Hunting the Wind | How Does Scent Actually Travel

If you were brought up deer hunting or have been doing it for even a short amount of time, you’ve likely heard the term “downwind”. With any experience at all, you will have learned that a deer trusts his nose before all else, making it extremely important to practice scent control. The only option when hunting whitetails is hunting the wind, trying to remain downwind of where you expect deer movement. If you’re caught deer hunting hilly country or an area with any topography whatsoever this becomes seemingly impossible. You may have had trouble understanding why, despite all of your detergents, sprays, and stand placement strategies, you are still getting busted.

It begs the question “is downwind enough”? Here’s the answer you may or may not want to hear. Simply put the answer is no.

Putting yourself on what you deem the downwind side of an animal is not enough. There are far more factors at play than you may realize that affect how your scent is dispersed amongst your surroundings. One major contributing factor is thermals. This term is used to describe the rising and falling of air in relation to the earth’s temperature. Typically, as the sun rises in the morning, it heats the surface of the earth and, consequently, the air closest to it, causing an updraft, as long as the earth’s surface is warming. You may have noticed that you get busted less on morning hunts, that’s because the thermals are taking your scent straight up into the atmosphere. The opposite is true when the earth starts to cool. Colder air will start to settle into the lowest topography, creating a downdraft towards the earth. The result is a higher probability of getting busted during evening sits. The solution? Use this knowledge to your advantage. Hunt ridges in the mornings where the deer move below you, and leave the bottoms for evening hunts where the deer are traveling down with the wind to where your stand is located. Paying attention to these thermals will greatly improve your chances once you understand how they affect your deer hunting property.

Building further on the concept of thermals, wind direction seems to be more of an issue in the afternoon hours or anytime thermals are falling. This is due to your scent falling down toward the earth and unfortunately the deer. During the afternoon hours it becomes more important to take into consideration of scent control and the wind direction in relation to your setup and where you think the deer movement will occur. So, when hanging sets for an afternoon hunt, pay attention to prevailing wind direction and position yourself to be on the downwind side.

Unfortunately there’s more to take note of when hunting the wind. Even if your set is correctly placed to accommodate for the prevailing wind and thermals, there is still one major factor at play when your deer hunting hilly country. The final major contributor to consider when hunting the wind and taking steps for proper scent control is terrain.

There may have been times when you checked the wind several times before and while heading out to your tree stand, only to find that the wind is either swirling or coming from a different direction entirely at the stand. This is where experience comes into play, observing topographical maps and wind patters while in the stand can solve this issue. Think of the wind as flowing water, rocks and boulders in a stream simply replaced by cliffs and hills. Every large obstacle, hill, bluff, and group of trees will cause the wind to be diverted in some way or fashion. Think about the direction of the stream and how it will flow through your property. The air hits a ridge, is directed to a saddle, then into a valley, through the food plot, and flow out the creek bottom. Now place your stand into this stream and you’ll soon realize your previous mistakes.

At the end of the day, there seems to only be one way to greatly improve your chances of remaining undetected while deer hunting, and that’s hunting the wind. But the second, nearly impossible, way is totally eliminating your human scent. With those to options good thing there is now a third option…scent control to the point of completely covering it up. Thank god for Ozonics!