Wind Mapping. What the heck is it and why is it important?
Wind mapping consists of understanding what the wind is actually doing at a specific location regardless of what the weatherman is calling for. For us hill country whitetail hunters, the weatherman can call for a West wind on Monday but when we are in our stand it's likely for it to be something totally different due to the terrain, vegetation, etc. To take that a step further there's a long list of variables that will have influence like wind speeds, gusts, thermal pull/rise, and prevailing wind direction.
Wind mapping is ultra important in the whitetail woods. It allows you to fully understand how deer are using an area with the wind to their advantage, how to access that area for clean hunts, and for you to fully understand where your scent cone is going when hunting.
WAYS OF THE WIND
There are two ways to wind map areas of interest.
Logically, the first is to be physically in the area/location of interest with some type of wind indicator. We prefer milkweed over smoke or other wind floaters but any of the mentioned will suffice. With all the variables, wind direction, wind speed, thermal pull/rise, terrain, vegetation, hunting height, etc in mind and noted, simply drop some milkweed and watch where it goes. Where ever the milk weed is going at this specific time and with the specific variables is where your scent cone is going and also gives you frame of reference for how whitetails will use the area with the wind to their advantage. Because there are so many variables the more data points you have the better you'll understand the area.
The second way to wind map and something not talked about too often, is doing it digitally. Digital wind mapping can save countless hours throughout the season. However, it is not nearly as precise as wind mapping in person. To start you need to collect the average wind speeds and direction for the area of interest. You can obtain this data from weather underground . In addition you will need topo maps and up to date aerial or satellite imagery maps. For this we use OnX Maps . By understanding topography features and vegetation you can forecast common wind themes and directions for the area. Again, this method is not nearly as precise as wind mapping in person but it's a great place to start and gain some baseline assumptions before putting boots on the ground. Also, once you have some experience wind mapping it becomes easier to look at digital maps and predict wind movements.
For some examples and more information on wind mapping digitally check out the video below.
This is where it gets tricky. It would be so nice if the wind direction was the wind direction regardless of other conditions. Unfortunately for us whitetail hunters that's not the case. Every single variable is going to impact how the wind travels through the area. Below is a quick synopsis of some variable and how they may impact the wind.
Thermal Pull/Rise - A basic guide line is thermals will rise as the air temperature heats up and thermals will fall when the air temperature cools down. Each occurrence will influence the wind, the travel of your scent cone, and how deer travel through the area.
Wind Speed - This is one of the toughest variables to map. A 3 MPH wind could do something totally different than a 12 mph. The more data points here the better. A general rule of thumb is 6-8 mph winds will give you consistent direction pending the area's topography.
Topography Features - We're talking saddles, drainages, ridge systems, thermal hubs, etc. Although it may take a some experience to understand different topography features once you begin to map them you can quickly and accurately look at similar features to accurately predict what the wind is going to do. Here's a great article on "How To Read Topo Maps" if you need some assistance in this area
Water Features - Water can be a big deal when it comes to thermals and winds. It one of the easiest features to predict and can be a whitetail hunter's hunters best friend for both access and blowing your scent cone into a specific location void of whitetails.
Terrain Features - Stands of timber, open ag fields, planted ag fields, fallow fields etc all give the wind an opportunity to do something different. With variables within each feature there's a long learning curve but like topography features if you understand why and what the wind is doing in a specific scenario you can predict it happening again when you are in a similar scenario.
Understanding the wind and how to use it to your advantage is a never ending process for whitetail hunters. Wind mapping is a great way to further understand and hunt your specific locations. However, at the end of the day, you will never know exactly what it's doing at a specific location with specific variables without physically being there at that moment in time. And remember, sometimes you just have to gamble and take a chance!