Ok, cold front hunting is certainly a moving target the further in advance that you study the forecast, but the same concepts still apply! Each and every hunting season there are only a handful of days to be in the whitetail woods and my bet is on those days that relate to the October and November cold fronts. By far, temperature change is the biggest motivator of deer movements.
However, there are many other factors that influence deer movements:
*Actual post-front temperature
*Weather conditions prior to and during the entire phase of the cold front
*Length of "boring" or stable, warm days prior to the front
*Length of the front
*Extent of the temperature drop
*Time of season:
1. Pre-rut period (roughly 10/20-11/1)
2. Rut (roughly 11/1-11/15)
3. October feeding fronts (roughly 10/1-10/20)
-if hunted correctly I believe this period of time to be very close in importance to the actual period of the Rut.
By the forecast shown below, this weekend is a very "high value" period of time to be in the woods. The length of time it will take the front to pass, the instability of the weather conditions during the front, and the 20 degree drop in daytime high temperatures within only 2 days will produce an exceptional time to stick a mature buck with an arrow; and it is only early October! The local deer herd will be sitting tight for over 2 days with high temperatures and poor weather conditions. They will lose energy reserves due to a high level of stress, and missed quality feeding opportunities. As soon as the weather breaks on 10/6, the feeding frenzy will begin!
It pays to not only recognize the quality days that are fast approaching, but to also recognize that there will only be a handful of high quality days to hunt during the next 45 days. This is typical of the an average hunting season and the stability of the weather pattern that shows in the coming weeks will hopefully revert to a warm and cold front rollercoaster of increased whitetail opportunity!
The above weather forecast features some incredible opportunities to be in the woods, but those high value days are scattered, fluid, and both few and far between. A type of stability general takes over the long range weather forecast as average highs, average lows, and typical weather patterns take over. Although the "average" tends to govern the basis of the majority of long range forecasts, you can substantially improve the accuracy of your expectations by narrowing your focus to 2-3 weeks or less. I would love to tell you that you could plan for the best days to be in the woods many months in advance through the use of moon phase charts or particular calendar days of supposed success, but this is not so. Although the moon does play a role in the influence of weather patterns, a "great" moon phase during a period of warm weather is still a poor day to find success in the woods. At the same time, a calm, cool and quiet day following a major cold front is an outstanding day to predictably count on success no matter what the moon phase.
Have you ever wondered why in 1 state it appears the rut is in full swing with bucks dropping like flies while the neighboring state or region "the rut hasn't started yet"? Same moon phase, but different weather conditions! This coming weekend's forecast shows that the cold front will be a full day earlier in passing through western IA compared to southwest WI. That same front is almost 3 days from taking place in SW NY in comparison to western IA. The point is that the difference in rutting activity can vary greatly from state to state, depending on the weather. There is another concept that applies in if you are hunting "Local", or "Non-Local" bucks, where you may be hunting the mature bucks on your own parcel with a very strong pre-rut often 2 weeks prior to hunters having to rely on mature bucks cruising to their own parcels from their neighbors; but that discussion is for another article! No matter how you look at it, the daily temperatures will play vital role in the intensity of your hunt no matter where those mature bucks call home.
Studying The Cold Fronts
There are 5 critical days the forecast shows that you need to be in the woods during the next 45 days. Although this forecast may not directly apply to you, my hope is that by the end of this article you will be able to recognize your own critical days in the region of the country that you will be hunting.
1. October 5th, 2013:
Following a week of temperatures in the mid to high 70s, the drop to 58 degrees is substantial enough! However, when you add in the variables of a 20 degree total temperature drop in 2 days, along with forecasted thunderstorms and high winds over a solid 2 day front; this is an early "Can't Miss" hunting day to be in the woods! This is too far away for any appreciable pre-rut activity, so I like to call these early to mid-October fronts, "Feeding Fronts". Morning hunts can be productive by sitting a safe distance from bedding areas on a high quality hidden and natural food source such as acorns or apples, but an evening hunt on the 5th has the opportunity to be as good as it gets for this time of year. Focus your efforts on an evening food source that is near a potential mature buck daytime hotspot. If you have a waterhole added to help attract and define the deer movements to their evening food source you are really playing the game to perfection! This is the type of day when you can expect to catch a first glimpse of some of the oldest bucks in the neighborhood, while they approach a food source well before dark.
