Hunting the weather

Kazhym enjoying some liquid sunshine…

There are always mixed opinions of hunting when the weather is not playing game. I know guys who won’t hunt if it looks like 1% rain and guys who will happily hunt in the worst of weather. I generally fall into the latter category (I am getting smarter as I get older though….) Through my work hunting and glacier guiding I have had the pleasure of witnessing some amazing weather events.

As a guide, the weather is the biggest factor that we have the least control over.  We often organize hunts years in advanced and pick dates and locations long before weather can be considered. Over the years, I have some what become accustomed to “weather”, I’m not tough by any means, I feel the cold and don’t like being wet any more than the average guy. But often you just have to deal with it and good modern gear can make a huge difference to comfort. Getting out of a wet tent and into wet gear on a rainy day can be a real struggle at times. But once you start moving around you soon forget the feeling of wet boots and socks.

A great Tahr taken in some horrendous conditions

Although I have had trophies shot from the tent door, I think you have to be in it to win it, and even if you have a low chance of finding an animal on a rainy day it’s still a higher chance than if you’re sitting in your sleeping bag. This does depends on the type of hunt, and on extended back pack trips a days rest may be worthwhile if you know it is going to clear up later.

I have seen quite a few people who spend big money on rain gear and are afraid to get it wet. If you’re going to spend hard earned cash on gear, dont be afraid to use it.

Some of the best hunting days and trophies I have taken have been during “weather” days and I have outlined below why I think this is the case.

Low cloud days can be frustrating, but you can only try your best

Visibility.

Low cloud and fog is a real challenge to hunt in. But it works both ways, if you can’t see much neither can they. Often when weather is coming in and out you can spot an animal, wait for the cloud to come and make an otherwise exposed stalk in complete cover. I have done this several times with different species and it works more often than not. Hunting in a low vis environment can be very dangerous so ensure you know the area well and have your camp route well set out ahead of time. A GPS really comes into its own in these conditions. A lot of places the cloud often clears just as the sun goes down (change in Temperature), so sit it out and see what happens.

Moisture

Rain comes in all shapes and forms, but it all has one thing in common, its WET. Hunting in the rain (especially bowhunting) is very productive. Animals scenting ability is disrupted allowing you more opportunities in less than perfect wind. After a longer period of rain animals must keep moving and feeding to stay warm. They can’t just sit in the tent and eat chocolate. More time with their heads down equals better stalking chances. Rain also provides a good noise cover as well. Light steady rain can provide a huge benefit to those hunters who are willing get out of the tent.

Wind

High winds can be a real struggle to hunt in, especially with a big pack on and this is the weather I am most likely to avoid. High wind can make glassing and shooting very difficult. But find the shelter and you will find the animals. Hunting the lee side of the mountain is always worth a go, but swirling winds can make stalking close and shooting quite difficult.

Frozen boots are a real challenge on late season hunts

Tips and Gear:

Wet clothes: There is nothing quite like the feeling of crawling into soaking wet gear on a freezing morning! But on long wilderness hunts with constant rain you sometimes have no option. On wet hunts it is best to have one set of wet clothes to hunt in and one dry pair. Your dry gear in camp is your life line. Always keep one set of thermal under wear dry at a minimum. Keeping your camp clothes dry, often means wet gear on every morning, but you soon warm up, and this is where good gear can really shine.

Wet Boots: Wet boots are a pretty normal thing here on a lot of hunts. Double socks and careful foot care is needed. Wet feet soften quickly and feet can get messy quickly. Tape and good boots and socks are your friends. A water bottle full of hot water inside your boots can help warm and dry them a little. Removing insoles when in camp helps dry boots faster. As does dry socks every day but sometimes that’s not an option. I have also used the kiwi classic of pouring warm water in your boots in the morning to get them on. Warm and wet is nicer than wet and frozen!

A Chamois buck shot at under 50 yards during a low vis weather day

Optics: Scope covers are a must, if you can’t see you can’t shoot! This is one bonus of bow hunting in the rain. Also Tape on the barrel is important.

Tents: A tent becomes your refuge in severe weather. This is where the cheap ones and the pricy ones really stand apart. I prefer full bath tub floor 3 or 4 season tents. But there are a lot of systems that work well depending on the situation you’re in. A hot tent (tent with fire) is something not often used in the alpine due to lack of firewood, but if you have that option they can be a real game changer in foul weather.

A hot tent like this one from MIA gear can be a real game changer, but it is not always an option on a backpack hunt

A light weight Tarp/poncho/bothy bag is well worth having in your pack. Setting up a small shelter for lunch out of the wind/rain really helps with moral and general well-being. These also serve as a great emergency shelter

Warm food is a huge moral boost in cold and wet weather, I normally pack a small cooker during the colder months for a hot lunch on the hill, and packing a thermos is often worth their weight.

Modern lightweight cookers are a god send in cold weather hunts

Hazards

Hunting during ‘weather brings about a whole other set of risks and hazards. Chances of slipping and falling are greatly increased, rockfall and avalanches are far more prone during rain, low vis can be disorientating, high winds can also cause rock fall and tree fall. You need to be aware of all these and others and make your own calls about when its time to sit it out.

No tent is ‘bomb proof’ and they all have their limits, place your camp strategically and have an emergency shelter aswell.

New Zealand weather can be very changeable and unpredictable and you need to give her all respect. There is a time to push into the weather and there is a time to stay home. You can only learn this from experience and take the cautious approach until you slowly build some confidence and experience and if in doubt, sit her out.

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