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