A common thread that will be found running throughout Wilderness Law is prepping for dream hunts. For the 2015 season the Boy and I wanted to use whitetail hunting to try out a few tools, tricks, and ideas we’ve been wanting to use when/if we get to go out west to chase Elk/Bison/Sasquatch/etc. someday.
One particular tool we keep seeing guys making use of in all sorts of big game hunting is a wind checker.
Any half-way decent deer hunter (which is code for: better than me) knows that all the visual camo in the world don’t mean jack if you neglect to mind your wind. Wind direction. Wind speed. Deer trust nothing more than they do their sense of smell and there’s good reason for it because they generally have better than 20/20 smell.
For those that don’t know, a wind checker – or wind indicator – is a pocket-sized squeeze bottle full of dust. When you’re chasing around in the wild after an animal that sees with its nostrils, it’s invaluable to be able to pull one of these bottles out, shoot a cloud of dust in the air and watch it ride away on even the slightest of breezes, leaving you with no doubt as to which direction your scent is headed – allowing you to stay on the “blind side” of the game’s olfaction.
A Quick Side Note on DIY.
I love hunting. I love fishing. As far as pastimes go, these loves are equaled only by Doing-It-Your(My?)self. Buying and using the latest, greatest, most state-of-the-art, Star Trek looking piece of hunting tackle is about as fun as it gets. But it don’t hold a candle to seeing a commercial for that same gear and building a rip-off version out in the shed from spray foam, aluminum foil and a chunk off an index finger (not necessarily my own).
For my family, DIYing is as much a part of the outdoors experience as guns and meat. I wish I had a picture of the deer camp BBQ grill my step-dad and uncle built out of two old bath tubs to reinforce my point.
If God came down from outer space and told me I could hunt and fish for the rest of my life without having to work but I had to use 100% off-the-shelf gear, I honestly don’t think I’d take the deal. Being able to screw together a contraption I barely understand with little more than fancy dreams and lackluster math skills is at least half the fun of my outdoors doings.
This wind checker is a pretty good example.
Store-bought wind-checkers cost almost nothing. They average about $3-5 for one 2 ounce bottle in a blister pack. So even if I could build one for zero dollars I’m not saving all that much. But if we get a kill using one we built ourselves it’s 1000% more valuable on some spiritual zen jedi level that you can’t understand unless you’ve done it.
Pretty long list. Two whole ingredients:
A squeeze bottle.
The first one we made was from an old bottle of eye drops (not pictured). It was cool and all but I wanted to hold more dust. So I gave that one to the Boy and took an old 4 oz. contact lens solution bottle to make my own wind checker.
Another good option would probably be a nasal spray bottle if you have one of those around the house in a random drawer.
Of course there are a lot of options like baby powder or whatever but most stuff like that has scents that you probably don’t want in the field. Even the ones that are labeled scent-less or whatever have medication chems in them and humans might not register the smell but it’s totally possible that a deer might. Can’t say for sure but my thinking is it’s better not to risk it.
So I used Chalk-Line marking dust.
You can get an 8 oz. sized bottle from the hardware store for about a buck and a half. For one thing, if it smells like anything it smells like chalk which is fairly natural already (according to the zero research I did to back that up). For a second, chalk line dust comes in a variety of color options so you can pick whatever you like.
So like I chose orange because that’s visible to even my weak-ass eyes in almost any scenario.
Make sure the bottle is dry. The smallest amount of residual dampness could screw everything up. I blew mine out with compressed air and then let it sit out open overnight in my office.
Once you’re sure it’s dry, dump some dust in and squeeze it. You get a big poofy cloud that floats on air that you might not even realize is moving on calm days.
Unlike big western hunting, whitetail hunting doesn’t really lend itself to stalking around in the woods and playing chess with the wind. Especially in many parts of Texas where visibility can often be limited to tens of yards. So our situation is probably not the best for testing out this wind-checker but at least one scenario from this year showed me my little $1.50 squeeze bottle might be smarter than I.
Our first South Texas hunt this year involved us jumping some deer who were feeding across a cut lane when we rounded the corner a lot too boldly. We go into this a lot more in our second podcast episode, 102 Truckisode: James E. Daughtery WMA, so I won’t waste time with the whole story. But using the dust we were able to get around in front of three spooked deer and come up alongside them. And if I would have trusted the dust we would have waited in a certain spot and been able to have a picture perfect shot at a nice-sized spike. But I didn’t and I got impatient and we moved about 30 seconds too hastily and got ourselves busted.
The indicator did its job, I didn’t.
So our little cheapy wind-checkers will be a part of our packs on every deer hunt from here on out.