It’s raining. No other words have an impact on deer hunters like those two.
Should this be the case, though? Sure, it’s a little more uncomfortable than whitetail deer hunting in clear weather, but how much difference does it make to the deer? It’s not like they jump into bed, cuddle under the eiderdown, and watch television. Yet, for some reason, humans shy away from a bit of water and sulk up a storm more extensive than the one outside.
The rain certainly impacts the hunter, but how much does it affect their potential prey?
Before the Rain Starts
You can generally tell if it’s going to rain. The weatherman will predict it, but, more importantly, you get a certain feeling that rain is definitely in the air. Believe me, if we can feel it, then the whitetail deer feel it too.
Deers are intuitive creatures. If they feel it’s going to rain, they’ll try and feed early, so they don’t have to graze while it’s pouring. Deers are not the biggest fans of heavy rain either, but they make do. They don’t have many other options.
For this reason, deer hunters can make use of this pre-rain period. There’ll probably be more deer movement. You’ll likely run into a few more deer than usual for the time of day if you focus on their regular feeding areas before the rains start.
Light Rain and Drizzle
Those intrepid hunters that aren’t scared of a little water know how a light rainfall or drizzle increases general whitetail deer movement. Often these hunters describe light rainfall periods as some of the best deer hunting they’ve experienced. This reasoning makes sense for these reasons:-
Increased deer movement
In heavy rain and stormy weather, it makes sense that deer will take shelter either under trees or in the long grass of their bedding areas. In the drizzle, though, it’s unlikely they’ll need to do this, nor will they stand still and let the light rain eventually saturate their pelts. For this reason, you’ll find increased deer movements, which is excellent for hunters.
The deer’s sense of security
Maybe this reason is a bit of a reach, but thinking in human terms, it does make some sense. If the whitetail deer can associate rain with safety, they’ll be happier venturing out as there aren’t many hunters out looking for them in the rain.
Think about it, a deer that realizes there’s danger has enough about it to turn and flee, and it won’t return to the same area immediately. With enough memory to learn that going to a certain spot may spell danger, isn’t it fair to assume a deer can associate certain times with safety too?
A deer’s senses
Rainy days will restrict a deer’s nose from picking up imminent danger as quickly. This isn’t because the deer’s sense of smell suffers in wet weather but instead due to human odor not traveling as far in rainy weather. If you’re trying to bait deer, remember it follows that deer can smell corn less well during wet weather too.
On a rainy day, raindrops force scent molecules to the Earth faster than in clear weather, causing suppressed scent conditions. This contrasts with windy weather, when high winds carry odors further, making hunting whitetail deer more difficult.
When it rains, the whitetail deer hunter can move freely without being heard. Walking on wet leaves and other foliage isn’t as noisy as when dry, crackling leaves are lying underfoot. As such, deer will not pick up human activity in the woods as easily in wet weather.
Light rains may be a perfect time to do scouting as your scent, and your sounds will be more difficult for whitetail deer to detect.
Likely, you won’t meet too many fellow hunters out on the trails. Most of them will be either on their way home or back at the deer camp engaging in other activity that isn’t hunting. This might give you the advantage you need to bag that monster buck. Imagine their faces if you arrived back, feeling a little bedraggled but with a massive whitetail deer in tow.
Hard Rain and Storms
When it is raining hard, deer move a lot less. If you’re thinking of setting up in your tree stand, then you’re probably in for a long wait if the rain continues.
Heavy rain is one time you can safely predict there’ll be a decrease in general whitetail deer movement. Stormy weather is not the right time to start a rainy-day hunt if you’re relying on deer movement.
The ray of sunshine is that there generally is a ray of sunshine at the end of a storm. You’ll be able to pack up the playing cards and head for the deer feeding area as the rainbow forms.
Alternatively, you don’t have to bring out the cards at all. When a storm rears its head, it’s a great time for hunting whitetail deer at a bedding area, if you know one, where you should find more deer than usual. Deer move to this area to bed down and wait for storms to pass before moving off to feed afterward.
Still hunting near deer bedding areas is probably the best way of hunting deer during a storm. Often the deer don’t even bed down in a storm, preferring to stand and wait for it to pass. For the above reasons, rainy-day hunts can be exhilarating even in a torrential downpour.
You must just prepare to brave the elements and give them a try. Those who do often refer to how great it was afterward.
If you do decide to attempt to hunt deer during a storm or heavy rain, there are some things that you should keep in mind:-
On rainy days, even if it’s not storming, visibility will not be as good. Especially during a rain storm, it can be much darker, more so around dawn and dusk. Prime yourself to work within the limitations, like waiting longer for a clear shot if you’re bow hunting.
Remember, if visibility is worse for you, it’s also worse for the deer. If it’s that dark that you need to use light, find out which is best for this purpose.
