Every hunter I know looks forward to the perfect weather day when hunting. The day starts with a crisp but pleasant morning and trek to your favorite spot. By the end of that day you’re not too warm while hauling in your prize either.
Unfortunately, perfect weather isn’t always in the cards and you’ll need to venture out hunting in less than perfect conditions, most likely the rain. But, is hunting while it’s raining even worth it?
Rain comes with its own unique set of challenges. Not only do you have to take into consideration the changes in the deer’s behavior, but you’ll have to make sure that you take care of yourself in any inclement weather also. With a little bit of knowledge, prior planning, and a little bit of luck, hunting in these conditions can be both fun and rewarding.
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Do Deer Come Out if it’s Raining?
Deer live outside and are used to inclement weather. While some of their behaviors may be adjusted due to rain, deer hunting can still be successful. Knowing these changes in behavior can be the difference in a rewarding rainy-day hunt and mucking through the woods in the rain while you’re soaked to the bone.
Dr. Sheppard of Tuscaloosa, Alabama worked with over 35,000 hunters over a 20-year span to track this phenomenon. He used hunters accounts and the National Weather Service information to correlate deer activity during rain. What they found is that deer are more active in rain but, funnily enough, it has nothing to do with the rain itself.
The biggest factor in deer movement is temperature. The study found that deer movement is inversely proportional to temperature. Basically, the colder it is, the more active the deer are. The change of ambient temperature forces the deer to eat more, making them more active.
Another factor that they found is cloud cover. While a clear day is best, light cloud cover is still conducive to deer movement. Heavy cloud cover or storms are a detriment to movement.
The last factor that was tracked in the study was wind velocity. While it may seem like deer wouldn’t be active in severe winds, it was found that deer movement and wind velocity were directly proportional. This means that the windier it was, the better chance of deer movement and a successful hunt.
For more information on the study, you can check out their findings here.
Are Deer More Active During Rain?
While every hunter has their own answer to this question, it really depends most on how hard it is raining. Rain can be unpredictable and ebb and flow between a list mist to a downpour but, deer do act differently depending on how hard it is raining.
Deer rely on their senses heavily to influence their movements and especially how active they are during a given timeframe. Rain can dramatically affect their hearing due to the addition of noises. With their hearing hindered, deer rely heavily on sight. This change can be the key to deer hunting in the rain while they trend to the edge of meadows and clearings for increased sightlines.
Due to the white noise of the rain pattering on the ground and foliage, a deer’s hearing isn’t as acute. This can be a blessing and allow you to move more easily to gain the perfect shot or give you a little leeway when having a new hunter with you. While stealth is always recommended, you have a bit more flexibility due to the added noise.
This was confirmed by an Oregon Blacktail Deer Research Biologist, DeWaine Jackson. DeWaine was the project leader for a recent study that tagged over 300 deer and tracked their movements. It was found that during times that there was rain the deer were more active.
To read more about the study and findings, you can check out the article here.
How to Prepare for Deer Hunting During Rain
To hunt successfully in the rain, you need a bit more equipment (or make sure that your normal gear can double duty). With technological advancements and a bit of preparation, you can successfully hunt in the rain comfortably.
If you’re looking for your current gear to perform double duty, you’ll need to make sure that everything is waterproof. A convenient way to do this is to use a waterproofing spray to apply a hydrophobic layer. These sprays are readily available and can help to save money but don’t hold up very well and will need to be reapplied on a regular basis. If you’re going to be hunting in the rain on a regular basis, we recommend a separate rain gear set.
Rain gear is integral to being comfortable in the rain. Long gone are the yellow plastic rain coats of our youth. Your outer wear can be treated with a hydrophobic material or you may want to invest into a separate waterproof layer. While there are benefits and drawbacks to both, a separate waterproof layer that can still wick perspiration from your body will normally work better in the long run.
We also recommend you include pants as part of your rain gear. Loathed are the days where your top section is dry and the water pools up in your lap. With a waterproof bottom layer, you can increase your comfort and warmth to improve your overall hunting experience.
It’s important to remain warm during rainy conditions. Base layers are an integral part of this and are especially important under waterproof layers. A hat and gloves are also good choices to retain body heat.
Taking the time to make sure that your boots are waterproof is an integral part of your comfort while hunting in the rain. While most boots are waterproof these days, the addition of a hydrophobic layer can ensure dries toes throughout the hunt. This might be an instance where the addition of the waterproofing spray to your boots could be a good decision. The addition of gaiters can also help to keep your legs and feet dry.
It’s important to make sure that your gear also stays dry. The addition of a waterproof backpack can make sure that your important stuff including maps, snacks, and cell phones stay dry no matter how torrential the downpour.
While you may have the perfect rain coat, does it match your hunting gear? Making sure that your rain gear matches and that the camo patterns are the same is just as important as having the gear in the first place. Make sure that you’re successful by having gear that is conducive to your success.
While your gear may be in tip top shape, is it as effective as needed in the rain? If you’re a bow hunter, can you reach full extension in your new, snazzy raincoat? Do the sleeves swish noisily against your midsection when you walk? Do you need to put your rain bottoms into your boots because they’re too long?
Taking the time to test out your gear will ensure that you are prepared and ready to fill your tag rain or shine!
While we wish there was a fail-safe way to hunt in the rain, it is dependent on the conditions. We’ll go over them below and how they differ to make sure that you’re prepared no matter how hard it is raining.
Heavy Storms and Downpours
For deer and us hunters alike, heavy rain due to storms or random downpours can be miserable. With lack of shelter, rampant heat loss due to the cold rain, and the difficulties of being soaked to the bone, deer will most likely bed down to withstand the heavy rains. This can make deer hunting especially difficult and near impossible due to their lack of movement. Deer will remain bedded down until the rain lets up to a light rain or mist before becoming active again.
Light Rain or Misting
For deer, light rain and/or misting is a normal occurrence for much of the year. This slight change in weather can be a benefit to you if you know where to look. Like we mentioned, deer use their sight more than any other sense and want the greatest angle of sight and distance possible. Anywhere in your hunting area that has these conditions will be a great location to focus on during this time. Clear cuts, meadows, valleys, canyons, or the leeward side of a hill are your best bet for a rewarding hunt.
While you may not say that they are more active during this time, it is shown that they leave their normal areas to get to these vantage points. This movement, though out of the ordinary, can be taken as them being more active.
By changing things up from a stand or your normal haunts, you can enjoy another facet of hunting. If you’re with a youth or inexperienced hunter, this can also be a great time to get them more familiar with stalking and even walking the forest without fear of scaring off your prey.
Is it worth it?
I hope that we’ve proven that you can still be successful deer hunting during windy and rainy conditions. With a bit of preparation, knowledge, and luck you can get your prized buck even if its not perfect conditions outside. Scout out your hunting area in advance to know where the clearings are, and you’ll be one step closer to getting your prized tag filled even if it’s raining!