Shooting in terrible conditions is a nightmare that every hunter dreads. Those bold enough to continue hunting regardless of the conditions deserve recognition for their tenacity. However, some hunters might be unaware of the factors involved in certain conditions and others might know that some “bad” conditions are actually misconceptions.
Boldness will only get you so far. Hunting in bad conditions comes down to experience and practice. Every extremity requires a different understanding of the environment in each particular situation. Sometimes it’s knowing how to read wind patterns, while other times it’s a matter of not passing out from extreme heat. No matter what the situation, preparation is key if you want to turn a hunt in unfavorable conditions to a favorable one.
Rain isn’t really considered an unfavorable condition, unless it’s a downpour. I think it’s more of a misconception for some. Worst case scenario:
You can’t really get away from the first factor. If it’s a downpour, then best of luck. If you’re clumsy, it happens, but you can purchase some gloves that will give you more friction on the handle. For foggy lenses, you can purchase anti-fog clothes or Cat Crap, which is an anti-fog lens cleaner. The good news is when it comes to shooting; rain has no affect on your bullet’s trajectory.
Snow, similar to rain, doesn’t affect a bullet’s trajectory. It’s the cold that comes with snow that makes it difficult to shoot. Worst case scenario:
Again, you can’t really get away from a blizzard if you still want to hunt. Just wait it out if you can. Get some hand warmers or some highly-insulated, thermal gloves to keep your hands comfortable for steady shooting. If your trigger or bolt sticks, this could be due to the snow sticking to or getting into the crevasses of the gun. I imagine this will only happen after much exposure to snow or if it’s freezing rain. Keep one hand covering the trigger and bolt areas of your gun, so snow can’t stick and harden on these parts.
Extremely hot or cold weather each play a significant role with bullet trajectory and the shooter during a hunt.
Hot vs. Cold
Bullet Trajectory: A bullet will drop less the hotter it is because the air is thinner. It will also have a greater impact. For every 20 degree drop in temperature, a bullet will average a 50 inch drop in trajectory (Source: LongrangeBPCR.com). This of course will be difficult to see the difference without practicing. Practice shooting in various weather conditions to get a feel for this change in trajectory.
Shooter: Hot or cold, the shooter faces many factors that influence accuracy and even stamina.
Wind is the granddaddy of all the unfavorable conditions. It plays its advantages when it’s steady and soft and if hunting with a muzzleloader, since the wind blows the smoke out of the way to see your target. The wind that every hunter hates is the gusty, unpredictable types.
Pattern Wind: For inexperienced hunters, even a pattern wind can be “unfavorable”, but in the long run it’s favorable in comparison to gusty winds. With pattern winds, time your shots and pay attention to your surroundings, such as trees and leaves, for indicators of wind shifts.
Gusty, Unpredictable Wind: Even for experienced hunters, this can be quite the challenge. Patience is an important characteristic to have when shooting in these conditions. You have to wait, pay attention to its “pattern” and time the shot.
Live to Shoot another Day
If you’re ever in doubt about a shot in unfavorable conditions, then it might be a good idea to walk away and live to shoot another day, especially if it’s not the end of the hunting season. If the weather conditions are better the next day, then chances are it’s not worth ruining your hunting spot by scaring off your prey for a better shot you could have tomorrow.
One thing is for certain, though; practice makes perfect. Practice gives you the confidence you need to nab that prized prey you’ve always wanted or become an expert with a rifle. With enough practice, you’ll discover that any unfavorable condition turns out to be like any other day on a hunt and won’t be phased when it’s time to fire.
About the author
Sam Ott is a professional hunting outfitters in Missouri and Iowa who have thousands of acres of plentiful hunting land with game for the taking.