Updated: Apr 5
When it comes to Deer Hunting nothing throws a bigger variable into the mix then weather. Weather has a mind of its own. It can give you that clear crisp fall morning we as hunters all look forward to or it can change on a dime and be responsible for cold wet miserable afternoon that chills you to the bone. One thing we can be sure about, weather is also responsible for changing whitetail deer movement patterns. When trying to understand how these atmospheric changes effect your local deer population a hunter can begin to use this to his or her advantage.
Whitetail Deer live their lives in a fairly predicable pattern. On a typical seasonal day, the deer will feed through the night on until sunrise or just after before they move back towards bedding areas in thick cover. Some time in the afternoon they begin to move again towards their evening browse of food and water. There is definite variation on how long deer will stay bedded down and how long they will be active throughout the day, many things play a factor in this like weather, moon phases, or hunting pressure, but in its basic form this is a pattern that the deer will follow, feeding late to early and staying bedded down in the mid-day hours.
There are some days however that Whitetails are moving what seems to be continuously. They either don’t bed down at all or for a very short period of time. It could be a mild fall day, not unlike many of the previous days where deer have followed their regular routine. Still there will be evidence of constant deer movement. It’s a phenomenon that an observant hunter will take note of when considering their approach. As creatures of the wild deer seem to have an extra sense when it comes to forecasting weather and it just so happens that these changes in deer patterns tend to happen prior to large storm fronts moving into the area. Deer with their limited protection against the elements must rely on their ability to foretell what weather the days ahead will bring. Deer on these days prior to a storm front will be up and out feeding and accessing water throughout the day preparing themselves for the leaner days ahead where they may be confined down to their bedding areas.
Just prior to a severe storm, and again right after, there will be concentrated deer movement. Before the inclement weather deer are storing up food filling their stomachs in anticipation of the days ahead where access to food and water may be limited. After the storm deer will once again come out to fill their empty bellies following the same irregular pattern if they hadn’t had a chance to feed during the day or days of the storms. This behavior is particularly noticeable before severe fronts which bring abrupt changes in weather. The changes maybe be in the form of a front that brings in a sudden cold snap with severe weather or in the case of torrential rains. If it is the kinds of change in weather that will affect the deer’s daily habits then it will help the hunter better plan their approach depending on the anticipated reaction of the deer to the weather change.
Deer can be somewhat like humans in this respect. Weather dictates what its routine will be everything it does is directly influenced by weather because in the wild and abrupt change in the elements could prove fatal to the less hardy creatures. For example, if a severe storm blows in bringing with it snow, ice, and hard freezing temperatures the deer won’t want to feed during the night. They may rather find some protection and bed down to ward off the night cold. In result they would prefer to feed while the sun is up.
Weather can also dictate how a hunter strategizes. One of my favorite times to stalk or still hunt is just after a rainstorm when the ground is soft and silent, and you may move more easily without being detected or simply move into your stand to hunt more quietly. Weather and storms will also dictate wind direction so you may choose to hunt a different stand in order not to be detected by scent. As a general rule stand hunting will be more productive before and just after a storm since these will be times of active deer movement. During the storm a hunter may choose to stalk or still hunt back among dense cover hoping to jump deer from their beds.
The wise hunter keeps close check on weather forecasts. They know when the fronts are moving in, the nature of them, and how to incorporate anticipated weather changes into their hunting strategy.