Bowhunting World October 2005
HARNESSING THE WIND – By Steve Bartylla
How To Channel The Wind To Gain An Advantage Over A Buck’s Sensitive Nose
Catching movement out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mature 10-point trotting down his rub line. In a matter of seconds, the event would either end in success or failure. Already positioned, I was ready when the buck stepped into the clear. Settling the pin high behind the front shoulder, I sent the arrow driving into the buck’s vitals. As he crashed away, I could see that the expandable was lodged squarely in the buck’s vitals. I knew he wouldn’t go far.
The gross-scoring 146 4/8 inch 10-point I took early in Wisconsin’s 2004 Archery season was the first of three Pope & Young bucks I was lucky enough to bag last season. Though the specific events of each one varied, they all shared one theme. I placed each of the strands to take advantage of the wind.
Before you leap to conclusions, I should point out that I don’t worry about bucks coming in downwind of my stand. Instead, I employ a thorough and highly effective odor-reduction strategy. Doing so allows me the freedom to focus on harnessing a tremendous advantage; it provides the ability to set stands based on how bucks can most effectively use the wind.
Using the wind to survive
To take advantage of the wind we must first understand how bucks use it to their own advantage. There’s no better place to begin than by examining how it applies to bedding. To do so, let’s dig a little deeper into how the buck that began this piece harnessed it’s potential.
Bedding on an east-west ridge, he had both alfalfa and corn in the valleys to either side. With clearly marked rub lines, following the paths to his two most common bedding sites was easy. As it turned out, they were both knobs located just below the top of the ridge. One was the south side and the other on the north.
The positioning of these knobs provided the buck the ability to see danger approaching from below and use the wind to cover his backside. With any form of a northerly wind, the bucks would bed on the south side of the ridge, only to choose the knob on the north for southerly winds.
Digging deeper still, because of the identical crops being offered in each valley, he would let the wind dictate which one he spend the evening feeding in. With a north wind, he would rise from his south side bed and cross over the ridge to drop down to the northern valley. Doing so allowed him to keep the wind in his face and scent check the field for danger. As with his bedding choice doing the opposite with a southerly wind offered him the same advantage. Both his sign and several nights of observation proved this to be the case.
With this knowledge in hand, it was a simple matter of hanging stands along his rub line, just over the opposite sides of the ridge from his beds. Arriving for the afternoon hunt, a quick check of the wind direction dictated on which stand to sit.
In reality, that was not a common scenario. Most times bucks aren’t afforded the
luxury of identical food sources on both sides. When all things are equal, a buck
will most often choose going into the wind, while traveling from his bed to feed. However, things aren’t always equal. When he desires one food source over others, he will often travel with the wind at his side or back to get there. Buck travels can’t always be completely dictated by the wind.
Still, as was the case with the Wisconsin buck, there are situations where it can easily occur.
When that’s the case, it can remove a lot of doubt as to which trail and food source the big boy will be using on a given day. Unlike deer travels to and from food, the wind almost always plays a role in how a buck beds. At the very least, as illustrated earlier, deer have the very strong tendency to bed with the wind at their back and use their eyes to protect their front side. Doing so simply makes sense from a survival standpoint.
In areas with relief, we can use this knowledge to our advantage. In broken or rolling land, when an individual buck is rotating between several bedding sites, many times the wind direction dictates which he will select. The safety advantage of beds that simultaneously offer a
good view of the front and wind coverage of the back is tremendous. In this setting, analyzing which bedding site is best for the current wind condition can transform a stab in the dark to
a highly educated guess. Though it wont always be right, you may find that you are now right more often than before. That can take a lot of the blind luck out of deciding where to sit on a particular day.
Wind And The Rut
As helpful as playing the wind during the non-rutting phases of the season can be,
its even more so during the scraping, chase and breeding phases. Now is when
hunters can gain an incredible advantage.
Despite popular belief, you really can beat a whitetail’s nose. However, if anyone believes
that simply buying a carbon suit is the answer they will most likely be disappointed.
Carbon suits are a big help, but they’re only one ingredient in a recipe for success.
When a deer whiffs danger, it doesn’t matter if they smell a hunter’s body, breath,
grunt tube, mechanical release, bow, optics or anything else brought into the woods.
The end result; They head the other way fast. To truly beat a whitetail’s nose, you must
address every item you bring in the woods. To do this, l rely on several tools:
Clean paper towels wet with hydrogen peroxide work well to scent—clean hard surface
such as bows, arrows, optics, glasses, rattling antlers, grunt tubes and so on.
Scent—killing sprays are effective on anything made of cloth or strings,
as well as rubber boots.
A mixture of scent—killing soap and water works well for washing the inside
of rubber boots as well as many other larger items.
