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High Wind Warning

PhotoBy Randy D. Smith

-- The weather bureau issued a high wind warning for opening day of Kansas firearms deer season. Predicted velocities of 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 40 mph caused me to sit back and consider what I needed to do differently. One thing was for certain; I needed to layer my clothing and be prepared for a very cold day of hunting in spite of a predicted high temperature of 45 degrees. But what else should be considered for windy opening days?

Photo: With 40-mile-per-hour winds raging I sat up next to a tree on the downwind side of the tangles and waited in the open for deer. These does grazed peacefully 30 -50 yards in front of me for nearly 30 minutes.

Kansas opens its firearms deer season right at the end of the rut. I prefer to still-hunt opening day bucks. While most are bred, bucks are actively pursuing the does. If a still hunter can find mature does, it is pretty certain that good bucks are with them or near by. I know of several traditional gathering areas for mixed deer populations and those are the first I hit on opening day. 

These are isolated patches of small woods and low lands far removed from normal farm and ranch traffic. I always carry a grunt call and often use rattling as a tactic if it is foggy and visibility is limited. With luck, I can get in early and take a good buck before hunting pressure completely changes deer activity. I like it cold, sunny, and still on opening day. That's a prime recipe for success. 

PhotoPhoto: The tangles. We call this place the tangles, but it always produces deer during windy and stormy weather. The ground is low and surrounded by hills on three sides. 

High winds can have both positive and negative effects on the deer herd. On the plus side, it is easier to make a stalk because the wind muffles sound. Scent dispersal is not much of an issue when winds are this high. The wind scatters your scent so wildly that it is difficult for deer to pick up that scent unless the hunter is very close.

Cold winds tend to concentrate deer in heavier cover and it will drive them to cover earlier in the morning. Big bucks like to lay up in heavy stands of CRP grass because of its natural insulation qualities and the deer will remain there unless pressure forces them to move.

There are also down sides. Deer are much more wary in high winds because they instinctively realize that sound and scent defenses are compromised. They are skittish and will bolt at the slightest unusual noise. They can be more difficult to pattern because they will move to heavy cover areas and if you are behind them entering an area, shot opportunities are often limited and fleeting. 

Bucks are usually not as aggressive and traditional grunting and rattling responses are affected. And, just as scent is dispersed by the wind so is the hunter's grunt and rattling efforts. High wind also constantly disrupts visual sighting in tall CRP grass. Subtle buck movements and positions are much more difficult to glass at mid day and a buck can lie very close to the ground to stay warm. 

On a still, cold day it is not unusual for me to take my buck from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. On a high wind day, I've seen major deer activity virtually cease by 9 a.m. and my only hope of getting a deer is to surprise it in its bed.

PhotoPhoto: The Cove. We call this place the cove. It is protected on three sides by trees with a small plot of crops in the center. I've taken deer here for years by getting in early and waiting.

So, my opening day tactic is to get into my most promising heavy cover site very early, before dawn if possible and wait for the herd to come in at first light. I'll dress very warmly so I can remain as still as possible. In other words I've gone from still hunting to a ground blind strategy. I will not take my rattling antlers. If I guess wrong or no buck shows up that I want to take I'll move to still hunting the down wind side of heavy shelterbelts. 

If I have access to tall CRP grass on the down wind side of a shelter belt, I will move along very quietly and hit my grunt call every 30 to 50 yards hoping to stir a buck from its bed. 

Finally, I do a lot of mid-day glassing of CRP grass, searching for sites behind hill cover out of the wind and still open to the sun's rays. If high winds continue throughout the day, then I'll return to open ground behind heavy cover to see if I can catch a buck grazing in the last light of sunset. Cold weather and hunger will often bring the big bucks out earlier than normal.

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