Does Weather Affect Hunting?

In this blog we will attempt to summarize the value that a hunter can gain while utilizing a weather datasource to plan hunting activities. One of the biggest problems with doing so is to ascertain what information is lore and what has actual studies behind it. There are many contradictory sources for even the study-backed conclusions. Also, you may find that they are limited in scope or are isolated to a very specific activity in a very specific geography. We will start with a summary of all possible weather conditions and what the general collected wisdom is. Again, your experiences and even some studies may disagree but this is considered as a starting point for your own investigations. In a follow-up blog we will put an Excel Weather Workbook version dedicated to this analysis.

Does Weather Affect Hunting?

The short answer is yes, but simply reading a forecast may not be enough and better scoring can require delta calculations or lead/lag times near a weather event. Here are the major weather variables ranked and how they can affect hunting:

  1. Temperature – Most game animals appear to be more active on colder days. This can be due to preparation for seasonal changes or expected storm fronts. Temperature drops from average seem to be the best key indicators.
  2. Barometric Pressure – A few studies have been done and higher pressures produce more movement. Again here, tracking increases from the norm may be the best indicator as jumps in pressure regardless of seasonal average are beneficial.
  3. Wind Speed and Wind Gusts – Wind speeds can affect both the hunter and the hunted. Taking a shot whether by bow, shotgun or rifle is a risky venture in a high wind but wind appears to encourage animal movement. Simply analyzed, the higher the wind the better. Each hunter needs to weigh the positive and negative for their specific situation.
  4. Precipitation – Rain is not fun for hunting nor for animals to be moving about. Most statistics put large precipitation event as a no-go for hunting. Tracking changes can give you a benefit as time before or after a rain could indicate times of more movement by game.
  5. Cloud Cover – Cold, clear days are best but cloud cover as an indicator of a storm front may be a positive indicator for a small window of time. In this case, cloud cover should be used in conjunction with other indicators or simply that the lack of cloud cover is a good condition.

What actual weather values indicate good hunting conditions?

We know what weather conditions affect hunting but here are a list of specific weather values that you can track and score to create the optimal hunting opportunity. What does “cooler” mean? What is good visibility? Here is where we talk about exact value settings and potential scoring

  1. Temperature – Most hunters say less than 60 degrees is the minimum for hunting and scoring improves as temperatures drop. More than raw temperature value, drops of 10 degrees in daytime high will create better opportunities from game movement and as such should be scored higher.
  2. Barometric Pressure – While this is a dynamic measurement of changes from averages to highs the exact number should be measured in a delta, but certain values above 30 inHg is a good starting point, a steep increase in pressure is the best indicator to score highly.
  3. Wind – Generally the more windy it is the better score you should apply, we would start scoring positive effects at 10mph up until 30mph but no further as it may indicate storm conditions. Some open area hunters may choose to eliminate this as it makes a shot more risky.
  4. Precipitation would negatively affect the score but the time before a storm would increase the weighting for a good hunting opportunity. We will start simple and incur negative scoring for any hour of weather data recording of .1″ in any hour.
  5. Cloud cover – Cloud cover values would negatively affect a good hunting score and you should reduce scoring on any value increases.

As we mentioned above, we will put these values into a Weather Workbook addition that will allow you to set your own scores and adjust as you learn what is accurate for your location. Hunting in open public lands may not be the same as the wooded hills of Pennsylvania and different weather variables will have different impacts. Even species and habitats may produce different results.

Other Considerations

There are a few considerations that can also be included but we will leave out in core scoring or traditional weather conditions.

  • Storms – Time before and after storms can produce good opportunities for obvious behavioral reasons.
  • Humidity – lower humidity show some indications but may also be covered by clear, cool conditions with low cloud cover
  • Visibility – spotting is key to a hunt so the better the visibility the better the odds of success. However, this condition doesn’t improve game movements
  • Moon Phases – This has the greatest disparity between lore and science. We will let the reader make their judgement.

Don’t forget the big picture

Most experts would tell you that the weather effects on game and increasing movement is just a fractional improvement on the Dawn/Dusk cycle that is constant throughout hunting in any season. Also, when considering cycles such as a Whitetail rut, that happens every single year at a specific time regardless of weather. Weather plays a nice role but over focus on this variable could be problematic.

References and Links

Here are some of the sites we referenced when learning more about this topic. Please visit their links for greater detail:

https://www.themeateater.com/hunt/whitetail-deer/does-temperature-affect-deer-movement

https://www.themeateater.com/hunt/whitetail-deer/does-barometric-pressure-affect-deer-movement

https://www.petersenshunting.com/editorial/weather-conditions-affect-rut/272796

https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/big-buck-zone/2011/09/seven-things-know-about-temperature-and-deer-activity/

https://www.realtree.com/brow-tines-and-backstrap/why-windy-days-are-great-for-deer-hunting

https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/hunting/2013/10/myth-buster-hunting-whitetails-high-wind-not-waste-time/

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