Deer Hunting in Windy Conditions

November 10, 2011 by  

By Nick Simonson

Rarely does a strong wind factor into a good day outdoors.  Sure, there are those times where the right wind whips across a reef or a point, roiling the waters and bringing schools of walleyes in to feed on discombobulated baitfish.  And maybe a breeze catches  a rooster’s scent and wafts it expeditiously to a field dog’s nose, setting up a chase and a flush.  But winds the likes of what I witnessed this past weekend are good for nothing.
Deer hunting in windy conditionsFrom my vantage point atop a pile of old rocks and concrete between two fields, I watched the cirrus clouds over the eastern horizon curl like a handlebar mustache around the rising sun.  Whipped by the growing wind, they stretched and whorled in pinks and purples in the day’s first light.  As the last stars faded from the morning sky, I tugged my blaze orange hat down tight over my ears so that the cuff was over my earlobes The wind tore into my coveralls and jacket, and the first day of firearms deer season began.

Gulls cawed their displeasure as they diagonally drifted with the south gales, which by 8:30 a.m. reached 30 miles per hour.  Even the cedar waxwings chirping in the brush surrounding my lookout seemed perturbed by the ever-increasing wind as they hopped to-and=fro in the shaking branches.  I couldn’t pinpoint the location of a clucking rooster somewhere in the distance due to the rising roar in the elms and pines around me, for all I know it could have been just outside of Ames, Iowa; borne northward on the breeze.

I never thought it possible that I would love still-hunting deer.  I was introduced to deer hunting through traditional deer drives – organized chaos that for me produced only shots at running animals.  Unless you were a good shot, like most of my party who was far more advanced with a firearm than I was, your opportunities were limited.  Only a few seasons later, when introduced to still hunting by a co-worker, did deer hunting click with me.  Watching the nine-pointer step into my crosshairs, oblivious to my position on the ridge above, was a rush unlike any other. Unfortunately, as I would learn in subsequent seasons, still hunting generally doesn’t go well on windy days.

So, though still a novice deer hunter, I knew that as the wind gusts increased on opening morning, my odds of getting a buck to wander in front of even my choice location were low, unless the people moving around the properties surrounding me kicked one out of its hiding place.  At about 9:30 a.m., a big-bodied deer bounded across the open field at about 700 yards, and I followed his movements and large antlers in my range finder.  He split the distance between my position and the hunter in the box stand a half mile away almost perfectly as he disappeared up over the hill.  A few minutes later, the party that had chased him came into view in the treeline to my east.

I watched as they kicked a small buck out into the field on the north end of the property – and it bore a resemblance to the fork buck I had seen a few weeks earlier.  I monitored the group as they made their way through the brush, trees and grass toward the edge of the land I was hunting.  But beyond that first deer, only a group of six ducks from the pond at the property’s edge got up.
After they completed their walk, with the winds reaching their mid-day peak, I got up and walked a few small grassy areas out of boredom.  I approached a large cottonwood tree, and motion on the leeward side caught my eye.  A raccoon tried to balance itself just perfectly, so that it would be out of the wind completely behind the tree’s massive trunk.  Upon closer inspection, the raccoon was missing its right front leg, and this along with the 50 mile-per-hour gusts didn’t help its balancing act.  I got to within six yards of the black-masked varmint and hollered “hey, Lucky!”

Surprised by my presence, he bounded of into the beige sea of autumn-dried field grasses coursing with each gust of wind.  All around me leaves from this season’s corn crop whipped through the air.  In the woven fence of the old sheep pasture, they took on the appearance of those grocery-store air conditioners you sometimes see in old movies set during heat waves, where the paper strips confirm that the A/C is in fact working.  There was no question it was working on this particular day.

I completed my trip around the farm, headed up to the house and thanked the landowner and his wife for allowing me to hunt, and said I might stop back for the second day of the season depending on the wind.  They laughed, and advised I could come back anytime – but understood if I didn’t.  I smiled and headed off down the road, my little Ford Ranger shaking with each gust cutting through another opening day in the books, cut short by gale force winds…in our outdoors


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