Gerald Almy: Meeting challenge of hunting deer in hot weather
Hot weather is one of the greatest challenges deer hunters will face as early bow season arrives. Sometimes the heat even extends beyond archery into the black powder season. The air is stifling, the temperature is outrageous, and sweating makes controlling your scent a struggle. It’s tempting many days to simple leave the bow or crossbow in the rack and wait for cooler weather.
But you can meet the challenge of hot weather deer by simply adapting your strategies and approach. Here are some tips on how to deal with the complications abnormally high temperatures bring.
Focus your search
Realize you’ll be hunting for bucks that are skittish, secretive, and not often seen on food plots or crop fields in daylight. Not yet, anyway.
As the air cools and the rut approaches in late October, that’s a different story. For now, bucks older than 2 years are ensconced in tight cover and largely nocturnal. What little daytime movement there is takes place near the edge of four key areas where these secretive mature deer hole up in hot weather. Before taking a look at those hot spots, realize that while daytime movement is scant, it is stronger on certain days.
Watch the weather
Cooler temperatures obviously see increased buck movement. But pay attention to the barometer, too. The best activity in August occurs when it’s steady or rising with north or west winds and a lighter feel to the air.
High humidity, a low or falling barometer, and south or east winds stifle activity, as does rain that comes from that direction. A shower from the northwest, in contrast, can increase buck movement.
Key spots for
hot weather deer
Ridges and benches
These offer bucks great vantage points to watch for danger from below and scent predators from behind. They’re also cooler, attracting deer during hot weather with the lower temperatures they offer.
The land I do much of my hunting on tapers upward from stream bottom to rolling foothills and then ridges. I can almost rule out the lowlands in early season. When it’s hot, almost every good buck is on a knoll, ridge, or bench savoring the breezes that caress these higher locations.
Also look for a blow-down or small thicket on the ridge that offers security without obstructing the view below. Bucks need a bit of cover in addition to the cool breezes and visibility.
North and northeast-facing slopes
The morning sun hits these spots with just enough light to nurture forbs, mushrooms, and edible shrubs, but not enough to dry the moist ground. Then, when the sun gets high, it disappears from these dark, thick vegetation areas. That keeps them cool during hot afternoon hours – just what an old buck needs.
The cooler, moist conditions make these great spots to plant a low-impact, mini-food plot using hand tools and a brassica-clover seed mixture such as Secret Spot or Hot Spot. That both adds to their appeal and concentrates buck activity near your stand site.
The air in a dense stand of pines, fir, hemlock, or spruce can be several degrees cooler than surrounding deciduous woods in summer. That draws bucks like a magnet. Look for young to middle-aged trees, especially ones with vines, briars, and weeds growing up between them. Those stands offer food and cover along with the cooler air.
Mature conifers will also attract deer, but in this case, focus your search on gaps or open spots in the stand. The extra sunlight in those areas will allow forbs, blackberries, grapes, greenbrier, and honeysuckle to take hold.
Streams and springs
If there’s one thing a deer needs during hot weather, it’s water. He can find this at ponds and puddles, but springs and creeks offer both water and more comfortable temperatures.
The best ones offer cover right next to the water, but also strips of dense vegetation leading back to the rest of the buck’s core summer area. That’s important because deer often move to these creeks temporarily during particularly bad heat spells. But they want a secure route from there back to the ridges, conifer stands, or northeast-facing slopes where they normally bed.
Focusing on these specific areas and concentrating on the best weather patterns should help you overcome the challenge of early season hot-weather archery hunting.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.