"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," is a line from song by songwriter/poet Bob Dylan.

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," is a line from song by songwriter/poet Bob Dylan.

Though he undoubtedly was not thinking about deer hunting when he penned that famous line about the obvious, actually a different metaphor than the wind would have been more accurate.

In reality, it is very difficult to know which way the wind is blowing.

And often for bow hunters it's a literal "ill wind" that allows whitetails to catch our scent and detect our presence.

Take it from someone who has spent a lot of times in the woods trying to figure out the wind.

Even the steadiest appearing wind is made up of a myriad of crosscurrents, downdrafts, updrafts and swirls.

Take a milkweed pod to your deer stand and see for yourself.

As I walk along the fields, and up a winding trail through the woods to get to my stand, often there are a few milkweed pods along the way. I stuff a couple of them into my pocket.

Once settled into the upper branches of the tree, in my stand, with gear stowed and the bow hung with its arrow, ready and waiting for a whitetail, it is amusing to pick the individual milkweed seeds and their wispy "parachute" out of the pod and drop it to check wind direction.

(Caution: If you try this at home, be sure to pick the seeds off first. Milkweed can be a bit invasive and the last thing we want to do is spread milkweed into fields that are not ours and that could negatively impact a farmer's crop or somebody's food plot. So I put the seeds in my pocket and dump them out at home.)

But letting these little milkweed silks go from a tree stand or ground blind can be an eye-opener!

The wind may appear to be coming steady from one direction, but in reality, 20 yards away, it may be going in the opposite direction!

We call it "swirling winds."

The little white milkweed silk will drop down from the stand, float along and then sometimes even make a U-turn and head back on a parallel track to the one path it just took!

Whitetails have an uncanny knack for detecting hunters through scent. And then other times, they seem to just "walk in on us."

By watching the wind's effects on milkweed silk, we can see why.

One treestand I have used over the years perches on the top of a steep hollow. It is worthless, absolutely worthless to hunt when the wind is from the south or east because it blows my scent into the deer's bedding area.

Over the years, I have heard deer snort way off on a quiet evening when "the wind shifts" because I thought I could get away with hunting out of that stand with a southwest wind.

But when the wind is blowing from the north or northwest, that stand is lethal. I wait for the high-pressure systems to come down from Canada before I hunt it.

My preference is to hunt the top of ridges where the wind is somewhat more predictable. Some hollows and ravines are almost impossible to hunt, even though they are full of good buck sign. And then again ... maybe that's why they are.

A number of years ago, a hot air balloon was "trapped" next to one of our steep ridges southwest of town. Evidently, the prevailing wind was coming from the southwest, over a steep ridge.

The hot air balloon became caught in a circular airflow, over the ridge, then down, then up as it approached the trees on the slope.

The only way the pilot was able to get out of the "wind trap" was to slowly navigate sideways (the same way to get out of a riptide in the ocean) until the physical terrain which helped create the effect, changed.

Thermals are localized winds, created by the heating of the day and cooling at night as the sun rises and sets. Sometimes they are very strong and make the trees bow and shake almost like a gale-force wind.

Hunters not only have to deal with regular wind directions, but also thermals add into the mix of air movement too. The more swirling and changing direction a wind has,  and the odds of us fooling the whitetail's nose really drop.

During hunting season, in our neck of the woods, the daytime temps may range from 70 degrees F. or above to below freezing at night. These radical fluctuations in temperature create strong thermals.

Often on a relatively wind-free evening during bow season, a "heavy" thermal starts up on top of our steep hollows and flows like a river of cold air, straight down the hollow.

And this may be the opposite way the wind was blowing in the late afternoon!

We say, "The wind shifted and the deer scented me." But in actuality, one wind pattern died down and another, superseded it.

Weathermen, weather reports, wind vanes, chimney smoke, blowing leaves, and flapping flags each give us generalized wind direction. At best, that's just the starting point.

But if we want to have a high percentage of fooling the whitetails' nose on a somewhat regular basis, we must study localized wind directions at each of our chosen stand sites and hope an "ill wind" doesn't blow.
 
Contact Oak Duke at publisher@wellsvilledaily.com.