Deer Hunting Wind Direction

Wind direction is an extremely important concept when it comes to hunting whitetails. This doesn’t just stop at whitetails. Many big game animals live and die by their nose. Playing the wind is something that all deer hunters should know.

In today’s technology age, even the best technology can’t always fool a whitetails nose. There are cover sprays, scent lock suits, Ozonics devices, and all other kind of gadgets to try and mask or cover human scent. Some work some don’t.

The best way to beat a whitetails nose is to be downwind from them. Having the wind moving from them to you so they don’t get a whiff of your scent.

I’ve had deer coming in completely oblivious to the fact that I was there and the wind suddenly switched directions and just like that they wheeled and were gone. Only takes that one split-second for the wind to change to cause havoc with your hunting success.

Wind Directionwind direction diagram

Knowing the wind direction is key. In my opinion it is the most important thing that a hunter can do. All the fancy clothing and upgrades to your gun, bow, or crossbow is going to be worthless if you get sniffed. I’ve seen tons of pictures over the years of long gone relatives that used to hunt in their red checkered flannel shirts and blue jeans.

They were successful even though they didn’t have all the technology of today. They learned to play the win in their favor. This is one of the primary reasons that I hunt using a climbing tree stand. It allows me to move around fairly easily to play the wind direction in my favor.

In the example you can see that the optimal stand location is downwind of where the hunter expects the deer to be traveling. Is this an exact science, NO. Deer can be patterned but have the bad habit of showing up in unexpected places. Trails are just that a path that the deer will follow a lot of the time but they will also just travel in whatever direction that they are going to.

Scentskunk. stinky and Scent Control

Deer have a phenomenal nose. It is better and trusted more than their eyesight. Minimizing human scent is a concept that has made a huge impact in hunting. Many companies have come up with strays, deodorant, washing machine detergent, etc. All claiming to be able to eliminate human scent.

Some work some don’t. The best practice is to not give the animal a scent to smell. Cover scents can help with this endevour but not one I trust. A deer’s nose is hard to fool. In my experiences being downwind is the best option. I do try and eliminate as much human scent as I can but don’t go out of my way to spend sometime thousands of dollars on the latest gimmicks. I make sure that I shower and use a scent free soap. Human scent is something that a deer associates with danger.

Eliminating as much scent as possible will increase the odds for success. Playing the wind has always been successful for me. Scent control is one of the most important tactics a successful hunter can employ. You can hunt without the latest hunting cloths, or latest hunting weapon but you won’t be as successful as possible without knowing about scent control and tactics that go with it.


Thermals are another area that I pay attention to. In the morning as the air at the ground is warming, air columns will be moving up from the ground into the atmosphere. In the evening the opposite is true. By knowing this, it will change my hunting tactics especially when hunting around hills.

In the evening when the thermals are moving back towards the earth, it will pull scent downhill with it. By knowing this I can change my hunting strategy to match what is going to happen later on in the evening. Same holds true in the morning when I am hunting on the sides of the hills.

In the morning I hunt higher up on the hillside, in the evening I move to hill bottoms. Knowing what is going to happen will help you make better decisions of where to hunt.

Stand locations

Be mindful of predominate wind directions when setting up semi/permanent stands. Hunting a stand when the wind is wrong is a surefire way to hurt that stand location. Deer can only bust you so many times before they will either come in on high alert every time or avoid the area all together.

I personally will pass on a stand location even if it has produced over and over again if the wind is not right. I’d rather leave it for another day. I set up several stands locations that will handle different wind directions so that I’ll always have a stand to hunt. Since I started to follow this tactic, my success rate has gone way up.

I am always mindful of the wind direction and check it often. Even when I am on the stand I keep an eye on the wind. I’d rather be caught moving from one stand to another than be busted in a stand with the wrong wind.

Wrapping it up

Playing close attention to the wind direction can help with your success. I’ve watched many deer over the years and have learned many things about them. Their nose is king over all the other senses. A deer’s nose is an extremely sensitive instrument which can pick up minute particles of human and other scents. Paying attention to wind directions will help give the hunter an advantage over the deer.

Deer can pop up anywhere. They tend to travel following trails but not always. Controlling human scent is something that every hunter should be conscientious of. Thermals are also something to be mindful of. Once I started to keep an eye on what the wind direction was and what I found it was going to do with the thermals, my success rate went way up.

I look forward to your questions or comments below.

