The moment you have waited for all year is on the horizon, the beginning of another archery season will soon be at hand, and you're feeling pretty good about yourself and what you have done to prepare for the new season. You took your compound to the archery shop had a safety check done on it, greased the cables replaced that worn serving and waxed the string.
Then spent hours throwing arrows at a foam deer target in your backyard till your fingers hurt, pretending with each shot that the foam target was the monster buck you spotted when scouting the property you're planning to hunt the first morning.
Finally the day arrives; you're seated in your stand waiting for the magic time of the morning when dawn breaks. The morning begins picture perfect, as the first soft light of the new day begins to appear on the eastern horizon there's a slight breeze blowing through the hollow carrying along with it the spicy scent of the fall woods, you inhale deeply filling your lungs with its fragrance. The overnight frost that had softened the leaves which helped cover your movements on the way in, the sun will soon be burning off and you know that once it does you will probably be able to hear a squirrel coming from a hundred yards away. Good, you think to yourself, no buck will be sneaking around me today; all is well in my world.
When the sun begins to rise the breeze picks up and you detect something else in the air, that clean scent that always seems to come before a rain fills your nostrils, the sky on the horizon darkens, then you feel it, the first drops of rain start to fall. As we all do, you make up your mind to stick it out rain or no rain.
We all know where this is going don't we?
Because of the evenings before weather forecast that had promised a beautiful fall day we either didn't bring rain gear or brought the wrong type. Sadly now regardless of how determined we were to stay after an hour or two of sitting in pouring rain we're now stomping out of the woods heading back to the car.
If you add cold winds and temperatures to this scenario it will shorten your comfort level even quicker.
So what is the answer to this dilemma? First, I guess would be, don't count on the weatherman or his predictions COME PREPARED. The hunter who has taken vacation, traveled quite a distance or bought an expensive non-resident license and spent a small fortune on gas to get to their hunting grounds does not want to hear don't go if its raining.
Unlike the old days, today we are blessed with a wide range of waterproof gear that will cover a hunter from head to foot and keep them comfortable even in the worst conditions. But what is actually needed?
Let's start with the hat, my choice would be one of Gore-Tex, the one I wear is a bucket or boonie style with a soft brim that reverses from camouflage to fluorescent orange which I use when hunting states that require its use.
Next would be what you decide to wear under your outer camouflage clothing.
This would be dictated by the time of year you are bow hunting, the only common denominator being that it be dark colored. Obviously if the weather is warm you would want to wear something lightweight but even in warm weather if it rains the temperatures often drop. I have covered this by including a lightweight fleece vest in my pack. If I'm not wearing it I put it behind me and use it as a backrest, which sure helps when you lean back and find that you missed a piece of branch on that tree and its sticking out just enough to be an annoyance.
The camouflage jacket, pants or bibs you choose other than the preparations you make for wet weather with your bow are the next single most important decision you will have to make.
Again, I have chosen Gore-Tex, although it is expensive it is the best choice. Because it has a breathable membrane, which prevents rain from getting into the garment it also allows perspiration to pass through to its outside keeping the hunter comfortable.
Good rain gear may be expensive but when you take into consideration it can be used year round for many outdoor activities and it now is also available in soft nap fleece finishes which are quiet and add an element of warmth without weight it makes it that much more of a good investment.
Most camouflage manufacturers also offer gloves for both the archer and rifle hunter in this same material and camo patterns.
I personally use and recommend:
The last item but certainly not least is the choice of boots.
Many of today's hunters already prefer knee high rubber boots that help eliminate human scent but I thought a few other things were worthy of mention here also.
Choose your boots carefully, although they may look good in the store they may not perform well in the field. Boots with an improper fit or tread could cause a multitude of problems in the field. A thin or light tread are good if your choice is still-hunting but can be slippery in dry leaves or moss or when climbing to your stand. A heavy tread that will not allow mud to release when walking can be just as bad and could also cause a fall.
When buying your boots also make sure you wear the same type socks that you will be wearing in the field, often you will find that a size larger may be needed. Make sure that the boot has a snug fit, especially around the ankles, which will allow some support, as long as you can wiggle your toes, they should be good. Remember, loose boots rubber or leather will cause blisters.
For cold weather boots in rubber or leather are available with both insulation and Gore-Tex the choice is yours and depends on what particular weather and terrain you expect to encounter.
I do not work for any of the companies who's links I have included but have personally put the recommended items through rigorous field-testing during various weather conditions last year during both bow and rifle season here in Pennsylvania. As a writer I am often approached to evaluate this or that new product and write an article regarding its performance, and just as often many of the manufactures of those products are somewhat astounded when I tell them, "sure I will evaluate the product, but rest assured NOTHING will be candy coated when the evaluation is written". As you can guess there are times offers are then reneged upon. I will recommend NOTHING to my readers that I myself would not use or have faith in; you have my word on that.
Now that we've discussed clothing one should have, let's talk about hunting bucks in the rain.
I am no different than any one of you, I don't like hunting in a downpour. If I must hunt in rainy conditions I prefer to hunt when it's only overcast or a soft or misty rain is falling. This serves a twofold purpose, as you move through the woods visibility is improved because there are little or no reflections from the light and the forest floor now being wet allows one to move much more quietly. Several well-informed writers have said that deer move by the amount of daylight not by the clock this time of year, thus if the sky is dark they should leave their beds earlier. So if you're posted in a stand near a feeding route during this time the chances that a buck will show up when you have plenty of shooting time left are greatly increased.
The rain can present other problems also.
If you do hit a buck and find yourself having to track it very far, faced with a heavy rain blood droppings and tracks could be quickly washed away.
An arrows flight may not be that easy to see in these conditions so a pass through or a lost arrow could also present problems. One way to remedy this situation is to equip your arrows with one of the new-lighted arrow nocks such as:
Both will allow you to track the arrows flight, see the hit and should it be a pass through locate the arrow so it may be evaluated. Through testing of both of these lighted nocks I have found that they do add a minimal amount of weight to the arrow but it is easy to adjust your sights to compensate for the additional weight and it has no adverse factor in arrow flight.
Your broadheads should also be sprayed with an anti moisture agent or rub a light coat of Vaseline on them. Keep in mind the slightest moisture will cause rust to form on the critical cutting edges of them if they are not treated.
Rain also demands your shooting distances be lessened. It's a known fact that the better the hit and penetration the quicker the quarry will go down. I have seen well hit deer travel varying distances from ten to over two hundred yards.
It is critical during these situations that we strive to get the best placed shot possible, I would much rather pass up a good buck and come back another day to get him than take the chance of merely wounding him or worse not finding him at all.
It is essential that the hunter remain calm and motionless after a hit as not to alarm the animal more causing it to run further on mere adrenalin because it spotted the hunter.
As bowhunters we all probably have witnessed a deer at one time or another who was hit well, show little alarm during the hit and stood motionless looking around for what it was that had struck them, only to walk away and drop within sight of the hunter. That in essence is what we should try to accomplish when hunting under these conditions.
Should you hunt in the rain? That choice is yours, but I do hope that some of the suggestions I have made and items that I have suggested will help to make your experience more enjoyable, safe and rewarding should you choose to do so.
Hunt hard, hunt safe and hunt fair. H. "Bumper" Bauer is a freelance outdoor writer and wildlife photographer and is a pro staff member of McLaughlin Game Call Company of Reynoldsville Pa. and Pennsylvania Back Country Television.