The Right Weather for The Hunt

Weather Watch with Ed Buckner

A successful hunt usually includes perfect weather. As hunters know, and as they tell me all the time, they need the temperature, wind, pressure and moon phase all in perfect agreement. It rarely happens that way—but when it does, I can’t be blamed, and the hunt is all on them. 

According to Trey Reid with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, there are so many variables to consider when it comes to hunting success, that it’s hard to pinpoint precisely how one type of weather or another affects a game, whether animal or fish. Predicting animal behavior is a lot like predicting the weather: we can make some very educated guesses based on things we know and how they’ve behaved in the past, but it’s still a difficult endeavor with no absolute certainty, because it’s part of a natural process that we can’t control.

Barometric Pressure: Barometric pressure is a factor that hunters may often overlook because it’s not something we can see. Some observational data seem to point to a moving barometer (whether that’s a rising or falling pressure) as leading to increased movements of deer. When it comes to duck hunting, it seems low pressure systems often coincide with migration events in waterfowl, but that may also be an outcome of precipitation and wind that often results from low pressure systems. 

Wind: There’s some observational evidence that deer move better with light to moderate wind speeds. Wind direction certainly is a factor most deer hunters consider when setting up in a certain stand or location, mainly because of the way the wind will disperse human scent in each location. With waterfowl hunting, wind is often critical to success. Calm days are typically terrible for duck and goose hunting because the birds just don’t seem to fly much when conditions are very calm. 

Precipitation: You’ll hear a lot of deer hunters say they like to hunt on drizzly days, but there’s some evidence that hard rain may slow down deer movement. There’s also some evidence that deer and other wildlife will move more after a long period of rain, ostensibly moving to find food or moving for other reasons after longer periods of inactivity due to rainfall. With duck hunting, rainfall is a key indicator of duck abundance in Arkansas, or more precisely, water on the landscape in the form of flooding in river bottoms and sheet water in agricultural fields is a key indicator.

Temperature: This is a key factor in all types of hunting, and it’s supported by observational data when it comes to deer hunting. It seems that there’s a zone of temperatures in which deer are more active. However, when it’s extremely cold or unseasonably warm, my experience is that deer activity shuts down. This also holds true for duck hunting. 

We can reason that animals have to move around to find food to keep them warm when it’s very cold, or perhaps they move to increase their body temperatures. But when it’s extremely cold, like single digits or teens, deer will sometimes hunker down and save body heat. Of course, snow and ice cover brought on by cold fronts can add to waterfowl movements locally as well as migration movements on a larger scale.