Deer are complex creatures, and a ton of external factors affect their behavior. One of the most commonly overlooked is barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure. While it might sound like something from high school science class, it's actually an important indication of the weather that deer use to decide where to move and when. By understanding the best barometric pressure for deer hunting, how to determine it, and the corresponding hunting tips we've provided, you can significantly improve your chances of harvesting a deer.
What Is Barometric Pressure?
The term barometric pressure simply refers to atmospheric pressure, the weight of the air in the Earth's atmosphere that presses down on its surface or anything on it like you or deer. One common way to measure it is millibars, abbreviated mb, named after the barometer, the instrument from which the term also gets its name.
Barometric pressure is directly related to weather patterns and conditions and can be used to predict them. High barometric pressure generally indicates stable, "good" weather, clear skies and low wind. Low barometric pressure, however, reflects turbulent weather with high winds and often storms because the low pressure causes higher pressure air to rush in.
What Does Barometric Pressure Have To Do With Deer Movement?
Like the weather in general, barometric pressure can dramatically impact deer movement, feeding patterns and activity levels. Deer can easily sense these changes in pressure and instinctively react to the coming weather conditions. In addition to wanting to avoid bad weather, deer also know that these weather changes may influence their access to food and vulnerability to predators.
During periods of high pressure, which usually correspond with clear skies and warm temperatures, deer are more likely come out during the day to hit the fields and food plots to graze. Without wind and precipitation making background noise and washing away scents, they can more easily detect danger, so they feel more confident about being out in the open.
Deer instinctively know that low pressure systems bring wind, rain and snow, and they don't want to get caught in it any more than you do. They usually seek shelter and limit their activity, though at the beginning of a low pressure system, they actually cover more distance as they try to find somewhere to hide from the coming storm.
More than just wanting to stay out of the rain, deer are also wary of storms and wind because it creates a vulnerable situation for them. It can be hard to hear and smell predators and hunters, so they're more cautious and on high alert. They may even limit their activity to the nighttime hours.
What Is The Best Barometric Pressure For Deer Hunting?
The best barometric pressure for dinner hunting is often cited as 1016 to 1029 mb, or 30 to 30.4 inches of mercury (inHg). This usually reflects stable weather conditions when the deer will be out feeding.
However, the question is not really that simple and depends a lot on your hunting strategy. If you hunt open food plots, whether natural or of your own making, then this level of pressure is ideal. However, if you change up your position, hunt public land, still hunt, or just for whatever reason hunt travel corridors, the best barometric pressure isn't an absolute number at all. Rather, you want to hunt anytime the pressure starts changing.
Changing pressure either way means deer are more likely to move. When it starts to drop, they head for cover. When it starts to rise, they come back out to feed. In other words, when the pressure changes, hunt travel corridors running between areas of shelter such as ravines and thick vegetation and open food plots.
Tips For Hunting High Pressure Systems
Hunt During Peak Activity Times
When the barometric pressure is high and the weather good, deer go back to their normal routine. This means heading to the food plots at dawn and dusk and then back to bedding areas during the day. To catch them moving, hunt the twilight hours. Set up on the edge of a food plot or bedding areas for the best chances of success.
Focus on Feeding Areas
Deer take advantage of good weather to feed in open, grassy areas. During times of high barometric pressure, hunt food plots or fields where deer like to browse. This is best done by positioning a tree stand right on the tree line to catch deer as they enter or exit the field.
One of my favorite tactics for bow hunting is to watch a field or food plot to see where the deer are entering the field.
Then go in the next day with a climbing tree stand and set up within range and downwind of where the deer are entering.
It's not a foolproof strategy, but it has worked for me many times.
Pay Attention to Scent Control
Scent control is always important when hunting deer, but doubly so if you're hunting in good weather. While chaotic stormy weather turns up a lot of different smells and often washes them away, nice weather with a light breeze is the perfect situation as far as the deer are concerned. They can smell you from a mile away, so make sure you're using clothing with scent control and washing with scentless soap.
