Every hunter knows that feeling. It’s the week leading up to opening day or the peak of the rut, and you’re checking your favorite weather site daily to see what the temperature and wind direction will be. Everything looks perfect until you check the night before your hunt and it reveals that there’s a high probability of rain.
You wake up early the next morning and the weatherman was right for once. It’s raining. So do you stay home or hit the woods?
We all know that weather affects deer movement and each weather event has its pro’s and con’s when it comes to chasing whitetails. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when you’re deciding whether to brave the elements or stay warm and dry in bed.
Barometric Pressure and Deer Movement
I know it’s probably been awhile since high school science class so here’s a quick refresher.
Atmospheric pressure (a.k.a. barometric pressure) is the force exerted by the weight of the air above your head, and at sea level, 1 square-inch column of the atmosphere above you weighs about 15 pounds.
We don’t notice this weight above us because our bodies are used to being under pressure, but slight changes in barometric pressure definitely have an effect on weather conditions. If you’ve paid attention to your local weather forecaster, you’ve probably noticed him mentioning high or low pressure systems in conjunction with incoming rain or snow in your area.
These high and low pressure systems are fluctuations in barometric pressure, and they are often a great predictor of deer movement, so when these changes coincide with the presence of clouds and rain as they often do, it’s a great time to head to the woods.
In a previous post, we discussed how barometric pressure affects deer movement and what it means for your hunt. Check out our post on barometric pressure to learn more and to hear what pressure situations Mark Drury prefers to hunt in.
Increased deer movement during changes in barometric pressure isn’t the only advantage to hunting in the rain. Keep reading below for more reasons to hit the woods when it’s raining.
Rain helps reduce noise in the woods
When walking into your stand, it’s important to enter as quietly as possible to ensure nearby deer aren’t alerted of your presence. This is vital, especially in areas where your stand is set up within range of prominent food sources and active bedding areas.
Rain can be your biggest ally in situations like this. A few hours of rain can dampen the forest floor and make leaves and small sticks silent underfoot.
With wet leaves and twigs giving you a silent approach to your stand, don’t blow your cover by wearing noisy rain gear. Any outer rainwear that makes noise when moving should be left at home.
If not, every step you take or swing of the arms is going to let deer in the area know exactly where you are. Read more below to find out what you should be wearing.
Rain acts as a great scent control
A deer’s most effective defense against humans and other predators is their sense of smell. Their noses have thousands of scent receptors, and they can detect scents 1,000 times better than humans.
Hunting in the rain can assist you in your scent control and can provide more opportunities to get within shooting range of deer undetected.
Even though scent is invisible to the naked eye, it’s actually made up of physical particles. These microscopic particles are released into the air from your gear and body, and their light weight allows them to easily float through the air where a slight breeze can carry them right downwind.
Rain is a great defense against these scent particles. As precipitation passes through the air, it collides with scent particles and pulls them down to the ground, diluting them. This effectively reduces the chances of those scent molecules reaching a nearby deer’s nostrils. Need more convincing?
Listen to the experts
In his excellent book Way of the Whitetail, renowned whitetail researcher Dr. Leonard Rue III, tells us that hunting during precipitation events is advantageous because “rain or snow knock scent molecules down and dissipate them.”
Expert whitetail hunters Chris and John Eberhart agree in Bowhunting Whitetails the Eberhart Way saying, “a hard rain… will dissipate odors more rapidly”.
Most hunters I know support these experts with at least one story of getting up close to whitetails in the rain, and the scent dampening effect of precipitation has a lot to do with this.
Photo courtesy of @karendphotostl
You have to have the right gear
Being well equipped can make a day in the rain easy as pie. Here are 5 gear tips to make sure you’re prepared and can enjoy your rainy day.
Waterproof outer layer
This one might seem obvious, but it’s the first place to start to keep you dry in the woods. As mentioned above, try to choose a waterproof material that is quiet when you move. There’s no point to being dry and comfortable in the woods if you can’t move an inch without your clothing causing a ruckus.
When you’re at the store shopping for new rain gear, try rubbing the materials together to test what it’ll sound like when you move. Another tip, look for options with waterproof zippers. You don’t want any chinks in your rain gear armor that’ll allow moisture to penetrate to your inner layers. Once you’re wet in the rain, you aren’t going to get dry.
Tall rubber boots are great for hunting in the rain because they keep your entire foot warm and dry. Boots with waterproof coverage just on the bottom few inches are great for stepping through shallow streams, but are useless when it comes to water from above. Rubber hunting boots are valuable on dry days in the woods for their comfort and scent control aspects as well.
Most outdoor footwear brands offer a full-waterproof tall rubber boot. Our favorites are the options from Lacrosse and Cabela’s. Look for boots with a cinch at the top to keep rain from falling inside.
Towel and dry clothes in the car
It’s the little things that count, and being able to keep your truck seat dry and your drive home comfortable can be a godsend after a long, wet day in the woods.
Having a hand towel in your pack can also come in handy for wiping off your treestand seat or drying off your hands before climbing or shooting. Keep your hand towel in a large Ziplock bag to make sure it’s dry when you need it.
This can be great for applying to gear that just isn’t quite waterproof. Make sure to apply it when your gear is completely dry to ensure maximum effectiveness.
You can also try rubbing wax on your gear to save on spray, but beware the possibility that it could affect the material and not be as effective. It might be best to stick with products like Badlands Waterproofing Spray that were made specifically for this purpose.
When you invest in the latest electronics, take the time to make sure they’re ready for the conditions. If you plan to bring your technology with you in the woods, don’t forget a waterproof case, dry bag or Ziplock so your tech is alive and ready to go.
It’s worth the extra money to keep it in working order, and in emergency situations, you’ll be glad you planned ahead to kept your gear dry and functioning.
What does our data say about hunting in the rain?
My dad always said, “The proof is in the pudding”, and he was right. So what does the data that is recorded in the Quiver Hunting App say?
We took a random sampling of 5 major hunting areas in the United States and monitored trends of the number of deer spotted per hunt. Then, we compared that to historical weather in those areas and calculated the average number of deer seen per hunt in fair vs. rainy weather.
Here’s what we found. On average, hunters have seen 2.50 deer per hunt when it’s fair weather and 2.35 deer per hunt when it’s raining.
Even though the data shows that slightly more deer were seen during fair weather, it’s apparent that deer still move when it’s raining, so don’t be afraid to brave the elements and head to your stand.
Still hunting or stalking deer in the rain is another great option. You’ll have the advantage of being able to move through the woods with less chance of being detected as the rain aides in breaking up your sounds, scents and movements.
While there are always exceptions and situations where you might get winded or not see any deer in rainy conditions, the data shows that deer could be walking right under your tree stand in the rain.
The question is, will you be in it?
Even if you decide not to hunt on a rainy day, it’s still a great time to take advantage of what the rain has to offer. Checking trail cameras or moving treestands on rainy days gives you all the same advantages of getting in and out of the woods undetected by deer. Rainy days are also a great time to wash your gear outside, scent-free.
Have you had any luck hunting in the rain?
Want more tips to become a better hunter? Download the Quiver Hunting App today to help you step up your whitetail game. We all know hunting mature whitetails isn’t easy, so let Quiver help you be in the right spot at the right time.
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