A viewer recently asked for help on figuring out the thermals and wind direction for his hunting property.
It’s difficult to forecast how the wind will react to the timber and openings on a property until you get boots on the ground.
Thermals are simply air masses moving based on land and air temp. Basically, cold air is heavy and therefore sinks. Warm air is light and therefore rises. This is easy to picture on a relatively homogeneous habitat.
Understanding and using thermals to pick stand locations gets tricky when there’s a mix of shade (cool) and open (warm if sun is shining on it) habitat. In addition, as the sun’s relationship to the earth changes, so can the direction of thermals.
I try to find stand sites where the thermals and/or wind direction will remain the same during my hunt.
The combination of wind speed and direction and thermals can be tough to figure out when paired with topography and cover. Strong (10+ MPH) winds are relatively easy as they usually override thermals. When the wind speed is slower than that thermals and topo/cover may have more of an impact on wind speed.
One of our bigger food plots, Crabapple, is in a bottom – next to a creek. Plots in bottoms can be tough to hunt during warmer weather as deer tend to bed high and move down to plots to feed. The rising thermals (hot air rises) usually alerts deer to the presence of a predator (hunter) located in a bottom. However, air rarely rises when the temps are very cold.
The thermal currents should be sinking toward the creek (cold air sinks). This is more prevalent at the Crabapple plot because it is at the base of a large hill to the west. Hence the field is shaded by the sun early in the afternoon – allowing the air to cool even quicker. This often provides us the ability to enter a stand at Crabapple with the thermals in our favor.
To dig even deeper and see all the videos and blogs where thermals are mentioned, enter the word “thermals” in the search box to the bottom right of the video player on the home page, select “other” from the drop down box, then click “go” on the far right of the search box.
The temperature was 46 degrees this morning with a 1mph south wind. We’re hunting in a pair of Summit Stands just above a creek on top of a bluff.
Out in front of us is a strip of hardwood timber with a recent cedar cut above. The bluff and the cedar cut act as a great pinch point as deer travel through the hardwoods. (The screenshot of the OnX map shows our hunting set-up best.) Even though there is a south wind, the thermals are stronger.
The cold is sinking down the mountain and being carried to the south. Because this is an west facing slope, it will not receive sunlight until later during the morning. Cool air will continue to sink until the sun rises over the mountain. This will allow us to hunt this location longer than if we were hunting under the same conditions on a south facing slope. We’re hoping bucks aren’t on their feet this morning!
Folks often ask how high we place our Summit Treestands. There are many factors. One is cover.
When possible, we like to have cover (limbs and leaves) to break up the hunter’s silhouette and mask movement. We also consider if a tree will provide cover throughout the entire season (even after leaves fall). Cover varies from tree to tree and we adjust our stand height accordingly.
Most of the stands we hang for bow hunting are 20′ +/– high. If stands are much higher it’s very difficult to get both lungs if the deer is relatively close to the stand due to the angle. Some stands may be a bit higher or lower based on the topography near the stand.
If the stands are lower deer tend to pick up movement easier. There’s a neat explanation to the angles deer can see at: https://www.qdma.com/articles/deer-can-see-you-even-when-theyre-eating
The GrowingDeer team has been using Winchester Deer Season XP for many years! Last fall I was able to fill my rifle tag on a great buck we called Slingshot. After the hunt we noticed the bullet was just underneath the skin on the offside shoulder. The bullet left all its energy in the deer, and Slingshot didn’t make it out of sight!
We are ready for those crisp fall mornings in the deer woods!
A viewer from Wisconsin recently wrote asking for advice on where to hunt in Missouri: “My three friends and I are planning a hunting trip to Missouri in November of 2020 as a change of pace from hunting in Wisconsin. We’re looking to come down November 9th-13th. I was wondering if you’d be willing to share any thoughts on what phase of the rut we can expect during the 9th-13th.”
Grant’s advice for this hunter:
I suspect you’ll be hunting in northern, Missouri! I live in the southwestern corner, near Branson in the Ozark Mountains. There are very few nonresident hunters in this area because the vast majority of habitat is composed of high graded forest. There’s no row crops anywhere near where I live and therefore few bottlenecks. This type of habitat makes patterning and/or observing deer more difficult.
I work frequently in northern, MO. If larger bucks are the goal, in general, the further north the better! It’s better hunting (more fragmented habitat) and better soils!
The best rut behavior is usually around November 1st through the 8th + -. This is because the majority of does become receptive somewhere close to the 8th annually. Bucks move more distance and time daily during the late pre-rut than during any other time of year. Once 30% or more does are receptive many bucks will be tending a doe and therefore not moving as much as when they were seeking.
With this said, any given day and location during November can be good or bad pending on if a receptive doe moves in front of where you are hunting. The odds are better when more bucks are moving during daylight hours seeking receptive does.
Missouri’s firearm’s season will November 14-24.
