white-tailed buck moving in rain

Do Deer Move in the Rain?

If I’m going to sit in the woods, you best believe I’m there because the conditions are ripe for deer movement. 

And it’s unfortunate for a new hunter who is learning because there is so much contradicting information out there. 

So then what if it’s rainy? How does that affect deer movement?

Deer can certainly be active during rainy days. How much deer move during the rain depends on several different factors. The strength of the wind and rain play a huge part in affecting deer movement. Other things like food and hunting pressure affect deer movement as well.

So how do you know if deer will be moving based on specific conditions?

Now let’s talk about how deer move during different weather scenarios as well as some deer hunting tips.

Will Deer Move in Light Rain?

Deer movement doesn’t slow down in light rain.

According to a study out of Pennsylvania, rain has no effect on how much female deer move throughout the day.

It does state rain slightly lowers overall buck movement throughout the day. 

However, the study doesn’t differentiate the affects of light rain from heavy rain. So based on many hunter experiences, it’s safe to assume that this decrease in buck movement is only during big rain storms.

After all, deer still have the ability to rely on all their senses for protection during light rain.

So it seems pretty straightforward — deer do still move in light rain. So don’t use this as an excuse to stay out of the woods.

Do Deer Move in Heavy Rain?

We’ve all been caught in the woods during heavy rain because we didn’t follow the weather closely.

And what did most of us do? Headed straight to our cars to seek shelter.

Deer are the same way. They don’t like being uncomfortable and deer don’t feel safe moving in heavy rain or thunderstorms.

Like we said earlier, bucks can’t rely on their sense to protect themselves during heavy rain.

Their smell, vision, and hearing is much worse during heavy rain storms compared to dry conditions. So it makes sense that they don’t like moving in big storms.

Also, no deer loves the feeling of getting soaked during heavy rain — especially during the winter.

deer in the rain
Whitetail deer getting soaked in the rain.

On the other hand, if heavy rain persists for a few hours, deer have no problem continuing their daily routine of monitoring does and finding food.

This is especially true during the rut when only one thing is on a deer’s mind.

But at the beginning of a thunderstorm, deer are usually shocked by their lack of ability to sense danger and seek shelter immediately.

Luckily for deer, they get a head start because they can sense low pressure systems before the storm actually hits.

low pressure vs. high pressure system

Periods of heavy rain also make it harder for deer to move around and find food.

Acorns will be submerged underwater, and browse will be matted down and swaying in the wind making it difficult to eat.

All of these add to the list of reasons why deer move less during heavy rain and thunderstorms.

acorns in rain puddle
Acorns submerged in a puddle after a rain.

Where do Deer Go in the Rain?

So where do deer go when it rains?

The same places deer go to during the day.

They seek cover in thick areas that can hide their body and antlers from prey while protecting them from the rain.

They do this by hiding in grown up grass or brush next to small trees that create a canopy above.

This way their body and antlers are hidden in the grass/brush and the canopy above keeps them from getting soaked.

On top of this, deer seek topographic features that provide relief from the rain and wind such as drainages and valleys.

Since deer already use bedding areas like this throughout the year they have plenty of spots to move to when it rains or thunderstorms.

Deer Movement After Rain

Deer’s senses go back to normal and they begin to feel more comfortable detecting prey after rain ends.

Rain is a stressor which shakes up deer’s senses. 

So deer love moving shortly after heavy rain ends, especially if they had to hunker down for a long time. Like humans, their legs get stiff and they get antsy after sitting still for a while.

When they start moving, deer will move cautiously, as the ground could be slippery and difficult to navigate.

This is a great time to look for fresh deer tracks since old tracks will be washed away and fresh tracks will be easy to see.

Fresh deer tracks reveal a lot about where deer bed and how they move. So definitely use this time to pattern deer if you’re struggling to understand deer movement in your area.

What This Means for Hunting Deer in the Rain

A lot of hunters opt to stay home instead of hunt in the rain — they believe it’s a waste of time. Based on research and hunter experiences, the age-old adage that deer move less in the rain is not completely true. Deer move in the rain the same as any other day, except during severe storms.

But hunting during the rain still requires careful thought and strategy.

You want to have a successful hunt, but you also don’t want to slip, hurt yourself, and ruin the rest of your season.

So let’s discuss what you need to know to be successful hunting during or after the rain and keep yourself out of the emergency room.