Vanishing blood trails and tracks
If or when you finally make that shot and hit your prize, be quick to follow any blood trail. Due to the rain, blood spots and tracks won’t be around as long, and the darker conditions will also make these harder to spot. It’ll likely be a test of your character and patience!
If you’re bow hunting whitetail deer and have lighted arrows like Lumenok or Archers, use them. It may be the difference between finding and losing your buck. Certain whitetail deer hunters have related how they’ve had to abandon their search for kills while hunting in the heavy rain and that these deer were never found.
Arrow treatment and use
You should treat your broadheads with an anti-moisture agent or a coating of Vaseline. Just a little moisture can result in them rusting.
You should shoot lesser distances while hunting whitetail deer in the rain. It would be best if you were confident in rainy conditions before taking a shot. Only wounding the deer could mean losing the trail, meaning it would bleed out slowly and painfully somewhere.
Personal discomfort and risk
You will get wet. That’s what hard rain does, so prepare for it. Thankfully, with today’s modern waterproof rain gear, the element’s impact won’t be anywhere as severe as it would have been in the past. You’ll still feel some discomfort, though.
You’ll likely feel a little chilly, too, if you’re short of layering, but again, with the right hunting clothes, you’ll be able to cope well. And you can write glowing reviews about your gear afterward if it does its job!
Finally, there’s also an element of personal risk to hunting in the rain, especially during storms. Lightning is not your friend, so the last place you want to be is in a stand many feet above the ground. Take the appropriate precautions and still hunt from a blind on the Earth’s surface, and you’ll cope admirably.
It’s not only lightning you should worry about when whitetail deer hunting in the rain. Slopes become like mudslides, and creeks fill and overflow in hours. The risk of being stranded through injury, or experiencing altered land or water features, is very real.
If you’re venturing out alone, ensure you’ve got working comms, and somebody knows where you’re going. Be over-cautious when moving. The danger is real.
After the Rains
When the heavy rain stops, as a deer hunter, you could be in one of a few places. You could be several hours away in your truck on your way home, listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and lamenting that you didn’t stay at the camp longer.
You might still be at the camp finishing the last hand with your fellow hunters before gearing up to head out and hopefully hunt whitetail deer at their food source. Or perhaps you’re out in the woods already trailing blood in preparation for the long haul back, prize deer in tow.
Which hunter would you be?
Patterning Deer for Rainy Days
To pattern deer means observing, scouting, tracking, and hunting deer while keeping a record of everything you learn. In this way, you’ll be able to know their habits in both wet and dry weather. This is exceptionally insightful if you want to hunt whitetail deer in the rain successfully.
You’ll better be able to predict general deer movement, knowing where and when they bed and feed. You’ll also know when they’re most plentiful and easy to hunt in any specific location. Patterning deer is a beneficial exercise if you have the talent for it.
Keeping a record of the weather as part of your patterning allows you to be more definite about whether hunting in the rain is worthwhile in a location. Weather can affect different wildlife in many ways, and deer movement is part of this.
Which weather conditions affect whitetail movement the most is still up for debate. Doing your deer patterning allows you to form your own opinions.
Things to Leave Behind When Hunting on Rainy Days
Consider what you shouldn’t take with you on a rainy-day hunting excursion. As I mentioned earlier, it’s wise to travel light and keep as silent as possible. With this in mind, conveniently “forget” the following at home or camp.
- Your wallet
- Cooking equipment
- Range finders
- Space blankets
- Electronic gear
- GPS unit
Be as frugal as possible with what you take along. Everything will get wet, so don’t risk anything that will make you cry if it does. Only take what’s absolutely necessary to bring home your spoils.
Things to Take With When Hunting on Rainy Days
Finally, let’s look at those items that you’ll need to have on that rainy day trip.
- Your essential hunting kit and gear
- Rubber boots
- Camo face mask
- Camo gloves
- Climbing stand
- Strap-on umbrella
- Cellular Phone (for emergencies but switched off)
Is it worth hunting in the rain?
Deer are active all day in a steady downpour, especially if the wet conditions last for several days. It’s an excellent time to hunt as the deer must eat and move around, especially during the rut.
Does before or after rains make for better deer hunting?
During a heavy downpour, deer will go to their bedding area and wait out the rain chewing their cud. When they sense rain is on the way, they feed in preparation for the wait ahead. If you know there’s a storm coming, get out to the deers’ food source, and bag yourself a kill.
Do bucks check scrapes after a rainy period?
Scrapes are great predictors of locations that bucks will come back to. Although many adult bucks check scrapes in the dark, hunting known scrapes after prolonged rain could be beneficial.
It could be worthwhile to take a chance hunting whitetail deer in rainy conditions. Besides being one of the only hunters that ventures out into the woods, it’s actually much easier dragging a kill back to camp when the forest floor is wet.
The only things that might be difficult about wet-weather hunting are how wet you get and struggling to track any wounded game. Besides that, you’re likely to see more whitetail deer than average and enjoy your own company.
I’d go for it. Would you?