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Article 5: Success in the rain

There is an old saying I like to use, ‘skin doesn’t leak’. Most of the fancy new rain gear on the market, however, does leak; I guess it really depends on how much you want to get out there! Hunting in poor weather conditions is still possible and you can be successful, below I will outline a few tips and tricks I have learned.

Because we run a five month season with back to back safaris we simply don’t have the option of taking a rain check and postponing until next week. Hunters book their dates and whether they have good weather or bad weather on their hunt is out of my control and out of their control, either way we have get out there and make the best of it.

Sure, some days are an absolute right off; in atrocious conditions animals will stay in their bedding areas or seek shelter and move very little until conditions improve. Whether you are at home in the lounge or stuck in a mountain tent fighting the conditions which are threatening to strip you of your shelter, the end result is the same, no hunting is done. It’s when the weather does change for the better, especially after a prolonged period of poor conditions that you need to be ready to pounce, the first semi clear or clear morning is a golden opportunity.

The mind game

Often I find myself in a wilderness camp sitting out bad weather trying to plan ahead while hunting days are going to waste. It turns into a pressure cooker situation, you need to find the animals for your clients and the time to do so is evaporating or perhaps more appropriately being rinsed away. All you can do is keep a cheerful mood in camp, eat well and make the camp as comfortable as possible with what you have available. Little things to brighten the mood or in some way make things better make a difference.

What you have to do is back your knowledge and ability. The weather will break at some point and the animals will come out, it’s that simple. You must remind yourself of this and try to plan accordingly, you must also remember to actually hunt when this opportunity comes around and not run around like a headless chicken trying to cover all the country you missed out on in the previous three days while you were stuck in camp.

Let’s talk about rainy days or days with persistent drizzle and perhaps even sleet and snow. It’s very easy to look out the window or tent flap and think, no, too wet and roll back over in bed. I must admit if I was hunting for myself on some of these days I would do just that, but I’m not, I have clients paying a package price or day rate and they are here to hunt. One of the main points I would like to make is that it is often not the bad weather itself that is the reason for low success in such conditions, but rather the amount that the bad weather impairs your ability to look and glass.

When is the weather too bad?

Rain makes hunting difficult and uncomfortable. You paid all that money for the fancy rain gear and it’s not working, it’s easy to quit and head for camp, but it’s a hunting day, you’ve made the effort to travel to your hunting area, the weather is bad, but not that bad that the animals are sheltering and not moving. Rain, drizzle or snow (with the exception of heavy rain and snow) does not affect the movements of animals a great deal, but if you add strong to severe wind into the equation it certainly does. It’s been written a thousand times before, animals hate strong winds, not only does it swirl the rain around making animals seek better shelter, more importantly with the wind all over the place is mucks up their main sense of detecting danger, their sense of smell. So heavy rain or snow, stay in bed, the animals are not moving and you simply can’t see far enough to locate them. If conditions are moderate rain with high winds stay in bed also. Average weather conditions where you feel there is a chance of success, get yourself out there and get looking!

If you can still glass, even if it is between squalls of rain or snow showers, you can still hunt. Rain and snow will hamper you ability to glass, not only will the poor light make it harder to spot animals it will also cover your binocular lenses meaning you have to wipe them time and time again. Excuse the pun, but this soaks up glassing time, there is no way to avoid it, you have to wipe your binoculars constantly. Try to position yourself under a tree, an overhanging rock or any sort of cover. If you are continually wiping your binoculars you will get sick of doing so fairly quickly, you’re glassing will stop or become less active as it’s too much of a pain to keep your binoculars clear. You won’t spot animals looking at your boots. Glass and re glass your ‘target areas.’ With the low light and rain filled air impeding your glassing, concentrate on close target areas that you can still see into.

When you are walking, even though the weather is poor make yourself stop every so often and glass. Sure it’s a pain you have to clean your binoculars again, you’d rather make it to the overhanging rock 300m ahead but there is a slip across the river which can only be seen from where you are, stop and look at it, for all you know your ‘target animal’ could be standing there under a rock.

Tips to keep your binoculars and rifle scope free of rain

The eyepiece protector on your bino’s will help keep the rain off when you’re moving. Some brands of binoculars have objective lens covers as well; anyone that has done any amount of mountain hunting knows that they usually rip off fairly quickly, the same goes for the flick up rifle scope protectors, they smash off even quicker. The best way to keep your rifle scope free of rain is with a rubber or neoprene scope protector that preferably stretches over the whole scope. Scope protectors made of rubber or neoprene will not smash off when they take a nock. A piece of tyre tube stretched from one end of your scope to the other works equally as well. We now also have available scope and barrel protectors which are a one piece cover from the tip of your rifles barrel to the eye piece of your scope, these are really good.

Tip. Always carry at least one roll of toilet paper inside a sealed plastic bag for wiping lenses. Tuck further toilet paper up inside your sleeve where you can get at it in a hurry. Don’t get me started on the ‘don’t wipe lenses with toilet paper debate.’ If you can’t see it you can’t shoot it!

Tip. If you have located a ‘target animal’ and stalked within range for a shot, take a few deep breaths then hold your breath as you slide in behind the rifle. Turn your head to the side and breath to the side, if the warm air from your mouth hits the cold lens of your rifle scope it will fog instantly and you will have more than just the rain to worry about.

By all means wear your flash rain jacket or rain suit; the more comfortable you are the better you will be able to glass. Leave a dry set of clothes at camp in a dry bag or plastic bag, if you do end up soaked to the bone you know you can get yourself dry and warm again.

Remember that if you want to be successful in wet conditions, hunt the percentages, glass your target areas, look, look and look again and the saying to remember is ‘skin doesn’t leak.’

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Wild Deer

Australia and New Zealand’s premiere dedicated Deer Hunting Magazine.

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