Early season deer hunting means you'll get some of your first cracks at those big bucks that have been on your trail cameras all summer. But it also introduces the idea of hunting through hot, humid weather, something deer certainly don't appreciate. Depending on where you live, hunting in warm weather may be more or less common. In areas of the south, it is almost a necessity for early archery and youth seasons, and can stretch longer than you think. Our editor Eric hunts whitetail deer in Texas each season and has even been on an August blacktail hunt in California wine country, so he has experienced many situations where the temps rise above 80 degrees F by midday. Some deer hunters simply do not bother until temperatures drop and start spurring more deer movement during the daylight hours. However, if you have been planning a hunt a year or more in advance, and only have one opportunity to make it happen, those sort of weather conditions often leave you no choice.
It's well worth it to address the changes needed to apply meaningful deer hunting strategies in hot weather. You want to know when you are most likely to see deer movement, where to set up, and eventually how to take care of your venison to prevent spoilage. Most of these tips pertain mostly to whitetail hunting, but you could use them for others like the mule deer or blacktail too. Keep an open mind, because warm temperatures do not always mean terrible hunting conditions!
Deer Behavior in Warm Weather
Unfortunately, hot weather is usually quite the detriment during deer season, especially if you are after a mature buck. Deer are like most other animals. When they get overheated, they don't want to expend a lot of energy and are more apt to spend hours lounging on their bellies than walking past your tree stand. For further proof of this, simply look at your summer trail camera photos and note how many were taken at high noon compared to how many were taken in the early morning or evening. Hunting warm weather is a whole different ballgame when stacked up against hunting the cold weather of the rut or late season. While this means less movement, the positive is that it often means more predictable movement.
During warm spells, look for deer to do as little traveling as possible. The only movement they make all day may be a simple walk from their bedding area to their feeding area and back again. The rest of the daytime? Those deer are probably resting in the shade and trying to stay as cool as possible. Look at the times on your trail cameras very carefully to determine exactly what the deer are doing as temperatures spike. Everyone may be sluggish and lazy on warm days, but this also makes deer behavior easier to pin down.
Give your water sources extra attention too, especially if one just happens to be on the path between a bedding and feeding area. Odds are good that a buck is going to stop off there. Hunters can turn the odds in their favor by creating their own watering hole with a strategically-placed water tank. Check your local regulations before following through to ensure it's legal first.
Another warm weather deer hunting consideration is the types of food sources in your area. Usually, foods that hold moisture are going to attract and hold more deer activity in hot weather than those that do not. For instance, an apple orchard is probably going to draw more deer than a dusty, dried-out beanfield. If you are planning a food plot, consider big leafy plants. Winter greens, brassicas, and large clovers that will hold that morning dew longer are wise choices. Sometimes, it is the subtle things like plant choice that will make all the difference in your hunt.
For the most part, you should expect deer movement at either dawn or right before dusk. While we are certain there are folks out there who have killed a buck during the heat of midday, you do not hear success stories like that in hot conditions too often. Even some of the best whitetail hunters in the world seem to agree: when it comes to hot weather hunting, less is more. Focus your on-stand times for when it makes the most sense, andbe extremely careful when entering and exiting your stand in those times. It can be very easy to bump deer out of the area if you are not careful.
Remember that just like during the colder months, a sudden weather shift can suddenly spur deer activity. Watch for light, rainy days or at least a dip in temperatures that will get big game up on their feet when they are otherwise glued to their beds.
Taking Care of Venison in Hot Weather
The elephant in the room with hot weather deer hunting is meat spoilage. Normally, this is not something most hunters worry about because it is adequately cold during October, November and December to preserve your venison. However, when temperatures hit 70, 80, 90 or above, speed is of the essence on any deer hunt. Follow up on your shot as fast as feels comfortable, depending on the type of hit you think you made. This can make for some difficult decisions if you believe you have a bad hit. It is a risk that comes with hunting warmer conditions.
