Front-ending Bucks

Don’t let approaching weather systems run you into the camp. Bucks often come out of the woodwork right after these fronts pass.

Al Bullock knew a good buck was in the cutover, but after six straight days of hunting West Bay Wildlife Management Area he had nothing but lost time to show.

He wasn’t about to give up, though.

Bullock showed up on the seventh day content to make a half-day hunt before heading home to Evangeline to take his wife out to dinner.

“I told her I would hunt until 11 a.m.,” he said.

By that time, a drizzle had begun to fall. Clouds were building into a black, broiling mass, and the stiff wind swept through the pine plantations and scattered stands of hardwood. A big storm was on the way.

Most hunters would abandon any thoughts of hunting in such dreary weather, but Bullock looked at his watch and made a snap decision.

“I decided to set up by the cutover and hunt a little while longer,” Bullock said.

He hurriedly found a tree and climbed up as the rain grew in intensity. It wasn’t long before the area was drenched.

Bullock sat huddled beneath his strap-on umbrella, waiting for the end of the storm and growing in confidence that he might finally get a shot at the buck he had been hunting.

When the leading edge of the storm passed and the rains began to subside, Bullock searched the area surrounding his stand.

Movement caught his eye, and Bullock snapped his rifle to his shoulder.

“I looked into the cutover, and he was making scrapes,” he said.

A quick shot put the nice 8-point on the ground.

“I hunted that deer six days, and all it took was one good rain storm to get him to come out,” Bullock said.

By the way, Bullock did take his wife out to eat that evening, but he made few points.

“She wasn’t happy,” the avid hunter laughed. “I got home in time, but I had to clean a deer.

“I took her out to eat, but it was late.”

Bullock, however, was happy as could be — he had killed a big buck hunting in conditions that he finds ideal.

That might seem strange to many hunters, who see a storm building and instinctively head for the camp.

But Bullock said he’s learned over the years that hunting storms can yield big benefits.

“I think it has something to do with the barometric pressure,” he explained. “Those deer know when those storms are coming before us; they have to.”

This theory was developed as a result of Bullock’s work schedule, which consists of remaining offshore for seven days in a row before getting seven days off.

“I was always stuck with fronts and bad weather,” he said. “It seems like there was always a front blowing through when I was off.

“I ended up having to learn to hunt in it or stay home.”

It wasn’t long, however, before he made a correlation between these weather systems and deer movement.

Michael Waddell, host of Realtree Road Trips television show, said he’s also noted the importance of front-hunting during his travels across the country.

But Waddell said he believes what really motivates the deer is the dip in temperatures normally associated with the fronts.

“In high pressure, in my opinion, the deer seem to move better,” he said. “Any kind of cool temperatures coming in seem to get them moving.”

In contrast, Bullock said he would rather stick with arranging his hunting around lows moving through his hunting grounds.

“I don’t find they move when a high moves in,” Bullock explained. “It’s got to be a low front.”

Although he admits he isn’t positive why this is the case, Bullock said he believes it is comparable to what happens to fish when fronts move through.

“It’s just like fish. You see the big lows come down, and you start catching fish, and a day or two after a high front, you don’t catch fish,” he explained. “The way I’ve had it explained to me is that when a high moves in, the barometric pressure presses in on (fish’s) stomachs so they don’t feel hungry, but when a low moves in their stomach expands.

“I think it works the same for deer. After a high front, you can forget it.”

Bullock’s ideal front also needs to have a distinct band of rain to be most effective.

“I watch the weather, and I look for that thin green line,” he said. “You know the minute it stops (raining), if you’re on the stand you’re going to see deer.

“That’s when I want to be in the woods.”

The more distinct the band, which often means violent storm activity, the more confident Bullock feels.

“It’s those real dark storms when the clouds get real dark and the wind is blowing pretty good,” he said.

But, again, the storms need to be narrow bands, not widespread.

“Those rains that stay a day or two, I never do good in that,” he said. “It’s the ones that you know are blowing through; that’s when I do good.”

But when he sees a predicted front approaching, Bullock grabs his gear and heads for his stand to ensure he’s sitting in the woods while the front is pushing through.

“You don’t want to wait on the rain to stop,” Bullock said. “As soon as it starts slackening up, the deer are going to be moving.

“That’s when you want to be in the stand.”

That was clearly illustrated when his father Jerry, who for years refused to deer hunt, killed his first deer in 2000.

“It was raining when we got to the camp, and he said, ‘I’m not going to sit in the rain,’” Bullock said. “I said, ‘You’re going to be in a box stand, so you’ll be OK. As soon as it stops raining, start looking.’”

The elder Bullock bought the story, and dutifully trudged to the box stand in the soaking rain.

“As soon as the rain stopped, he shot a beautiful 8-point,” the younger Bullock said.

As if to prove that that buck wasn’t a fluke, Jerry Bullock returned to his son’s camp in 2001.

“When it started raining, my dad said, ‘I’m going to the stand,’” Al Bullock chuckled.

Another 8-point fell to the fledgling hunter as the leading edge of the front moved past the area.