A pro scent control tip? Store your hunting clothes in a box of pine needles and leaves before you use it.
Note the Direction of the Wind
Even in a high pressure system, you're likely to have light-to-moderate winds blowing in a consistent direction. Use this to your advantage and stay downwind from where you expect the deer to be, likely a food plot. If you're upwind, the wind can catch your scent and carry it to the deer.
High pressure systems are better than low pressure systems for using calls to attract deer, particularly bucks. When the weather gets bad, deer are less concerned with dominance and mating, and they're also more suspicious of any calls that appear to be. But when the weather's nice, break out your estrus bleats and rattling antlers.
Tips For Hunting Low Pressure Systems
Hunt Before the Storm Comes In
You probably don't want to hunt during the storm anyway since it's no fun sitting in a tree stand soaking wet, but it's also not great for hunting deer because they're all going to be hiding away. Instead, hunt as the storm is moving in but before it's started to rain or snow. This is when the deer will be actively moving to find cover or fill up their stomachs before waiting out the storm.
Target Sheltered Areas
When deer sense a low pressure system moving in, they head for sheltered areas like ravines and dense vegetation where they can bed down and wait out the storm. If you see that the barometric pressure is starting to drop, you can set up near these areas and wait for the deer to come.
Dress for the Weather
Your chances of hunting success are better if you're using the right gear. If you're hunting a low pressure system, that means a storm is coming, and you should be ready for precipitation. This means layered clothing with moisture-wicking base layers and waterproof pants and jacket. Additionally, you should wear waterproof boots and gloves so you can adequately move through the wet terrain.
Consider Still Hunting or a Ground Blind
If you didn't catch the deer as they were running for cover from the storm, they are likely hiding out and not doing much moving. In other words, sitting in your tree stand might not be the best bet.
Instead, still hunt by moving slowly through the woods, stopping frequently to look and listen for any signs of deer. This works perfectly with the wet conditions that dampen the sounds of your footsteps.
You can also try to set up a ground blind near a sheltered area. This will give you a better view through the thick brush and also keep you protected from the elements.
Best Phone App To Check Barometric Pressure For Deer Hunting
HuntStand is an elaborate app geared towards land and herd management, including storage and organization of trail camera footage and GPS mapping of the terrain. It also features current and forecasted weather conditions like barometric pressure and uses this information to give you predictive mapping for your scent patterns.
If the app has a downside, it's simply that there's so much you can do with it that you might get overwhelmed. If all you want is barometric pressure, it could be overkill. Still, we highly recommend giving it a shot as you might find ways to integrate into other aspects of your hunt.
OnX Hunt is another app geared towards GPS mapping specifically for hunters. In addition to the maps, there's plenty of weather info that includes the barometric pressure as well as temperature and wind direction. One of the best features about onX Hunt is the ability to save maps offline, so you can use them while sitting in your tree stand even if you don't have cell service.
You can use barometric pressure to predict deer movements… or you can let the DeerCast app do it for you. It uses barometric pressure as well as other factors like temperature and wind speed combined with a wealth of in-field data to give you a personalized forecast for the movements of deer in your hunting area.
Barometer & Altimeter
If you just want to know the barometer readings and aren't worried about all that other stuff, we recommend this simple Barometer & Altimeter app. Just open the app on your phone, and there's the atmospheric pressure in your location. It also gives you your altitude, temperature and wind speed set to the units of measurement you prefer.
Finally, if you want a general weather app that gives you a forecast and also includes the barometric pressure, AccuWeather is a good choice. It's simple to use and easier to navigate than a lot of other weather apps that have too many animations and take a long time to load.
Barometric pressure and its effects on deer movement is one more thing you should keep in your knowledge base for more successful deer hunting. By tracking pressure changes and planning your hunts accordingly, you're more likely to see active deer. Get a phone app to stay up to date on the barometric pressure and adopt strategies that take advantage of the weather.