Once you recover the animal, field dress it as quickly as possible. It's not a bad idea to prop the body cavity open to allow a little additional air circulation while transporting it. Unless you have a large walk-in freezer to store your harvest, it is best to cut the deer up immediately. If you do not have time to do it yourself, you'll want to take it to a processor the same night.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has a great document on their website all about hot weather carcass care. They note that temperatures as low as 40 degrees F may cause bacteria to start growing in the venison. That's scary stuff, and not a part of the harvest anyone would want to deal with. Whatever you do, do not wait!
One method that Eric, our Texas-hunting editor, has found success with involves a couple bags of ice that are in a quality cooler and ready to be packed inside the body cavity to help keep things cool. He's usually riding on a UTV to and from his hunting spots, and he's always trying to have everything ready for a hot weather harvest ahead of time by including that valuable ice. He suggests that if you aren't able to do the full processing within a few hours in seriously hot weather, it's best to just take it to a commercial processor so it can at least get inside a freezer. Take his advice so you are not wasting precious time scrambling for materials.
How to Gear Up for Warm Weather Deer Hunting
Warm-weather hunting can be completely miserable if you do not pick the proper hunting gear, and this is especially true for bowhunting. You simply cannot wear the same gear you use during the cold season. Here are our suggested items for warm weather deer hunting gear.
Lightweight Warm Weather Deer Hunting Apparel
Look for camo clothing that is moisture-wicking, light, and breathable, like the SITKA Gear Core Lightweight Crew. In most instances, you are only going to want a single layer. Fortunately for us, hunting clothing technology is continually advancing, and many companies are making some great light gear that is targeted specifically for the hot weather hunter, but can also be incorporated later in the season as base layers. It is usually less expensive when compared to insulated, weatherproof winter gear, so it's not as big of an investment. Too many hunters forget to consider their comfort before going afield in warm conditions, and it leads to a miserable experience that many never repeat.
Hydration for Warm Weather
Do not forget to hydrate, either. Bring water or other drinks with you and do not be shy about using them. A collapsable water bottle, like the camo one above that's under $20 on Amazon, would be great for easy packing and carrying. Bringing fluids to drink is simply common sense as much as it is a comfort thing. Heat stroke or dehydration are very real and can be devastating if you are not careful.
Bug Protection for Warm Weather Hunting
One more thing to think about when hunting in warm weather is the presence of insects. You will probably have to deal with them, and they can take a simple hot sit and make it a thousand times more miserable. I recommend Thermacell's products. They make some nice, scent-free mosquito repelling devices that will keep you from getting eaten alive. However, some scent control companies have recently started hopping into the bug repellent market too with specialty sprays that are also designed to be scent-free.
Speaking of scents, we do need to mention scent control. When it is hot out, we sweat. That's just a fact of life. This leads to odor and human odors are a huge red flag for any big game animal. Quality scent control clothing is great, but you should also consider deodorant and a cover scent spray. Don't rush out to your blind or treestand if you can avoid it. We recommend not making your hunts too physically demanding in hot weather, both for scent control purposes and for an easier recovery of the animal.
The Bottom Line on Deer Hunting in Warm Weather
Remember that early season, hot weather bucks are likely still holding onto their summer patterns just a bit. Use that to your advantage if you can. Some states offer seasons that start ridiculously early in late August. Many of these deer are not even thinking about the dangers of hunting season. Use that to your advantage to try new spots you may not use at other times of the year. Sometimes these places can produce a nice buck that may not hold deer during any other time of year.
Hot weather deer are primarily looking to keep cool. That's it. There is not big mystery to how deer move in these conditions. If you can figure out the best ways for them to do that, you already have a huge advantage over other hunters. Study your topo maps and satellite images. Find where they are bedding, find where they are eating, and it should be simple from there. Rather than hunting simply the bedding, feeding or water source, I recommend finding a funnel and meeting the deer halfway. You will likely have more encounters and more chances doing it this way.
Many hunters simply do not even try when the weather is hot. They wait for the first cold front. That means that warm weather deer hunting is a great time to go if you hate competition, especially on public land. It is a totally different style of hunting, but for the hunter dedicated enough to master it, it is a highly effective one too. Consider giving it a try this year, you may be surprised at the results!
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