THE FREELANCER

how to use weather fore­cast­ing to an­tic­i­pate the best days of the rut

Outdoor Life - - HUNTING -

Fi­nally, here’s your game plan if you’re the hunter who can hit the woods at a mo­ment’s no­tice. Look at the cal­en­dar, the moon, an­nual trends, and, fi­nally, the weather fore­cast.

“I’m con­stantly watch­ing cold fronts in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber,” says Joe Elsinger. “In my opin­ion, it’s the big­gest fac­tor for deer move­ment out­side of hunt­ing pres­sure.”

Elsinger is a suc­cess­ful pub­lic-land bowhunter from Iowa, and like many of the best hunters across the coun­try, much of that suc­cess has been driven by tim­ing his hunts around cold fronts.

“I’m fa­nat­i­cal about be­ing in the right spot at the right time,” says Elsinger. “And cold fronts are one of the best ways to fig­ure that out. The best fronts fea­ture a large tem­per­a­ture drop of 15 de­grees or more in day­time highs, fol­lowed by a very high pres­sure sys­tem that boosts the baro­met­ric pres­sure up to 30.20 or higher. An­other time for peak move­ment seems to be at the tail end of the cold front, when there is still high pres­sure but winds switch again to a southerly di­rec­tion.”

Elsinger used this cold­front fo­cus to kill a ma­ture buck on a late Oc­to­ber morn­ing in 2014.

“My setup was on a scrape at the edge of known buck bed­ding,” he says. “I shot him as he was work­ing the scrape at about sun­rise on that foggy morn­ing. I was wait­ing to hunt that lo­ca­tion un­til I had those con­di­tions to max­i­mize my odds of catch­ing a ma­ture buck on his feet with a spike of pre-rut ac­tiv­ity.”

Renowned hunters such as Mark Drury, Bill Winke, and Jeff Stur­gis all com­monly dis­cuss sim­i­lar strate­gies for tim­ing the best hunts lead­ing up to and around that typ­i­cal rut time frame. And while cold fronts haven’t been found to in­flu­ence ac­tual breed­ing dates, many be­lieve they trig­ger the best move­ment and day­light rut­ting ac­tiv­ity seen each year. Tony Smith, who hunts small parcels of land in Michi­gan, has fol­lowed the cold-front rec­om­men­da­tions of Drury and Stur­gis with an im­pres­sive level of suc­cess.

Be­cause he pri­mar­ily hunts on an 11-acre piece of land, it’s cru­cial for Smith to min­i­mize his im­print on the prop­erty un­til op­ti­mum con­di­tions for deer move­ment are present.

“When hunt­ing that pre-rut and early rut, there’s ab­so­lutely no ques­tion that key­ing in on those cold fronts is es­sen­tial,” he says.

“When I see the plan­ets align, the barom­e­ter high, the dou­ble-digit tem­per­a­ture drop, and con­di­tions calm­ing af­ter a big storm or dis­tur­bance pass­ing through, I’ll do what­ever I have to do to clear my cal­en­dar and hunt, and I go to my best stands.”

In 2014, just such a front was pass­ing through in early Novem­ber, and Smith and his brother-in-law headed into the prop­erty for their first hunt of the year there. Just be­fore dark, a 4 ½-year-old buck walked un­der his brother-in­law’s stand and of­fered a 15-yard shot. This was the third time in four years that one of them had killed a 120- to 145-inch buck fol­low­ing a cold front.

One of the best re­sources around for track­ing upcoming cold fronts for your­self is wun­der ground.com, which shows de­tailed graphs map­ping out 10 days of upcoming changes in tem­per­a­ture, wind, baro­met­ric pres­sure, and pre­cip­i­ta­tion. For rut hunters look­ing to pick the right days to take off work and sit all day, this level of de­tailed weather data is a tremen­dous tool.

a mid-novem­ber cold front has this ohio buck on the prowl for es­trous does.

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