Unseasonable doesn’t mean unreasonable, if you are prepared. Here’s how to score on a deer, even when the mercury soars.
It was hot in the deer stand, so much so that sweat was dripping off my nose. It was even running off my eyebrows, landing on the lens of my riflescope and blurring my view.
Adding to the unseasonable misery were mosquitoes. I could hear them buzzing, and feel them lighting on my exposed skin, which because of the heat I had more of than usual.
Not exactly the conditions a deer hunter wants, right?
But, just as I questioned my sanity for staying up in the tree, a deer appeared, emerging from the brush at the edge of the field.
Success! There would be work to do in the cleaning shed in the coolness that came after the evening’s sunset.
Mississippi deer hunters have all dealt with that kind of situation. In a four-month season, October through January, it’s a sure bet that our state will have a lot of days that meet the above description — days that are better suited for fishing than for chasing white tails.
Hunters know the temperature is going to vary and across a wide scale. The cold freezing days we prefer because they increase deer movement are outnumbered by unseasonably warm days.
So, do you just quit hunting if the mercury pops up over 70 or 80 degrees?
Your answer should be no.
Hunters just have to learn to adapt to it, because it is going to happen and our short deer hunting time is precious enough as it is.
Take a look as these warm-weather hunting strategies and see if they work for you. Keep one concept in perspective though. Any day deer hunting is just about better than a day doing anything else!
Focus on the best time
When your deer hunting time coincides with a warming trend, then plan to make the most of it by, uh, well, using the least of it.
Prepare to maximize your efforts at two critical times.
One old hunting cliché based in fact — and common sense — is that when it is unseasonably warm hunt when it is the coolest. That means early and late in the day.
Watch the weather forecasts for the days you intend to hunt and know the predicted daytime high temperatures. If it is going to be hot, then hunt accordingly.
“As much as I hate to get up early to deer hunt, if it is going to be a warm day, then I go early,” said Jay Harper of Vicksburg. “This means I am sitting on my tree stand before daylight and I just hunt a couple of hours. If either the heat or the mosquitoes get to be too much, then I am back at the camp trailer. I repeat it again in the late afternoon.
“Typically it is a pretty well understood fact that deer will be coming off feeding areas and slipping into resting or bedding areas just at daylight. This is the coolest part of (legal hunting hours), so certainly be prepared to lock in some time to hunt during these cool hours.”
Although it offers a totally different scenario than dawn, dusk is also productive. You will be entering the stand just after the peak temperature of the day and sitting through the cooling period. As the sun goes down, the deer come out.
It is a simple fact that they must eat and especially drink no matter the temperature or humidity. The last hour of a warm day is prime for observing deer movements.
So, when those December or January hunting days really warm up, just back off your total time in the woods to hunt the coolest parts of the day. If the weather changes, as it often does, then adjust again.
Dress to chill out
Warm weather requires a change in wardrobe. Forget the thermals and the wool socks. If ever there was a time to hunt in cotton and cool synthetics, a warm winter day is it.
This may seem a no-brainer, but look in the typical hunting gear closet and most of what you see is cold-weather gear. What is required is the thinnest, coolest shirt and pants. Wear thin net gloves, and a mesh cap.
Look in your turkey hunting clothes.
As for footwear, as much as you want to wear them, forget the white sneakers. Hunting in the heat can be done in low cut boots that still provide a measure of foot support and protection. I love my Muck and LaCrosse boots as much as any other hunter, but they can be too sweaty. Pick comfortable shoes and wear cooler cotton socks under warm conditions.
In addition to dressing the part, it is important to prepare your body as well. Stay hydrated when the temps are up, and carry a canteen or extra water bottles with you to the shooting house or stand.
Take along a chilling neck wrap, too. These are used by anglers and landscape workers, but can be every effective at adding a cool down factor in the tree stand.
Get one that stays in the freezer until needed, then the cold gel thaws slowly keeping you cool.
Wind can be a friend
Crazy idea, huh? Not one to ever suggest hunting when it is windy, I do think it is a good idea on those warm days. Obviously, you have to keep the wind direction in your favor, which when you think about it will also help keep you cooler. Choosing a stand where the best wind is one hitting you in the face is a great option.
First off, a wind can provide a much-needed cooling factor on hot days. Even the deer can appreciate that. You just have to plan carefully for how you hunt the wind where your scent will not waft into areas where deer might be expected to come from. Deer have to move regardless of wind, and hunters should not be shy about hunting in the wind; just do it the most effective way.
Scent control is always paramount when deer hunting, but it is even more critical when you are sweating. Scent-proof your hunting clothes, sealing them until needed. Spray down with a good scent killer product before you leave camp, and again just before you slip into your hunting stand. Another application an hour later is advisable.
Cool in the shade
“Our most comfortable hunting stands are shooting houses with tin roofs,” said Shawn Perry, who hunts in Holmes County. “When the mid-morning sun bears down on that metal over your head the heat can be unbearable especially if there is no hint of a cooling breeze blowing. When it gets too hot to sit in those houses, then we look for alternatives.
“I go hunt in the woods. I take a climbing stand into the deep sections of our woods and pick out a good shady spot along a deer trail. Up high I can see deer coming and going, plus the darkening shade helps keep me hidden. It’s cooler up there, too.”
Hunt the storm fronts
Yet another radical and unusual tactic is to hunt just ahead of a storm front moving through your area. Two things come into play. An incoming rain front usually cools things down, especially when a breeze comes along with it. The associated cloud cover will mask the sun to add a cooling effect.
Of course, know what weather you will face.
“Use common sense, and see just what kind of storm is coming,” said Andy Dulaney, who hunts near Durant in Holmes County. “A few years ago we had some guests hunting with us and a storm blew up that we had not monitored, and it was coming our way.
“By the time we got everybody back to the cabin we were soaked and then learned a big tornado destroyed 20 homes in Madison County not 30 miles from us. Oh, it cooled off alright, but so did the deer hunting.”
Some reverse advice is needed here. After a storm clears, we can have lower temperatures for a while, but if the sun comes out right away, expect the steam to return as well as the heat index.
Depending on how long the storm lasted and its intensity, the deer may immediately return to open food plots to eat. They often avoid the dripping woods until it dries.
Hot weather in winter might sound like an oxymoron, but we know better in Mississippi. I’ve seen neighbors mow the lawns on Christmas Eve.
If you deer hunt in the Magnolia State this winter, count on eventually — and likely often — facing a hot spell. That’s OK, just adjust your hunting plans accordingly and try out a few crazy ideas.