It’s such hunting experiences that have led Bullock to abandon the camp during fronts.

“Most of my deer have been shot right after (the rain) stops,” he said.

This is an area about which Bullock and Waddell largely agree.

But both hunters said there’s a fine line between wasting time in the stand before deer move and waiting too long.

“You’ve got to be in your stand when the front passes because I’ve found they move literally five minutes after it stops raining,” Bullock said.

Waddell agreed.

“It seems that 30 minutes to an hour after that rain stops they’re moving, but sometimes they move sooner than that,” he explained.

Such movement works into Waddell’s theory that dropping temperatures are what provoke deer activity.

“Most of the time, temperatures almost always drop in association with rain,” Waddell said.

And that is the bottom line for this hunter.

“Any decrease in temperatures is good,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s 110 degrees and it drops to 100 degrees, deer will be more apt to move.”

Waddell said this has even worked for him during rain storms that aren’t associated with temperature-changing fronts.

“It always changes the temperature some, and that can make deer move,” he said.

Bullock, however, disagreed.

“I’ve tried hunting the big blow-up storms, and I never did much,” he said.

One of the reasons Bullock is so driven to hunt low fronts is that he’s discovered that deer move no matter how high the mercury has climbed.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with the temperature; I think it’s the barometric pressure,” Bullock said. “They move after a low front passes even if it’s warm.”

That was proven in late October of this year when buddy Dana Green teamed up with some other men for several days of bow hunting on Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge.

The group had been hunting a week without seeing even a hint of a deer, and were thinking of laying out until after a soggy front blew through.

“When I saw that a front was coming through, I told him, ‘That’s when y’all need to be hunting,’” Bullock said.

Green and his buddies heeded the advice, and each shot a deer.

“They had been hunting every day, and they hadn’t seen a deer. That front comes through and they killed three 8-points and a doe,” Bullock said.

Of course, this could also tie into Waddell’s assertion that the deer moved because of a temperature change, even though the drop was negligible and lasted only a few hours.

But as with most other hunters, Waddell and Bullock share a preference for hunting those cooler days.

But even then, Waddell would prefer to be in the woods when the temperatures fall.

“If it’s been 85 degrees and it drops to 60 degrees, guess what — those deer are anxious to move around,” Waddell said.

This is especially true when hunting big, mature bucks, he said.

“There are two things that affect them: an urge to eat and an urge to breed. One of those will get a big buck killed every time,” Waddell said. “Cold temperatures work on both of these urges.”

So what Waddell likes to do is keep up with the extended forecast so that he can pinpoint likely times to be on a stand.

“If there’s a 7- to 15-degree change in temperatures over a few days, you want to be on the stand when it finishes that change,” he said.

But even easier to focus on are those big changes that occur overnight in association with a front.

These drastic temperature falls, however, call for a little different approach, Waddell said.

“If it’s 80 degrees, and it’s supposed to fall 20 degrees that night, you want to be on the stand that evening, even if it’s warm,” he said. “Usually, by rule, they’ll feed good that evening before that front moves in.”

There are some special considerations when hunting these fronts, however.

First and foremost is the fact that because of the very nature of a front, which is simply the conflagration between two air masses, high winds and lightning are not uncommon.

Bullock recommended waiting out any lightning before heading to the stand, since sitting high in a tree with electricity popping in the area only invites disaster.

Also, whether one ascribes to Bullock’s or Waddell’s theories on hunting fronts, rain often is a factor.

That means rain gear is essential.

Bullock said a good Gore-Tex rain suit is part of the reason he can sit on a stand during even the worst rain storms, but he said he probably wouldn’t be able to hunt nearly as hard if he didn’t use a strap-on umbrella.

“You put it on the tree, and you just sit there as dry as can be,” he explained. “Sometimes you can’t even see out from under it; the water looks like a wall coming off that umbrella.

“But when the rain stops, the deer start moving, and I’m dry.”

Also, scent is even more of an issue when hunting rain-soaked fronts than during any other time.

“To tell you the truth, I’ve never been busted like when I’m hunting in the rain,” Bullock said.

The reason, this veteran hunter believes, is that the rain pushes his scent to the ground where deer can more easily pick it up.

“If you notice, when it’s cold (and rainy) and you blow, the vapor goes down,” he said. “I think it just holds everything down.”

So he takes extra precaution to ensure that his scent is as minimal as possible.

“If I’m in the camp, I take a shower before I go hunting,” Bullock said.

He also stores his hunting clothes coated in Scent Away powder.

“I find that powder works better than the detergent,” Bullock said.

He also takes scent-eliminating spray on the stand with him, particularly when it’s warm.

Shooting a deer when it’s raining also means tracking can be a challenge.

To overcome this, Bullock breaks a golden rule of the hunt.

“I usually get out of the stand right off the bat because if it rains, you’re going to lose everything,” he said. “I’d rather risk pushing the deer and getting another shot than losing it because the blood trail got washed away.”

That isn’t often a problem because he mostly bow hunts, so Bullock often watches deer slow down and fall after the shot.

About Andy Crawford 863 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.