Adapting your hunt in windy conditions
Friday, May 30, 2014
Sometimes conditions are just not in your favor during a hunt. You may have an ideal setup at a location that regularly draws large numbers of deer, but if the wind is blowing from the wrong direction, you are wasting your time at that location.
In fact, you may actually be doing more harm than good by trying to push a bad situation. You cannot control the weather or the wind. At this point you basically have two choices: do nothing and go home unsuccessful, or change your strategy and try to make something happen.
Like many others, I've dealt with that kind of situation more than once during my time as a hunter. Today, I'll share an example of a time I was able to turn difficult circumstances into success.
This particular morning I was hunting in the usually-reliable stand at the north end of the parcel of land I hunted often. It was a beautiful, cool, sunny day with temperatures in the mid 40s. The only problem was that right around daybreak, the wind changed and started blowing out of the south, which was blowing my scent directly across the clearing to the feeder.
After an hour or so hoping the wind would change, I finally decided that I was wasting my time and gave up hunting that stand. It was the last day of a weekend hunt with my family, and I decided to make a slow walk back to the cabin through the woods.
The cabin is located at the southern end of the property and was about a half-mile away from where I was hunting. That gave me the advantage of walking into the wind as I headed back.
I made a slow, detouring route through the thick woods to the west of my stand as I slowly hiked away from the stand. This area consisted mainly of pines interspaced with numerous oak trees with sporadic patches of brush. The terrain also sloped down into a system of creek beds.
I moved through the woods carefully, mindful of the fact that I was moving through an area of our land where many deer and hogs liked to reside. I descended into the lowest of the creek beds and after encountering no game, started climbing the gradual slope uphill back to the cabin to the south.
The woods were quiet that morning. Since it was the end of December, there was a thick carpet of leaves on the ground. I knew I couldn't hide the sound of my movement, so I decided to try and sound as little like a human as possible as I walked through the leaves.
I would take a few steps at a time and then pause for a few seconds before continuing to move. After moving several hundred yards, I heard something moving ahead of me and my heart started beating faster.
I continued at a slightly slower pace as I searched the woods ahead of me for the source of the noise. About 50 yards ahead of me, a solitary feral hog emerged from some brush moving from my left to right. He was moving at a steady, but not fast pace as he casually rooted around in the leaves looking for something to eat.
I took a few steps towards the closest tree so I could use it as a rest for my shot. As I moved, he glanced at me and I froze. Unconcerned, he went back to searching the ground for food and continued on his way.
Upon reaching the tree, I used it for a hasty rest and quickly took off the safety. I looked through the rear sight, covered up the hog's right shoulder with the front sight bead, and started to squeeze the trigger. He was standing almost exactly broadside to me when the trigger broke.
The rifle fired with a flat-sounding blast, and the stock pushed back into my shoulder from the rifle's stout recoil. The 200gr soft-point bullet slammed into his right shoulder and with a brief squeal, he fell onto his side and began twitching. I ran up to him and fired a finishing shot through the top of his spine down into his chest.
The hog was a medium-sized boar that weighed just over 120 pounds. He was not a giant hog or trophy-book animal by any means. However, he was certainly a much appreciated end to a hunt and provided plenty of pork chops.
In just a few hours of hunting that day, I learned several valuable lessons that have served me well in the years since.
First, check the wind before and often during your hunt. It doesn't cost much to get a bottle of wind checker, and it's simple to use. I probably hunted too long in that stand that morning.
When the wind is blowing the wrong direction, you are wasting your time hunting that location. Any animal that does appear will quickly smell you and promptly leave. Using scent-eliminating sprays and clothing will help to a certain degree. However, even bathing in scent block won't work if the wind is blowing in exactly the wrong direction.
Second, do not be afraid to shoot an animal more than once. Many hunters, especially American hunters, are guilty of "admiring their shot." Others are reluctant to shoot an animal a second time for fear of "ruining meat."
Yes, finishing and backup shots result in some lost meat, but not nearly as much lost meat as a wounded animal that gets away results in. Additionally, quickly finishing a wounded animal is the ethical and humane thing to do.
Finally, use a rest to shoot from whenever possible. Hitting a relatively small target at any distance over about 10 yards is pretty difficult when shooting offhand. Using something as simple as a tree or your sling for support makes a big difference in accuracy.
It's much easier than you would think to miss, or worse, wound an animal when shooting offhand, even at short range.
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