When you are headed into the deer woods for the start of bow season in a month, chances are you will have taken some scent control measures before you walk to your stand. You might use a scent killing spray or have changed into your camo in the parking lot. I also like to shower with scent-free soap and brush my teeth with an unscented toothpaste. Whatever scent control measures you do take (or if you don’t take any), you will still need to pay attention to the wind. A bad wind blowing across you and heading straight to the bedding area can cause even the most scent conscious hunter to get busted. At the end of the day, no matter how many scent-free products we use, we will still smell like a human every time we breathe.
Since we can’t escape odor, we must learn to figure out where our odor is going at all times. Some very successful hunters use little to no scent control products, but still kill mature deer by reading the wind and setting up accordingly. To understand the wind and how it carries our scent we need to be able to detect its direction at different times throughout the day.
There are many different ways to read the wind. On some properties, you may know exactly what direction the prevailing wind travels. When a strong wind blows, it is easy to read because the nearby trees will show the direction as the branches blow. Essentially, we don’t need to be worried about trying to read a wind of 30mph or greater—it will be obvious. The more subtle winds of less than 30 miles per hour are trickier to read. Thermals, especially, which occur in the morning and evening are typically less than 10 miles per hour and result in many hunters being busted by deer every year. There are a couple of great (and inexpensive) methods that you should be employing to accurately read the wind.
- Wind Indicator (i.e. baby powder) – You can buy a cheap wind indicator bottle from many different companies for just a few dollars. I am a fan of the Dead Down Wind hunting wind detector. You could also easily make your own using a travel size shampoo bottle of scent-free baby powder with a pinhole in the top. To use, you just open the top and squeeze the bottle. A small amount of powder is released into the air and will be carried by the wind. These work well, but the powder particles do have some weight to them which makes it hard to detect very subtle winds.
- Electronic Wind Indicator – The electronic wind indicators are a small grenade sized rubber container. You load them with a “vapor” cartridge. They run on a rechargeable battery. When you open the top and squeeze the container, a small poof of smoke is released. The smoke is much lighter than powder and therefore does a better job detecting very subtle winds such as thermals. The vapor cartridges typically produce about 400 puffs per cartridge. Dead Down Wind sells one for about $20 with several cartridges. The drawbacks are that you have to keep them charged and remember to purchase extra vapor cartridges.
- Milkweed – If you follow some hunting groups on social media, you have probably heard of milkweed by now. It seems this year especially, it is all anyone can talk about in the whitetail world. You get a dried milkweed pod and rip off the top. You reach in and pull out some of the fine floss and release it into the air. It is much lighter than powder and therefore known for being a very good wind indicator.
I have been using a standard wind indicator bottle filled with powder up until this year. However, after doing some experiments, I will be switching to a combination of milkweed and vapor cartridges this year. There are too many times when I could tell the wind was changing, but my powder indicator didn’t show me much. I am curious to see just how the thermals of certain properties affect the wind direction in the evening. While all of this may sound tedious, investing in a good wind indicator you trust is likely money that is well spent—especially when compared to the cost of scent-free sprays.