A rising barometer is the time to be in the woods, as wildlife react to a front and feed
Barometric pressure can be the best weather indicator for increased deer-hunting success. Once the patterns of high-pressure systems are learned, seeing bucks up and feeding will become a common occurrence.
When high-pressure systems move through, they typically involve cold fronts; it means the temperature will be dropping and the wind will be increasing with the pressure change. I’ve read many studies showing a threefold increase in buck activity, and a 1:1 doe to buck movement ratio during higher pressures over 30 inHg. Through the years, my woods sightings and camera research have correlated the same amazing results.
This season has been a new challenge, using my recurve bows in very limited hunting time with a newborn baby boy. Still, I’m driving more than 7 hours every week, even if its just to spend a few hours in the woods on one day. Since I have such limited time, I try to choose days with the best weather, which I base upon high-pressure systems.
First tag filled
After seven close calls with does in bow range the first two month of this season, my luck changed on an eventful morning where a cold front was pushing through.
Unable to get up north as early as planned because of dad duty, I got to the woods after daybreak. Another hunter was in my planned spot, so I went to a deeper area I had only been to once before. Just as I was nearing the tree I intended to climb, I came face to face with a mature buck making a rub 15 yards away in a slough, but he saw me first. The big fellow had created a bubble line, passing just 8 yards upwind from my climbed tree. I was just a few minutes too late.
While in my climber, another nice racked buck walked past at 34 yards, out of range on the thick, sapling ridge. Yet it all came together when the morning’s third buck walked where the other big one had created his bubble trail. I was able to make a great shot using my 80-pound Black Widow recurve using a heavy 700-grain Piledriver arrow tipped with a wide, 11/2-inch cut Steel Force 2-bladed broadhead. While waiting for my buck to expire from the lung and liver shot, I went for a jog in the wet leaves and stalked, then shot, a big spotted boar.
Later, I went back to track my buck, which had only gone 35 yards. I was thrilled about finally getting to down some fresh, wild venison this season, just in time to serve smoked backstraps as the main dish for Thanksgiving. Also, my baby boy and I eat bone broth daily, and we were out of bones, so that was the main mission for taking the tasty buck. The cartilage, ligaments and tendons don’t go to waste at my house and are now my favorite parts of the deer to consume in my homemade broth.
I shared the buck with my brother’s family, who has quadruplets to feed. He had joined me that morning on his first-ever compound bow hunt. He quickly learned just how challenging the archery pursuit can be, having deer within 10 yards but not having any makeable shots.
After the rain
In the same boat, trying to feed a family of four kids, is my best friend, Brian Cifreo. He has been focusing on hunting during times of rising pressure for many years and teaches me a lot on our weekend’s together at my camp, where he leaves his camper. His brother taught him how to deer hunt after an autumn rainstorm had passed back when they were kids. After many years, he put the pieces together that it was the rising barometric pressure that correlates to all his deer sightings after rain and the next day.
His best small-game hunts and fishing trips have usually occurred under these conditions as well. He said that’s when everything wants to feed, because the pressure change affects their stomachs.
This past October, he had the best deer hunting week of his life on Louisiana public land. It began on a rainy Monday when work got called off due to inclement weather. He had packed his Black Widow recurve in his truck, just in the hopes of getting free from his job as an electrician.
The rain creates the perfect, stealthy stalking conditions when it ends, and Cifreo loves to stalk as much as sit in a tree. He went to an area he had not hunted in many years and got wet crossing several deep sloughs to access areas other hunters don’t often visit. As he was creeping along a cocklebur patch in a river bottom, two bucks stirred. Magically, an 8-pointer stopped in a gap at 18 yards. He made the perfect shot, slicing through the heart with his four-blade Muzzy broadhead.
The success continued on his next day in the woods. He went back to a different area in a riverbottom filled with nuttall oak acorns. A tropical storm had passed the night before, and the windy conditions of the rising pressure that pushed the storm eastward through Mississippi had the animals feeding. During the morning sit, a nice boar moved through, and Brian downed the hog with his compound bow.
After moving his climber to a hot nuttall to get upwind of that location, the action picked up again. He had set up at a new nuttall tree much earlier than normal for an evening sit because he knew the conditions were perfect. And behold, a beautiful 100-inch buck with a 161/4-inch inside spread came out just 15 yards away to feed only a little while into the hunt. An even bigger buck was with him, but out of archery range. The arrow sailed true and he had his largest archery buck after 28 years of bowhunting.
After the shot, the larger buck ran, confused, and stopped underneath Brian in the climber. It was a week my buddy will never forget, and the decades of learning the best weather conditions to hunt had paid off.
The next weekend, stalking in windy conditions, he stalked a nice 6-pointer to 8 yards in very windy conditions the day after the front arrived. He held out to fill his last tag for something with more bone.
High pressure tips
Stalking with our recurve bows is one of the hardest types of hunting, but it can be very productive in the right conditions. The wet leaves after a rain is when we do most of our stalking, since we can walk quietly. Cifreo’s 8-pointer was taken in similar conditions as my best recurve buck two seasons ago. Getting in the woods with rain gear at a good location just as the rain stops is optimal.
Once the wind from a high-pressure front kicks in, it really helps keep human movement hidden. With all the leaves and branches swaying, stalking conditions are even better. This season, I was able to stalk does a few times within 20 yards under windy, wet-leaf conditions. However, one doe ducked the shot, and I took out a 1-inch sapling instead of one deer. Cifreo missed a doe with his recurve as well from a ducked arrow.
I also shot several hogs this season, traditionally stalking in the wind.
We usually take to our climbing stands once the leaves dry up. The crunchy leaves puts a stationary hunter in the advantage, as approaching deer can be heard coming. The hard wind of a high-pressure system usually dies down early in the morning and late in the evening by the second day. This is when being elevated and stationary creates a better advantage.
In late fall and winter, a front’s strong winds are usually very consistent and different from the typically south to southeast winds Louisiana receives early in the season. Even though the weather forecast often says a northward wind, the wind often blows from the southwest to west-northwest during the day the front arrives. The next day, it will begin to switch to consistently north. Just before the pressure peaks, Cifreo has his most success seeing game.
By the third day, a northeast wind blows. The hunting usually remains action-packed until the pressure and wind begins to drop. That’s when our sightings really plummet. Instead of hunting low-pressure conditions, we typically run full throttle through the woods and scout for new spots and await the next high-pressure front.
The best barometric pressure to hunt is when the barometer rises above 30, with 30.10 to 30.30 being the sweet spot for animals to get up and move in daylight. The few magical hours during a hard front when the pressure is rising fast is when I see the majority of my bucks.
Cifreo uses his Weather.com app to check current pressure. I like to use Weather Underground for my source on pressure conditions for the week ahead.
Of course, die-hard hunting dads like the two of us will be roaming the public woods every chance we get throughout the season, but when the pressure gauge is showing a 30 with the arrow pointed up is when we strike the most.