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NY – HUNTING – In The Outdoors: Playing the wind

“If you want to get a deer, play the wind.” Heard it all my life. But what exactly does that deer hunting mandate, “play the wind,” mean? Does it mean, hunt downwind? Well, if it was that simple, then why not just say, “Hunt downwind?” Theoretically deer could never smell us if we were downwind of them, right? An understanding of the three-word phrase might be better brought into focus by taking a look at the word “play.” In baseball, outfielders “play” hitters. Like when a left-handed batter, known to pull the ball down the first base line, is “played.” The right-fielder and centerfielder will cheat towards the first base line, and the left fielder will move toward center. In that way they are “playing” the hitter to where the odds are best to make the catch. And likewise in card games we “play” a hand of cards, or we “play” a game of chess where skill and finesse are required. So the word “play” is more complex than simply following an algorithm, like just hunting downwind. At the tail end of this most recent bow season, I had been constantly vexed by the wind and whitetails in a particular hollow that comes close to straddling the New York-Pa. border. And like in some difficult hunts, a more radical effort is what works. The small valley faces east, so one would think, no-brainer, a prevailing southwest breeze would make it perfect to hunt. But nope, there are thermals often involved so that daytime heating in the valley causes warming air to rise up the hollow, ergo dueling wind directions. As my bow hunting mentor Roger Rothhaar told me years ago, this area of Western NY and Northern Pennsylvania, where we hunt for whitetails, is the most challenging that he had experienced because the winds are so variable here. His native Ohio was less difficult to hunt, he said, like most of the Midwest, because the terrain is flat and the betraying winds much more consistent. [full article]

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