows the animal to thrive in all kinds of weather conditions. Their bodies are well insulated with excess fat to help them stay alive. If they can survive in temperatures 30 degrees below zero, do you really think a little bit of wind is going to bother them?
Believers in the ‘deer do not move in the wind’ theory often argue that wind distracts deer from their senses. They’ll tell you that a gale limits the amount a deer can hear. Additionally, they’ll argue that high wind speeds would surely limit the amount that a buck can smell. While these are logical arguments, they don’t reflect how deer respond to the wind accurately.
As a matter of fact, the wind can actually heighten a deer’s senses.
However, there is obviously a point when wind gales are too strong for deer (more on this later!).
Why Do Deer Move in the Wind?
As we’ve just mentioned, windy conditions can actually work in a deer’s favor. Although many would argue that the wind distracts them, it can in fact make them more alert.
Deers benefit from the wind for the following reasons:
Deer use the wind to detect predators
Deer base a lot of their decision-making on what they can smell. The wind can carry smell through the air from great distances – a strong wind can help a deer smell things from miles away. Deer can therefore use the information the wind provides them to decide which direction to stride in.
Crosswinds are a useful deer tool. If they get a whiff of human activity through the wind, they’ll use the wind to determine exactly where this smell is coming from. Once detected, deer move away from detected human activity.
For this reason, it can be argued that the wind actually makes deer more alert to distant predators.
Deer use the wind to find does
During rutting season, the wind could be a deer’s biggest boon. Bucks spend the run-up to rutting season chasing doe scents. This can witness them traveling miles on end, hoping to find a mating partner. While searching, a buck is picking up and following all scents that could potentially lead to a doe.
Just as the wind can help a deer stay clear of predators, it can also help them detect doe from miles away. Once a buck picks up the scent of a doe, it will continue to use the wind to accurately lead the way.
Wind helps deer detect predators from behind
‘Do deer move in the wind?’ isn’t the only hot question among deer hunting enthusiasts. ‘What direction do deer move in?’ is another one that is sure to get an argument going.
In the case of the topic at hand, a deer will generally move with the wind at their back. Not only can the wind itself heighten their senses, but wind direction can also make deer better alert.
By running with the wind at their back, a deer can remain alert to potential predators approaching from behind. This means that they basically have 360 alertness: their eyes to the front, and their nose and ears to the back.
A deer would be unable to sense approaching danger in quite the same way on a stagnant day. This again proves why the wind is beneficial to deer movement.
Standing still in the wind puts a deer in danger
Lastly, standing still could potentially be the most dangerous thing a deer could do in the wind. Even if the wind speed is low, it can rustle the branches and grass that surround the deer significantly. This muffles all other noises and limits the amount a deer can hear distinctly.
When standing still, windy days can almost completely remove a deer’s sense of smell, sight, and noise. In this case, a hunter could easily target the immobile target and shoot it without the deer even sensing a thing.
Therefore, using the wind to its advantage is the only way a deer can increase its chances of survival. It needs to move with the wind and use it if it wants to avoid danger.
Deer Movement is Higher in Windy Conditions
Several scientific studies have pointed to the fact that deer actually move more in the wind. The most famous deer movement research was conducted by Penn State University (PSU) in 2013, 2015, and 2016.
Most of the conclusions drawn from these studies suggested that whitetail deer movement grew as the wind increased. In one study, PSU found that male deer only moved 0.2 miles when there was no wind. This movement increased to 0.5 miles in moderate winds.
Based on this research, the distance covered by whitetail deer seemed to increase with the speed of the wind. This would suggest that high wind speeds potentially encourage deer movements more than low wind speeds.
Do Deer Move When It’s Windy and Raining?
Rainfall does not prevent a deer from going about its business. Given that heavy rainfall will muffle a deer’s hearing, it’s highly unlikely that rain will stop deer movement completely. Rain doesn’t necessarily impact a deer’s ability to smell and see, and only hampers their hearing a little bit.
Deer movement is unlikely to be affected at all if rainfall lasts for several days. Deer have to eat and mingle with other deer, and it’s unlikely that rainfall would break their routine.
But what about when it’s raining and windy? It appears that a combination of these factors actually increases deer movement slightly.
This deer movement study by Penn State University suggests that deer cover more meters per hour in the rain and wind than on dry, windless days.
Although this conclusion is based on limited research, it still points towards the idea that a combination of wind and rain does not deter a deer.
However, rain does affect deer hunting in other ways.
Do Deer Move When it’s Windy and Snowing?
Snow prevents deer movement significantly more than all other weather factors. Interestingly, deer can sense barometric changes in the atmosphere days before they happen. So, a deer will already know that snowfall is due before it even arrives.
With this foresight, deer movement actually increases before and after a snowfall. This is particularly the case when snow falls during rutting season, which can go on until early November.
During light snow storms, you’ll likely see deer movement. Deer like to travel through light snow and prefer colder weather to warmer climates. In this case, deer movement will likely still occur during a combination of light snow and a light breeze.
However, when heavy snowfall is combined with heavy winds, deer are likely to stop moving. Instead, they’ll bunker in a deer bed until the snowstorm passes.
When is it Too Windy for Deer?
Although it’s clear that deer definitely move in the wind, there is a point when the wind gets too much for mature bucks. Research by PSU suggests this is when the wind reaches a speed of 15 miles per hour. At wind speeds higher than 15 mph, deer will likely bed down until the wind slows down.
