To kill deer consistently, you need help from above. I'm not talking about divine guidance. It's wind direction that puts venison on the platter or leaves it on the hoof.
Wind is a current of cooler air that is sucked toward warmer air. If you hunt in flat, open country, the prevailing breezes that start and stop with the rise and fall of the sun can be very reliable. Once you have patterned the movement of the deer, you can place your stands to keep the breeze in your face as deer walk past.
PREDICT DIRECTION Sounds simple, doesn't it? Unfortunately, once you throw swamps, woods, and hills into the mix, predicting wind patterns becomes more difficult. All that hunters can count on is that air currents will sink downhill at dawn, typically the coldest time of day; then, as the sun touches the hilltops and creates upper-elevation warmth, the breeze will turn around and be pulled upward. For the still-hunter, a good strategy is to climb through the morning gloom with a rifle at the ready, heading toward an area where you expect deer to feed, such as an oak stand at the top of a ridge. Then, when the wind shifts, make a series of forays downhill toward places where you expect deer to bed, such as a hillside bench. If you can keep the sun at your back, so much the better, for the glare will help hide you from the deer's keen eyes.
AVOID DETECTION At other times of day, wind will swirl or change direction seemingly without pattern. It helps to tie a thread to your rifle barrel or use a pinch of powder to detect subtle shifts. Remember, too, that while you aim to keep the wind in your face, a deer mainly prefers it at his back. That way he can scent danger that approaches from behind, while he watches for movement in front. An exception is during the rut, when bucks move into the wind to pick up the scent of does in estrus.
If possible, try to still-hunt or track deer during a snowfall or steady rain. Besides deadening the crackle of fallen leaves, the precipitation drives your scent toward the ground, permitting a closer approach—which can sometimes put you within gun range even when you can't keep an unpredictable wind at your back.
STILL-HUNT STRATEGY: As the wind falls toward lower elevations at dawn, head uphill toward feeding deer. When upper elevations warm, causing winds to change direction, head downhill toward bedded deer.
BEDDING AREA BEDDING AREA DAWN THERMALS OAKSTAND MORNING THERMALS MORNING THERMALS
LOST YOUR GRUNT CALL? Forgot it back at camp? Don't worry about it. You can make a surprisingly realistic deer grunt without one. Just say "uhhhh" for one to two seconds, but do so directly from your diaphragm, using your throat as an echo chamber. Don't move your lips at all. Because you can make this sound immediately and without movement, it's particularly valuable when a buck is traveling too quickly for a good shot or simply steps into view when you're not quite ready. One or two of these diaphragm-generated grunts are almost guaranteed to stop a buck, giving you a chance to get off a good shot at a stationary target. I've even had deer change their route and walk up to me when they hear this. —GERALD ALMY