Say the phrase "against the wind" to most people and they'll think of a great Bob Seger tune.
Mention it to a bowhunter, however, and you are likely to hear a lecture of how critical wind direction is to success.
Good bowhunters watch the wind. Serious bowhunters are obsessed with it.
I've been out hunting for the last week, slipping through woods perfectly suited for still hunting. Recent rains that have soaked the forest floor deadening each footfall and a stiff breeze shakes the leaves and covers any noise I might make.
Moving with slow and painstaking care, I've managed to slip within longbow range of several does, fawns and one very small buck. I came to full draw on a couple of the bigger ones and then passed them up — the season is still young and I know that there are better deer in the area.
It took stealth to close the distance, but mostly it took a constant awareness of the right wind direction. After all, this would have never been possible had the wind been at my back.
That's basic knowledge to most bowhunters. The problem is too many of us merely check the wind once or twice during a hunt and then hunt accordingly.
I'm here to remind you that you need to check it more often than that. Fail to do so and you might find yourself sitting in a stand or still hunting with a breeze that has shifted in an unfavorable direction.
There are many ways to check the wind, from watching leaves fall to wetting a finger and holding it up. Sometimes, you can release seeds from milkweed pods and watch them flow with the breeze too.
The most reliable and convenient way I have found, however, is a bottle of commercial windicator-type product. Essentially, this is a small bottle filled with a fine, visible, chalky powder, much like unscented talcum powder. You squeeze it every now and then and watch how the fine powder rides the wind.
Watch carefully and you'll get a sense of wind direction and have a good clue as to where you should stalk towards or set up your stand.
I've come to rely on my wind check bottle so much that it sits in an easily accessed pocket during every trip afield for deer. And, I can honestly say that this obsession with the wind has resulted in more and closer deer encounters for me. When I fill my tag this year, a continual awareness of the wind will have played a major role.