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Wind Games

Checking the Wind with Milkweed
Checking the Wind with Milkweed

As I readied myself for the evening deer hunt the strong west winds kept hitting me with the dried-up corn leaves left behind by the combine that had passed through the field 4 days earlier.  Perfect for the Alli Way stand.  I found relief from the wind, and the dust it was kicking up, once I dropped down beside a tall north-south bluff on my walk in.  The day was warm but I made my elevated perch and hadn’t worked up much of a sweat.  I was protected from the main wind but as I sat there in the tree I was at first thankful for the occasional breeze that made it to me and hit me in the back of the neck…then I realized it was hitting me in the back of the neck.  A quick evaluation of the situation confirmed my fears – the wind had switched.  What began as a west wind and ideal for my chosen hunting site was now a north wind and blowing my human stink over the very area I hoped to see deer.  My 3 minutes on stand was followed by a 7 minute hike of frustration back to the truck.

Whether I am hunting for deer, duck or quail wind is a factor I am always concerned with.  I constantly check for direction and speed to help get myself in the best possible situations.  The challenge is that it always seems to be changing in the fall.  In fact, three of the last four archery deer hunts I have been on the wind has switched directions on me either while I am hunting or on the walk in.  Any good bowhunter will tell you this is not a good thing as human smell is one of the biggest threats to a successful deer hunt.

Once in the field there are many ways to detect wind direction of even the slightest breadth of air.  Commercially available bottles of various powders that you puff in the air are inexpensive and work.  For the DIY’ers you can create a stash of fluffy seeds to release when needed – cattail fluff  or milkweed seeds being the most popular in this area.  Be sure to place them in a handy container for transport – old film canisters are perfect when you can find them.  For those that don’t like tossing seeds about simply tie a feather onto at light piece of string or un-coated dental floss and attach to your bow, firearm, tree stand or other hunting  item that will be exposed to the wind.

Feather Wind Indicator
Feather Wind Indicator

Tracking wind speeds can be trickier and nowadays is likely easiest accomplished via the smartphone as it continues to invade even more of our lives.  However, you can avoid dragging along this annoyance if you get  to know the signs & symptoms of different wind speeds. A modernized version of Sir Francis Beaufort’s Wind Scale developed in the early 1800’s can be very helpful for doing just that.  To me wind direction is usually my first concern when hunting, especially for deer, but I have realized that for a few of my tree stands too much of the right wind direction can cause the wind to swirl and send my scent the wrong way.  However, I had success hunting protected travel routes on days when the wind is 25 mph or more.

Don’t forget about the effect of warming and cooling on air flow.  As the air temp rises, such as after sunrise, there is a natural updraft created.  The opposite happens as the air begins to cool which usually happens in the evening.  These are especially impactful when the wind speeds are very low.

Having to play the wind game can cause some occasional frustration but I have found it’s usually well worth the trouble and can lead to better hunts when afield.  Living in Nebraska it’s just part of the fun…

Checking the Wind...Always Checking
Checking the Wind…Always Checking


About Aaron Hershberger

Aaron "hershy" Hershberger is an Outdoor Education Specialist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He loves being outdoors. When not outdoors he is day-dreaming about being outdoors and/or whining that he is not outdoors. Hershy has been a Hunter Education Instructor, in two states, for nearly three decades & a Bowhunter Education Instructor for over 20 years.

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