Hunting In The Rain

John Williams | October 31, 2023

John Williams with a Cook County buck killed in the rain during the 2019 season.

Deer hunting in the rain can be a lot of fun, if you do it right.

Precipitation from either rain, sleet or snow in the right amounts can get deer moving and help you have a great hunt. I have had some of my best hunts on the worst weather days. While some people are inside sleeping or watching TV to let the storm pass, I’m itching for that break in a heavy rain to make my move. Going right after a big storm passes or when there’s a slight break in the weather, or maybe even a light drizzle, has paid off more times than I can count.

Deer are outside 24/7 and have to feed whether it’s sunny, hot, cold, windy or raining. I believe deer rut on the same days every year and move mainly at dusk and dawn. In my opinion, weather helps intensify when that peak movement will be. If it’s raining hard all night and it breaks just after the sun comes up, you are going to get a boost of movement when the rain stops. It magnifies the movement that will already take place at daybreak.

Also, weather can be a big disrupter to feeding patterns during the day. I arrowed a buck two hours before dark on opening day when it rained three times during the day. He was coming in right at last light until we had the weather fronts moving in that day. The temperature dropped a little, and I think it was enough to get him on his feet a whole two hours before dark because he was hungry and probably had not eaten like he normally would have if the weather was good.

I use the weather to get into areas that normally might be harder to get into without some wind and rain to quiet my approach. I shot a good buck during one such front on a Friday morning. I got into a really easy access spot, but I just didn’t feel like that’s where the action would be that morning. I waited until the sun came up and eased my way through a light drizzle to another stand located deeper in a bedding area. Within 10 minutes, I shot one of my target bucks.

The same weather front brought a major cold front and I shot one of my best bucks to date two days later when the weather finally broke completely and the temperature dropped close to 20 degrees.

Another great hunt took place on public land in Ohio. I hunted hard on a piece of public land I had never hunted before and was successful in taking my first-ever buck on public land on a spot-and-stalk hunt with my muzzleloader. I got rained and sleeted on for three hours before packing up. I decided to hunt and scout my way out and ended up shooting a buck after the weather broke and it stopped raining. It enabled for quieter movement, and I could see fresh sign better. That brings me to another point. Rain washes away old tracks and starts a fresh canvas for new trails to be made and scrapes freshened back up. I would definitely be hunting a community scrape after a rain storm because there are likely deer in the area that want to mark their territory again following the rain.

Hunting in the rain can be super rewarding, and I recommend having the right gear because cold and wet don’t mix, especially if you have camera equipment. I would definitely recommend water-resistant outer wear and plastic bags for any electronics. There’s nothing worse than being cold and wet or damaging precious camera equipment you spent your hard-earned money on. I have gone so far as to bring a camo umbrella with me just in case it rains, and I can use it as a blind if I need to. I usually have setups specifically for when it rains, so I can still enjoy the outdoors and wait for the break in the weather. If you aren’t into ground blinds, then a camo umbrella or Frogg Toggs outer wear are definitely worth looking into. However you plan to hunt, just make sure you’re safe and dry, so you can enjoy the hunt. Steps and ladders can be a lot more slippery when wet, so consider adding a weather resistant grip tape to steps, and always wear your safety harness.

Hunting in the rain can bring its own set of challenges, especially for tracking. You definitely need to take this into consideration before pulling the trigger or releasing the arrow. My main concern would be bowhunting because the deer is likely to run off and you have to track that animal effectively. If you are unsure of the shot, I would back out and call a tracking dog. Even if you are 100% sure of the shot, I still might would call a tracking dog just in case the deer goes somewhere unexpected and there’s no blood trail to track the deer.

The same thought process goes when gun hunting, although less deer are lost with a well-placed rifle shot. I lost a piebald buck in the rain with a gun before I knew about tracking dogs. Rain actually helps keep the scent in the area and helps a dog track. If you are unsure of the hit, back out so the dog can do its job and not be confused by the odor you put in the area. You want to give a dog the best chance to be successful, and the deer is not going to be any more dead by the time the dog gets there. You’ll only increase your odds of finding the deer you shot.

If you only have a limited amount of time to hunt each fall, then I would not let rain slow you down. Be thinking of ways you can have a back-up plan in case it’s raining or a setup that you can use whether it’s raining or not. It will help you be far more successful in the whitetail woods. A lot of my friends don’t know how I sneak up on deer all the time, especially big bucks. I use everything I can to my advantage, and rain happens to be one of the biggest advantages to me. It makes your approach a lot quieter. Also it helps you hear them better when they are splashing through puddles.

Rain and inclement weather consistently helps me kill big bucks. Cold fronts usually follow rain, which helps get deer on their feet to feed more. They’ve got to stand up to dry off and are usually pretty active in a light drizzle.

I hope these tactics help you think twice next time you decide to stay inside because of precipitation. Remember deer have no other choice but to be outside, so you might as well use the weather to your advantage when the time is right!

Tracking gets tricky when it’s raining. This would be a great time to bring in a tracking dog.

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