The Best of the Bad Day Deer-Hunting Strategies
Day 1: Hang in There and Hunt the Bad Weather for Buck Success
The buck stood less than 25 yards from my stand. I just had opened both my eyes and peered through the drizzling rain from my almost sleep. I realized the heavy rainstorm had passed out of the area. The water's hitting the leaves and the trees allowed me to move quietly in my tree stand, mount my rifle and prepare for the shot. I had survived the storm, and now I had the opportunity to bag my buck. But when I looked through my scope, I couldn't see. Then I remembered I needed to take the scope covers off my rifle. As I started to reach for the scope covers, the buck looked at me. I froze in mid-reach. The buck stared for a long time. As a gust of wind blew hard, a small burst of heavy rain came down. Finally, the buck lowered his head and started to paw the scrape where he stood. I quickly removed the scope covers and readied for the shot. The buck had his tail to me and didn't present an opportunity for a shot that would put him down efficiently. However, as I watched through the scope, the 8-point buck finally turned and started quartering away from me. I took the shot. The buck bolted and crashed into the thicket. After waiting 15 minutes, I went to the spot where I'd last seen the buck and found him less than 30 yards from my stand site. When I arrived back in camp, I found my buddies sitting around the TV set, sipping coffee and eating sausage and biscuits. "John, you should have slept in this morning instead of going out there and sitting in the rain," one friend told me. "The weather will improve this afternoon, and we should have a good hunt. Get some coffee." I smiled and said, "I can't hunt this afternoon. I've filled my tag."
I don't know if you've ever had this problem, but every time I go hunting, the weather seems to turn out as badly as possible. And, when bad weather comes, I have two choices. I can stay at home, or I can hunt in bad weather. Most of us don't have the luxury of hunting when the wind doesn't howl, the moon has moved into the right phase, the rain doesn't pour down by the buckets full, or the wind blows in the proper direction for us to hunt. Many times we tell ourselves lies like, "The weather really won't be that bad," or, "Maybe the weatherman has mis-guessed the forecast." But if we hunt only on days with good conditions, we probably never will get to hunt.
One day last season I began to get ready to hunt before daylight. I tuned into the Weather Channel on TV and heard the weatherman say, "A line of thunderstorms should pass through our area within the next hour." I immediately went outside. Although I saw a few clouds, I thought the clouds didn't hold enough rain for more than a slight sprinkle. I had wanted to hunt the spot that day that I'd planned to go to all season. The area contained a good scrape line on the edge of a thicket in a narrow strip of woods bordered by flooded timber. The rut soon would begin, and I had confidence that the area provided the best opportunity for me to bag a buck. So quickly I dressed, got in my vehicle and headed for my stand site. After putting-on my Cabela’s rainsuit, I went up the tree in my climbing tree stand, put on my safety harness and waited for daylight. However, just before the sun introduced itself to morning, I felt the pitter-patter of raindrops on my rainsuit. Five minutes later, I sat in a downpour. Fortunately, no lightning accompanied this storm, although the rain came down in steady sheets. But, thanks to my Cabela's rainsuit system, I remained dry. However, my gun looked like I had submerged it in a stream, even though I had my scope covers on it. I barely could see 50 yards down the shooting lane where I'd been able to see 125 yards the day before with no rain.
"Sitting in this driving rain seems like one of the less-smart things you've ever done," I told myself. "Go back to the camphouse, dry out, get some coffee and biscuits, and come back and hunt when the rain stops." Then I thought, "Okay, I’m wet and a little cold, but I can't possibly get any wetter. This rain will pass through within the next hour or two. When that happens, the bucks will start to move. You have yourself in the right place at the right time. Stay here, and wait on the shot." If you never have had that war going on in your head, then you haven't hunted very much. If you hunt more than one season, you'll continually fight the battle of, "Do I stay out here in the rain and continue to hunt, or do I go back to camp and get dry?" I finally gave in to the right decision. I pulled the hood of my rainsuit a little further over my head, leaned back against the tree and let the rain lull me to sleep. You can't sleep soundly in a driving rainstorm, but you can take those little 5- to 10-minute power naps that make you feel better. I always wear my tree-stand harness and hunt from stand that has a bar all the way around it so I can't fall out.
Tomorrow: Hunt in the Rain and the Snow to Take Big Bucks