Why I dislike hunting in high winds

(Note: if you have an issue with hunting, i.e., you don’t like it and think it cruel and generally anti-environmental, I invite you to read my series of articles, Why Hunt?)

Today, I was going to go do some deer hunting. I don’t have to go far. I can get to my favorite areas within an hour or so. I only have been out once this month (in this area of Alberta, the deer season is generally open from Nov. 1 to 30) to learn that late season moose hunters were dominating the landscape. Now, I don’t mind running into the odd hunter. I deer hunt mostly by myself and the occasional contact with a fellow hunter can be a pleasant event. But when there’s a bunch of them and I have to plan my hunting strategy mainly to avoid running into them (for our mutual benefits), I find this can be frustrating. So, I’ve been letting the early season mostly pass, hoping the moose hunters either get their moose or become frustrated (or run out of mid-week days off) and leave. This usually happens at about the second week of the  month. Also, the deer rut does not come into full effect until about the third week.

Now, being a confirmed and passionate white-tailed deer hunter, I like to be out in the early season to learn where the bucks have established their scrape trails and figure out where the does and fawns are hanging out. Then, as the rut builds, I know where I need to be to ambush a quality buck. So, I do appreciate getting out as early as possible–let’s face it I like to walk in the fall bush and watch what’s happening.

Today, I woke up early to the sound of howling wind (Environment Canada reports 70 km with gusts to 100 km). Wind is generally not an issue with me concerning deer hunting. I like at least a little breeze so I know where my scent is going. But when the wind builds to whole gale force, I feel I’m at a distinct disadvantage.

Despite what you might hear, wild deer have the advantage in the hunting game. They know their habitat far better than we ever will. They have built in senses and behavior that protects from we bumbling, noisy human hunters.

Generally a high wind (not gale force) is helpful to the hunter. If the bush is noisy (crunchy snow or leaves under foot), wind tends to cover these noises. On the other hand, wind tends to cover the noises of approaching deer. However, when the wind get to gale force, both man and deer are at distinct disadvantage. Deer use their nose and ears to great advantage. High winds restrict these senses. It is my experience that deer go to ground when these winds occur. They place themselves in deep bush, where the wind is restricted and any approaching predator must make sufficient noise to alert them.

In these winds, the only deer I’ve found are those I’ve rousted out of their beds in the deep woods. The opportunity of a good shot is rare. At this stage of my hunting career, I hunt for the good shot. I do not take shots at running game, unless I’m very sure of my shot placement.

Also an issue in high wind is its effect on bullet travel. Now, I generally shoot at 100 metres or less in distance, but even at 25 or 30 m high wind can affect the travel of a bullet.

Last, and in my books definitely least in my considerations, there is danger of falling trees. Even in moderate windy conditions I have watched many a tree suddenly snap and fall to the ground. These happen very fast, and as far as I am concerned, it would be difficult to get out of the way if you had the presence of mind to do so (and how do you figure fast enough 1) you are in its path and 2) you can get out of its way).

So, that’s why I am not hunting today. These gale force winds are predicted for the remainder of the day. I will sit it out, get some work done here at home, and give it a go tomorrow.

So, what’s wrong with that?

Post Script: I wrote a subsequent article, “Hunting the Wind” in September of 2010.

www.donmeredith.ca

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About Don Meredith

I am a writer and biologist living in Alberta, Canada. I write a monthly column for the Alberta Outdoorsmen magazine.
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7 Responses to Why I dislike hunting in high winds

  1. Tick Hudgins says:

    I think that was wise to do, the wind here today is brisky. 12-03-07 I am in NC USA would love to come hunt with ya sometime?

    affordablepro1@aol.com

  2. Don Meredith says:

    Thanks for your feedback, Tick! Let me know when you are interested in coming up north. It’s -20 C (-4 F) right now with about 10 cm ( 4 in.) of snow on the ground. But then the deer season closed on Nov. 30.

  3. Laura Kendall says:

    Hi,

    I would like to know just how much wind affects shot placement. Are there any stats on this.

    Thanks.

  4. Don Meredith says:

    Laura,
    I’m not aware of specific charts etc., although they may well be out there. You might try Googling “wind bullet travel”. Several links show up. The problem is that wind will affect bullets differently, depending on their weight, shape, muzzle velocity and distance to travel.

  5. Pingback: Hunting the Wind | Don Meredith Outdoors

  6. Steve Pitt says:

    Don,

    I share your respect of snapping trees. Two years ago my wife, sister and I were hiking through Ontario’s Near North in early April when we got caught in a freak spring snow squall. At first, we thought it was beautiful. Huge, heavy snowflakes swirled down all around us turning the muddy trail into a pristine white carpet. The trees all around us were swaddled under blankets of sticky wet snow. Then a moderate wind came up and suddenly snow laden trees began falling all around us. Some tipped over at the root level like soldiers fainting on a parade square while others just snapped in half high overhead sending telephone pole sized logs crashing to the ground. Fortunately we were able to high tail it out of the woods without any casualties but I certainly felt the adrenalin pumping. I wonder if more deer perish from dropping trees than hunter’s bullets?

  7. Don Meredith says:

    Hi Steve,
    Yeah, some people in Calgary/Cochrane probably felt some of the wind-generated adrenalin yesterday, what with the 130 km/hr winds they were experiencing (trees and glass windows falling). Seeing trees fall definitely gets you thinking about occupying safe ground.
    I’m sure some deer and other animals die from deadfall but it’s probably not all that common. I did see one of those mass e-mail messages showing the decayed carcass of a bull elk that had apparently been killed by a windfall in its bed.

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