Pro Tips for Hunting Whitetail Deer in the Rain - Game & Fish (2023)

Pro Tips for Hunting Whitetail Deer in the Rain - Game & Fish (1)

01. November 2021 Von Stephen D. Carpenteri

Nothing puts a “damper” on wild camp like the chatter of a heavy rooftop rain. Suddenly no one wants to get up, no one wants to go out and everyone sits around and laments the loss of a good day's hunting.

I have seenWeißwedelHunters pack up and go home days early because rain was forecast. Worse still, the darkness outside soon affects the atmosphere inside. So a precious week of vacation - and deer hunting - is lost.

I know how rain affects hunters, but many hunters don't really know how rain affects deer.

In general, rain doesn't mean anything to whitetails unless it's pouring rain. When this happens, all wildlife (and human life) activity will cease until the storm passes. But when it's raining lightly or just a steady drizzle, deer just go about their business as if it were a sunny day. The flaw is that "light" rain can seem to a deer like drenching to a hunter worried about his gear, clothing, and health (don't catch a cold!).

During the hunting season, rain is not an obstacle to deer movement. From my experience, whitetails don't change their habits one bit just because it rains.

For example, one of my favorite hunting spots is a box curtain overlooking a corner of a field where deer come to feed near dusk every day of the year. I can relax, brew tea and pour the entire area without being seen and thanks to the plywood case I can do this without fear of getting wet.

Deer come to the field every day except on very hot days, extremely windy days or during a torrential downpour. Any other time, including a drizzle, light rain, or even heavy rain, they show up as if on cue: cows and fawns first; small bucks next; and then, just before dark, the real bruises I'm after.

  • BINGE WATCH:All 6 episodes of Rut Crash Course

If anything, rain makes deer happier and less shy. I suspect the endless pounding of rain through the forest, the constant movement of twigs and scrub agitated by falling raindrops, and the overall somber appearance of the forest lull the animals into believing that all is well.

On a clear, dry, cold day, the deer come out tentatively, ears pricked and eyes on the screen, almost desperate to find a reason to flee. On rainy days, however, they go to the field, take a glimpse of the blind, and carelessly begin to eat. They appear almost docile compared to their behavior on a clear day.

My first encounter with hunting white-tailed deer in the rain was in an old apple orchard that happened to be behind the City Hall. I would never have found this hot spot if I hadn't come out one day to discuss some road work with the grader operator. As we were chatting I happened to glance out of his office window and was amazed to see a handsome buck, two deer and a couple of fawns feeding on freshly falling apples. I didn't mention the stag to the lad (he didn't seem to notice and I knew he wasn't a stag hunter), but I planned to come back the next day to try my hand at those stag.

My grand plans were, of course, dashed by a heavy rain that started in the middle of the night and lasted all day. I paced the house and fretted about my bad luck before I couldn't take it anymore. I put on my suit and, bow in hand, walked through the orchard to a gap in the stone wall where I had seen the deer crossing the night before.

The ceiling was thick saplings and alders, with about a dozen gnarled, mature apple trees in three rows on the garage side of the wall. Fully camouflaged and wearing an olive green poncho for protection, I positioned myself near a fallen log about 20 meters from the apple trees.

It continued to rain heavily, but I was determined to hold out until dark. I stood with my poncho hood up and my head down, watching the rain drip steadily off the hem of my poncho.

Pro Tips for Hunting Whitetail Deer in the Rain - Game & Fish (2)

It was starting to get dark and I was about to give up when I saw a shadow approach the crack in the wall, then another, and another. I thought it was a deer with the two fawns. They were about 10 meters to my right. They came straight in without even stopping to look around and I was high hoping the buck would trail behind them.

As the trio passed the first apple tree, I raised my bow and pursued them in case one of them miraculously turned into a buck (a hunter's dream). As I slowly swung the bow to the left, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was the buck and he was only two steps away from me staring intently at the females! I could have literally hit him with my bow! Of course I was stuck. As soon as he turned to face me, it was game over. With a snort, he sprang away, the deer headed for the gap, and the hunt ended right there.

  • Learn more:Everything you need to know about the rut

The point, of course, is that I was within 10 yards of four deer and, apart from my selectivity, would have had an easy shot solely because the rain was limiting the animals' senses (they couldn't seem to see me in the stall or smell the downpour) .

I've had several encounters like this with deer in the rain, and they all led to easy opportunities. The combination of noise, movement, and suppressed scent conditions gives hunters a distinct advantage that shouldn't be ignored. Still, you can't win the game if you don't go out and play!

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Get up and go!

The most important thing you can do on a rainy day is get up! If I had a dollar every time I threw myself into the stream while everyone else at camp crawled deeper into their sleeping bags, I wouldn't have to worry about the mortgage payment. No matter the weather, you can't shoot a deer unless you chase it!

