When preparing for hunting season, one topic that usually sparks debate amongst hunting enthusiasts is whether deer move in the wind. Most hunters would probably say deer don’t move on windy days. Strong winds cause trees and foliage to move and make noise, which can easily spook deer and ruin the hunt. However, some hunters have had successful hunts when the weather is windy. So if hunters’ experiences tell different stories, what else can you consider?
Fortunately, studies have been done to determine the effect of wind speed on deer movement. Take for example the results of the 2013 study made by the researchers at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU).
In their study, PSU researchers captured and analyzed whitetail deer movement in October, where winds reached about 12 mph.
So, Do Deer Move in the Wind?
Based on scientific data: YES, deer do move in the wind. In fact, there is an increase in deer movement when winds are stronger. PSU researchers found that deer, especially bucks, move more when wind speeds increase. This observation disproves the result of a survey they conducted before the research, where out of the 1,600 hunters polled, 90% believed deer did not move on windy days.
To further support their initial research, PSU conducted two more studies in 2015 and 2016 on the relationship between wind speed and deer movement. Both studies allowed testing deer movement in three categories of wind speed, namely:
- Calm: less than one mph
- Moderate: one to 15 mph
- Strong: 15 to 27 mph
Just like in the 2013 research, the results of the succeeding studies showed deer moved more on windy days. Deer moved only about 30 mph on calm days. On moderately windy days, they moved at about 35 mph.
During the days when wind speeds are strong, movement increased to an average of 65 mph. PSU researchers also observed there is more deer movement on windy days than windy nights.
Another observation researchers shared in their study is that bucks move more than does as winds get stronger.
But why do deer move more during the windy days? To answer this question, we need to learn more about deer lifestyle and the role of wind in its movement and behavior.
How Do Deer Travel?
The home range of deer typically is about 600 to a thousand acres, but deer would confine themselves in just about one third of that area if their surroundings meet their survival needs.
In a day, most deer would travel 2 to 3 miles away from their bedding to feed and wander, then would return a few hours later to rest.
Outside of migration, deer tend to stay in one core area, especially if the area is abundant with food and water and it provides a safe cover against the elements. When food and water sources run out, they would begin traveling again to find a new core area with suitable bedding and nourishment.
A common misconception is that hunting pressure causes deer to move away from their habitat. However, instead of moving out and traveling to find a new place to stay, most deer would simply move less during the day or would only move in areas that have thick cover where they can stay hidden from hunters.
Do Deer Bed Down in the Wind?
Deer would bed at the same spot unless they no longer feel safe in that area. Most of the time, deer prefer to bed down with the wind on their back because they rely on their sense of smell and hearing to detect the presence of predators in the dark.
Where deer bed at during windy conditions depends on how strong the winds are. A light breeze, as long as it doesn’t affect their senses, won’t cause deer to move away from its usual bedding area.
When winds become stronger, deer tend to look for and bed down in an area where thick bushes or foliage can serve as windbreaks and cover from predators.
Do Deer Move with the Wind or Against It?
Most of the time, deer move with the wind. Just like when they’re bedding down, deer like to have the wind on their back when they travel, regardless of how heavy the gusts of winds are.
This way, they can see what’s ahead of their path and detect the scent of predators coming from their back. Deer could also travel against or at the side of the wind if they sense that it with take them to a safe route.
Do Deer Move When There Is No Wind?
It is easier to see deer on calm days or when wind speeds are low. Light winds don’t obscure deer’s vision, hearing, or sense of smell as much as high wind speeds do, so they continue moving.
Deer movement would naturally change when winds are stronger. They can take cover or move less because high winds reduce their ability to see, hear, and smell and increase their vulnerability to predators.
Strong winds and unfavorable weather can also affect the way deer hunt for food.
Deer would search and feed aggressively when there is no wind or when weather lets up, then reduce their exposure again when the weather shifts to heavy winds.
Do Whitetail Deer Move in the Wind?
As mentioned above, observations from the research conducted by PSU say whitetail deer move more when wind speeds go higher. There is also fewer deer movement observed on windy nights compared to windy days.
Do Mule Deer Move in the Wind?
Whitetail deer inhabit and bed at lowlands and forest, while mule deer thrive in plains, deserts, and mountains. Despite the difference in habitat preferences, both deer species capitalize on wind speed and direction to protect themselves.
Like whitetail deer, most mule deer move with the wind at their back. Mule deer move less when winds are calm, but other factors, such as humidity and barometric pressure, can also affect their movement.
How Windy is Too Windy for Deer Hunting?
Research tells that deer move more when winds are stronger. Experts suggest that the best time to hunt for deer is when wind speeds are between five and 15 mph.
These conditions could cause deer to move, but at a slower pace, while making it hard for them to use their senses to detect hunters and predators.
Wind speeds higher than this could move tree branches and vegetation, which could easily startle deer and make hunting difficult.
How to Hunt Deer in the Wind?
Hunting deer in the wind could be challenging. Unlike humans, deer are accustomed to the dangers of the wild and the elements present.
To make deer hunting productive, you need to play the wind to your advantage, too. Here are some tips on how to hunt deer in the wind successfully.
Always pay attention to wind direction
When you’re hunting for deer, stay downwind or where the wind blows in your face. Doing this prevents your scent from traveling in the deer’s direction.
Set up multiple tree stands
Wind direction can change during the hunt. Setting up only one tree stand could limit hunting opportunities. It helps to assemble tree stands in different locations, so you can switch places to stay downwind.
Scent control is key
When a deer detects your scent, expect that it’s game over for your hunting adventure. To cover up human scent before you hunt, use odorless detergent in washing your hunting clothes. Store your clothes in a plastic bag to prevent contaminating them with other scents on your way to the hunting ground.
You can also avoid smoking or eating food that has a lingering odor. Scent-reduction or eliminating products like sprays and hand sanitizers can also help get rid of the human scent.
We share some of our favorite scent control products over in our deer hunting checklist.