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Making Sense of Deer Scents

Whitetail Deer Hunting Tips and Articles

The Rainy Season

February 3, 2016

Everything was wet and that means everything. “What away to treat a Pre-64 Model 70,” I thought disgustedly, as the rain pelted my body and ran in sheets off my equipment. Cold water trickled down the inside of my legs and I knew my long johns would be stained red from the wool shirt I wore. The past few buck seasons in my home state of Pennsylvania have been rainy ones. Someone forgot to tell the man in charge of such things that it was supposed to snow during December deer season, or at least be clear and cold. Hunting in frigid weather doesn’t bother me anymore, and snow can be a great benefit, but rain I detest. With firearms season generally only a couple of weeks long, however, we’d better learn to hunt the rains; waiting for a fair day may well mean no hunt at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quality equipment can mean everything in wet weather, especially in the hunter’s choice of optics. That cheap scope that was so brilliantly clear in the summer may be next to worthless after a day in the rain. I’m not a rifle snob, knowing I could well take my bucks as easily with a 788 Remington as with my Model 70, but I admit to being prejudiced where scopes are concerned. An inexpensive rifle may shoot just as well as its more expensive brother, the difference being aesthetic more than anything else, but the difference in cheap and expensive scopes is usually durability. Under that durability umbrella comes the ability to handle moisture. A scope that lets even a little moisture enter its body will be useless when the temperature drops and allows it to freeze. Quality scopes include a better sealing system and this, plus better adjustments and lenses, are what you pay for. Clarity is just part of the picture and should be kept in mind when the scope is purchased. Lens caps are another indispensable item when the downpours come.

 

These inexpensive items are priceless when needed. Some come with two end caps and a gum band connector. Upon sighting gain, the shooter only need flick one end loose and the other will fly off too. Another type which I use has two independent covers which flip open like little doors when you flick the trigger. I’ve never had mine fail, although after hard use, I broke the trigger on one. Some lens caps have transparent plastic windows that I don’t care for. I just don’t like paying a couple hundred dollars for optics and then looking through pieces of plastic which diminish the image quality. Actually, a homemade lens cover cut from an inner tube works as well as anything. Just cut a two-inch band from an old tire tube, (if you can find one) and stretch it over the scope. One other thing I find indispensable is tissue, not for my runny nose, but to wipe off any rain that gets on my scope, and I do check it frequently.

 

The rifle itself should be prepared well before the season. All unfinished wood should be sealed. This means not only the magazine and barrel channel, but under the buttplate or pistol grip cap, I once owned a tack-driving rifle that after a good soaking wouldn’t keep its shots inside a dinner plate. Losing the accuracy of that rifle taught me a lesson. Most gunstocks are made of wood and, as we all know, wood is prone to war-page. In a gunstock even a very slight warpage can ruin accuracy, and even make the rifle that was so well-sighted-in shoot to a different point of impact. Even the changes in humidity in

one’s home can cause this shift in some instances. Very few rifles change point of impact because of loose screws. In ninety percent of the cases it’s wood shift. Keep this in mind when using a rifle in the rain.

 A heavy coat of wax will help protect that expensive finish and a little wax on the metal can prevent rust. In my own case, a soaked rifle will not be removed from the stock until the season ends, unless I can get to a range to re-sight it in. The simple operation of dismantling a rifle can again cause a major shift in aim. At the end of the hunting day, I may run a dry patch through the bore and fastidiously clean the outside, but if it is going to rust where I can’t get at it, let it. That big buck is more important than my rifle, because the rifle will wait, the buck won’t.

 Clothing becomes important during those cold, miserable rains. Nothing is worse than a soggy, down jacket. Down depends totally on its fluff to provide protection from the elements. When wet, it loses this fluff and is next to worthless. Much better is wool. Wool may be heavy, but it protects when wet. or dry. A good poncho or rain jacket is invaluable at times like this. Today’s rainwear can be rolled up and carried easily if you don’t need it.

 

My son, Pat, wears eyeglasses and has found the advantage of a wide-brimmed hat in wet weather to keep his vision clear. Not having one in the required orange last season, he took one of my western hats and wrapped it with blaze orange plastic. It was, quite effective. Rain means mud and wet grounds. No leather boot I’ve found is one hundred percent waterproof, so we wear rubber. Few things are worse than wet feet. Cigarettes and matches should be carried in waterproof wrapping, and I learned the hard way that chewing tobacco should also.