A friend from Michigan recently asked for help aging this buck. To accurately estimate deer age knowing the location and quality of habitat where the deer lives is helpful. It makes a big difference if the deer has been making a living eating soybeans or woody browse.
In general, this buck’s neck merges high on his chest – well above the brisket. His antler bases are relatively small and his shoulders and hams don’t appear to be fully developed. If this buck makes a living in timber habitat, I estimate he’s two. He could be a yearling if he’s been feeding on soybeans all summer.
My advice to deer hunters that wish to tag a mature buck and are faced with a quick shoot or pass decision is to focus on the buck’s chest. A mature buck’s chest will be developed and their body will have a buffalo shape. That is to say their chest will be larger than their ham. The buffalo shape is an accurate indicator that a buck is mature and is fairly easy to accurately assess in a shoot or pass hunting situation.
Consistent winds seem to be rare throughout much of the whitetail’s range except in the far western portion of the plains states. Since I don’t get to hunt in western Kansas, eastern Colorado, etc., frequently I try to hang stands at the highest elevation where I’m hunting. Typically, the higher the elevation relative to the surrounding landscape the more consistent the wind will be.
Another strategy I use is to watch the weather then try to hunt the best days that my schedule allows. These may be just before a front when the wind is stronger (and more consistent), mornings during cold days (I hunt low elevation during those days as cold air sinks to the lowest elevation), or when the humidity level is low. (See this video on hunting thermals.)
I try not to hunt the best areas during days when the wind speed is forecast to be slow and the humidity level will be high. Moist air carries scent further than dry air.
I use a Scent Crusher to remove odor and store my clothes and gear and then use D/Code Field Spray while heading to the stand. This system has served the GrowingDeer Team well and the wind swirls frequently at The Proving Grounds.
Finally, I prefer multiple stand and/or blind locations for each property. This allows the property to be hunted during most wind directions.
You might notice I didn’t focus on deer sign, etc. It’s important to be able to approach, hunt, and exit a stand or blind without alerting deer. Swirling winds make it difficult to remain on a stand or in a blind without alerting deer. This doesn’t mess up just one hunt. Deer have memory and may avoid an area where they detected danger for several days.
I use these principles whether hunting a piece of public land for the first time or where I live.
Enjoy Creation and let me know how your season goes!
I’ve been hunting almost daily since the beginning of deer season. I have seen a lot of deer, but not a buck I wish to tag within range. That’s OK because I really enjoy watching and learning from deer. I hunt in the Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri. The rut peaks (biggest number of does receptive at one time) here during the next two weeks. My observations and strategies will apply to folks that hunt where the rut is on the same timeframe. I realize deer have finished rutting at some locations and are not close to starting at other locations. However, throughout the majority of the whitetail’s range the rut will peak during the next two weeks.
Based on those observations I’ll share my hunting strategies for the next few days.
- Bucks are still using scrapes, especially along travel corridors. Bucks aren’t using scrapes on the edges of fields and food plots as much. This is because they are focused on seeking receptive does rather than feeding during this stage of the rut.
- Most bucks, especially mature bucks, are not on a food cover pattern. Where any buck will be is very tough to predict during this week because their pattern can change in an instant if they detect a receptive doe.
I will be bow hunting today; tomorrow firearms season opens in Missouri. So, my strategy today will be much different than tomorrow.
Today I will seek stands in known travel corridors. Those are difficult to find in the mountain habitat that I hunt because it’s 90+ percent timber and cover. It’s much easier to find travel corridors and bottlenecks in ag country where cover is limited and bottlenecks are easy to find by simply studying aerial images.
Tomorrow I’ll be carrying my Winchester and my odds will be best where I can use its effective range. At my place that means watching powerline easements or large areas where there is native grass rather than timber.
Utility easements, or other long linear openings, offer hunters a view into cover without disturbing deer. I simply approach from the downwind side and pick a spot where I think or know deer are crossing. This is an excellent stand/blind location for hunting and learning where deer prefer to travel (travel corridors!).
It seems receptive does will often seek thick cover when they are receptive to avoid being pestered by multiple bucks. Years ago, I cut all the cedars on a 25+ acre hillside and used prescribed fire to encourage native grasses and forbs to grow. Native grasses provide deer great cover but due to the slope I can see into the cover over most of the hillside. This is perfect. The deer are extremely comfortable in this habitat and I can observe them. Through the years I have watched bucks tend many receptive does in that area. I placed a Redneck Blind overlooking this area and have tagged many bucks from it. That’s likely where I’ll be hunting tomorrow morning. I’ll keep you posted on our social media.
I hope these strategies help and that you enjoy Creation!
Just a couple of weeks ago while hunting, I saw a four-year-old buck we call HighRiser and a younger buck enter a food plot about 100+ yards from my stand. It was near the end of shooting light so I took out my Messenger grunt call and grunted to see if HighRiser would come on in for a shot before dark. HighRiser looked my way after the first call. I called again and he took a few steps my way. I called more aggressively and HighRiser started towards the stand. The more I called, it was easy to see from HighRiser’s behavior and posture he was becoming aggressive. Both HighRiser and the younger buck came within range but a tree canopy blocked my shot. It was a very fun hunt! (You can see that hunt by clicking here.)