Before I tell you what to take with you on a rainy day hunt, I'll tell you what to leave behind. Do not bring electronic devices (unless you risk losing them to moisture). Forget your wallet, keys, pocket knife, extra flashlight and GPS device. Leave your luggage behind. Don't bring cameras, cooking utensils, tripods, rangefinders, space blankets, survival gear, or any other item that rain might ruin. Think of your hunt on a rainy day as a minimalist outing. Bring only the essential gear you need to bag and tag your buck.

Next, expect to get wet. I sweat profusely under any type of rain gear (especially during arch season) so I opt for moisture-wicking long johns that will keep me warm even when wet. I wear the usual camo pants and shirt, fleece jacket (if it's particularly cold), hat, face mask and gloves. Of course, wear the appropriate amount of hunter orange clothing as needed.

Aside from my bow or gun, a sharp knife, and a bottle of water, I only carry my climbing stand and a strap-on umbrella. I like the umbrella because rain running down a tree trunk will eventually fill your boots with icy water.


where to hunt

Deer are active all day during continuous rain, especially if the wet weather lasts for several days. Don't let these conditions discourage you! The deer are out there and need to feed and socialize (especially during the rut). Plan to be out there with them!

Steady rain hotspots include all of the trails, runs, and feeding spots you explored prior to the season. Get on board early and plan to spend several hours at each location. If you decide to move, do so around noon when the deer are least active. You can, of course, run into a whitetail at any time, but these pre-dusk standard deer will be out and moving much sooner in wet weather. Find your spot, settle in, and start hunting by 1:30 PM. Stay there until dark, as the larger bucks may not move until the last minute, and on rainy days that "last minute" can come 15 minutes or more before actual sunset.

  • Learn more:4 proven post-rut strategies for big bucks

Good places to set up include ridges and saddles, stream and river crossings, field and field edges (on trails at least 40 yards within adjacent woodland), or near natural food sources such as orchards, oak stands, and other fattening trees.

Deer will not change their behavior just because it rains. They simply meander more in the daylight and lengthen their morning and evening routines because there is less daylight. In times of low light, the animals simply feel less threatened.

The same conditions that make rainy day hunting so appealing are also those that pose the greatest challenges. Settle down for a hunt and you'll quickly discover that it's not just the forest that's wet; it is very loud! Falling rain can be deafening, and anything these raindrops hit will move, often enough to make you think it's a deer! The sodden leaves and debris also let deer run almost silently through the forest. This means the hunter has to be extra vigilant and constantly scan their surroundings for signs of movement. Wet deer surprisingly look like wet leaves. If you're not careful, you could miss your shot opportunity.


sleeper hotspots

Rainy days are excellent times to hunt those spots that often slow down other hunters in milder weather. In rainy seasons there are far fewer vehicles parked along the forest trails giving you a choice of hotspots as everyone else at camp is safe and warm.

Rainy days are also great times to hunt state parks (where legal), small patches of woods, urban areas, hedgerows, and any other location where human activity normally precludes serious hunting. Don't forget the neighbor's backyard, where the deer always come out to feed on fallen apples or garden treats. A quick hunt on a rainy afternoon can often put some meat on the table!




The only real downside to hunting in the rain with a bow or rifle is that it can be difficult to track down wounded game.

Because of this, it's important to carefully monitor your shooting lanes and select your shots so that when you climb down from your stands, all you have to do is walk over and tag your deer. Avoid dubious shots and long-range chances. A bad shot is likely to result in a lost deer, as water-saturated blood is difficult to see, and a steady rain will quickly wash away any sign of a hit. Persistent rain will surely wipe out any minor blood spatter and the chances of finding a deer shot the night before in the morning are slim at best.


The best solution is to aim in the center of the deer, just behind the shoulder. A bullet or broadpoint in this area will result in a dead deer. Arrows dropped in the rain often go unnoticed by the deer because the sound of the rain drowns out the beat of the bow. My last rainbuck took an arrow behind his shoulder and actually ate about 10 yards before dropping dead. I'm pretty sure if the weather was clear a buck would have run away from the shot and I should have at least tracked it down a bit.

Aside from keeping most other hunters out of the woods, rain is great for hauling your trophy back to camp. Wet deer on rain-soaked leaves pull easily and quickly. (I'm happy to save this little chore for my fair-weather friends—the ones who chose to stay in camp rather than brave the storm with me). Call it poetic justice, but a sopping wet deer is as satisfying a trophy as a dry one, especially when you're the only one at camp who went out that day!

  • Note: This article originally published October 2018 was updated on November 2, 2021

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