This is a guest post from Tony Barlow, an avid hunter, former broadcast meteorologist, and founder of Plan The Hunt.
By Tony Barlow
For the everyday hunter, weather can make or break a hunt.
One change in weather could spur increased deer movement and be the catalyst for an incredible day of hunting, while another change might lead to the demise of a well put together plan and a wasted hunting trip.
There are a plethora of variables involved every time you step into the woods on a hunt, but when it comes to prioritizing those variables, I have to believe that weather is near the very top of that list. The challenge of course is that weather may also be the most unpredictable of those variables. Still, when planning for an upcoming hunt, it’s of the utmost importance to try and understand what the weather might have in store.
Weather forecasting and observation can be as simple or as complicated as you like. It can be as simple as looking out the window or at a flag flapping in the wind, and it can be as complicated as thousands of calculations on super computers, various weather models and million dollar satellites. Depending on where you live the weather may also be more chaotic and changing. Many of us hunt in the Midwest where words like stability and consistency are a foreign language when it comes to the weather. Despite all these challenges, there are definitely still ways we can get the upper hand on the forecast.
Getting your Weather Data From the Right Place
The most important way to improve your forecasting odds is to get your data from the right place. Weather forecasts are everywhere these days, at last check there were over 6,000 weather apps in the iTunes app store for iPhones. The problem with 95% of these apps is that they get their data from an algorithm in a computer. Generally speaking, these algorithms are pretty good, but we aren’t looking for pretty good. And unfortunately, where these apps struggle the most is with the finer details like wind speed and direction. Sadly, this judgement on bad data also falls on the most popular website and app out there, Weather.com. Yes, even a behemoth like the Weather Channel uses algorithms to develop their forecasts for most of the country.
So where do you turn? I have two suggestions and they both involve one common element; human forecasts, involving actual meteorologists, looking at the data and putting together the numbers. The human element is what makes a difference. In both cases the forecasters are also local to your area; they live in your region and know the terrain differences and micro climates that may alter a seemingly straightforward forecast. This locality can make a huge difference. So, here are the two options I most recommend for accurate and up-to-date forecasts that you can use when planning a hunt.
The first is your local TV station, I know what you are thinking (trust me I read it daily in emails when I worked as a TV meteorologist), those guys are never right! But to be honest, they actually do better than most. And they have that distinct knowledge of your region which really helps. On-air meteorologists are also laser focused on your specific area, meaning they have more time to make sure the smaller details are right. The local weather team also has a lot riding on that forecast. In local television, if no one is watching then no one is advertising, and that is bad news for the bottom line. Forecast consistency and accuracy are super important to viewers and so there is a little push to get things right. One stipulation is that I would encourage you to get your data from them on TV or online, as many (not all) station apps use the same forecast algorithms that all the rest use.
The second option is the National Weather Service (weather.gov). You pay their salaries with your tax dollars so you may as well use them! The federal government has National Weather Service offices scattered all over the US, so they are also local to your region and know the territory. Some of the best meteorologists in the country work for local NWS offices. The NWS also has access to some of the best data and resources out there giving them a little upper hand on the forecast. Their websites aren’t as fancy and pretty as some others but I think that is actually a positive, as they don’t have to think about presenting the weather, so they can focus on the finer details. While their information may not be as user friendly; taking some time to familiarize yourself with the tools on their site can be a huge help in the field.
Deer hunting has come a VERY long way in recent years, as we have more knowledge, more data and more resources now than ever before. So while we will never get “control” of the weather, we can certainly take steps to educate ourselves and get the upper hand.
Keep an eye out for more on this topic in the future, we are looking to dive even deeper into forecasting soon.
Tony Barlow is a former broadcast meteorologist working now to help hunters hunt in a more tactical way. He has created Plan the Hunt, a modern reinvention of the hunting journal. You can learn more at www.planthehunt.com.
For more on how weather can impact your hunts, check out these two past podcast episodes: