How to Check And Play The Wind Like a Pro
Don't let sudden changes in the wind ruin your hunt. Know how to check the wind and what to look for when you do
Like any other whitetail fanatic, I pour over previous encounters incessantly—dissecting details like weather conditions, travel routes, barometric pressure, and of course, wind direction. Except for a few frothy-mouthed, rut-crazed bucks running after a doe, I’ve watched bucks consistently navigate with the wind to their advantage season after season. It’s no secret a buck’s nose is his greatest asset, and understanding how to manipulate it with your stand setup can lead to more opportunities and punched tags.
The key is letting a buck think he has the advantage. This is about knowing and reading more than just the prevailing winds—you need to know how the wind is acting around your exact location and the routes that a buck will likely travel to and from that location.
Know What Environmental Factors Affect Wind
In order to manipulate a setup to take advantage of the wind, you first have to understand it. It’s impossible to fully predict, but with attention to detail and some trial and error, you can find tendencies in the wind. Understanding the prevailing wind in a specific area is important. Just as important though, is knowing what other things can affect the behavior of that wind direction.
Time of Day
Wind speeds often decrease during the morning and evening. These slower wind speeds often result in swirling or inconsistent wind direction. Bucks love this because it gives them the ability to scent check multiple directions while passing through an area. In the morning as the sun rises, wind speeds often increase and become more consistent.
Terrain’s effect on wind direction shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s important to carefully check wind and deer activity at different points of terrain. Bucks usually travel at either the top third or bottom third of a hillside or ridge. When the wind blows into the face of the hillside, it swirls and bucks love to use that to their advantage. When you’re looking for somewhere to sit, try to place your stand either above or below the point where the wind is swirling.
Thermal wind currents move depending on the temperature of the air in relation to the ground. When the air is warmer than the ground, it pulls upwards. When it’s cooler, it sinks. Thermal current rise and fall happens a lot around creeks, ponds, rivers, and lakes, and it is an important factor to consider in the mornings and evenings when hunting in the mountains. Thermals also play a big role in wind direction when the prevailing wind speed is low.
To accurately predict what thermal effect you’ll be facing, or what other effects your environment is having on the wind, you’re going to need to scout under different conditions, and you’re going to need a good tool to map out the wind.
Use Milkweed to Check The Wind
Most hunters think powder or smoke is all they need to check the wind. But they pale in comparison to milkweed. Milkweed is a tall-stemmed plant that grows pods a little smaller than a chicken egg. Once early fall hits, the pods dry out and open to reveal seeds attached to almost weightless hair-like fibers. If you collect and release the fibers into the air, they ride the wind current anywhere it goes. Milkweed fibers let you see what the wind is doing for a much longer period of time than a puff of powder—revealing how the environmental factors above are affecting the wind. This will let you find precise areas where a buck can’t smell you yet still thinks he has the advantage of the wind.
Find The Weak Points in a Buck’s Travel Route
Deer can never move with the wind entirely to their advantage. Otherwise, they would only move in one direction all day. The key is to find the opportunities or weak points in their travel route. After you’ve scouted where and when deer are moving, check how the wind moves across their route at different times of the day, through different terrain features, and under a variety of conditions. Look for areas that force deer to give up the wind in their face for enough time for you to take a shot or areas where a buck will think he has the wind to his advantage but cannot smell you. Use your milkweed to find these weak points, position your stand so your downwind side is pointing away from the travel route, and get ready.