THE 2018 Buck Season Opener looked like one of those occasions when we would shoot 3 or more big bucks on the first day, just like we did in 2016, 2012, and 2009. We travelled to camp more often this year and went out spotlighting at night many times, always recording dozens of deer sightings per trip. We hunted inline muzzleloader in October and shot one deer and spotted several others, and we came up for bear season the week before buck and saw dozens of deer in the woods, including 3 legal bucks in our hunting grounds. We scouted the woods the day before the Opener, and sighted 2 big bucks near the locations where Todd and Shawn hunt, one of them a 9-pointer.
We had 8 good, experienced deer hunters lined up for the morning of November 26th, and all were excited about the possibilities. My brother-in-law RJ travelled all the way up from Richmond, KY, to participate, and he was considered a good-luck charm, since we took 3 bucks on the first day the last time he was here. The only thing that worried us was the weather forecast: rain, more rain, and heavy, cold rain all day.
A light rain or misty conditions don’t ruin a hunting day. Conditions are tolerable, not miserable, and you even have a potential benefit, since wet grounds make stalking and still-hunting easier by reducing the noise hunters make while moving through the woods. I can remember several seasons when we shot bucks under light rainy, misty conditions.
But heavy rains can destroy your hunt for three reasons. One, you have to be outdoors for ten hours of daylight with downpours falling over you. Our guys tend to have all the best gear: rain suits and waterproof boots and coats and wide-brimmed waterproof hats and even camo-colored umbrellas that can be attached to a tree and provide shelter. Camp F-Troop charter member Gary P introduced umbrellas into the hunt a few years ago. With excellent gear, you can get through the first few hours okay, but eventually constant heavy rainfall can wear you down, physically and psychologically.
Two, the level of rainfall and wind can affect the movements, or lack thereof, of deer. Deer tend to seek shelter from rain or heavy snow in lowland hollows where thick groves of hemlock, mountain laurel, and white pine protect them from the elements. Deer are well-suited for adverse weather conditions in most cases, considering the heavy, waterproof hides they wear, but extreme or long-term rainy conditions can drive them into cover, where they may sit out the day. Windy conditions may affect them even more. December 26th featured constantly swirling heavy winds, which affect a deer’s ability to use all his senses for survival. If the wind blows steadily from the west, an old buck can pick up the constant human scent of danger and avoid it. But swirling winds confuse the buck and make it much more difficult to sense the direction of the threat and cause him to hunker down under shelter for long hours of the day.
And three, perhaps most importantly of all, rain keeps other hunters out of the woods. The opening day of buck season has always been the best time to get a chance at a buck because the woods is populated by a higher number of hunters than usual, and those hunters often serve to bump deer out of their beds and send them sneaking into the shooting lanes of other hunters. We at F-Troop have used this condition effectively over the years by selecting the big boulders we climb up on and use as hunting stands based on escape routes and deer trails we have observed. But when it rains, fewer hunters leave their camps and fewer hunters in the woods means we don’t see as many deer.
Still, we plan to send 8 hunters to camp for the last weekend of concurrent deer season, December 6 and 7, when doe hunters will be added to the mix and will hopefully get some deer moving in the woods. Four of our guys originally planned to also drive up for the middle week November 30-December 1, but they canceled their plans. Why? The forecast said 100% chance of rain.
Don Feigert is the outdoors writer for The Herald, the Allied News, and the New Castle News. To find out about his latest book The F-Troop Camp Chronicles or his earlier books, contact him at email@example.com or 724-931-1699. Visit his web site at www.donfeigert.com. Or visit Leana’s Books at the mall.