It’s because of responses like this that the Messenger grunt call is one of my favorite tools for deer hunting. During the early season I set it to the highest pitched setting. Both bucks and does will often respond to this pitch. I only call during this time of year when I see deer that do not appear to be coming within range. In addition, I start with a very low volume and work up till the deer indicate they’ve heard the call. I rarely call after they’ve responded with a look, etc. Using this strategy, I’ve watched groups of does and fawns respond as well as bucks.
As scrapes heat up and at the beginning of the pre-rut I switch my Messenger to the middle setting and use it a bit more aggressively. I don’t call to does as much at this time of year as they can be leery of bucks that are pestering them. I do call to bucks – often more than once. I will grunt lightly multiple times after the buck or bucks have shown signs of hearing the call. If the buck is coming my way I don’t call. If he stops, I will call again just loud enough for him to hear the call. Watching the behavior and posture of the buck determines how much more I use my call.
Once the pre-rut is in full swing I use the call very aggressively. I’ll even blind call (call without seeing a buck). The one time I don’t call is when I see a mature buck tending a doe. The doe will often go the other way and the buck will follow. It’s as if she’s being pestered by one buck and doesn’t want to be around another to add to her troubles.
Once most does are receptive and the rut (breeding) is in full swing, I will grunt at any buck I see cruising UNLESS they appear to be coming within range. I’ve seen buck’s respond from long distances. I blind call about every 15 to 30 minutes to pull in those bucks that might be in the vicinity of the sound but outside my range of vision
Using the middle setting on a Messenger grunt call communicates that a young buck is tending a doe possibly causing other young bucks and mature bucks to respond. Don’t over call, but a single grunt or two when blind calling will let bucks within hearing range know there’s a receptive doe nearby and they will usually come check it out.
Be careful to not call to bucks that will likely approach from the downwind side. Such bucks may bust you before they get within range. This is true throughout the season. This means the timing of when to call depends where the buck will likely approach. I’ve let bucks travel past me so they wouldn’t swing downwind when responding.
I use this same strategy throughout the rest of the season. I tend to to call more often as the season progresses. However, even a month or more after the peak of breeding bucks will still respond to grunts which indicate a receptive doe is in the area.
The third setting replicates the sound of a mature buck. I only use this if I see a mature buck and he won’t respond to the middle setting. When a mature buck responds to this call, be ready. He’s likely committed to coming in close!
Check out our clips page for Reconyx trail cam videos of bucks grunting and practice to mimic their sounds. You can start with the video here where a young buck grunts while chasing a doe.
I’ve tagged many bucks and does due to calling. It’s a very exciting and effective way to hunt! I hope these grunt calling strategies work for you, too. For more tips, watch the video at this link.
Throughout most of the whitetail’s range the peak of the rut (biggest percentage of does receptive at one time) doesn’t occur during early October. That may sound like bad news. It’s not. It does mean hunters need to use different techniques than appropriate during the rut. During early October, bucks are focused on food and determining the dominance hierarchy.
Hunters can use this knowledge to create successful strategies to tag bucks. Bucks are genetically programmed to gain weight/develop fat to prepare for the post-rut winter stress period. If your goal is to gain weight you focus on consuming carbs. Deer are the same. During this time of year deer seek grains and acorns – both loaded with carbs.
In production corn and soybean areas deer commonly frequent standing or recently harvested grain fields. These fields tend to be large and difficult to pattern where deer enter and exit. It’s often a better strategy to scout for travel corridors from cover to these fields. Once a travel corridor is found, look for a point along the corridor that bottlenecks deer to a small area and can be approached, hunted, and exited without alerting deer.
In areas that are primarily covered with timber, especially oaks, deer can be difficult to pattern when the acorn crop is widespread. When this occurs, more scouting may be necessary to find fresh sign and good stand/blind locations. In addition, more frequent scouting may be necessary as the location of the currently preferred acorns can change frequently because the timing of acorn drop varies by species, weather conditions, etc.
In addition to seeking carbs, bucks are using direct contact, scrapes, and multi-year rubs to determine the constantly changing hierarchy. This behavior means mocks scrapes can be a great tool to pattern bucks and/or create bottlenecks. I’ve shared how to create mock scrapes in this video: Deer Hunting Strategy: How To Make A Mock Scrape.
I often combine these two dominate behaviors to tag bucks during October. I create a mock scrape in or near a source of quality food. Bucks will be in or near sources of quality food during their need to gain calories. While seeking quality food, bucks will be attracted to scent communication points such as scrapes. If there’s not a natural scrape near the ideal stand or blind location I create a mock scrape within my effective shot range. You can see a successful use of this technique here.
Understanding the behavior of deer throughout the hunting season will increase the odds of tagging a buck and putting fresh venison in the freezer.