Gear for Deer Hunting in Rain

The most important gear for deer hunting in the rain is waterproof and breathable clothing, a waterproof backpack, and a waterproof hunting hat or hood.

Most of you already have these items and, thankfully, they’re available for pretty cheap.

hunter in rain gear

If you’re car-camping, you may want to bring a waterproof tarp or shelter to set up in case of heavy rain.

These are handy incase you want to be able to cook and move around if it rains all day.

While you’re hunting, it’s important that your weapon, such as your firearm or bow, is protected from the elements.

You should use waterproof cases or covers that are specifically designed for the devices you are using.

Aside from the items mentioned above, here is a comprehensive list of things you’ll like to have if you know it will be raining while you’re hunting.

Rainy Day Deer Hunting Checklist

Strategy for Hunting Deer in Rain

How you hunt deer in the rain really depends on the current conditions.

We’re talking about the intensity and duration of the rain, the type of terrain, and the behavior of the deer.

One thing to remember is that hunting during really heavy rain does present an ethical concern. 

Will you be able to track a wounded deer if you make a bad shot in heavy rain? Probably not — the rain will wash away any blood drops pretty quickly.

Now understanding where the deer went will be a guessing game.

For this reason alone you shouldn’t be hunting if the rain is coming down hard enough to risk finding the deer afterwards.

Since most of us won’t hunt deer in heavy rain, let’s focus on hunting strategies for light and moderate rain.

Setting Up a Hunting Blind

A hunting blind can provide shelter from the rain and allow you to remain concealed while waiting for deer to pass by.

ground hunting blind

Look for areas where deer bed down during the day.

These areas include pine thickets, briar thickets, and stream management zones (SMZs).

Of course there are plenty other areas deer use for bedding. But these are some of the main ones I see while hunting the south.

deer bedding area
Thick bedding area near a creek known as a Stream Management Zone (SMZ)

Following Deer Tracks

Rain can make it easy to spot deer tracks and trails, which can lead you to where deer feel comfortable moving during the day. 

Rain does a good job of washing away your ground scent so that will help you spot and stalk while being virtually undetected. 

You can also be a lot quieter which can help you get closer to bedding areas.

deer tracks show movement after rain
Following buck tracks to bedding is a great strategy especially after rainy days.

Pay Attention to Wind Direction

The wind direction can be a key factor in deer movement, especially during rain. 

Try to position yourself in an area where the wind will carry your scent away from the deer, rather than directly towards them.

wind direction map
Windfinder.com is a great resource to see wind forecasts for your area.

Be Patient and Dress for Rain

Be prepared to sit and wait for longer periods of time, as deer may be less active during heavy rain compared to fair weather.

It’s important to make sure you have proper rain gear, including waterproof and breathable clothing, boots, and a hat to keep you dry and comfortable.

hunter looking for deer moving in rain

Try to stay positive while hunting in the rain.

Deer movement in the rain varies depending on a ton of different things.

Strong winds are a big factor in keeping deer off their feet.

So for me, if the wind is consistently blowing 10+ mph and it’s raining I’ll stay out of the woods.

But if the forecast shows potential gaps in the rain or wind later in the day then it could be worth seeing if deer move when the heavy rain stops.

rain forecast screenshot
Potential breaks in rain around legal shooting light can make for great deer movement.

This is especially true if the rain is going to stop right around the end or beginning of legal shooting light because that’s when deer move a lot anyways.

Things to Remember About Deer Moving in Rain

After knowing how much you spend on hunting gear — you, your wallet, and your significant other are going to want your electronics to be protected at all costs.

Water can damage or short circuit electronic devices, rendering them inoperable.

It can also damage the exterior of electronic devices, making them more difficult to use.

iphone damaged from rain

Smartphones, GPS units, and rangefinders may have waterproof rating, but if there is heavy rain, or you drop them in a deep puddle then they may not be protected.

If you need to use your electronics, try to keep them as dry as possible and turn them off when not in use.

Conclusion

In summary, deer are expert survivors that have adapted to a wide range of weather conditions and the rain typically does not decrease their movement.

Although deer may not be moving as much during heavy rain, you can still use periods of heavy rain to your advantage.

For example, you can hunt deer after rain ends or use this time to pattern them by looking for deer tracks.

Understanding how deer move in the rain is a great trick to add to your arsenal especially if you have a buck that’s always one step ahead of you.

Don’t let the rain keep you out of the woods as it’s one of the most overlooked times to hunt and harvest a trophy deer.

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