How to Hunt the Wind | Getting Down Wind of Down Wind
Hunting the wind is something most hunters think they understand but, in reality, have a misconception about how to do so effectively. It seems simple, right? The wind is blowing in a certain direction so logic tells us to simply set up on the down wind side of where the deer are going to be. This is all well and good until we consider the fact that a mature deer uses the exact same logic we use to hunt him to stay alive. Hunting the wind effectively means more than simply setting up on the down wind side. It means setting up down wind of the down wind side. The sooner you realize this the sooner your odds will improve as a hunter.
It is easy to understand the concept of “down wind”, complicated only slightly more by the notion that mature bucks have the same concept in mind. Successful hunters are those who are able to understand and apply this to every situation we as hunters face in the whitetail woods. Food sources, bedding areas, and ridges are all known by hunters to be hot spots for whitetail activity. So, lets break each of these down and hopefully gain a better understanding of how to hunt the wind effectively in each of these scenarios.
Food sources are a great place to start as they are amongst the most frequently hunted. Whether it is a destination food source, a staging area type plot, a small kill plot deep in the cover, or native browse in an open wood lot, a mature buck is going to approach from a downwind position in almost every situation. That being said, no two situations are alike when it comes to hunting mature whitetails. What is true of one property may be opposite on another and from one day to the next. That is why whitetail hunting is and art and not a science.
Moving forward, to hunt the wind effectively in a food source type setup, it is crucial that you are in a position that is down wind not only of the food source, but of the down wind travel route you believe that buck will use to enter the field. This is hard for a lot of hunters to grasp because all the activity seems to be taking place IN the field, and we are saying it’s better to sit OFF the field, even if that decreases your shot opportunities in the food source itself?! EXACTLY! While deer activity is exciting to watch and being close to it can make a hunter feel accomplished, this is not how mature bucks are killed. Like a seasoned hunter, a mature buck knows all to well the dangers of exposing himself during daylight hours and that he is vulnerable in this type of a situation. The only way he will enter the food source as you anticipated is if he feels he has the wind to his advantage and, the only way that can happen is if you are positioned far enough downwind from the food source for him to parallel between you and the field. This is where your opportunity will present itself.
Funnels and bedding areas can be approached similarly however; there are some differences that need to be taken into account when deciding where to hang your set to hunt the wind effectively. Like food sources, mature bucks will often cruise the downwind side of bedding during the rut, checking for does along the way. As hunters, knowing this gives us a great opportunity. In this type of a scenario, put yourself in the mindset of a buck during the rut. First and foremost, think about his nose. What travel route is he going to use so that the breeze drifting through the bedding area hits him right in the face. There is no rule to how this should look. It will be different every time depending on where you hunt and how the deer use your property. The “bedding area” may be as subtle as a half acre of tall thatch or, it could be a fifty-acre wood lot recently timbered. Either way, once you find the travel route down wind where a mature buck could walk and scent check the bedding area, it’s time to pick a tree slightly further down wind and hang your set.
One advantage you can give yourself in using this type of a setup is to extend your lethal range. There is no shame in limiting yourself to a 20 or 25 yard shot however, the price you pay to be down wind of down wind is distance. Like we said in the beginning, no two situations are alike. Often times we find the downwind trail and the buck we are chasing has a different idea completely. By practicing shooting further than you anticipate shooting in the field, you can extend your range to 30, 40, and even 50 yards if the opportunity presents itself. No matter what, shoot within your limits, and hang your sets in a position to give you those types of shots.
A final type of hunting situation to mention that is influenced greatly by wind is ridges. If you live in an area with a lot of topography, you understand the challenges as well as the opportunities it can present. Ridges offer great travel routes for deer and often, great hunting opportunities for us! The difficult part about hunting areas with lots of topography is paying attention to wind as well as the thermals. Typically, the higher you get, the safer you are in regards to both of these. Take advantage of these by positioning yourself for the wind and thermals to drop off the ridge behind you while a majority of the deer activity is right in front of you up on the ridge.
Next time you head to the woods with a tree stand in hand; think not only about finding the best area and the best tree, but also about how to get down wind of where that mature buck is going to be cruising. It is better to be too far away and to miss an opportunity than to be too close and ruin a spot for the season. Once you figure out how to hunt the wind where you hunt, you will be more successful at harvesting mature bucks.