As it approaches hunting season, the topic that usually sparks debate among hunting enthusiasts is whether deer move in the wind.
The majority of hunters would probably say deer don’t move on windy days. Strong winds cause trees and foliage to move and make noise, which can easily spook deer and ruin the hunt.
Despite this, some hunters have had successful hunts when the weather has been windy. Therefore, if hunters’ experiences tell different stories, what else can you consider?
Fortunately, studies have been done to determine the effect of wind speed on deer movement. For example, the results of a 2013 study made by the researchers at the Pennsylvania State University.
In this study, PSU researchers captured and analyzed whitetail deer movement in October, where winds reached about 12 mph.
So, Do Deers Move In The Wind?
Using scientific data, yes, deer move in the wind. In fact, there is actually an increase in deer movement when winds are stronger.
Research from PSU found that deer, especially bucks, move more frequently when wind speeds increase.
To further support their initial research, PSU conducted two more studies in 2015 and 2016 on the relationship between wind speed and deer movement.
Both studies allowed testing deer movement in three categories of wind speed, namely:
- Calm: less than 1 mph
- Moderate: 1 to 15 mph
- Strong: 15 to 27 mph
Just like in the 2103 research, the results of the succeeding studies highlighted that deer moved more on windy days.
Deer moved at around 30mph on calm days. Then on moderately windy days, the deer moved at about 35 mph.
On days when the wind speeds were far stronger, movement increased to an average of 65 mph. PSU researchers also observed there is more deer movement on windy days than windy nights.
An additional observation researchers shared in their study is that bucks more than does as winds get stronger.
However, why is it that deer move more during the windy days? In order to answer this question, we need to understand more about deer lifestyle and the role of wind in its movement and behaviour.
How Do Deer Travel?
The home range of deer typically is about 600 to a thousand acres, however deer would confine themselves in just about one third of that area if their surroundings meet their survival needs.
Deer will usually travel in herds. Typically, herds compromise both bucks and does and are led by a dominant buck. Despite this, in some deer species, does and bucks form separate herds.
In a day, most deer would usually travel 2 to 3 miles away from their bedding to feed and wander, then would return a few hours later to rest.
Outside of migration, deer will often stay in one core area, especially if the area is abundant with food and water and it provides a safe cover against the elements.
When water and food sources run out, they will begin travelling again to find a new core area with suitable bedding and nourishment.
A frequent misconception is that hunting pressure causes deer to move away from their habitat. However, instead of moving out and travelling to find a new place to stay,
most deer will simply move less during the day or may only move in areas that have thick cover so that they can stay hidden from hunters.
Do Deer Bed Down In The Wind?
Deer will often bed at the same spot unless they no longer feel safe in that area. Most of the time, deer will prefer to bed down with the wind on their back as they rely on their sense of smell and hearing to detect the presence of predators in the dark.
Where deer bed at during windy conditions will depend on how strong the winds are. A light breeze, as long as it does not affect their senses, won’t cause deer to move away from its usual bedding area.
As winds become stronger, deer tend to look for and bed down in an area where thick bushes or foliage can serve as windbreaks and cover from predators.
Do Deer Move With The Wind Or Against It?
The majority of the time, deer will move with the wind. Similar to when they’re bedding down, deer like to have the wind on their back when they travel, regardless of how heavy the gusts of winds are.
This way, they are able to see what ‘s ahead of their path and detect the scent of predators coming from their back. Deer can also travel against or at the side of the wind if they sense that it will take them to a safe route.
Do Deer Move When There Is No Wind?
When the wind speeds are low, it is far easier to be able to see deer. Light winds do not obscure deer’s vision, hearing, or sense of smell as much as high wind speeds do, so they continue moving.
The movement of deers would naturally change when winds are stronger.
They can take cover or move less due to the fact high winds reduce their ability to see, hear, and smell and increase their vulnerability to predators.
Another effect of strong winds is that it affects a deer’s ability to hunt for food.
Deer would search and feed aggressively when there is no wind or when the weather lets up, then reduce their exposure again when the weather transforms to heavier winds.
How Windy Is Too Windy For Deer Hunting?
According to research, deers will often move more when winds are stronger. Experts also suggest that the best time to hunt for deer is when wind speeds are between five and 15 mph.
These conditions can cause the deer to move, but at a slower pace, whilst making it hard for them to use their senses to detect hunters and predators.
Wind speeds that are higher than this can move tree branches and vegetation, which can easily startle deer and make hunting difficult.
If you were ever uneducated on how deers respond to high winds, then now you should have all the knowledge you were lacking.