For the past couple of decades, I’ve held the belief that deer move more in the rain. Not heavy rain, mind you, but light to moderate precipitation. I can count the number of times I’ve sat in a treestand or ground blind, had little deer movement, and then they came out of the woodworks as the rain started falling from the sky.
I killed my biggest buck ever in the rain, which I self-filmed for Realtree’s Monster Bucks.
I sat through a steady rain shower, and as it began to subside, deer poured out of the bedding area in front of me. First, a couple of nice 2-year-olds. Then a yearling buck. Then the giant velvet 8-pointer. Even more bucks, does, and fawns walked out afterward. They all fed out in the clover in front of me, all while it misted rain. Eventually, I got a shot opportunity and made it count.
That wasn’t the only incident I’ve seen or shot deer during or just after a rain event. It’s happened numerous times.
That said, I think rain is more likely to get deer on their feet on warmer days, especially during the early season. Generally, rain cools you down, which gives deer reprieve from the heat, effectively getting them up on their feet.
I think rain showers that occur mid- to late-afternoon have even more power to get deer up and moving. When conditions align with crepuscular (dawn and dusk) movement, I believe it increases deer activity, even more than crepuscular movements without additional triggers.
But I’m not a biologist, and my experiences aren’t peer-reviewed research studies. So, let’s look at some deer science.
What’s Does Research Show about Deer Movement in the Rain?
Several colleges with teams dedicated to whitetail biology and behavior have attempted to address this question. While general whitetail behavior isn’t the focus of most wildlife agencies and DNRs (they focus on resource management), even some of them have studied the impact of rain on whitetail movement.
said Levi Jaster, a big game program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
Moriah Boggess, a deer biologist with the Indiana DNR, initially expressed similar input.
Some Research Shows More Deer Movement in Light to Moderate Rainfall
Interestingly, some biologists and experts have discovered data or had experiences that suggest deer do, in fact, move more, if only slightly, during light to moderate rainfall. Both Boggess and Jaster have mixed feelings on the subject.
Boggess says that other researchers have found light rain can increase deer movement, but heavy rain can decrease it. Still, he says there is no consistent effect of rain across all the whitetail’s range. That’s a reasonable conclusion, though, mainly since whitetails inhabit a very diverse range of climates and habitats.
Despite the inconclusive research studies, Boggess’ own experiences suggest deer do move more during light rain.
Even Jaster relays that there might be something to it.
The scientific results on record are still inconclusive. The conclusion on whether or not deer move in the rain is likely somewhere in-between. Fortunately, you can test this theory on your own.
Some Pros and Cons of Hunting in the Rain
Rain can impact other aspects of deer hunting, too. General deer movement isn’t the only factor. Understanding how it limits hunters and how hunters can leverage it is important to know.
For example, most people believe that light rain and moisture increase the effectiveness of a deer’s nose. Boggess says,
Other negatives apply, too. Jaster says,
Don’t forget the positive aspects, though. It also helps to wash away scent, so there might be both positives and negatives.
The most significant advantage to rain might be quiet walking, though.
Boggess notes that rain softens twigs and leaves, which offers perfect stalking conditions. On rainy days, perhaps slowly still hunt and scout your way through deer habitat. Jaster says rain and wind likely make it more challenging to see hunters’ movements, too. So, that’s good.
Overall, it’s still not completely understood whether or not deer move more in the rain.
But I think deer tend to move more during light rainfall, especially during the early season when temperatures are warmer and when the rain event occurs in the early morning or late afternoon. Perhaps only the deer I hunt like their salad with dressing, but I doubt that’s true.
No matter what, the more deer data you can start accumulating, especially from the deer you hunt, the better. You might discover some exciting things about the specific deer you hunt.