Everyone knows that a whitetail’s greatest line of defense is their nose. Everybody also knows that while deer hunting, you need to keep the wind in your face. Savvy hunters take it a step further and find ways to keep the wind in their favor, even when the deer think the wind is in theirs.
By wind mapping your hunting property, you’ll discover little irregularities about the way differing wind directions blow through the land. With any luck, you’ll discover tree stand sites that you can hunt from almost any wind direction without ever being busted by a deer’s nose.
The idea is to survey every inch of your hunting property to study the wind direction and how it relates to the actual prevailing wind direction. We’ve likely all encountered the scenario where the weather report calls for a certain wind direction, but upon climbing into your tree stand, the wind direction is blowing 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Rather than blaming the weatherman and riding out a risky hunt, study how the wind acts up on the ridges versus the creek bottoms, on the sidehills versus along the river, and other opposing land features.
As complicated as it may sound, the process is simple. All you need is a wind checker and a little time. A wind indicator powder works just fine, as do milkweed floaters. Some folks will go as far as buying a bunch of firework smoke balls or even lighting a small fire to watch where the smoke ends up.
The first step to checking the wind direction is to find an unobstructed area so that you have an exact indicator as to which way the prevailing wind is blowing. You’ll then check every one of your favorite spots. Test the wind with your milkweed or powder, and compare the observed wind direction to the prevailing wind direction. If the wind is blowing southwest in the wide-open cornfield and southwest on your favorite ridge, you didn’t learn much. What you will find useful is how the terrain and vegetation alter the prevailing wind direction and use this to your advantage.
To get the most benefit from this scouting method, you are looking for irregularities in the wind. Places in which the terrain, predictably and reliably, causes a change in the direction of the prevailing wind. The best examples I have found are in the mountains or in bluff country where steep terrain forces the wind to shift 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
For example, on the ridge top and the windward side of the hill, the wind may be blowing southwest. Meanwhile, there may be a small ridge or drainage where the wind reverses and blows straight north. Think of it like an eddy in a river system. The water flows in one direction, but when it comes into contact with a rock, snag, bridge piling, or sharp bend in the river channel, the water swirls, reverses direction, and flows back upriver.
It’s also important to take notes on the wind speed. In some instances, I’ve noticed that there’s a sweet spot in wind speed. Too little wind and the reversing wind effect doesn’t occur. Too much wind and now that wind pattern becomes swirly, unpredictable, and a risky setup. Air temperature can also influence the wind. This one I learned from our friend Beau Martonik, of the East Meets West Hunt Podcast. Martonik often advises hunters to pay attention to thermal corridors, in which the mountain thermals affect the wind in very predictable patterns. This predictable wind pattern is something hunters can certainly use to their advantage.
After thoroughly surveying your hunting property, hopefully, you were able to locate some irregularities in wind direction and things that you can use to your advantage. To explain, I’ll describe one of my all-time favorite rut stands.
This spot is in Midwest farm country and has a large, heavily treed, drainage that runs north to south, perpendicular to a field edge. In the morning, the deer are generally heading north to south, as they make their way into the trees to bed after a night of feeding in the corn field. With a south wind, these deer have the wind in their face all the way to bed. That is until they get to a small finger ridge that runs east to west, protruding from the large north to south ridge. Deer like to cross the drainage by utilizing this finger ridge and are momentarily caught off guard when the wind switches directions and blows straight north. By taking advantage of this small nuance in wind pattern, I don’t think I’ve ever been busted in this tree stand while hunting any prevailing southerly wind direction.
Learning how the terrain affects prevailing winds can give you the slight edge you need to beat a mature buck’s nose. It will also, hands down, make you a better mobile hunter. It’s one thing to go into a new area blind, it’s nearly an art to predict the wind direction in hill country. By wind mapping and studying the wind, you’ll have a very educated guess as to how to get into that new spot unscathed.