Hunting in the Rain: A Guide
Hunting is one of those sports that is probably more dependent upon weather than anything else. Whether you are walking to or through the woods or crossing plains on a UTV or riding horseback down a canyon in search of game, weather can have a huge impact on the entire experience from beginning to end.
It does not necessarily mean that a little precipitation is going to ruin your hunt. In some ways, rain has its benefits to the hunter depending on the quarry, your gear, and the terrain.
Hunting in the Rain: Gear Considerations
To be clear, we are not talking about hunting in tropical storm or hurricane-like conditions. If there is a torrential downpour, the animals go for cover and hunker down just like people would. A light rain, however, means that the animals will more than likely go about their way of life as if conditions were clear. Many hunters might give up at the mere sight of rain or a slight change in barometric pressure, but one who plans accordingly may have an advantage.
Outerwear is important. Will your jacket and other clothing keep you dry and comfortable? Do your boots keep your feet warm and dry, and will they soles offer good traction if the ground becomes muddy as a result of the inclement weather? A quality rain suit can come in handy or waders if you’re after ducks.
If you’re using a tree stand, be mindful of a potential slip and fall and take measures to keep yourself and any others safe.
On that note, if your site is remote, make sure that you have an opportunity and means to dry your wet clothing and gear. This is especially true if your deer camp is going for a few days.
If you are hunting with a rifle and an optic, ensure that your scope is waterproof and fog proof. Do not take for granted that all modern optics are constructed this way or that only foreign made bargain optics are susceptible to this. This author had what could have been a particularly bad hunt one time when a brand-new optic that was made in the USA and retailed for over $1200 became unusable as it wasn’t a waterproof scope. Backup iron sights on the rifle saved that hunt from becoming a total disaster.
Likewise, take stock of your gear. Synthetic butt stocks on rifles and shotguns are more weather-resistant than wood and stainless steel or Cerakote covered metal parts will not rust as a traditional blued firearm might.
A blind box, tent or poncho can offer additional protection in the rain if you are staking out a spot or waiting for the game to come to you. Additionally, these temporary shelters will help keep youand your gear dry.
Another consideration is that of technology. An up to the minute Weather App on your phone or tablet that can pinpoint your location and show Doppler radar as it is happening can be vital to planning your wet hunt.
Hunting in the Rain: What to Set your Sights on
The three most common animals affected by rain are deer, wild turkey and ducks.
Each one behaves in a different way when the weather gets wet, and the air pressure changes. If you know and understand these behaviors, you can use them to your advantage to reap a successful hunt. Use trail cameras when you can and watch their activity patterns change as theweather changes.
Deer Hunting in the Rain
If there is one animal where their movement is impacted by precipitation it is white tailed and black tailed deer. Again, they will not be out and about in a heavy downpour reminiscent of Noah’s Ark, but they are often very active before and after light to moderate rain activity.
When it is just misting out, they will act like everything is normal but may have their guard down slightly.
How Rain Affects Deer Movement
If the rain is coming, deer will often beeline to their favorite feeding areas to chow down in advance and if you have performed your due diligence and scouting beforehand, you should know where that is and plan accordingly.
By the same token, does will often make a break to feed soon after a storm or as the heavy rain is letting up. Take advantage of the animal’s habits whenever you can.
Always remember that the rain, one way or another, always drives them toward food, either before the first drops fall or after the wet weather has moved on.
Turkey Hunting in the Rain
If deer may move about in the light to moderate rain, turkeys often go to roost and hunker down out of sight. Perhaps their wet plumage slows them down or they don’t want to slog through wet vegetation but for whatever reason they never seem to call or answer calls during the rain.
Turkeys can often be spotted congregating in clearings after a heavy down pour. Perhaps to dry their feathers out or to reconnect with their pod, but it is not uncommon to spot large groups of turkeys in meadows, at the edges of forests or farmland and other areas where you don’t normally see them almost completely out in the open.
Because the Toms tend to shut up, you will have to rely on your eyes more than your ears when it comes time to find them. Know your area in advance and expect these guys to go to roost while its raining and into the clearings as it ends.
Duck Hunting in the Rain
At the opposite end of the spectrum than the wild turkey are ducks and other wading birds.
Waterfowl simply love the rain and if you ever heard the expression, “Great weather for ducks” during a rainstorm, that person was right on the money.
It seems as if every duck hunt that this writer has ever been on involved wet weather of some kind. Ducks will usually not cross a particularly large lake in the rain, and they seem to always fly into the wind so make sure you do your prep work in advance. Rivers, reservoirs, ponds and small lakes seem to be where they head when there is light to moderate wind and rain or even snow.
Also be mindful that while they love to fly in the wind and rain, ducks will go for cover if there is a thunderstorm. So, if there is thunder and lightning in the forecast, it will not be a good time to hunt ducks.
Hunting in the Rain: Factors to Consider
Some of the benefits of hunting in bad weather include the fact that the hyper alert and usually ever vigilant senses of the animals are not what they normally are. This can allow you to get closer to the game than normal. This can be particularly important if you are hunting a deer or turkey with a bow or even a big bore revolver and want to ensure a clean and ethical kill.
Rain can often mask your sound and scent in the woods, but proper rain gear also seems to block human scent, so dress according to the weather and it can pay off in other ways. Rain also eliminates ground scent, but a light misting seems to amplify a deer’s sense of smell.
Hunting in the rain with a muzzle loader can be a royal pain as components can get wet and be prone to failure. Once again, smoke pole shooters will need to plan accordingly and keep the bore as well as the ignition system covered and protected from the elements.
Another downside worth mentioning is that light to moderate rain can make a blood trail literally disappear before your eyes. This has more of an effect on archers as opposed to those who hunt with a rifle or shotgun, however. Additionally, arrows with feathered shafts will not perform the same as synthetic ones. So, always make sure to use water repellant powder if you fletch your shafts with feathers as opposed to using plastic vanes.
Lastly, if there is one benefit to hunting in the rain it is that inclement weather will make a lot of hunters just stay home and cancel their outdoor plans for that day. Most people would rather go to a bar and watch a ball game on television or sit around the house where it’s dry than tromp around the woods in wet weather gear looking for venison or sitting in a blind waiting on the flock of mallards to drop in. The lack of competition in some hunting areas due to the weather is one of the biggest bonuses of hunting in the rain and having a successful hunt.
So, the next time you have a hunt on the horizon and the weather starts acting up, prepare to go forward with your plans and resist the urge to wait. It may bring a little bit more of a challenge into your life, but nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy. Especially a hunt.