Breezy Behavior: How to Read Wind around your Tree Stand

CAN YOU FIGURE OUT how that breeze behaves once it whispers past your chosen perch?

Steve Pinkston does. Before the Ohio bowhunter commits to any setup for whitetails, he hangs several stands in a given area. From each of them, he drops dozens of Great Day Windfloaters (866-649-1918, ext. 113; greatdayinc.com), wispy wind-checking fibers he calls "floaties" that hang in the air for a long time.

Pinkston uses binoculars to watch them as they drift as far as 80 yards. What he's discovered with this method is that there are a variety of ill winds--subtle swirls and eddies--that can sabotage your hunt.

Here's how he bucks these bad breezes.

Corner Swirls

The corners of fields are popular stand sites. Hunters set up downwind from where they've seen deer enter the opening. It seems foolproof, but Pinkston explains that the wind routinely swirls in a large circle here, spooking deer long before you see them.

To overcome the problem, he drops "floaties" from trees on either side of the corner until he finds one where the circling wind swings away from and misses the deer's travel route. "You can usually find a tree that will work in every corner," he says.

Tree Breezes

Pinkston's floaties have taught him that big trees in wooded areas can make the prevailing wind veer and swirl in unexpected directions. It's obvious how this might get you in trouble. But if you test this effect in advance, you can make it work for you, too.

Last season, he killed a Boone and Crockett whitetail from a stand that was directly upwind of the buck's fence crossing relative to the prevailing air current. Why was he sitting "upwind"? His floaties had told him that a large tree turned the breeze in his favor.

Downdrafts

Many hunters believe that higher-elevation stands keep their scent above the deer moving below them. Pinkston, however, has found that when the wind blows over a drop in the terrain, such as a descending slope, it plummets to the ground, carrying your scent straight downhill.

In this situation, you are best off setting up just downhill of the trail or travel corridor. Hang your tree stand a little higher than you normally would, however, in order to stay well above the deer's line of sight.

Updrafts

In contrast, when the wind blows into a steep bank, it rushes up the hill. The easy answer, then, is to get above the deer.

But suppose your buck's route is on top of the hill--as it often is--and there are no suitable trees upwind. According to Pinkston, an updraft can work to your advantage in this case by carrying your scent in the air until it passes over the buck's travel route.

There's an easy way to find out before you commit to the spot: Grab your binoculars and loose some floaties, just like Pinkston does.

Tracking Breezes, from a Distance

Two simple long-distance wind checks can save you precious hunting time both at home and away.

[1] For stands located near field edges at home, tie 2 feet of fluorescent surveyor's tape on a tree limb about 5 feet high, within 20 yards of your stand, and in the open. Then use binoculars from your vehicle to check which way the flag is flapping. By observing from a distance, you eliminate an unnecessary hike if the wind isn't perfect.

[2] If you'll be traveling to hunt an unfamiliar area, take a minute now to visit the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (weather.gov) where prevailing wind directions are recorded annually from more than 300 regions. This combined with a good topo map or aerial photo will help you make hunting plans before you get there. No, it doesn't guarantee the wind will blow as predicted. But you can make a backup plan now, too.