For the past few years I have released my whitetail rut weather guides because I have been relying exclusively on the weather to predict my hunting efforts for over 2 decades! Why? Because over many years "weather" has proven to me, to be the #1 influence of daily deer movements during the rut. Numerous research projects throughout the past several years have revealed that the moon really doesn't have an impact on the timing of the rut, including this one recently released by the Quality Deer Management Association, "No Link Between Moon Phase and Rut Peak". Although I do believe that the moon plays a slight role in deer movements, especially in the influence of feeding times, I do not believe it is a major player in the determination of deer movements. For some moon perspective: A poor weather day with a great moon phase is still a poor day to hunt, however a great weather day with a poor moon phase... is still a great day to hunt!
How many spots do you plan to hunt? Or, maybe a better question-how many states do you plan to hunt? Unfortunately, I don't get to hunt a 1/2 dozen states or more in quest of numerous "bucks of a lifetime" across the Midwest, but I will be hunting 2 states during the archery season this year and I count myself extremely blessed! And when I do hunt over the course of the most intense period of the rut, you can bet that I will be watching the weather forecast like a hawk to make sure that I am maximizing my efforts. Here are some of the key ingredients, by-the-day, that I look for when I am creating my own whitetail rut weather guide.
Whitetail Rut Weather Guide Predictors
The above weather forecast is specific to Southern WI. The exact dates and forecasts of what we look at in this article, are not as important as being able to analyze your own weather forecast for the areas that you hunt, and finding the key ingredients for allowing the weather to guide your deer hunts. Again, as reflected by research the actual dates of the whitetail rut do not change for your area...but the intensity of the movements sure do, and that is directly influenced by the weather. Being able to recognize on your own the best days to be in the woods, can not only keep your level of potential mature buck success consistently high, but it allows you to prioritize the other important aspects of life all of us face, including family and work.
Sit #1: October 25th
This may seem like an odd choice because as I write this, the "Lo" has already passed. However, I have to point out that in most weather forecasts, today's lo, is actually tomorrow morning's temperature. So, while the actual temperatures this morning hovered around the low 50s, tomorrow morning will feature a significant drop of nearly 15 degrees! That will be an outstanding trigger of deer movement, in an otherwise boring weekend of warming daytime highs.
Sit #2: October 28th
During the 2 week period of your own whitetail rut weather guide, nothing should spell H-U-N-T-N-O-W more than a 14 degree temperature drop! October 28th features an outstanding opportunity to hit the woods on the heels of a major rut-front. Deer feed 5Xs during a 24 hour period. Their evening feeding could be considered their "dinner time", when they readily attack the high quality forages of major destination sources including ag, mast, fruit and food plots. But even during the daytime hours deer still feed twice, as well as twice during the nighttime hours. 3 things happen when a major front comes barreling through:
1. Missed high quality feeding opportunities deplete energy reserves
2. Weather induced stress depletes energy reserves
3. Cold weather depletes energy reserves
A major cold front and temperature drop combine to form the perfect trifecta of depleted energy reserves and when that happens deer move, and they move a lot! And the more extreme the weather during the front, including wind, snow, rain as well as the length of the front itself, the better.
Cruising mature bucks also work extremely hard during the rut, losing a substantial % of their energy reserves. Have you ever worked out in hot weather? As a previous long distance runner (quite a few pounds ago!) I chose to run in the early morning hours when my stamina was not as greatly reduced as during the heat of the day. Do you think it is any different with a rut-crazed buck? I don't, and that's why the intensity of morning mature buck movements has been both documented, and experienced by millions of whitetail hunters across the country.
When a temperature drop occurs of 7-10 degrees is in the forecast, make sure that you hit the woods! Also, it's all relative. For example while a 15 degree temp drop from 45 to 30 may be ideal, a 15 degree temp drop from 70 to 55 shouldn't be missed either. The end temperature isn't as important as how many degrees the temperature falls to get there.
Sit #3: October 31st
You may notice that the lo of the 30th is circled, but as a reminder that will be the forecasted low temperature of Friday, the 31st. The 31st is another can't miss opportunity to throw your sights on a monster!
