Wind and the Critical Role it Plays

February 14, 2009 by  

By PJ Maguire

Picture yourself in a cornfield. It’s late October, the previous night this particular field was lined shoulder to shoulder with Northern mallards. Standing in the headlights of your SUV you toss a few crispy corn petals up in to the air, and watch as a gust of wind takes them back to the ground. From your best estimates the wind is from the Northwest, now is the time to place out the decoys.

Wind will always play a critical role when it comes to waterfowl hunting. Ducks and geese will always take off and land into the wind. It is best to position yourself in a spot that offers the most effective shots according to the wind. This will increase your shooting odds and decrease the chance of crippling birds.

Decoy placement is not the only part of waterfowl hunting that is affected by wind. If there is too much wind, birds may lay low on the roost and avoid flying. High winds also make shooting more difficult. No wind and birds can approach decoy spreads from any direction. Usually landing at will, somewhere behind my blind.

When upland bird hunting it is important to walk into the wind. The birds have a harder time hearing your approach them for the downwind side. Plus, it is easier for bird dogs to smell game when they are working into the wind.

Now imagine yourself at the deer shack on a November morning. Stepping onto a porch the floorboards creak beneath you as you raise your moist index finger into the air. You gaze at the stars as you ponder the wind direction and the position of your tree stand. Will the deer be able to smell you as the travel from their morning resting spot to feed?

“If the wind is wrong, I don’t even go out to my stand. Most hunters won’t do that.” Said Brian Trachsel, an avid bow hunter. Wind direction plays an even bigger role when it comes to the pursuit of big game animals. Deer, Elk and Bear all have a very keen sense of smell. Hunters have to use the wind, which carries their smell, to their advantage. Especially bow hunters, who have to be close to these mammals for high percentage kill shots.

I feel that one of the biggest mistakes most hunters commit is not using the wind to put the odds in their favor. A lot of hunters think they can mask their own scent by washing themselves, and their clothes in various products. Hunters also purchase clothing that is supposed to trap their natural scents.

These devices give the hunter some piece of mind before heading into the field, which can be a plus. A little confidence can go along way for all of us. The truth however is that; your house has smells, your truck has smells, and the place you stop get a cup of coffee in the morning smells. By putting yourself in a position where game approaches you from the up wind side you can eliminate these smells.
There are a few different ways to tell which way the wind is coming from. Some guys will listen or watch the weather report, but most will check or re-check the wind in the field. When I lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota I hunted with a pilot named Dave Easton who would call a 1-800 number for a VFR Aviation Weather report. That might be the coolest way a hunter can get the wind direction, still once you get to your hunting spot you have to re-check it.

I found a new product that helps nail down the exact direction of the wind more accurately. This item conveniently fits into a pocket, blind bag or glove box. It is a small plastic ball that contains a scent-free wind powder by Windage LLC. Basically you squeeze the soft plastic ball and one can visually see scent-free wind powder get carried away by the wind. Information about this product can be found at

The scent-free wind powder will help to depict exactly how the ducks will try to land and how your scent will travel from the tree stand. Sure tossing grass into the air or licking your finger may help to build your confidence in the wind direction, but in the field, sometimes you need more than confidence. When heading into the woods this fall try to put the odds in your favor by paying attention to the wind direction and using it to your favor.

Check out our Waterfowl Hunting Forum


Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.