At 15 mph or above, the wind creates the most amount of noise and distraction. This may put deer off moving, but not always.
When the wind speed is over 15 mph, a deer may still attempt to move but will do so carefully. In instances of high winds, it’s not uncommon for deer to move along sheltered areas. For example, a deer may run alongside a thicket, a bush, or another form of dense cover.
Should You Hunt Deer When it’s Windy?
As long as the wind doesn’t threaten your own safety, then you should hunt in the wind. Based on research on whitetail behavior, you may be more successful hunting deer during moderate wind speeds.
As long as the wind doesn’t threaten your own safety, then you should hunt in the wind. Based on research on whitetail behavior, you may be more successful at hunting during moderate wind speeds.
Not only are windy days good for increasing deer movement, they also reduce competition. Many hunters still believe the old adage that deer don’t move in the wind. Given that it’s only been in the last 10 years that this theory was disproven, you may find many novice hunters staying home rather than brave the winds.
With less hunting pressure on the deer, you may have a more fruitful hunting trip. So, you should hunt deer when it’s windy.
How to Hunt Deer in the Wind
Hunting season doesn’t need to be put on hold simply because of a few windy days. Based on scientific study, you may in fact have more successful hunts when the wind is blowing. To take advantage of increased daytime deer movement, follow these tips:
Figure out the direction of the wind
Before you do anything else, the most important step in hunting on windy days is determining wind direction. This way, you’ll be able to position yourself downwind. With the wind blowing in your face, you create better scent control. If you stand upwind, you increase the chance of spreading your scent and allowing deer to detect you.
Control your scent
As we’ve stated, deer gain a lot of information. Even light winds can inform deer of activity taking place miles away. So, you’ve got to make sure that your hunting gear and clothing meet the required scent control standards.
Scent control starts with your clothing. On windy days, make sure you don’t wear footwear that gives off a big odor. Odor can be produced from leather and various types of rubber.
The likelihood of your footwear giving off a scent is increased when they get damp or simply through heavy use. If you walk great distances over various terrains, the chance of your shoes giving off a smell is high.
For this reason, make sure you invest in hunting boots that give off minimal scent. There are various hunting boots with odor prevention, including Irish Setter’s VaprTrek 2.0 Waterproof Hunting Boots.
Besides your hunting boots, you should also make sure your pants, jacket, and other items of clothing have some form of odor-prevention guarantee. If not, you should invest in a good quality scent killer. Additionally, you should avoid eating and smoking while hunting.
Prepare for cold wind
Besides hunting boots, make sure your pants, jacket, and other items of clothing have some form of odor-prevention guarantee. If not, you should invest in a good quality scent killer. Additionally, you should avoid eating and smoking while hunting.
Use the wind to your advantage
While the wind can give your game away, it can also be used to your advantage. By figuring out which direction the wind is blowing, you could strategically place a deer attractant. With the wind picking up the scent, you could attract deer from miles around.
As we’ve mentioned, a deer uses the wind in order to look for food as well as mating partners. You could take advantage of this by using the wind to expand the reach of your deer attractant.
The best deer attractant to use depends on what time of year it is. Attractant blocks are a good option for year-round usage. These blocks are filled with vitamins and minerals and can be used to attract hungry dear.
Alternatively, you could use deer urine to attract bucks during the rutting season. Whichever attractant you choose, make sure it is strategically placed on a windy day so the deer move in the right direction.
Use a tree stand
Sometimes, standing in the right wind direction isn’t enough. You may also need to lift yourself out of the creek bottoms and woodland areas. These places are prone to create wind tunnels, which will carry your scent right to the whitetail deer. Instead, you should invest in a good-quality tree stand to use during lighter wind speeds.
Ideally, you want to be 25 feet above the ground. This will give you enough height to conceal your scent, and may also grant you a better perspective of your hunting ground.
However, be wary of the wind speed. Using a tree stand can be dangerous when wind speeds go over 12 mph. In this case, you should dismount your tree stand and look for other lofty places to position yourself. For example, you could use a ridgetop or the top of a hill.
What is the best wind for hunting deer?
The downwind side of downwind is the best wind for hunting deer. This means facing the direction in which the wind is blowing. Although this may make hunting more difficult for you, it helps to contain your scent. Ideally, you want this wind to be mild, although any speed up to 15 mph is good for deer hunting.
How far can deer smell without wind?
On days without wind, deer can only smell 1/4 of a mile away. On windy days, deer can smell for miles around. However, the deer can only smell in the direction that the wind is coming from. It cannot smell in all directions, as it would be able to on windless days.
Regardless of the wind speed or wind direction, you can still catch deer moving on windy days. The animals can learn a lot from the wind. For starters, it can alert them to approaching danger through scent detection. Additionally, the smell of a doe can travel through the wind and lead a buck to a new mating partner.
Therefore, you shouldn’t postpone your deer hunting trip over the threat of wind. Instead, you should prepare yourself for windy conditions. Start by determining the wind direction and making yourself scent-free. You should then position yourself based on the wind direction and wait for the whitetail or mule deer to come into range.
Take advantage of the reduced hunting pressure and catch mature bucks as they travel through high winds. If you know how to deal with adverse weather, you’ll see deer move in the best direction for hunting.