Scent—killing bar soaps, shampoo, deodorant and detergents are used on
my body and clothes.
Baking soda works as a toothpaste and also, by adding about a quarter-cup ,
to the inside of boots during storage, as an odor—eater.
These tools, combined with a carbon suit provide the necessary ingredients for me
to go undetected. Next, there are some tips that can help avoid trip—ups:
Begin exclusively using scent—killing soaps and stop using aftershaves and
scented deodorants a month before season. This allows your pores to rid
themselves of these odors.
Avoid eating high-odor and gassy foods and liquids. Though commonly
overlooked, coffee produces a breath that brushing won’t solve.
Treat washcloths and towels in the same way as hunting clothing. Drying off
with a towel washed in scented detergent, dried with a fabric softener or
stored in the bathroom can make showering a wasted effort.
Whenever practical, have duplicates. For example, rather than use the same
smelly release aid that you practice with, have an identical release that’s
used solely for hunting.
Leave unnecessary items in the truck. A knife, dragging ropes, gutting
gloves and a host of others things can be retrieved on an as—needed basis.
Clean the inside of the truck, get rid of air fresheners and keep the windows
down. Even though you won’t be wearing the same clothing, truck smells can
pollute your hair and body.
Wear treated clothing while driving and change at the parking spot.
Think of and treat every item brought into the woods.
It’s no secret that many of the best-producing scrapes are those located on the
downwind side of bedding areas. With a single pass, a buck can check both his scrape
and the bedding area for a doe entering estrus early. In that scenario, it isn’t a coincidence
that the hottest scrapes on a given day are often dictated by the wind direction.
To fine—tune stand placement for hunting these scrapes, I strive to set up 20
yards downwind of the scrape. Any buck that wants to check the scrape must
either come to or be downwind of it. lt isn’t uncommon for bucks to check these
scrapes from 10 to 40 yards downwind. This stand placement allows me to catch
all of that activity. More than once it has provided me with shot opportunities at
bucks checking scrapes from a distance.
Again, the wind can be a tremendous ally to bucks checking for hot does. Though bucks may seem to be moving at random during the rut, there is often method to their madness. During this phase, mature bucks that cover the most prime locations are likely to do the most breeding. The wind aids them in doing so fast and effectively.
As opposed to running wildly around a field, sniffing doe after doe, one pass on the
downwind side swiftly answers if any are ready. While doing so, they can also scent
check the trails for any hot does that have recently entered or exited the field.
All of this makes the downwind side of prime food sources a good place to sit. To
further stack the odds, stands placed 15 to 20 yards in off inside corners can be great
choices. Here, the hunter can cover the bucks running the edge as deep as 40 yards
in, intercept those walking the edge and one that may be following a doe on the worn
trail that all inside corners seem to have
Furthermore, bucks often cut just inside these inside corners when getting from one side of the field to the other Doing this provides the quickest route that offers the safety of cover. All of these
things can be taken advantage of when hunting the downwind corners.
Finally, as was the case while scraping running the downwind edges of doe bedding areas is the most effective means for a buck to check the bedded does. Placing stands 20 yards off the edge, covering the pest entrance/exit trail, positions the hunter to intercept most of this movement as well as providing the chance that a hot doe will lead a buck past your stand.
The story of my 2004 Illinois buck is a good example of how this can pay off. During a spring scouting trip I had found an area where the mature woods had been selectively logged. One patch along a ridge finger had been logged harder than the rest. The combination of the thicker regrowth, extra downed tops and view of the more open creek bottom below all resulted in a prime family group bedding area.
On the surface, it seemed like bucks could be working it from any side. Further analysis revealed that the wind direction, would be the keys When the wind blew down the point, it created one best route for roaming bucks. By skirting the lower·edge, they could scent-check all the does
in the bedding area as well as well as use their eyes to scan the creek bottom below.
The first November morning providing this wind found me in that stand, My
sit was short and sweet.
Around 8 a.m., the large-bodied, high-beamed beamed 9-pointer appeared. As I had
hoped, he was skirting the lower edge of the thicket. Coming in on a string, his
head alternated between tilting up to check the wind and turning back to use his
eyes to scan the creek bottom below.
At about 50 yards out, I drew and set tied my knuckle behind my ear. Coming to
a stop, he intently scanned the creek bottom for does. Turning just a bit as he did
I let the arrow fly. As the arrow sunk in, the buck took flight for the creek bottom.
Folding as he neared the bank, the chocolate—racked buck was mine.
The wind had delivered my second buck of 2004.
Wind Tactics Yield Success
Wind directions play an important role in a mature buck’s life. It aids them in survival
as well as being a huge help in finding receptive does Because of that, it only
makes sense that we incorporate this into our hunting strategies. Once you do you just
might find that predicting buck movement can be much easier than you realized. >>—->
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