Trust the Weatherman

By Larry D. Jones, TV Producer

Years ago, my uncle used to say, "It's going to rain tomorrow. My arthritis is acting up." Often he was right, but sometimes he was wrong. And the only way he could tell you which way the wind was blowing was by inserting his finger in his mouth, and then holding it up in the air. Despite his arthritis, he was not good at predicting the weather.

Of course, I should not criticize my uncle, because back in those days, the local weatherman on the radio couldn't do a whole lot better. Often he would predict rain, but the weather would turn out sunny and warm. Or he would predict partly cloudy, and a steady rain would set in. I always figured the radio weatherman had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Heck, my uncle could do almost that well.

Things have changed. Today with weather radar, satellite systems, computer modeling, and whatever other technological marvels weather forecasters use, prediction of the weather has become almost an exact science. I still wouldn't put a lot of faith in the old-time radio weathermen -- or in my uncle -- but these days I do trust professional weather reports.

And that's important in hunting. We all know that weather can turn a great hunt into a disaster, and because that's true, I have always tried to get a handle on the weather -- with particular interest in wind direction and temperature -- before heading out from my house or a lodge to hunt. Wind direction is critical, of course, for picking the right stand location. And temperature dictates the right clothing on any given day in the stand.

In the past my weather check usually involved listening to the radio or watching the local news on TV, and, as I have suggested above, this proved to be somewhat of a guessing game. Despite the weather report, the wind sometimes would switch unexpectedly, and my stand selection would end up being all wrong. Or the temperature would change drastically, and my clothing would be inadequate for the situation.

Those days of pure guesswork, I'm happy to report, are over. Modern weather forecasters, with all of their sophisticated gear, often nail weather changes precisely, and now I not only trust what the weatherman says, but I use his predictions to plan my hunts.

Continued -- click on page link below.

Last fall, my friend Scott McIlvoy and I were hunting in Illinois to capture footage for Bowhunter Magazine TV. In 2003, I had videotaped Scott shooting a buck, so now it was Scott's turn to run the camera while I tried to shoot a deer. If I were successful, we would trade off.

Part of our hunt routine was to consult a weather website on the computer twice a day. One morning, the Internet weather site said the wind was going to change 180 degrees at 8:30 a.m. We pondered this for some time, and I even suggested that we sleep in and then head to the field only after the wind had changed. But we couldn't believe the weatherman could predict the time that precisely -- and we couldn't bear the thought of not hunting -- so we ignored his prediction and climbed into our stands early.

However, even on the way to our stands, I remember saying, "If this weather report is right, the wind will switch about the time deer are coming through the area."

Scott chuckled and said, "Yes, I know, but we don't have another place to hunt, so lets take a chance and hope the deer will come through before the wind switches direction."

Just before 8:30, Scott spotted a doe and her fawn walking briskly up the well-beaten trail toward our stands. The deer were on time -- and so was the wind switch. Just before the deer came within bow range, the wind switched -- at the exact time the weather report had predicted. We could only shake our heads in dismay as two white flags waved goodbye. If only we had trusted the weatherman. Not only did we ruin a good spot for the morning, but we lost out on some sleep. Next time I'll go back to bed. The weatherman knows!

During that same hunt, temperatures were unseasonably warm, slowing deer movement. So when our afternoon on-line weather check said the temperature would drop 10 degrees between 2 p.m. and dark, Scott and I enthusiastically headed to our stands right after lunch, figuring deer might move early in the cooling weather. This time we were banking on the weatherman.

The online weather information -- and our prediction that deer would move early -- were spot on. We started seeing deer an hour before the sun dipped below the horizon, and Scott captured the best buck footage we got during our nine days of hunting. A small buck walked under our stands, another 4-point buck raked and rubbed a sapling within bow range, and we saw two bucks that I would have shot in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the larger buck, a huge 10-pointer, was interested in a doe and followed her as she fed in another direction. The other buck, a long-tined 8-pointer, came close -- but not close enough for me to shoot.

A number of websites offer accurate weather information. Scott and I used a couple: www.accuweather.com and www.weather.com. Essentially, you type in your zip code and hit GO. Then you click on HOURLY FORECAST. When that pops open, you will find a chart that tells you, hour by hour, exactly what kind of weather will be hitting your area -- clouds, sunshine, rain, snow, hail. An accompanying chart lists temperature, dew point, wind speed and direction, humidity, and other information.

With all of these data you can make wise decisions on where to hunt, when to hunt, and what kind of clothing to wear. And you'll get more sleep. In this modern day, weather forecasting has become a precise science that can serve as a valuable tool for better whitetail hunting. Just consult your weatherman. Or your uncle.

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