Bad weather is great for big bucks

When storm clouds approach, make sure you’re ready to get in the woods and take advantage of deer movements that are dictated by the weather.

To take an older age-class buck in January, especially in regions with high hunting pressure, you must hunt:

  • Where no one wants to hunt or has hunted;
  • When the fewest hunters are hunting; and
  • Where an older age class buck will walk past your stand.

“The weather app on your cell phone is one of the best tools to predict when and where a buck will move,” said veteran hunter Preston Pittman of Pickens. “I’ve found that my best chances of taking a mature buck when the pressure is on are immediately after a rain or during nasty, bad weather in January. Most hunters will remain at camp then.”

Pittman leaves camp about an hour before the rain should stop so that he’s on his stand the instant the rain quits.

“I’ve learned that the first 30 minutes after the rain will be the most productive for seeing deer,” he said. “The hunters at camp who don’t leave until the rain ends may spook deer they want to take or reach their stands after the deer have stopped moving. 

“Today’s hunters have access to quality rainsuits, portable, waterproof ground blinds and tree umbrellas to attach above their tree stands that cover a hunter while the rain’s pouring down than ever have been available before.”

Pittman said hunting pressure will be the least on cold, windy, rainy days. 

“A critical factor hunters often overlook is that a buck, 3 years old or older, probably patterns hunters more effectively than hunters pattern him,” he said. “Deer have learned that hunters don’t like to hunt in bad weather, enabling them to move more and with fewer chances of getting shot than at any other time.”

Ronnie Strickland is pictured with his buck that weighed 245 pounds and scored 209-5/8 inches. (Photo by John E. Phillips)

Taking a bad-weather buck

Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, the vice president of media and public relations for Haas Outdoors in West Point, has spent thousands of hours hunting deer.  There’s a huge buck with a monstrous rack on the wall in his home, and he shared the story of how he took the buck.

“I’d worked 21 days in 1981 without a break,” he said. “I drove to an old school bus some buddies and I were using as a camphouse to hunt less than 1,000 acres in Jefferson County. When I arrived, a terrible rainstorm hit.” 

Before deer season opened, Strickland had hung a climbing stand less than a 1/4-mile from camp, about 200 yards from the landowner’s house, overlooking a clear-cut with a skid road through it. He had never hunted the stand, but thought he’d hunt it the next morning. When he woke up, the rain was still pouring down. 

“I’d made the decision the night before that, regardless of the weather, I was hunting the next morning, since I’d not been able to hunt for so long,” he said.

The wind howled, the rain poured down and the trees swished back and forth in the wind. Strickland bundled up in his rain gear and headed for his stand. He knew the noise of the wind and rain would cover any noise he made. The rain quit at 8:30. He heard an ATV on the other hunting club’s property, across the clear-cut, at 9:15. 

“A big buck bedded out in the clear-cut got up and started to move when he heard the 3-wheeler,” said Strickland, who heard the deer coming and realized he’d only get a quick shot once it stepped into the skid road. 

He saw a spike but didn’t shoot. He heard another deer moving and spotted tall tines coming through the brush. He mounted his .30-30 lever-action rifle and cocked the hammer. The buck stepped into the skid lane about 20 yards away. 

“The big buck looked straight at me,” Strickland said. “I aimed with my iron sights and squeezed the trigger.” 

The 41/2-year-old, 245-pound buck, which sported a 27-point non-typical rack that scored 2096/8, went down instantly.

You may take a buck that other hunters may never see or take, if you hunt when no one else does on bad weather days. (Photo by John E. Phillips)

Green fields in bad weather

Pittman has several green fields planted on his property. He doesn’t hunt two of the green fields, treating them  as sanctuaries for both bucks and does until the rut arrives. 

He fertilizes his green fields three times a year, before and during the season, to provide nutritious, palatable food in January.

“Most hunters plant their green fields in the early fall and put out lime and fertilizer to get their crops started but never fertilize (them) again until the following year,” Pittman said. “I fertilize my green fields before deer season starts and twice during the season. I believe these green fields taste more delicious to deer than other green fields having less fertilizer. These green fields enable me to pull mature bucks from a large area to my sanctuary green fields before and during the rut.”

Preston Pittman says that bucks pattern hunters better than hunters pattern deer and he has found that cold, wet, nasty days are some of his favorite days to hunt. (Photo by John E. Phillips)

Cold-weather bucks

Dr. Larry Marchinton, a retired wildlife researcher at the University of Georgia, thinks that deer seem to move less during severely cold weather than they do in more stable conditions. “I don’t have any scientific research to back this theory. However, I do know from my own experiences that I see fewer deer moving on cold days than I do when the weather’s mild.” 

“Deer will bed in thick cover closer to a food source in cold weather than at other times,” Pittman said. “Then, they don’t have to travel far from their bedding places to their feeding areas. A buck may spot you before you’ve seen him if you set-up too close to the bedding area. Instead, take a stand between the bedding place and the food source.” 

Most hunters will remain in camp and tell hunting stories rather than face the elements to try and bag a buck, when the weather’s cold and rainy with blowing wind.

Hunting in the rain

Rain has various effects on deer. A light rain doesn’t seem to impact their movement. A heavy rain often forces the deer into thick cover. The rain may prevent most hunters from hunting, resulting in less hunting pressure. Here are some other reasons to hunt deer on rainy days.

“The rain hides much of a hunter’s movement when stalking and washes away his scent,” Pittman said. “Then, you can hunt the same region more than one time a day. Also, on rainy days, determining which way the wind’s blowing is easy because of how the wind is pushing the rain. The deer can’t smell me as long as I’m walking into the wind. The rain also will help wash away my human odor. The sound of the rain and the wet ground will muffle the sound of my movement. I can move in closer to a deer without being detected.” 

Mississippi’s long season and the state’s average of 257 frost-free days annually means many hunters will decide not to hunt on bad weather days, instead waiting for nice days with no rain, little wind and warmer temperatures. The lack of hunting pressure on bad-weather days may cause deer to move more with fewer hunters afield.

A buck that’s 3 years old or older probably has patterned the hunters trying to take him better than those hunters have patterned that buck.

Hunt before a storm

Hunting pressure generally will be extremely light or non-existent 12 to 24 hours before a storm. Weather apps and hunting apps on cell phones help hunters today to see an approaching storm. Weather-savvy outdoorsmen can more accurately predict when a storm will occur where they hunt. Deer also can predict when a storm will hit; that’s why they will feed and move like there’s a sale on groceries 3 to 4 hours before a storm. Hunters on their stands will have better chances to take mature bucks than the hunters who quit hunting several hours before a storm. 

Deer hunting tactics like still-hunting, stalking and hunting from a tree stand pay off before storms. You must define the target areas where the bucks are most likely to be before a storm approaches. Stalk close to bedding areas or trails leading to bedding places during the last 1 to 3 hours before a storm arrives. These places are where deer go, seeking shelter from the storm, before the weather turns bad. 

Deer hunters who get out before, during and after bad weather can increase their odds of taking bucks, especially in the late season.

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