The more of a rollercoaster the better, because the warm days, help to trigger the colder days that follow. The 31st is an exceptional example of annual Up and Down movements of both the weather and whitetail opportunities! With a 7 degree daytime high drop, as well as a 6 degree morning low drop, Friday will be a high quality time to take plan to be in the woods all day long. The stable and slightly warmer days ahead of this drop serve to create an even higher quality day to be in the woods. The longer, boring and more stable before the drop, the better!
Sit #4: November 4th
With stable temps in the mid 30s to mid 50s for the weekend of November 1st, the hunting should still be decent. However, with daytime highs dipping into the 20s to 40s on Tuesday, the decent days are really just a prelude to one of the best days in the forecast! Nothing screams "PEAK RUT" louder than a significant temperature drop on November 4th, triggered by a few stable weather days prior to the drop. As if 20s and 40s on November 4th in the Midwest wasn't already enough, the preceding 3 days of stability are the icing on the cake!
Sit #5: November 8th
As the rut progressive through some of the best days to be in the woods, I love to see an increase in daytime highs! The spike in temperatures prior to a cold front serve to turn a potentially great morning, into the "perfect" day to be in the woods. Daytime highs of 39, 48 and then 41 reflect instability within the patterns of forecasted weather, which serves to continue the rollercoaster of high quality, Peak-rut sits throughout early November.
Is there really a bad day to be in the woods during the 2 weeks that surround early November in the Midwest? Probably not! However, if you have the flexibility I believe that you can create your own whitetail rut weather guide to keep the # of moderate quality sits to a minimum, while maintaining the # of high quality sits to the max. This keeps you from potentially burning out stand locations, family and work while maximizing your whitetail opportunities. And when you think about it, is their any formula success that is better than shooting big bucks, while keeping work and family happy at the same time? I don't think so, and that has why I have relied on the weather to predict my success for over 2 decades. There are a few consistent weather related features that I want to make sure that you don't miss, including:
1. The first calm and cold sits following the front are the best.
Even if the temperatures stay the same or slightly decrease, the new set of temps eventually becomes the new, "boring and predictable" weather pattern. The front and temp drop combine to create the trigger, so the first day after the front offers the highest value sit. The 2nd day is worth less, the 3rd day a lot less and I don't believe the 4th day is even impacted.
2. The forecasted "Lo" for a day, is actually the predicted temperature for the next day's morning Lo,and not the date that was listed. For example, in the forecast that I included, the Lo of 31 for the 30th, will actually be the morning temperature for the 31st.
3. Change is a good thing!
Any forecasted change is good to take notice of, and that also includes from morning to morning, and not just daytime high to daytime high. There are often periods of major stability, and example of daytime highs could be 58, 57, 55, 59 and 57. It may appear that there is not enough of a change in the forecast to allow you to prioritize a day. However...take a look at the morning lows too! If a cloudy, minor front comes through the air will be insulated and the temps will not drop as low during the night. The forecast could read something like 33, 35, 35, 44, 33...even though the daytime highs are relatively the same. However a forecast like that would dictate that you should hunt the 33 degree morning, following a drop of 11 degrees from the morning before.
4. It's all relative.
What that means is that although a 55 to 40 degree temp drop is great, it isn't that much better than a 65 to 50 degree temp drop, because both days feature a major weather change, as indicated by the 15 degree temp drop for both days.
5. The extremity of the front plays a major role in the quality of the sits that follow. The higher the winds and the more unstable the front (including rainfall, ice and snow), the better the calm and cold days are that follow.
6. Wind speed is relative too!
A drop in wind speed from 25mph sustained winds to 10 mph is great drop...just like dropping from 17 to 2. The 17 to 2 may be worth more, but it's not worth that much more.
I can't wait to bowhunt in both OH and WI this year! The cool thing is that the weather in OH follows the weather in WI a day or 2 behind. So, by traveling back and forth between the 2 states I can come up with my own whitetail rut weather forecast to maximize my opportunities over the course of an entire 2 weeks. I hope that you can come up with similar plan to maximize the success in your own trips to a treestand. Finding success may just be a lot more definitive than you think, by letting the weather be your guide.
For additional cold front reading from my website, please visit the following related Cold Front articles from the past few years:
*Early Season Archery Cold Front Alert
*Summer Cold Front Time in the Deer Woods
*Precision October Cold Front Hunting
*Taking Advantage of October Cold Fronts
*Deer Hunting an Early Season Feeding Front
*October Lull Hunting Strategies