Barometric Pressure: Does It Really Impact Deer?

Barometric pressure is perhaps the hottest buzzword in the hunting world today. It has been a topic of conversation among researchers and experienced hunters alike. A quick internet search will reveal an overwhelming number of videos, podcasts, and articles written on barometric pressure and how it may or may not influence deer movement. For a deeper look into the subject, I checked out research by the Mississippi State University DeerLab, and chatted with a few of the biggest buck killers in the industry.

buck-on-trail

Barometric Pressure 101

Atmospheric pressure, better known as barometric pressure, is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. According to meteorologist Justin Steinbrink of Green Bay Wisconsin’s WLUK Fox 11 Station, “barometric pressure is often associated with sky condition and wind speeds, but not as directly related to temperature.” He continues saying, “rising pressure typically brings clearing skies and lighter winds, and the opposite with dropping pressure.” Steinbrink is not an avid hunter and did not comment on how it could affect deer movement.

What Does Research Say?

In 2010, researchers with the MSU DeerLab conducted a GPS collar deer study involving 35 white-tailed deer, a mix of bucks and does. The study took place in a several thousand-acre wildlife unit in Oklahoma where an electric fence was erected around the unit. Researchers claim deer passed through the fence at times, saying their home ranges were not affected. One of the purposes of this study was to find out if weather had any influence on deer movement. While it should be noted that barometric pressure was not the main influencer that was researched in this study, however, the scientists did find some results regarding barometric pressure. Bronson Strickland, an extension professor at the MSU DeerLab, had this to say on the Down South Hunting Podcast (https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/mike-higman/down-south-hunting-podcast/e/56314907) regarding barometric pressure, “the study found no compelling evidence that’s going to make me hunt by looking at the forecast or the barometer.” Strickland maintains the study showed in large part that deer maintain a normal movement rhythm of dawn and dusk peak movement times. While many hunters are reading the barometer more than ever, Strickland mentions, “temperature accounted for most differences in movement. However, a general pattern in how weather influenced deer movement was not observed.”

barometric pressure - timber-ridge

Does barometric pressure really impact the way deer move through the timber?

One of Strickland’s main arguments surrounding barometric pressure could be due to human biases. Strickland continues saying, “Let’s say you’ve got two days you can hunt. One day is above average and the next day is going to be a little colder. Which day are you going to hunt? You are going to hunt the colder day because you have in your head the deer are going to be moving, you won’t be swatting mosquitos, and it will be a more pleasant sit.”

Mark Drury disagrees with Strickland’s finding’s, saying he hunts every single day of archery season whether that be in Iowa, Texas, or Missouri. Mark said, “I would love to have a biologist take a 10-day study on my farm, I could tell them when they are going to move and when they won’t. You can watch the same field 10 nights in a row, on 2 or 3 nights you’ll see 40-50 deer and other nights you may only see 2, its all dependent on fronts—and pressure plays a huge role.” Strickland finished by saying, “my human bias wants to believe those cooler days will have more deer moving, but our research shows weather conditions had an inconsistent influence on deer movement within the season.”

The Hunting Observations

Everything I have heard and seen claims high pressure typically equals great deer movement, specifically, mature buck movement. Heck, I have seen it myself. While the MSU research tells a very different story, Mark Drury of Drury Outdoors appears to be one who will follow his own observations regardless of what research shows. In August of 2018, Drury Outdoors released a deer movement predictor mobile application called DeerCast. The app’s algorithm is based off weather and how each weather factor complements one another and attempts to predict deer movement on a given day. While Drury and many others believe weather has a huge influence on deer movement, Drury mentions “there might be some other influencers that have movement suppressed outside of the weather.” Obvious factors such as neighboring hunters, predation and hunting pressure may influence movement and skew results you may see otherwise. While on the Wired to Hunt podcast (https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/mark-kenyon/the-wired-to-hunt-podcast/e/56014016) Drury says “A front in September does not affect deer the same as it does in the middle part of November, or as it does in the middle part of December because their metabolism is at different levels during each of those time frames. Give me a high pressure day with a northwest wind during the peak of the rut and watch how many bucks you see walking hundreds of yards.”

barometric pressure - Caleb-Buck

Caleb Copeland killed this buck on a day when everything seemed to fall into place. But was it the barometric pressure that got the buck moving?

For another view on barometric pressure, I chatted with Jared Mills of the popular web show Midwest Whitetail. Mills has taken his fair share of mature bucks in Iowa and said, “I pay a lot of attention to barometric pressure, but it doesn’t dictate when I hunt. I pay attention so I can learn more about deer movement in general. For me, it seems to be a very critical factor, but I am still that guy who doesn’t miss any opportunity to be in the woods.” I believe Jared’s comments echo the thoughts of many hunters. Most hunters are giving barometric pressure it’s due attention, but if people have a chance to hunt, they will go regardless of the pressure reading. The latter comment brings up another excellent question. Does barometric pressure influence your stand choices? Mills said he puts the most stock in a temperature drop-off, but will consider pressure readings as well. “For me, pressure needs to be combined with other factors. I really pay attention to winds and I do not see great movement until after heavy wind subsides during a front.”

The results don’t lie…in either case

Research does not lie, neither do eyeballs. While research shows one thing, it is impossible for most of us to do a research study on our hunting property. So, what do you follow? In my opinion, you follow your observations and key in on what makes deer move on your property, not research conducted in Oklahoma. There is no fooling; my trail cameras light up during high pressure readings. I have observed thousands of trail camera photos which indicate high pressure contributing to high deer movement. What do you see on your land, did the research findings from MSU surprise you?

Paul Annear

Paul Annear

Paul Annear is a freelance writer born and raised in the picturesque region of southwest Wisconsin's Driftless area. In his full-time career, he is an Equipment Salesman for a large trucking company. He currently resides in northeast Wisconsin. He is a proud father of three, a former 7' high jumper, and a willing mini-van driver.
Paul Annear

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Comments

  1. John Torchick says:

    Interesting but I do know of one instance that it affected fishing. I was fishing a farm pond in central KY, catching bass right and left. A cool wind picked up and I could see dark clouds moving in. The fish developed a good case of lockjaw! Couldn’t buy a bite with cash in my pocket.

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  2. Allen Berkebile says:

    I believe that a 70 degree day in early November is going to greatly suppress deer movement regardless of barometric pressure. While a 30 degree drop the next day will have deer up and on their feet. Once the wind dies down! I believe the barometer follows the weather in most cases but I totally follow weather fronts not the barometer. Any time there is a drop in air temperature and wind speed you better be hunting! It can also work the other way as well. Lets say its early January and its been in the – digits for a few days. Then it warms up 20 degrees. You will have geat deer movement at this time as well. You will also have a rising barometer with that. So the barometer fallows the weather most of the time. Just follow the weather fronts and you won’t go wrong.

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  3. Based on my recollection of sampling requirements, 35 deer is not adequate to predict the behavior of deer in general. A predictive sample would need to be a couple hundred depending on the desired reliability.
    Plus, given environmental factors and sud-species the results might only apply to a limited region. MSU knows this and really should not present the results of their study as predictive of deer generally. Perhaps representative of only those deer in the high fence area?
    Some rich guy ought to give them a couple million to radio collar 300+ deer and monitor them for several years! Now that would a meaningful study!

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