Weather greatly affects activity levels for all game animals, including whitetails. Bowhunters who closely study forecasts can better predict which days and times deer will be most active, which boosts your odds of success.
Let’s discuss how certain weather conditions affect deer and deer hunting.
Wide, wild temperature swings often halt daytime deer activity. That’s especially true during extreme heat, which makes an already nocturnal animal even more of a night owl as it shifts its activities to cool evenings. However, even during summer, deer still follow an evening feeding pattern if temperatures remain near average. When summer temperatures dip below average, deer activity increases. Likewise, when those temps swing above average, deer activity declines.
Blizzards, heavy rains, high winds and other weather extremes also hinder deer activity. Such conditions often force whitetails to seek cover, making bowhunting difficult. The impact of those extremes on deer, however, depend on where they occur. A day of 30- to 40-mph winds in the Southeast, for example, would likely hamper deer activity far more than the same high winds whipping the Western plains, where strong winds are common.
Weather extremes can also spur whitetail movements before and after each event, especially intense rains or snowfalls. Deer often feed heavily just before storm systems move in, and again after they break.
Cold Fronts Equal Activity
Whether temperatures drop from 98 to 76 or 47 to 20, deer activity will rise dramatically. Bowhunting around cold fronts brings consistent success, especially during September and October. A plunge into extreme cold, however, can stifle deer movements, but the shut-down temperature depends on the area you hunt and its average temperatures.
Pressure Plays a Role
Barometric pressure – aka atmospheric pressure – is a measurement of air pressure being applied to the Earth’s surface and everything on it. That pressure is measured with a barometer, a gauge that meteorologists use to forecast weather. Deer have built-in “barometers” that detect pressure changes most modern people can’t sense.
Low pressure generally produces clouds and precipitation, while high pressure usually means nice weather and clear skies. As high-pressure systems move in, the rising air pressure often triggers strong winds. Winds generally start calming as barometric pressures peak.
I’ve tracked data on barometric pressure for years to see how it affects whitetail movements. My findings support studies I’ve read that show higher deer activity during high pressure, and even more so when the barometer is rising and passing 30. By monitoring forecasts and pressure readings, you’ll better predict when whitetails are most active. You’ll likely document that high-pressure systems spur deer activity after storms and as cold fronts move in.
Whether you’ve been bowhunting several seasons or you’re preparing for your first hunt, you’ll enjoy more consistent success if you understand how weather affects deer activity. Use the information we covered here to get started, and then adapt those insights to your area’s weather forecasts to predict when deer activity is likely highest. No system is perfect, but the more accurately you match barometric readings to deer activity, the more consistently you’ll fill your tags.