Hunting can be a lot of fun, especially when you have a successful season! However, if you want something a little more challenging, try hunting in the winter where you don’t have much tree cover and you have to really pay attention if you want to snag a big buck.
Once the weather gets colder, the deer aren’t going to be so easy to find, so you’re really going to have to be on your game. Here are 10 tips for hunting deer in the winter to help you fill your tag!
Depending on how you plan on hunting (with a bow or a gun), your range of movement can be greatly affected by the layers of clothing you will be wearing during the winter. As an archer, you may find that you have decreased draw strength.
If you are using a rifle, you may find that the added bulk will make it more challenging to line up your shot. By practicing in your full winter gear, you can prepare and adapt.
When you are hunting buck during the winter, you are going to be out all day, walking very slowly and silently. You will want to plan your hunt around feeding areas during the early morning. You can even look around these feeding areas for bucks that are still asleep. Sneak around the ridgelines to stay hidden, and keep the wind at your face to prevent the deer from detecting you.
Hunting in the winter means the chances of hunting in the snow is very possible. Use this to your advantage by learning the difference in deer tracks (mature bucks will have a larger track that is larger in the front). You will also want to start following the tracks because you could find feeding and bedding grounds.
Throughout the winter, deer are going to need carbs and fat to make it through the harsh weather. Look for crop grains like corn and soybeans because these are great suppliers of both. Also, watch unfrozen water sources because when winter comes, these become scarce. Deer will flock to these unfrozen sources for their water, thus making it easier to hunt them.
A lot of people will avoid areas that are thick with vegetation, but you could be missing out on great scores. Instead of approaching these areas like you would a normal field, you will need to approach it differently, even if that means squatting to see under the plants, or crawling on your belly to get a closer look.
The key think about the dense vegetation is to proceed very slowly as to not scare away any deer (or other animals) that may be lurking.
When you want to stop moving for any reason, make sure you stop near some type of cover, be it a tree, a bush, boulder, etc. The cover will keep you shielded from the deer’s view and will keep them from running off. Also, these things will give you a chance to rest, but also can act as a rest if you need to shoot offhand.
The key to finding a food source where the deer feel most safe is by searching for quality forage. Many hunters overlook late-season food sources like forbs, which actually makes up more than 60% of what deer will eat throughout the year.
Forbs can be found in the southern slopes that get the most sun. Here, you’ll find weeds and wild flowers that are still growing and are green. The best slopes will be those facing completely south, but south west slopes are good too.
Being wet and cold isn’t a good situation to be in when you’re hunting in the winter. You can avoid getting sweaty on your trek to your tree stand by wearing moisture wicking clothing and make sure you layer up. You don’t want to don your warm outer layers until you get to your stand. By doing this, you’ll be more comfortable (and warmer) once you get on the stand.
Even if you haven’t officially begin your hunting trip and you’re just walking to your hunting location, always carry your rifle in the ready position. You never know when a random deer will run out in front of you and you don’t want to miss your chance to shoot. By being ready, you can react quickly and not miss your shot.
Hunting deer in the winter using the still hunting tactic is going to be challenging and you may have to make some tough shots. The shots you may be able to get will be freehand and in the best case scenario, there’ll be a tree or boulder for you to rest on.
Shooting deer in the winter is going to require fast shooting and you won’t have the chance to set up for a normal shot like you would during the fall. You will want to practice these shots in the off season so you can be better prepared for still hunting.
Hunting in the winter does have its own set of challenges. You are going to want to stay alert and make sure that you move very slowly. When you do that, and follow these tips, your hunting experience will be that much more enjoyable, and fruitful!