2. October 26th, 2013:
What do you get when you add a 9 degree temperature drop after week of boring and stable weather towards the later third of October? OUTSTANDING Pre-Rut Opportunities! Mature bucks will be extremely active throughout the morning hours, as well as a short period of time prior to dark. This is one of those days that I refer to as a "50%" sit, meaning that if you have done your homework, you have preserved your stand locations, and sit between or on the downwind side of a couple of quality bedding areas you have a very high likelihood of finding morning success. If you enter this stand location on a low quality day like October 18th for a 5% sit, you could very well destroy a 50% sit only 8 days later. It takes patience and planning, but if you have mature bucks that reside in and around your parcel, this is the morning to kill one of them with a very predictable level of success! In the evening focus again on feeding patterns. During the pre-rut period mature bucks will be on the move during the evening hours, but this is a great time to hunt drastically different stands from morning to evening while focusing on bedding area cruisers early, and hungry monarchs late. It is possible to get two 50% sits in the same day by switching your stand locations at this time of the year!
3. November 3rd, 2013:
Nothing screams "RUT" like a cold early November day! Add a near 10 degree temperature drop from the previous 2 days and you have the trigger in place to give mid-rut movements a substantial boost. This is the day to find an all-day cruising stand. Hidden travel corridors between bedding areas, parallel to field edges with a waterhole in play can offer very high quality sits. Depending on if you are hunting local or non-local bucks the action can be fast and furious or a waiting game between potential cruising monsters. With virtually every deer in the woods headed for food before darkness, this is also a great time to pick a stand that relates to a food source in some way. I personally like the downwind edges of food sources in hopes to ambush a buck as he scent checks the hungry doe herd under the cover of the timber. Whichever stand you choose, I suggest you pick a different stand than you would have used 8 days earlier. What is the best stand on your property? The one you shoot your next mature buck from!
4. November 9th, 2013:
If you don't really have a lot of mature bucks on your property, this is a great time for seat time. All day sits for mid-to late rut mature bucks can be slow, but it only takes 1 monster to speed up the day! This is also a time when some of the oldest bucks fall, as they exhaust the breeding opportunities near their familiar fall daytime haunts, and spend extended time on their feet in search of their last doe of the primary rut. During this day it is tough to say which is best; morning, mid-day, or evening? It really depends on the whims and personality of the mature buck that may travel your way. I had a true southwest WI beast get within 10 yards of me as I watched a small herd of does and fawns during this period in 2006. As I attempted to pull back my bowstring while he began pestering the fawns, the mature does took 1 look at him and high-tailed it away, with him in tow. I was so close, but those does had been pushed and proded for most likely 2 weeks and they were vary wary of any approaching mature bucks! Although the % of success per sit may be 1/2 or less than a true 50% sit, this period of time through mid-November is the 1 period of time where the more you sit, the more likely you are to have an opportunity at a mature buck. It still pays to avoid burning-out your favorite stand, but extended seat times during even above average days can pay big rewards.
5. November 14, 2013:
49 degrees, 49 degrees, 35...Need I say more? Although this is towards the end of the primary rut in most locations, it's not too late! A major cold-front during this period offers a substantial opportunity for you to go into most rifle season with a "bang" during archery season. Cruising stands between bedding areas during the morning can be good, as well as secure, and unpressured evening food source movements. Mature bucks often are fairly wary by the end of the rut, they are tired, worn out, have dropped significant weight, and have often been shot at and or heavily pressured. A random doe may come into estrus, but I like treating this time of the season much like I would the pre-rut; great hunting early in the day, as well as just prior to dark.
I love to hunt whitetails and basically, whitetails only! For over 20 years I have hunted by the weather, often saving my best of stands for the "perfect" conditions of temperature and wind direction. The more I have refined this approach my total sits per mature buck opportunity have been significantly reduced. In 2006 I sat 110 times in 4 states for 2 mature bucks, passing on over 50 different bucks. Did I have a good year? Well...kind of! That was a lot of stress on my stand locations, body, and mind, let alone my family. For the last several years I have reduced that ratio to 4-6 sits per mature buck opportunity and it is not that I don't like to hunt whitetails by any means! Instead, I greatly enjoy the opportunity for precision in my hunting. There is so much more to be able to have fun doing during the season, including: Time with my kids, my new bride, my close friends and of course writing about and filming whitetails. I also love to hunt multiple whitetail states, so with a host of various priorities and the need to be efficient with my time, I love to be able to more definitively forecast my next great whitetail hunt!
Weather forecasts are forever changing, but I hope that you will be able to recognize those handful of days that you should focus your efforts on within the next several weeks. I understand that not every hunter's schedule is as flexible as mine, but maybe you can find that fewer days to take off may actually equate to a much higher level of success when you learn to effectively use the forecast to predict your next mature buck!