So, what’s the big deal with deer hunting and all this “upwind” and “downwind” talk?
Every year hunters make mistakes by not paying attention to wind direction. You can have all the deer in the world on your property. You can have all the “best” and most expensive hunting gear.
But, if you don’t pay attention to wind direction, you will be severely limiting your chances of harvesting a whitetail.
So, let’s learn how to hunt the wind, so that you can give yourself the best chance for hunting success while in the field.
Wind direction doesn’t really matter when hunting whitetail deer… does it?
You’ve probably heard stories of the hunter who rolls out of bed, goes through the local breakfast joint drive-through and gets a greasy sausage biscuit and drives to the hunting land.
Then, gets out of the truck, rides his/her 4-wheeler straight to the bottom of the tree they plan to hunt, ascend, light up a cigarette and shoot the biggest buck of their life.
When it comes to harvesting mature whitetails, you had better be on your A-game when it comes to scent control and wind direction.
Then, when the subject of scent control and wind direction in deer hunting comes up, they point to the wall hanger in the den and say something like, “pffffft, I never pay attention to the wind and you can see I’m doing just fine.”
Sure these stories are out there, but don’t be fooled. A mature whitetail didn’t become mature by “throwing caution to the wind.” A whitetail’s nose is its best defense and you are one of the most offensive smells around.
So, if you hope to have sustained success in the deer woods, you need to be serious about scent control. For bowhunters, who typically need to get a close shot to get the kill, it’s even more critical.
So, if you’re still reading, you must want to learn about how to hunt the wind in a way that keeps your scent away from a buck’s nose.
When it comes to wind direction, the key is to stay “downwind” of the deer you are hunting. But, what does “downwind” and “upwind” really mean?
How to “hunt the wind”
Being “downwind” of a deer means that if you were looking straight at the deer you hope to shoot, the wind would be blowing in your face. Thus, the wind would be blowing your scent away from the deer.
Conversely, if you were “upwind” of the deer, the wind would carry your scent “downwind” toward the deer (not what you want).
So, you want the deer to be upwind of you, and you want to be downwind of them. Got it?
Let’s take a look at the diagram below, which might help clear things up.
It’s not just about being in the stand
So, let’s say you are in the stand (or from the ground) and you’re overlooking a field where you know the deer feed. You are downwind of where you think the deer will eventually be. You are golden, right?
Well, maybe not.
You’re scent doesn’t just matter when you are in the deer stand. It matters well before you even sat down!
Entry and exit routes when hunting
One thing deer hunters often ignore is how their entry and exit to and from their deer stand impacts the deer they are hunting.
So, the hunt actually begins before you take one step toward your hunting location.
When you are making your way to your deer stand, the wind is carrying your scent just as it does from the stand.
So, unless you want your hunt to end before it even gets started, you need to be sure that you have thought through the wind direction as it pertains to how you are going to get to your stand.
If you are going to use the wind to your advantage, your hunt begins long before you actually sit down in your stand.
This means you need to know where the deer typically are during the time you plan to enter. Are they bedding? Are they feeding? Where are these locations in regard to your entry route?
And it’s the same for your exit route. If your scent gets blown toward the deer when you leave your stand, you have just educated those deer to your location.
So, if you are trying to avoid danger, are you going to continue to go back to where the danger is every day? Well, neither would a deer. They are trying to stay alive and that means avoiding the danger, which in this case, is YOU!
So, be sure you are paying attention to wind direction as it pertains to your entry and exit routes.
Let’s be clear, you can never truly “fool a deer’s nose.”
But, there are some things you can do to make it harder for them to bust you.
You can never totally fool a buck’s nose, but you should do everything you can to make things more difficult for him to bust you. (photo by Jeff Coldwell)
Kill that clothing scent
Take a whiff of your laundry detergent. Smells nice, doesn’t it?
Not to a deer.
What might smell great to you could make a deer want to leave the county. So, what can you do about that?
It’s a good idea to wash your clothes in a scent-free detergent. Baking soda is also a good scent “eliminator.” There are lots of these types of scent-killing hunting detergents on the market, so you’ll have no trouble finding them at you local sporting goods store.
Well, of course you want to have hunting clothing that will keep you warm in cold weather, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear all of it while you are walking to and from your stand or hunting location.
Plus, if you sweat on your way to the stand in an attempt to stay warm, you are going to end up being cold anyway when the sweat cools your body down. Nothing like being we in cold weather, right?
