During my first season afield, the first thing a more experienced bowman told me was to avoid hunting in the rain: A) because it is a wet and miserable endeavor, B) arrow flight is less than ideal with wet fletching, C) blood is quickly washed away, making tracking and recovery a nightmare, D) it can be unsafe.
I took this as gospel, planning my hunting options accordingly, but soon realized that because of the erratic Michigan weather I’d be missing some tremendous hunting opportunities by staying dry. Michigan is a damp, unpredictable state and I’d be cutting my season by at least a third. Not to mention, deer tend to move before and after storm fronts.
I knew early on that getting the most out of bowhunting meant getting my pants wet and my hands dirty. Plus, as my buddy Tommy would say, “you can’t kill them from the couch.” From that point on, I got increasingly daring in regards to hunting in poor conditions. I’ve hunted in heavy rains, high winds, blizzards, and a combination of all three, stopping only when lightning was present or it was getting unsafe to be in the woods.
Has it worked?
I can honestly say it hasn’t produced for me yet. I haven’t harvested a single deer in four seasons while hunting in bad weather and have only seen two moving total. Therefore, I cannot tell you that braving the elements with a bow and arrow has tangibly affected the outcome of my seasons in any way, but I honestly believe it has increased my chances by keeping me in the woods. The more you hunt, the more opportunities you will have. It is the law of averages.
But points A through D are still great ones. I have no concrete argument against either of them but have accumulated some tips that can help should you want to get your hands dirty:
A) Sitting in the rain, wind, or snow is never going to be comfortable. The simplest solution is picking a spot with a canopy of some sort overhead. I like to tuck into the brush beneath a large oak or fir tree. I also try to avoid glasses, but contacts do not always cooperate with me in the morning, so I always wear a hat of some kind.
Michigan is usually fairly cold and I wear nothing but wool pullovers and merino base layers as a result. I’m fairly frugal regarding clothing but will dedicate the most money to a quality base layer as I’ve found they will make or break your hunt. I haven’t had the chills since and can now sit much longer. Merino socks is another area in which I will not make a concession budget wise. I used to believe you couldn’t wear wool socks year-round, but my buddy Mike (Vines) convinced me otherwise. At his urging, I purchased a few sets of merino socks for my Georgia hunt last week and was perfectly happy in rainy, 80 degree weather with warm dry feet. They didn’t sweat nearly as much as they did when I wore cotton and I didn’t get a single blister!
I tend to get cheap when it comes to warm weather hunting because I simply don’t do it enough. I get by with cotton or poly-twill hunting suits for the time being. However, my friend Steve (Angell) recently gave me a leafy 3D camo suit that actually works really well keeping the rain off the cotton underneath (at least to a point).
B) No one will argue dry fletching is paramount during poor conditions. Wet fletching tends to get matted down and makes for inaccurate shooting. While there are several powders and sprays out there, I feel the only real solution is keeping your arrows out of the elements. I prefer a tube-style quiver or Catquiver for this reason and feel it is best to leave the back quiver at home unless you have something to slip over your arrows. Even then, water can pool in the bottom of the quiver and give your broadheads a thorough soaking. When I’m hunting, I tend to leave an arrow nocked or laying across my lap and cover the fletching with my hand or my shirt to keep it dry. I cover my arrow rest the same way.
Keeping your broadheads dry is another matter. After one morning of hunting in a rainstorm, my broadheads had rust spots all over them. It happened that quick. Had I coated them with a little Vaseline this might have been avoided but there is no guarantee with constant rainfall and humidity.
C) I’ve yet to blood-trail a deer in rainy conditions, but I am sure it will happen eventually. I’ve asked several hunters for tips on doing so and their sentiments were basically to start tracking sooner than you normally would following the shot and examine the area for other signs of deer movement, such as broken branches, disturbed vegetation, and tracks in the mud. Persistence is key. If you are going to take the shot in bad conditions, you have to be prepared to recover in bad conditions. Stick with it. You owe it to the animal.
D) My point for writing this is not to promote or condone bad weather hunting, especially in unsafe conditions. I make a hasty retreat to the parking lot if I feel unsafe at any point. In fact, I had a fairly close call last year with high winds and a large rotted oak tree branch which fell within feet of my head. All I could do was duck, cover up, and pray. I also do not hunt from treestands. For those of you who do, make sure you are wearing a quality safety harness with a lineman belt.
All things considered, I love to be in the woods and don’t mind Mother Nature’s interference in the least. I spent six hours in the Georgia rain last week with a couple buddies and loved every minute of it. Was I soaked? Yes. Did I see anything? No, but I had absolutely no regrets on the long drive home. I tried…and that is what counts above all else. You have to take what you are dealt.
Do you have tips for hunting in bad weather? I would love to hear them! Feel free to comment below.