Bad Weather Bucks

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By: bowhunting biologist Wade Nolan
By: bowhunting biologist Wade Nolan

I woke first and realized that today was my turn to coax the wood stove to life and chase the zero degree air out or our tent. Our white canvas wall tent was covered with over a foot of new powdery snow. Lashed cedar poles supported the tent against the snow load. Our deer camp was along a logging road in the forest up against Lake Superior. We were conducting whitetail research. That was thirty years ago, when I worked with the Minnesota whitetail researcher by the name of Dr. Ken Nordberg. Ken was all about field observation. His notes were detailed and deep. I learned a lot working with Ken. One of the nuggets I learned about deer movement dealt with weather.

Kens observations paralleled other data collected about weather related whitetail movement. They tended to move to feed just before a major weather event like rain or snow. This can be correlated to high and low pressure ridges but it is easier to think rain events. He learned that deer movement was compressed into an impromptu feeding cycle just before and immediately after a rainstorm.

Bucks and does can sense a barometric pressure change. This allows them to predict storms and rain events. If that rain event will interrupt a feeding cycle, they will move to feed early or just after it passes.
Bucks and does can sense a barometric pressure change. This allows them to predict storms and rain events. If that rain event will interrupt a feeding cycle, they will move to feed early or just after it passes.

This means that just before and after a rain event you should be in your stand over a feeding area. It is my personal position that bowhunting in the rain is unethical, I choose to try to time the end of a rain event and get to my stand while the deer are still in cover and not near the feeding area. I choose to not bowhunt in the rain because blood trails are easily erased by even light rain and it complicates trailing and amps up hit and loss rates.

This means I watch the weather radar on my smart phone and travel to my stand during the end of the rain event. If I am wearing old, junk or leaky raingear, I will get wet. For this, I have a strategy that works every time. It involves being proactive about taking care of my rain gear.

Note the beading on my raingear outer shell. Your rain gear must bead in order to work.
Note the beading on my raingear outer shell. Your rain gear must bead in order to work.

Understanding why rain gear fails is step number one. Breathable membranes like Gortex allow air to travel through microscopic pores in the membrane. Ordinary detergents coat this membrane with soap scum or residue. Once the membrane or the nylon that it is bonded to, is covered with microscopic soap scum, the raingear sheets water, gets wet and fails to bead. This means you might as well be wearing a garbage bag. Your raingear will sweat and you will be wet. Here is the fix.

Wash your rain gear in Sport-Wash. Sport-Wash is an engineered detergent that removes soap scum and detergent residue. This step alone may rejuvenate your rain gear. I go a step further and after drying, treat my raingear with Silicone Water-Guard. This formulation coats the fabric but allows it to breath. You’ll notice that water beads and the garment repels water. Within one day, the solvents evaporate and the treatment is odorless. It’s built for the hunt. Built to keep you dry, even in Alaska’s backcountry.

We load my Zodiac boat onto the landing craft in Alaska's Prince William Sound. If we were whitetails, we'd be feeding right now as it rained sideways for 36 hours before the weather broke. Staying dry was critical.
We load my Zodiac boat onto the landing craft in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. If we were whitetails, we’d be feeding right now as it rained sideways for 36 hours before the weather broke. Staying dry was critical.

So remember, hunt after a rain event and get into your stand while it is still raining. Hunt dry. Be proactive about maintaining your rain gear. I clean and treat mine yearly and it allows me to target those storm event bucks.

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Like to see this tip in video with more detail: CLICK HERE.