Many hunters are hunting on public land, which can mean a long trek to the final hunting destination. So, if you have a long walk to where you are headed and know you are going to work up a sweat, consider starting out by removing a layer or two. You might be a little bit cold when you start walking, but your body will warm up as you get moving.
Then, once you arrive at your stand or hunting location, you can put the layers back on, so that you will stay warm during the hunt. By doing this, you not only will be warmer, but you’ll avoid much of the odor that sweating causes.
Well, remember, wind direction is the most important scent control tactic you need to pay attention to, but if you can gain any kind of advantage in harvesting a whitetail (especially a mature buck), should you do it?
Use cover scents
The use of covers scents can be helpful in shielding a deer from your scent. There are a variety of cover scents available, such as racoon or fox urine, acorn scent, pine, etc.
Just be sure to native to your area. So, if there are no oak trees in your area and you use an acorn cover scent, this could have the opposite effect you are intending.
A deer may be on high alert when smelling this, since it is not a smell they are used to in that particular area. So, take care in choosing the “right” cover scent.
Find out what deer hunting and playing the lottery have in common. Stick with us for the N1 Outdoors N1 Minute.
Suppose I knew the five winging numbers to the lottery and all you had to do was guess the order they go into to win. How many of you would refuse that information and instead, decide to guess the numbers yourself and the order they go in?
Hopefully none of you, but that’s exactly what many deer hunters do every season by not paying attention to the wind.
Wind direction is critical in deer hunting
All the scouting and trail can picture is in the world won’t make up for poor planning when it comes to wind direction. For you bow hunters out there, it’s even more critical. Always be aware of which way the wind is blowing, not only in regards to stand location, but also in relation to the entry and exit routes to and from your stand or hunting location. The last thing you want is for your hunt to end with deer blowing before it even gets started.
Stay downwind of the deer in all situations. For those of you not familiar with the terms “upwind” and “downwind,” an easy way to remember, is to be sure the wind is in your face when approaching and hunting your favorite trail or location.
Paying careful attention to wind direction certainly won’t help you win the lottery, but when combined with effective scouting, planning and accuracy, it will increase your chances of seeing and taking more deer.
We hope you have a great week and remember… “where the moments happen, we’ll meet you there.” We’ll see you next time.
I used to hate having my pull-up rope tangled when I pulled it out of my pocket. There is nothing more frustrating than needing to quickly and quietly get up in your deer stand and then have to spend extra time untangling your pull-up rope.
Something had to give.
So, for years I used a gadget called a hunting hoist. It worked well enough, But, it was an extra 1-2 pounds of gear that I didn’t want to be weighed down by when walking to my stand. Also, the thing stip-like nylon material made a very unnatural noise when retracting.
It’s hard enough to kill a deer. I don’t need any extra noises making it more difficult.
I needed a pull-up rope for my bow that wouldn’t get all knotted up
I wanted to get rid of the unwanted noise as well as the extra weight. So, here’s what I use now and it works like a charm.
No tangles, no mess, and I don’t have to deal with any unwanted noise.
How to make your own tangle-free pull-up rope for your bow or gun [step-by-step]
So the first thing you’re going to need is some paracord. I like to use 1/8-inch paracord. It’s big enough to do what I need to do, but it’s also not so bulky that it can’t be handled easily.
Now, I cut the paracord to 30-feet, simply because when I’m using a climbing stand, I like to climb a bit high in the tree when bowhunting. The last thing I want is to have 20 feet of this rope and climb to 25 feet in the tree and have my bow hanging 5 feet off the ground because I didn’t have enough rope.
So, keep in mind how high you typically climb or how high your fixed tree stand is when making this rope.
No worse feeling exists in the sport of waterfowl hunting than pulling up to dust a flock of mallards and then… your gun misfires.
I’ve been in that frustrating situation before and I don’t want you to experience the pain I did.
So, how exactly can you keep this from happening?
Well, it begins with the firearm you select. I’m not here to push one brand over another, but rather to help you find the gun and gauge that best fits you so you can go with it.
What exactly is shotgun “fit?” Scroll down and watch the video near the end of the article to find out!
Does price matter?
I’ve hunted with guys who bought the latest and greatest shotgun on the market only to watch them miss every duck that decoyed. I’ve also hunted with guys who were shooting a “pawn shop special” and they absolutely slaughtered every duck within a mile radius.
So, what was the difference?
