When I sat down to write this Thursday, central Missouri was under a wind advisory — again. I admit that I’m no exception to the rule that anyone’s memories of long-term weather patterns should be taken with a grain of salt, but it would be mighty hard to convince me that our part of the country doesn’t experience more windy days than it did before Al Gore began spewing warm air on a global scale.
(There’s no need to send me educational emails about global warming. While I believe there’s plenty of room to argue about the details, there’s no doubt that average temperatures have been rising on a global scale for several decades. I’ll also concede that global warming may not be entirely Al Gore’s fault, but anytime I get a chance to blame something on the man who “invented” the Internet, I’m going to take it.)
I can cope with heat or cold. If I’m far enough away from home, I can even fish or hunt in the rain without undue complaint. I’d rather be outdoors when a light breeze is blowing than when it’s calm.
Excessively agitated air is another matter entirely. I’m being kind when I say I hate strong winds. And for good reason. With relatively rare exceptions, gale force wind — 32 to 63 mph to the meteorologists among us — 0is the only Midwestern weather condition that can make most outdoor activities dangerous.
Staying home, when the trunks of 100-year-old trees are swaying, is the common sense approach. But if being in possession of common sense was a crime, what died-in-the-wool outdoorsmen could be convicted?
Assuming both the vehicle and its driver are capable of staying between the lines, windy days can be good times to do drive-by checks of new places to hunt or fish. If you decide to park your vehicle and do some exploring on foot, never forget that being hit by a falling tree or large tree branch hurts. If you don’t want to take my experience-based word on that, ask anyone who cuts his own firewood or who works as a tree trimmer.
Keeping the just-stated warning in mind, the unchannelized portions of small streams can provide enough protection from of high winds to minimize the need for bank anglers to compromise with the elements.
Ponds and small impoundments with good access for bank anglers are great places to fish on windy days. Since protected coves, points and windblown shorelines will be within walking distance of each other, it doesn’t take long to determine where most of the body of water’s active fish are holding.
When wind speeds exceed 20 mph, boating on a major reservoir isn’t much fun for the passenger, and it’s no fun at all for the person operating the boat. Given that the boat is up to the task and its operator knows the reservoir well enough to avoid its most dangerous areas, it can be done.
Although I’ve done it before and probably will again, I can’t in good conscience recommend boating on a large river on a windy day. Travel can be deceptively easy on stretches where the direction of the wind and the current are the same, but around the next bend may be a stretch where the wind and the water are moving in opposite directions. This creates large waves, the crests of which are much closer together than they would be under similar conditions on a lake.
Wind impacts hunting more than it does fishing. Hunting in wooded areas when winds reach gale force is dangerous, but even winds in the 20-mph class reduce — or at least alter — the activity levels of every species of upland game bird and animal. Wind also has a negative impact on my ability to relax and to enjoy being in nature, so it’s unlikely you’ll come across me in the timber on days you have to hold onto your hat.
I should mention that waterfowl hunting can be an exception to the rule that wind is detrimental to success outdoors. Migrating flocks ride the strong north winds that often accompany cold fronts. By the time these birds reach Missouri, they’re ready to find a place to feed and rest. Crop fields and flooded oak flats provide the former and protected pockets on bodies of water of every type and size provide the latter.
I do little waterfowl hunting these days, so I have no need to modify my personal opinion. I hate wind.