Ten Easy Tips For Mastering the Wind
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., October 28, 2006.)
One scent-containment clothing advertisement says, "Forget the wind. Just hunt." I'd like that to be true, but I doubt that the high-tech clothing that is supposed to contain human scent will work without taking other steps to minimize your scent.
Wind is the whitetail's greatest friend,
and the whitetail hunter's greatest enemy.
Most hunters will do anything reasonable to help ensure success, and that includes investing in whatever clothing will help keep you invisible to the deer you're hunting. If you try to beat the deer's eyes by camouflaging your human form, it's reasonable to think that you should do what you can to beat the deer's nose by camouflaging your human scent.
Before investing in an expensive suit of scent-containing clothing, the number one challenge for every deer hunter is to master the wind. Why? Because deer have mastered it. Every day of their lives, their bloodhound noses are the number one key to their survival. Once they're schooled by a couple of seasons of heavy Pennsylvania hunting pressure they have acquired a big advantage. The odds are that you will not kill a mature deer if he smells you.
Wind is the whitetail's greatest friend, and the whitetail hunter's greatest enemy. It's vitally important to "play the wind," and it's nowhere more important than here in the land of constantly shifting, changing, mind-blowing winds. The wind is usually on the deer's side in this seasonal war because it is dramatically unreliable for the hunter.
Master the wind and you will kill deer, but that's easier said than done. Perhaps these ten tips on coping with the wind will help you:
1. Become a student of the weather. Watch the Weather Channel or use one of the weather forecasting web sites such as www.weather.com, or the government's weather service site at www.nws.noaa.gov.
2. Remember that the wind isn't necessarily doing what the weather report says it's doing, so check the wind as you're driving to your hunting area by looking at flags, leaves, car exhaust, anything that the wind moves.
3. Plan ahead where you'll enter the woods, and enter the woods with the wind in your face.
4. Check constantly for changes in the wind. On all but the rarest of days, it will change, so be ready to alter your tactics accordingly.
5. Use a wind indicator. I put some milkweed fluff in a film canister and pin it to my vest. For as far as you can see it, it shows where the wind is going. Use it often. It doesn't hurt to also tie a thread to your bow or gun for a constant visual indicator.
6. Don't hunt a stand when the wind isn't right for that stand. If it's true that your best chance of killing a buck is during the first few times you use a stand, then you should use it only when the wind is right.
7. Eat something, an apple preferably. Your greatest amount of scent comes from your mouth as you breathe. Baking soda, if you can stand it, will neutralize mouth odors. Eating an apple will help cover remaining scent. I think anything will help -- even peanut butter might change a deer's reaction from alarm to curiosity.
8. Take steps to minimize the many ways in which you deposit your scent in the woods. For example, whenever you touch a tree, your hands leave your scent there and deer passing downwind will notice it. Avoid touching anything unnecessarily -- you might even want to wear latex gloves.
9. Remember thermals. Wind isn't the only thing that causes air to move. In the evening air cools as the sun gets low on the horizon, so it condenses, becomes heavier, and moves downhill. The opposite happens in the morning -- the sun warms the air and causes rising thermals.
10. Think about the obstructions and terrain features that divert the wind. The wind might skirt a dense grove of hemlocks, or swirl against a steep hillside, or get channeled through a narrow valley.
If you've done all of the above you've taking major steps toward mastering the wind, and you probably won't need expensive scent containment clothing.