Should you still get out in the field even when it’s raining? For some hunters, there’s an easy and convenient answer. Rain in the forecast means staying at camp and watching football or hitting snooze and catching a few more hours of sleep. But I’d encourage you to consider the more difficult—and potentially soggy—alternative. Despite the discomfort of a wet and rainy day, I’ve found these to be some of the best times to be in the whitetail woods. And I’m not the only one.
“We go out of our way to hunt on most rainy days—exactly the opposite of what most hunters do,” renowned Michigan hunter John Eberhart wrote in his book, “Precision Bowhunting.”
I’ve personally sat through numerous rainy hunts to be rewarded with a busy night of deer sightings. Notably, I’ve noticed a high proportion of mature bucks appearing in these conditions. So much so that these days, a cold and wet hunt immediately raises my hopes for an old deer sighting.
“More than 30% of our sightings of mature bucks (3 and a half years and older) in our extremely pressured home state of Michigan have been during rain or snow,” Eberhart said. “This is an extraordinary number, considering that only a small percent of our hunting takes place on such days.”
But not all rainy days are created equal. A heavy downpour can actually slow or shut down movement completely. Once the rain dies down to a light drizzle though, critters will be on their feet. Mark Drury of Drury Outdoors explained this on a recent episode of the Wired To Hunt podcast.
“The heavier the rain, the less likely they are to move during it. The lighter the rain, the more likely,” Drury said. “Light precip is fantastic.”
The window just after a heavy rain event ends is particularly fruitful—likely because deer that were bedded down through the storm are now hungry and eager to get moving.
Jeff Sturgis of Whitetail Habitat Solutions concurred in a recent video: “I love hunting holes in the rain. What a great time to hunt.”
Unless there is an all-day, 100% chance of a windy downpour, I plan to be in the woods during precipitation events. And if that heavy downpour is predicted to eventually slow or stop during hunting hours, I’ll stick it out through the storm to make sure I catch the end.
But hunting in the rain requires some important considerations above and beyond just getting out in the woods. Most notably, you must consider the implications on a blood trail. In any kind of rain, I substantially reduce my maximum range with a bow and will only take the most picture-perfect, standing shots at deer. I also want to make sure I have a tracking dog at my disposal, where legal. While rain can make it harder for a human to track blood, it actually helps a dog. It’s not a bad idea to plan ahead and have a tracker’s phone number at the ready. If you hit a deer during a rain, resist the urge to race out onto the blood trail right away. If you made a good hit, the best thing is to avoid pushing that deer any further than it naturally wants to go. Wait the appropriate time, make a plan, and find your deer.
Plan for a rainy hunt by wearing quiet, breathable rain gear and utilizing a screw-in tree umbrella to temper the worst of the storm’s effects. Make sure you have a way to keep your bow or rifle dry, too.
Rainy day hunts might not always be fun in the moment, but if you plan accordingly and are willing to grin and bear it, they can absolutely produce.
Feature image via Captured Creative.