 

 Two years ago, my Levi Garrett ran down the back of my leg after a good soaking. Although not clothing, a piece of waterproof material about two feet square is invaluable for a ground cloth to sit on. Baggies are another thing I carry on wet days, In an emergency they can be placed on the lens of a scope while on stand, keeping it dry. Like every other hunter, sometimes the rains catch me unprepared. Normally on stand my rifle is leaned against a nearby tree or post, for I find it can be brought into action from that position faster than a slung rifle. Also, I squirm less than if it is held for an extended period of time. During a rain, it’s a simple thing to place a baggy or candy wrapper over the objective lens of the scope to keep it dry. When the rifle is raised, the paper will fall, leaving the scope clear. The ocular lens is naturally protected in this position.

 

The muzzle of the rifle should be shielded from rain or snow and this is easily accomplished. A baggy or piece of plastic wrap kept in place by a gum band will keep the bore dry, and the rifle can be fired in a hurry without removing the paper with no effects or change in accuracy. The secret here is to keep any bore protector outside the bore, NEVER in the barrel. It never hurts to carry an extra bore protector in one’s shirt pocket. It doesn’t take up much room and if you fire a shot or lose the one on the rifle, you have a spare. In fact, a few baggies and gum bands are a permanent fixture in the pocket of my wool hunting shirt. While most of us would much prefer not to hunt at all during rainy weather, many times it’s that or no hunt at all.

 

Seasons usually last only a couple of weeks, or less, and many more people have only a few days off from work. So hunt in the rain we must. Foul weather can come in different degrees and a mild rain is more a discomfort than anything else. During a mild wetting, the hunter can slip silently through cover, but visibility will be somewhat limited. This limited visibility may well be the biggest advantage of rainy weather. I remember well a deer a few years ago that I spotted in a field. It rained all day and in the afternoon turned foggy. Normally this cornfield provides 400 yards of view, but that day the visibility decreased to only about fifty yards. During one of the clearer periods I spotted him, a ghostly vision slowly crossing the field about loo yards away. Instinct told me he was a buck but how big?

 

The more I tried to make out his rack, the more the fog shrouded him and I watched as he worked his way into the woods and disappeared. Visibility is important and that day lack of it cost me a good buck. Oh, well, I think he had but one antler anyway. Does rainy weather diminish one’s chances? Because of all the problems related to it, I believe it does, but I also believe any day’s a good day to hunt deer. Last year saw another of those foul opening days. Despite the rains, Eileen, Pat and I all had bucks by noon. I shot a seven-pointer as it crossed a field in the rain, Pat got a nine-pointer chased to him by his mother, and Eileen stalked an eight-pointer as it lay in a thick tangle of briars. Soaked to the skin, cold and miserable, our spirits were not in the least bit dampened.

 

The hunter who hunts in the rain has a few precautions he should take to lessen the chance of losing a wounded buck. First and foremost, weather conditions should always be considered when taking a shot. Wounding a deer five minutes before quitting time leaves little time for tracking and rain washes out sign, making a tracking job very difficult When it rains, be sure of your shot. If the deer doesn’t drop, mentally mask the spot the deer was at and

the place where he was last seen. It isn’t easy to do that. Listen for the direction he takes when he hits the woods, the breaking of branches, crashing, etc. Take note of all this before moving, for it’s surprising how different things look when viewed from a different spot. Can deer be hunted successfully during a rainstorm? As I said previously, we all scored last year on a miserable opening day. The year before my buck came during a down pour, but the one that really taught me a lesson came long ago on a mountain in northern Pennsylvania.

 

It was one of the worst opening days in Pennsylvania history as far as rain is concerned. Some hunters actually carried umbrellas in the woods. More scopes fogged that day than is normal in ten years. One

manufacturer capitalized on that day by mentioning in his ads that his brand was the only one that survived in appreciable numbers. As is usual, I was on stand at 6:45 A.M, and already drenched. By noon the hordes that invade good deer woods had given up and were in their cabins pouring water from their boots, drying clothes on any available hangers and drinking coffee. I remained on my stand (partly because I was too stiff to move) questioning my sanity, and definitely miserable. I may not be smart,but I am bullheaded.

No hunter felt more elation than I did that day when he came, for I had surely earned him. Wet and tired, I actually enjoyed the solitude of the drag out of the woods with my eight-point trophy. The others may have been dry and comfortable but I’m the one who got his buck. I learned many things about being in the rain that year and now, though the down-pours may come, I’ll be out. No, I won’t enjoy the weather, but I’ll be there, baggies in my shirt pocket, perhaps a plastic garbage bag in my hip pocket. My arthritis may hurt, and my rifle may rust, but I’ll be there looking for my buck and probably I’ll get him.

 

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