Dan Stevens

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10 thoughts on “Deer Hunting Wind Direction”

  1. First of all  I had no idea that the wind was a key factor in hunting. You do really learn something everyday. My boyfriend is an Army veteran and he loves hunting. He talks about it all the time. I’ve never been but I would love to try one day. This article would be very helpful to many people trying to get into deer hunting. Thanks for sharing.

    • The wind is very important as a deer’s nose is very sensitive to the different smells.  They have come to associate human scent with danger and will avoid it whenever they can.  I encourage you to try out hunting.  It not for everyone.  My wife for example absolutely refuses to hunt but doesn’t give me a hard time when I do.  Thank you for your comment.  Dan

  2. I had no idea that deer had such a keen sense of smell. I wouldn’t even think to bounce around from deer stand to deer stand based on the direction of the wind. My uncle is an avid hunter and will appreciate me sending your website to him..not only for this info but for any gear that he may need in the upcoming season.Is it better to also not shower the day of and pass on the deodorant as well for your day out hunting?

    • I do shower before hunting on occasion but not always. Play the wind and use of scent killer spray helps a lot. There are products available like scent free soaps and deodorant that one can use. I tried using them and didn’t see a major difference in the number or type of deer that I was seeing with or without the scent free soaps and deodorant. 

      Play the wind is an important aspect of hunting. Some people will swear by them some don’t.  People have been killing deer for centuries without those products.

      I think that using some of the things helps with confidence of the hunter. The placebo effect so to speak.  Thank you for your comment. Dan

  3. This was interesting to read. My grandfather and father were hunters, and I had never them talk about using sprays or other stuff to mask human smell. Back in those days, we used to take it for granted when they brought game home, thinking it only took a good hiding spot and a perfect aim to kill game.

    I can now only imagine that it must have been more difficult to hunt game in the past than in the current era. What would you say are the most effective products that help to mask human scent? Do you rely on any of these or just use the other tactics that you mentioned in your article?

    Thank you! 

    • The aspects of hunting really hasn’t changed over the years.  The tactics that I learned years ago still hold true today. I do use scent killer spray to help cut down human scent but I know that it is not a cure all.  During the rut I do use doe in heat scent on occasion.  I have killed many bucks during the rut using scents.  They do work.  I haven’t had huge success using scents outside the rut.  Others have to your mileage may very.  I would suggest that you try them out and see.

      I do use a buck decoy on occasion and have had decent success during the rut using them. Thank you for your comment. Dan

  4. The thrill of the hunt is always exciting. Although I am an avid fishermen I have yet to go on a hunt even though I watch the outdoor channel every morning before work, and every Sunday morning while I lay in bed. My question is how do you watch the wind? what instrument are you using to do so? 

    Does the rain play a factor into covering human scent or does it intensify it? There are a lot of questions I have because  want to begin hunting but there is no one that wants to go with me. This information about the wind is a good start for me to get going now I wanna grab a crossbow and go at it.

    • I use nature for the most part.  Watch which way the leaves are moving. I hunt where it’s usually cold so i’ll use my breath. I do carry a little bottle of talcum powder which doesn’t affect deer that I have seen.  There is commercial products available and I have used them but found that the talcum powder works just as good.  

      The rain does play a factor in human scent.  I have seen it push the scent down faster.  That being said I really enjoy hunting in the light rain. The deer seem to be much more at ease but you have to make sure that you make a good shot.  Bad shots will be extremely hard to tract. Water will wash the blood away. 

      There are hunting groups out there that may be able to help you get started in hunting in your area. Thanks for you comment. Dan 

  5. Very impressive. You are right that hunters back in the days, didn’t know anything about technology,yet their success rates were really higher than they are today.

    Little did I know that it all had to do with scents and thermals. With all the technology around now, many hunters will find it harder and harder to succeed at this hunting if they don’t return to elementary hunting knowledge. This post is a great read, and an invaluable asset for hunters looking for success. I hope they stumble across this article soon enough. Thanks a lot for sharing.

    • Scent is one of the most important aspects of hunting.  A deer’s nose it the sense that it trusts the most.  Deer have been hunted for centuries and have been passed from generation to generation that human scent means danger.  I’ve had deer really close to me without camo on when I’m out checking cameras and such.  Soon as they catch my scent they come to full alert.  Technology is helping with all the different aspects but knowing the why will better serve the hunter over the technology.  Thank you for the comment.  Dan

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