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Understanding Cold Fronts, Wind Direction, and the Rut

Some common wisdom I’ve always heard from the bowhunters in my community is that you should have your best stands setup for a NW wind. They’d claim that the best cold fronts come with northern winds, and a lot of those seem to stack up in early November. What does science say about that claim, though?

According to the University of Illinois, winds prior to a cold front are typically from the SW and SE. While the cold front is passing, winds are generally moving clockwise from where they were prior to the cold front. After the cold front passes, winds are almost always out of the NW. Here is a chart to explain it:

This information seems to be consistent with what the old timers say, and it even agrees with Mark Drury’s theory on hunting while the barometer is rising. It turns out that NW winds should make for some of the best hunts, but how often do we actually get those?

I consulted, which has a ridiculous amount of record keeping that’s useful to hunters. To get the best feel for wind patterns in whitetail country, I picked out six cities that span across the Midwest: Minneapolis, Peoria, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Nashville and Pittsburgh. Here is a chart that covers the most common wind directions of each location during November:

Amazingly, S winds dominate November, accounting for nearly 20% of the data. After that, it’s pretty random, but some form of a W wind is typically the second most common. The consensus least common wind direction is SE, which occurs just 7% of the time in November.

So what does this all mean for the rut?

You should be prepared for S winds at all times, with each of your properties having multiple setups for this scenario. However, your best stands, which you only plan on rut hunting during cold fronts, should be in position for a NW wind.

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