Deer hunting season (copy)

South Carolina's deer tend to move just before tropical storms arrive, hunters say. Provided/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Surfers aren't the only ones out there when the winds kick up ahead of a tropical storm or a hurricane nears the South Carolina coast.

Back in the woods, a few intrepid hunters take to gust-shaken deer stands. The payoff could be a trophy buck. 

Venison processors, including Cordray's in Ravenel, say they tend to see a surge in big deer brought in by hunters who put their heads down and collars up against the storm for a shot. Kenneth Cordray will get out there himself, if he can. 

"Windy, rainy; birds are moving, raccoons are moving. Everything is trying to feed. It's pretty wild out there," Cordray said. "I notice big buck moving enough to go hunting myself as soon as the storm gets close."

He and his brother Tristan Cordray were in the stands when Hurricane Florence pushed ashore in 2018. His brother came back with a 190-pound buck with an 8-point rack, or antler set.

Tropical cyclones are fueled by the warm moist air over the ocean, pulling it skyward and creating an area of low air pressure below. The higher pressure air around the storm pushes in, creating a larger area of dropping pressure in its wake.

Hunting publications talk about a "sweet spot" for finding deer at about 30 pounds per square inch of air pressure. Hunters who post in those publications say the chances are better when the pressure is dropping.

Hurricane Wire is a pop-up newsletter during hurricane season that delivers anyone who lives on the East Coast all the information they need to know as storms brew in the Atlantic and beyond.


There's no formal study of the influence tropical cyclones might have on game species that outdoorsman Charles Ruth is aware of, he said. But the S.C. Department of Natural Resources assistant wildlife chief said the notion might well be valid.

"Deer may have a tendency to get on their feet more," he said, sensing the air pressure dropping.

In 1989, Ruth worked at a deer hunting operation near Allendale when Hurricane Hugo came ashore just to the north, right about midnight.

"That afternoon before the storm came in that night, they saw and harvested a lot of deer. We had 10 folks out there and they came back with seven bucks. That was unusual for September," he said. 

Reach Bo Petersen at @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.