Jim Braaten

Jim Braaten lives near Kenyon, Minn., and has been an avid outdoorsman for more than 35 years. He lives on the family farm that was first settled by his ancestors 152 years ago. He has been an outdoors writer and photographer, and he owns a business producing and marketing calendars.

How wind influences nearly all outdoor activities

Posted by: Jim Braaten under Fishing Techniques Updated: July 22, 2009 - 8:34 AM

One of the true marks showing when a nature artist has finally mastered their craft is when they can artistically incorporate the wind into their drawings or paintings.   Much the same statement can be slightly rephrased for the sportsman.   In fact, the sportsman who can master their understanding of the wind while recreating outdoors will usually be at the top of their game when it comes to fishing, hunting and trapping.

Let’s face it, the wind can sometimes be difficult to read or even appreciate for the beginning outdoor enthusiast.   It’s virtually invisible, except for the affects it has on trees, water and other natural objects.   At other times it can be almost imperceptible to the senses, yet even the most gentle of breezes can sometimes have devastating consequences to your sporting pursuits.   The key is not only to understand the importance of wind, but also to appreciate how it could influence the plans you have while enjoying the outdoors.

Take, for instance, the deer hunter.   When the savvy deer hunter prepares for the morning hunt many factors must quickly be assessed before choosing which hunting stand is ideal for that day’s experience.   It just so happens prevailing wind direction is one of those key determining factors.

Yet, for the deer hunter especially, there’s another phenomena of wind movement that also needs to be completely understood — thermal air currents.   Essentially, wind is also naturally occurring caused by fluctuating air temperatures over the landscape.   As a general rule, localized breezes tend to blow up a hillside during the early morning hours (when warm air rises) with the opposite effect blowing air current back down into a low valley during the later afternoon hours (when temperatures cool as the sun goes down).

Fishermen must also closely monitor the wind.   Obviously, strong windy conditions on the lake can make for certain safety hazards that must always be considered.   Whether its a mild “walleye chop,” referring to rolling surface waves that reduces sunlight transmission into the water while stirring up natural food sources, or perhaps gusting winds tending to concentrate fish forage on one side of the lake, the influence of the wind should never be dismissed while planning your fishing strategy.

There are many commercially available gadgets some sportsmen use to detect the wind.   One of the most sophisticated is the Kestrel wind meter for when precise wind information is crucial.   Other useful wind indicators include clip on devices, pocket puffers, dental floss or even a small piece of sewing thread tied to a branch or your equipment.   Some sportsmen will even collect milkweed pods in the fall and remove the fluffy seeds (stored in Ziplock bags).   A single seed sent airborne will act much like a helium balloon drifting up and away by the prevailing winds.

The underlying point to all this is detecting the presence of wind is usually only half the battle.   For many outdoor activities you need to comprehend just how the wind plays a vital role in determining your success afield or on the waters.   This critical knowledge can be attained by further readings on the topic.

My best suggestion for beginners; go fly a kite!   Seriously, if you want to learn and experience first-hand how wind and thermal air currents occur…do so holding a kite string in-hand.   Even though the wind may be invisible…how it naturally occurs in our environment doesn’t need to remain a mystery.   Instead, discover how best to incorporate the presence of wind to your advantage when spending precious time outdoors.

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