John's Journal...

Be Wise about the Weather and the Wind to Take White-Tailed Deer

Day 3: Understand Variable Wind Conditions and Thermals to Take Deer

Editor’s Note: Sometimes a buck will see you or hear you – and you’ll still get a shot. But if he smells you – color him gone.

Click for Larger ViewSome hunters may continue with their hunt plans and disregard the wind. But avid deer hunter Dr. Robert Sheppard of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is a staunch believer that to be successful as a bowhunter, he must hunt as the wind dictates. Since 80 percent of his time in the woods is spent in scouting, selecting stand sites and cutting shooting lanes and only 20 percent of his time is actually spent in a tree, he doesn’t view the days with variable winds as wasted hunting time. But he does recognize that one of the most-difficult situations where a bowhunter can be successful is to sit in a tree stand for several hours with the wind whipping around him and carrying his scent all through the woods. “You’ve got to remember that if you want a deer to get within 30 yards of you, most of the time you’ll have to wait patiently for that deer to come in slowly,” Sheppard reports. “Since the deer will be approaching you slowly and testing the air as he comes, the odds are extremely good that he will smell you on a variable wind before you see him. Then you’ve wasted the day sitting in a tree.”

Click for Larger ViewAfter listening to the weather radio and checking his compass on his way to his stands to see which way the chimney smoke is being blown (see Day 2), Sheppard next stops his car in a region that has a wide-open field on both sides of the road. “Just before I reach the area I plan to hunt, I don’t want any trees or obstructions to create any turbulence in the wind. I get out of the car and take one of my broadheads that has a piece of string tied to it, hold it out and see in which direction the wind pushes the string. Then I check the wind with my compass to make sure that the wind is still blowing in the same direction that I heard on the weather radio and that I saw blowing from the chimneys. If the wind direction is still constant, then I go ahead and walk through the woods to the stand I had planned to hunt from that day. As I approach the tree stand, I also am conscious that I am walking into the wind and not with the wind at my back.”

Once Sheppard arrives at his stand, gets into his tree and nocks his arrow to begin the long wait, he still has the string tied to the end of his broadhead. “Then any time the wind changes direction or there is a variation in air movement, I can tell which way my scent is being blown from that string on the arrow. I practice shooting with the string on the arrow. I have learned that it in no way inhibits the flight of the shaft.”


Click for Larger ViewWind is one form of air movement and is generally directional to points on the compass. “But thermals,” Sheppard explains, “are usually air movements upward or downward. Thermals in the mountains are well-known to hunters there. However, outdoorsmen who hunt in a more-flat terrain don’t give much thought to the effects of thermals. If you’re hunting on the side of a mountain that’s 2-miles distance from the bottom to the top, then most hunters realize that they want to be hunting the top side of the mountain in the morning when the thermals are causing the air at the bottom of the mountains to rise to the top. And, they want to be hunting at the bottom of the mountain in the afternoon when the thermals will cause the air at the top of the mountain to drift to the bottom, because the general upward drift of air in the morning will take the hunter’s scent up and away from the deer, and the general downward movement of the air in the afternoon will keep the hunter’s scent close to the ground and away from the deer in the late evening. The flatland hunter has to deal with thermals just like the mountain hunter does, but the thermals aren’t as obvious. The air still generally rises in the morning and falls in the evening.

Click for Larger View“One of the worst situations to try and take a deer due to thermals is for a hunter to go to his stand early in the evening and have no wind. Under these conditions, the hunter’s scent will be forced straight-down the tree and spread out in all directions. For a deer to come within shooting range and not smell a hunter under these conditions is almost impossible. Another condition that is almost death for the hunter in search of a buck is to be in a tree stand late in the afternoon during a rain with no wind when the fog begins to be pushed close to the ground. The hunter needs to realize that his scent is also hugging close to the ground. The same situation prevails in any type of rainy weather that lasts all day with no wind. During those times, the best thing to do is either scout, try and stalk a deer or go home. I’ve found that the best tactics to hunt during no-win situations is to not go to your stand until 30-minutes before dark. You want to spend as little time as possible in that stand under these conditions. The longer you sit in the stand, the more time you give your scent to spread all over the area.”

For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,”How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property.” Too, you can go to, type in the name of the book and download it to your Kindle and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Use Thermals to your Advantage When Hunting Deer

Check back each day this week for more about "Be Wise about the Weather and the Wind to Take White-Tailed Deer"

Day 1: What Hunters Know about Deer and Their Sense of Smell
Day 2: Beating the Wind to Take Deer
Day 3: Understand Variable Wind Conditions and Thermals to Take Deer
Day 4: Use Thermals to your Advantage When Hunting Deer
Day 5: Using the Wind to Your Advantage Is Critical to Taking a Buck

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Entry 741, Day 3