In the most recent issue of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, the question “should you bowhunt deer in the rain?” was posed to the readers. And within this article the topic was explored and several factors were mentioned that you should keep in mind if hunting in the rain. But that being said, no real stance was taken on the subject. So I figured I would fill that void and give ya’ll my 2 cents on this topic. So should you bowhunt in the rain? In my opinion, heck yes.
Now that being said, when hunting in the rain your game plan has to change a little. So lets quickly run through why you should hunt in the rain, a few special concerns you need to keep in mind and then most importantly, what changes in strategy can help you bag a monster buck next time rain is in the forecast.
Why You Should Hunt In The Rain
For those of you that have followed Wired To Hunt for some time, you already know that I’m a huge proponent of hunting in the rain. In fact, just last year I wrote a full post on this topic. So that being said, I’ll keep this section brief. The main take home point here is that deer movement can be very good on those rainy days, particularly with mature bucks. In fact many of my best days on stand, in regards to bucks seen on foot, have been on those nasty, wet days. Mature bucks just feel more comfortable moving in the daylight on wet, overcast, rainy days and if you want to put a tag on one, you better be out there too. Light drizzly days are usually the best for movement in my experience. But don’t let a major storm system keep you inside. Although deer will mostly likely bed down in torrential downpour situations, as soon as a break in the storm appears, deer will be back on the move. If you remember anything from this post, make sure that when you hear the rain tapping on the roof, you jump out of bed and hit the woods. Because the hunting should be good.
Now while I am a strong advocate of hunting in the rain, I also believe it is very important to understand the limitations that this kind of weather can put on a hunter. There are a number of unique factors you must consider when hunting in the rain. Number one is the fact that rain obviously can wash away a blood trail. It’s the number one challenge when it comes to hunting in the rain, and because of this you as a hunter must change the way you hunt in these situations. But more on this later. Secondly, you need to to consider how rain can effect your gear and it’s effectiveness. Rain can have strange effects on a bow, calls, tree steps, etc. Lastly, you’ve got to keep in mind the effect that a cold wet day can have on your comfort level. So with these challenges in mind, lets walk through my recommendations on how to make the best of a rainy day.
Strategies for Hunting in the Rain Successfully
As mentioned earlier, the greatest challenge we face as bowhunters in the rain is that a blood trail can be easily washed away. This is a major challenge, but not one that I would let keep me inside. Knowing that blood could be hard to trail or even impossible, you as a hunter must do everything you can to ensure that this deer will travel as short a distance as possible after being hit. How do you do this? Two ways come to mind. First, limit your shot selection to only the very highest probability distances and angles. If I’m hunting in a situation where I believe rain could destroy my bloodtrail, I’m not shooting past 20 yards and I’m only shooting at a broadside or slightly quartering away deer. In other weather conditions my range would be twice that and slightly different shot angles might work, but with rain you just can’t take any unnecessary risks. Putting a perfect shot on your deer is crucial to ensure a fast death, which in the end will increase your probability for success when tracking without blood.
Now lets assume you wait for your buck to get within 20 yards and you put a perfect heart shot on him. He takes off running and disappears into the brush. What now? If it’s raining as you shoot and rain is expected to continue, you can almost guarantee that most blood will be washed away soon. So in this case, I would assume trailing that blood is a lot cause. Rather than jumping on a light and worsening blood trail right away, I would rather get out of there and give the deer time. Assuming you put a great shot on your buck, and you don’t push him, he should be down within a reasonable distance. Make sure upon shooting the buck that you carefully watch where he runs and make a mental note of where you last see him. By not trailing immediately, you have a better chance of that buck bedding down nearby, giving you a better chance of finding that deer later.
Upon returning to track the deer several hours later (assuming you got a heart/lung shot), begin where you last saw the buck. From here begin moving in the direction the buck most likely would go. How do you do this? Well often times you can track a deer just by the kicked up leaves on the ground. But if you’re not comfortable doing that, there are a number of land features that can often funnel an injured buck’s movements and if you know what these are, you’ll know where to look first. For instance injured deer will often times go to water, avoid going up hill and stay in thick cover if possible. Use these generalities to narrow your initial search. If the buck isn’t within seeing distance from where you last watched him, and you’ve checked the most likely spots, I would recommend beginning a grid search. Search hard and be thorough, and most likely (or at least hopefully) your buck should be nearby.
Now in addition to the blood trailing challenge, you must also plan for the effects rain could have on your gear and your stamina on stand. My advice? Get high quality gear and test it. Practice shooting your bow on a rainy day, practice climbing into your stand when it’s wet and make sure you’re comfortable shooting with a rain jacket! Speaking of rain jackets, make sure you are dressed appropriately. 100% rainproof, quiet gear is essential to hunting in bad weather and it can truly make or break your hunt. You also might want to consider hunting in ground blinds or using a tree umbrella in rainy day situations. Needless to say, whatever you need to do differently gear/hunting wise in the rain, make sure you practice with this new gear or setting.
When it comes to hunting deer in the rain, it would be a crying shame to stay inside and miss out on the tremendous opportunity this weather can provide. Prepare in advance for dealing with rainy hunting conditions, know your limitations and be smart. You do that and you won’t be wishing those rainy days away.
Do you feel differently? Let us know in the comments!