By Cole Daniels
When rain drops are hitting the roof, most hunters ignore the alarm and roll over. A warm bed is more comforting than a cold, wet woods. However, those hunters may be missing out on one of the best hunts of the season. Let’s face it, most of us have fewer days than we would like to hunt. Why give up one of those precious days because of the weather?
When it’s raining cats and dogs, deer typically hunker down somewhere they can find shelter. It’s hard to hunt them in this case. But during light rains and when storms are moving in or out, deer are incredibly active. They are moving to find food and seek out refuge. It’s not comfortable to sit in the rain and they will often get up to shake off. This increased movement, especially increased daytime movement, can really swing the odds in a hunter’s favor.
It’s important to stay more comfortable than the deer, however. Gore-Tex and other companies make exceptional waterproof gear that our forefathers would give their left trigger finger for. There are pants, jackets, hats, boots, and gloves. There is simply no reason to not be bone dry. A lot of hunters like to utilize ground blinds during rainy day hunts for shelter. That is certainly one of the big advantages, but tree stand umbrellas and canopies are very affordable and allow you to continue hunting your favorite stand.
Fall arrest systems should always be worn, but extra attention needs to be used in the rain. Your ladder and platform could get slick when wet. I like to punch a few small holes in a piece of carpet and zip tie it to the platform grating. This quiets a stand down and provides a little extra grip in the rain. Grip taping your ladder steps also helps. Both of these things should be done to improve your stand before the season.
Moving through the woods becomes much easier in the rain. Crunchy, dry leaves become wet rags in the rain. Keep in mind, deer can move even quieter than they usually do. Napping is not an option for deer hunting in the rain. Don’t even think about “just resting your eyes”.
What about scent control? Rain pushes all the dust particles in the air to the ground and settles them. Most of the normal scent of the woods is washed to the ground. Since all the stray scent is gone, new scent is easier to detect under most circumstances. Focusing on the wind, taking good approaches to and from your stand site, and a good scent control plan are more important than ever during the rain. Rubber boots will not only control your scent, but will keep your feet dry when trudging through mud and puddles.
Rain doesn’t just wash away scent. One of the greatest tools in a hunter’s arsenal for tracking deer is blood. Rain washes away blood trails making tracking a tough chore. I advise only close, clean shots while hunting in the rain. If your usual maximum range is 40 yards, I’d pull it down to 25 yards. One mistake that I hear of way too often is getting on the trail too fast. Hunters know their blood trail won’t last long, so they start tracking right away and bump the buck into the next county.
Put a good shot on the deer and wait it out. Visually mark the last place you saw him and make a mental note of the spot. If the deer is well hit, it won’t go very far before laying down. Give it time and when you decide to begin tracking, start from the last point and make concentric circles out from there until you find the deer. If the blood trail appears to be washed away, look under the leaves of woodland foliage. The underside of weeds are sheltered and you can often find blood there. If you gave the deer enough time and put a good shot on him, he won’t be far.
Rainy day hunting is not something most hunters look forward to. But it can be very rewarding. The deer are moving and most hunters have their head in a pillow. If you’re prepared, it’s just you and the deer.