While some hunters prefer the warmth of the camp on a rainy day, others do not let rainy days affect their hunting plans.
The right choice depends on a question we hear a lot of hunters debate – do deer move in the rain?
I have shivered from the chilly winds of a rain shower on a treestand and seen a big buck come out right after the sun came out.
At the same time, I have moved through the woods in a slow drizzle, hoping for some great sightings. But deer activity was non-existent.
While a mixed bag of experiences is a part of hunting, the question remains. What is the general pattern of deer movement in the rain?
While deer do move in the rain, the reality is more complex than a yes or no answer.
Do Deer Move in the Rain?
The quick answer is yes. Deer do move in the rain.
However, don’t expect consistent deer movement patterns in the rain. The amount of movement and speed depends on multiple variables. And the lack of scientific data on the subject does not allow us to draw a specific conclusion.
Deer movement will be affected by the rain intensity and the wind. Generally, short-term drizzles or thunderstorms don’t affect deer movement. Even if the rain continues for days, the deer will need to feed. If it’s rutting season, they will move around to socialize.
Rain is a normal occurrence for a creature living in the wild and is unlikely to affect the moving pattern. The main factors that account for deer movement are related to survival. These include feeding needs and avoiding predators.
Deer are mostly crepuscular. That means dawn and dusk are the periods when they are most active. The deer may move from their bedding area to the feeding area in the early hours. A light spell of rain or snow is unlikely to change this pattern.
Deer movement can also be impacted by heavy spells continuing for hours. In theory, prolonged rainfall will cause a drop in the temperatures. So the deer may need to move to keep themselves warm. Or else, they might have found a super cozy shelter to stay warm.
I have sensed that mature bucks are aware of hunter activity patterns. Since hunting activity reduces during the rains, they feel safer to move around. This is more evident in areas of high hunting pressure.
Once the barometer settles down after a rainstorm, it makes the wildlife feel comfortable enough to move around. So, it’s normal to find a spike in buck activity after the rains. In fact, compared to a clear day, deer may seem more docile and less fidgety on a rainy day.
One set of data indicates that the males move less in the rain than the females, both during night and day. On the contrary, female deer do not allow the rains to affect their movement pattern.
Now, things get a bit complicated when it’s rainy and windy. Many hunters think that only a strong breeze impacts deer movement. But that’s not entirely true.
An earlier study conducted by Leah Giralico indicates that wind can have an impact on deer movement. Even light air movement can make deer move more during the day. However, the movement reduces significantly at night with light air movement.
Should You Hunt Fields or Woods During Rain?
Once you know the answer to the question, do deer move in the rain, it comes down to choosing the right location.
Honestly, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution when choosing the best spot for deer hunting in the rain. We can’t underestimate the role that terrain plays in deer hunting. In addition, there are other factors like time, seasonal patterns, and specific hunting situations that determine deer movement in rain.
Understanding the overall effect of these patterns along with the feeding habits of deer will help in making the right choice between fields and woods.
Most of the bucks I hunted were in the woods. In my experience, older bucks tend to hang out in secluded wooded covers. I will choose a deeply shaded buck hangout anytime over open vistas even during the rain. For me, tracking a deer through the woods makes the hunting experience more immersive.
Wooded areas have other advantages too. Hunters can easily blend with the surroundings and set up ambush points. Still, woodland stalking demands higher skill levels as moving through the dense foliage can be difficult. Besides, taking a clear shot in the rain with the wind pattern varying through the trees needs good marksmanship.
However, after a spell of rain, especially during dawn and dusk hours, there can be high activity on the field edges. Doe family groups prefer residing around edges that are closer to their food source. During the early or late season, deer will tend to pack near food sources like agricultural lands. Since field edges can be trails moving to food sources it makes deer movement more predictable.
There are other factors as well. Medium to heavy rain can wash away the blood quickly. Tracking a wounded deer after it has moved out of sight can be difficult in heavily wooded areas. The last thing you want is to lose the animal you have shot. From that aspect, open areas where you can easily see the deer move are better options.
Now, you might consider the impact of rain on a long-range shot in an open terrain. Admittedly, the influence of rain on bullet trajectory is a much-debated topic. Even though I haven’t faced any impact of rain on my shots, some data suggests that raindrops may have an impact in some rare cases.
There is no denying that visibility is reduced when it is raining heavily along with gusts. Above 200 yards or so, unpredictable winds can increase the chances of missing. Overall. there are higher chances of a wounding shot while shooting long-range in the rain.
Lastly, it comes down to the hunting style you prefer. If you prefer setting up your gear on the field edges near a popular food source, there is no reason to move into the woods when it rains. Deer tend to feed frequently and if you have spotted a food source, chances are you will be rewarded.
Tips For Deer Hunting in the Rain
The combination of light precipitation with cool air can work in a hunter’s favor by making the deer unusually active. But, hunting in the rain has multiple tradeoffs.
One thing I like about the rain is it softens the dry leaves and twigs making stalking through thick timber easier. That said, the deer can move around without making noise in the rain too. Even so, rain and wind reduce the deer’s ability to trace the movements of a hunter.
The poor conditions might increase their nervousness and heighten their awareness. I have noted that deer tend to get nervous and move more when sounds get muffled by the rain.
Pro Tip: Deer can smell a human between a quarter of a mile to half a mile. A heavy downpour can help in washing away the scent trail of a hunter. Then again the high humidity can trap some scent molecules and increase the intensity of some odors. Still, if there is a strong wind and you are staying downwind, the wind will blow your scent away.
Maneuvering through rough terrain gets challenging in very heavy rain. I would avoid hunting in a torrential downpour accompanied by strong winds. In one such trip, an old pair of boots got fully wet and started squelching noisily on the muddy trail. Needless to say, every deer within range was warned of my approach.
Beyond that, climbing into a treestand with all the gear gets difficult too. Quite a few times, I have run out of dry clothes for wiping my scope’s lenses while waiting for the animal to move.
If you are planning a rainy-day hunt, try a minimalist approach. Leave electronic gear that can get wet, behind. It’s important to stay dry and warm while hunting in the rain. There is no point in sitting for hours on an open treestand while being wet and miserable.
One advantage that modern hunters have is excellent waterproof gear that can keep us as dry as a bone. Choose top-grade waterproof hunting clothes and boots. For additional safety, use fall arrest systems while climbing tree stands. Those ladder steps do get slippery in the rain.
Be warned: right before a thunderstorm you may find the deer moving around. I have known plenty of hunters who have scored a hit in such conditions with the thunder approaching. But, a few unlucky ones have also been stung by lightning while trying to approach the fallen animal.
The beginning or the end of thunderstorms is when most lightning strikes occur. Avoid open ground and seek shelter among low bushes or rocks in such conditions. It’s madness risking getting fried while deer hunting in the rain.
Let’s recap. The answer to the question, do deer move in the rain, is yes.
Not all rain-soaked hunts turn out to be a success. But in my opinion, a light rain during the twilight hours provides a fantastic opportunity. So, don’t let moderate to light rain deter you from moving out of the camp. Besides, the rain will keep other hunters out of the woods leaving you in sole charge of the hotspots.
The only thing that can stop you from going out in the rain is your mindset. The idea of soaking in the rain while waiting for the deer, which may or may not come, may not appeal to you. If such a hunting experience is not fun for you, it’s best not to head out in the rain.