Windy day whitetails: the answer to successfully stalking whitetails can be found blowing in the wind.
With my Bear Kodiak Magnum and a fistful of arrows, I took off at a crouching run, hoping to intercept her I never came close to getting a shot at that deer. An older fellow from my neighborhood named Jim helped me get started in bowhunting by toting me around to hunting spots. He'd observed my failed stalk from his treestand, and later, at his pickup, he admonished me with this unforgettable bit of advice: "When the deer are on their feet, you stay put and let them come to you. When the deer are bedded down tight, that's when you go to them."
That piece of sage advice has stayed with me all these years, and it fits so many situations in all kinds of hunting. I would go on to shoot several deer from the ground by spotting and stalking them both near my home in the flat farm: country of northern Iowa and in other states. In each case, the secret was to see a bedded deer before it saw me.
I've learned that one of the best times to expect deer to be bedded down is during windy conditions. I'm not necessarily talking breezy days, but more like those days when you feel like you are about to be bucked out of your treestand. Days when you have sustained winds of 20 miles per hour or more are the days when the deer hole up and wait it out.
Whitetails rely heavily on three senses for 'survival from predators: sight, sound, and smell. The more these senses are taken away by environmental factors, the more likely they are to put a hold on their movements. High wind takes away all three. Everything is moving around with the wind, making it difficult for them to distinguish movement that may signal alarm. It's very noisy with the wind rushing through the trees and air currents are swirling all over the place, making it impossible to determine the source of a smell.
In windy conditions, whitetails will be anchored to the ground in predictable locations. I have come up with three situations where you have a chance to increase your odds of bagging a buck when the winds are howling.
Open Country Spot & Stalk
In that open farm country of northern Iowa, I discovered that finding a buck to stalk was the easy part, particularly during the rut when they tend to push does out into open areas where they can control their movements. Getting within bow range wasn't so easy, so. I began to hope and pray for high winds at least a couple days during mid-November. Those were the days when I could significantly increase my odds of getting close enough for a shot. I have since used these techniques in Kansas, Missouri, and Montana.
The key to the system is to keep moving from spot to spot, glassing potential areas from a high vantage point. This is often accomplished by mounting a spotting scope to the window of a vehicle, or sneaking to the top of a hill and looking over known rutting areas with binoculars.
The likely places you will find bucks bedded are the lee side of terraces, ditch banks, grass waterways in harvested crop fields, bushy fencerows, and even behind small farm buildings. I once stalked within eight yards of a 135-inch eight-point in a quarter-acre gravel dugout and put an arrow through him while he was bedded.
Once you find the deer, plan your stalk carefully, marking features so you know exactly where you are going. Spotting scopes and binoculars compress the distance, and things often look different when you get out there. Count fence posts or power poles, make a mental note of a specific bush, rock or plant ... you get the idea. Once you have a couple of reference points, use the howling wind to your advantage and go get him. Take your time; he's likely to be there all day.
Think High And Low
Deer in more wooded areas tend to head for one of two locations when the winds blow. In these situations, a stealthy, on-the-ground approach is more effective, and you are not as likely to see the deer until seconds before the shot. Bucks often bed just over the crest of a steep hill on the lee side. This allows them to see the area in front of them and smell anything behind them as the winds flow up over the hill and over them.
You can often get close to these bucks by carefully working along the lee side of the hill with bow in hand and covered in good camouflage from head to toe. This way you are quartering with the wind while it is covering your sound and movement.
My friend Marc Anthony from Illinois has taken hunting from the ground to a whole new level. He loves windy days, and he has several specific areas picked out ahead of time while he waits for perfect conditions. "The ideal situation is when a front is going through," Marc said. "If the wind is building up more and more during the day, I want to be in the woods."
Marc loves to hunt low areas, such as thick creek bottoms, deep gullies and swamps. He says this is where the big ones go to get out of the wind. But he refuses to hunt known bedding areas. He will not violate them. He instead hunts the edges and trails leading between the bedding areas and food and water sources. "I love the windy days because you can get away with murder," Marc said. "I have drawn on deer from seven yards away, within plain sight, without them even flinching."
Marc outfits himself in a ghillie suit and moves at a snail's pace through these areas. "I calculate every step I take," he said. "It might take me two hours to go 80 yards. You can't accelerate the process,"
Even though things are moving and noisy, Marc still takes his normal precautions to minimize the chances of being seen or heard. He stays in the shadows and moves from tree to tree or bush to bush, trying to use objects wider than himself to break up his outline. When he moves, he avoids the normal heel-to-toe sound of a human walking. Instead, he literally walks on his tiptoes, analyzing each area where his foot will come down before he places it. When he sees a deer he wants to shoot, he angles out of its vision while trying to cut the wind angle for the final approach.
Marc's tactics may sound agonizing, but his successes are well documented. Just one look at the bucks he has bagged using this technique will make a believer out of anyone.
Creatures Of The Corn
Back in the late 1980s, I saw the video "Bowhunting October Whitetails" in which there was a demonstration about walking across the rows of dry, brown corn to hunt the deer that were bedded in there. To say I was skeptical would be an understatement, but I had the perfect place to try it out.
A farmer friend had a five-acre corn food plot near a county park. I went over and asked him if I could go into the food plot and try to shoot a deer in there. He looked at me like my head was on upside down, but he eventually granted me permission.
Two hours later, I came out of that cornfield not only with a deer, but with a wide-eyed appreciation for the potential of what I had just discovered. I have since spent countless hours hunting cornfields, and the stories I can tell of the things that happened in there make for some pretty good campfire conversations.
Here are the basics of how it's done. You start near the downwind corner of the field and hunt into the wind, or quartering into it. Hunt across the grain of the cornrows as you move. Stick your head in a row and look both ways. If you don't see a deer, step into that row and poke your head into the next one. When you see a deer, there is a possibility that you can just step into the row with it and shoot. Deer just don't seem to believe their eyes when they see a human out there, and since they can't confirm what they are seeing with sight or smell, they often freeze up.
More likely, the deer is going to be out of range or there will be too many corn leaves in the way to shoot. In that case, you will have to back off a couple rows and move down the row to get within shooting distance. And shooting distance is going to be close. Very close. Most shots are at less than five yards.
The best areas within the fields tend to be those with some weeds or grass growing between the rows. The deer like to bed down in a grassy area, so I have found that perfectly clean, hard-bottomed rows of corn are not as good as those with some other vegetation in them.
This technique is a slow process, but it really works. I have shot bedded deer--while looking over the top of my sights--that were only two 30-inch rows away from me. Of course, small food plots and cornfields near known deer habitat are the best for this tactic. If you try it, you will be as shocked as I was with how much you can get away with in there.
For this tactic, the nastier the conditions the better. Once, during a blizzard, I had a half-dozen bedded deer on all sides of me within 10 yards. It is very noisy and chaotic with the wind rushing over the dry leaves and crashing them against each other. The first time you see a relaxed deer from just a few feet away you will understand why I look for every opportunity to use this method on windy days.
The next time you are hugging your tree to keep from getting blown out of your stand, think about these three tactics and where you might give them a try. The deer aren't very likely to be coming to you in those conditions anyway. Like Old Jim said, when the deer are bedded down tight, that's when you go to them.
The author is an outdoor writer from Brainerd, Minnesota.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 2013|
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