At the end of the hunt, you want a shotgun that has performed as expected, hopefully resulting in a successful harvest.
Well, one group of guys thought the expensive gun would make them a good shot. The other group knew they needed a gun that they were extremely comfortable shooting in several different conditions.
Simply put, the best shotgun is the one you are most comfortable using.
There are three main types of shotguns. The most popular is the semi-auto, followed by the pump-action, and the over-under. They all come in different gauges and all are solid choices when it comes to waterfowl hunting. I have personally hunted with all three for at least one season each. As I hunted with each, I found there are pros and cons to all.
I prefer to hunt with a 12-gauge shotgun, regardless of the type of shotgun I am shooting. But, enough about me, let’s look at three critical factors in determining the best shotgun for ducks and waterfowl.
The three criteria I used to determine the best type of duck hunting shotgun are as follows:
Dependability: How unlikely it is to malfunction in different weather conditions?
Ruggedness: How much abuse can it take from being tossed in the back of a truck and dragged through mud all season long?
Amount of birds in the blind: That should be pretty self-explanatory. If I was able to shoot more birds with it, I hunted with the firearm more often!
The Most Dependable Shotgun
As far as dependability goes, an over-under is going to fire every time the trigger is pulled. A pump-action is going to fire basically every time, as well. The weather conditions are not prone to affect the firing capabilities of an over-under or pump-action.
The semi-automatic shotgun is a different story.
As long as they are clean and lightly oiled in warm conditions, a semi-automatic works great! However, in my experience, when the cold weather hits, semi-auto shotguns tend to become finicky. So, when I need a gun that is dependable, I hunt with a pump-action or an over-under.
Part of having a dependable gun is knowing it won’t jam or misfire.
The Most Rugged Shotgun
Ruggedness, once again, goes to an over-under or a pump-action. The over-under has so few moving parts that make it such a rugged gun. Now, this does not apply if your over-under is a gun that only comes out of the gun safe to get oiled and then gently placed back in its place.
The over-under I used was as basic as they are made, perfect for the tough conditions I hunt. A pump-action has a few more moving parts, but in my experience hunting with one, they are just as rugged as an over-under.
The semi-auto shotguns I hunted with were not as rugged as I had hoped they would be, but in recent years semi-auto shotguns have made tremendous strides in ruggedness.
Shotgun types come in different gauges… my personal favorite is the 12-gauge.
The most critical factor is the number of birds the firearm helps bring down cleanly.
The semi-auto shotguns are outstanding when I need to fire off all three shots quickly, but I have a tendency to rush my shot. That is my fault, not the firearm!
When hunting with a pump-action, I am forced to slow down just enough to be much more accurate and add more birds to my limit.
The over-under shotgun I hunted with drastically fell short because it lacked the third shot I was familiar with. My friend, Jason Cruise, claims the third shot is a wasted shot more often than not.
I would disagree.
Yes, many times by the third shot, the birds are out of range. However, when the ducks are back-flapping in your face, that third shot is a huge advantage. Every hunt I am on, I will consistently shoot all three shells in a single volley. When I hunted with my over-under, I desperately missed having that third shot.
Semi-automatic shotguns give you the ability to fire 3 shots rapidly, but may also lead the shooter to rush the shot.
And, the best shotgun type is…
As I mentioned above, all three shotgun types have their pros and cons. However the one that stands out the most is the 12 gauge pump-action shotgun.
The pump-action shotgun is a workhorse. It is not anything fancy but it consistently gets the job done. Time after time, adding birds to the limit. No matter the weather conditions, a pump-action shotgun will deliver what it promises… three shells.
The reasons I choose to hunt with a pump-action shotgun over the other two styles are because a pump-action is typically more dependable than a semi-auto, it is extremely rugged, and I shoot more birds with a pump-action than an over-under.
I admit I am extremely tough on my gear. So, I need a firearm that will hold up to the abuse, enduring throughout the season.
A pump-action shotgun does this for me more consistently than the other two styles. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t bring my other guns on a shoot or two during the season.
I love shooting my semi-auto when the weather permits and my over-under has become my turkey hunting shotgun.
Whether you are just getting into duck hunting or waterfowl hunting has been a lifestyle for a while now, a pump-action shotgun is a tool that won’t let you down.
Before purchasing any firearm, do your research. I would recommend not only reading the online reviews, but also getting your hands on the gun you intend to buy prior to buying it. This ensures that it fits you well and you are more than comfortable handling it.