Winter can be both a difficult and, sometimes even, frustrating time for us hunters. Deer movement begins to change drastically, the conditions begin to seem unbearable, and suddenly, that big buck on your trail camera is no where to be found. Nevertheless, don’t give up. Not only is this time of year changing your hunting patterns, but it is also changing the whitetails daily patterns as well.
1. Understand Your Winter Food Sources
In the winter, a lot about our precious, whitetails “home” has changed. Leaves have fallen, crops have been harvested, and overall, their home is completely different. Therefore, their feeding efforts have to be vastly different as well. Yes, this does vary based on location of where you are hunting, but more times than not, a whitetail is going to alter what their food source is and change the times of day they are feeding. Deer are not going to trail as much as they would have during early season because they would be burning energy reserves for no reason. Therefore, concentrate on areas that have good bedding coverage and winter food sources available.
2. Ditch Your Stand
As previously stated, whitetail behavior is going to significantly change during this time of year, which means you must switch up your normal hunting patterns. Get on that big bucks level by ditching your stand and learning to still-hunt. Considering whitetail are spending more time moving slowly in a more confined area, your chances of moving slowly through the woods is going to increase your chances. Although, this is not an easy change to make, it is so worth it. The key to success when still-hunting is to be patient. You have to move slowly, use available coverage, and be ready at all times.
3. Know The Difference Between Winter And Fall Whitetail Behavior
Understanding how whitetail behavior varies from season to season is probably one of the most crucial elements of successful hunting. You cannot use the same information that you have gathered throughout the early season. Yes, if you have evidence of a buck living in your area, the chances are that he is still there. However, with previously touching on the changes in feeding areas and coverage, early winter is the perfect time to reevaluate the deer’s behavior. Although whitetail are creatures of habit, they will begin to stay in a more confined area and feed at different times. This is a good time to check out your trail cameras and figure out what the deer are up to.
4. Seek Bedding Areas
Locating bedding areas are very crucial for harvesting that big buck on your trail camera. Bucks are very active during the rut, but then tend to slow down considering they have been on the move and the days are growing shorter. Always remember that during the winter season, whitetail will spend as much as 90% of their time bedded instead of being active. They tend to veer away from open areas due to blowing winds, and shift their focus towards surviving these harsh months.
5. Skip The Morning Hunt
On viciously cold days, many whitetails will not make it back to their bedding areas until just before daylight due to the change in feeding times. That is why you should skip your typical morning hunt, sleep in, and wait until the afternoon. You do not want to risk scaring off a big buck.
6. Choose Your Tree Coverage Wisely
Finally, tree coverage is a very crucial aspect to hunting in the winter. However, tree coverage tends to be very different during the winter than during the fall. With the lack of foliage at this time of year, many trees that you typically relied on during early season are now not so helpful. Most coverage in the woods this time of year is slim to none, therefore, instead of locating a very dense and thickly wooded area, look for “background coverage”. What does this mean? Seeking background coverage simply means look for an area that is going to allow you to blend in a little better by having a lot of branches, high bushes, etc.