To some, winter is a curse. The cold, the snow, the dampness and the wind chill are about as pleasurable as a root canal or that medical plumbing checkup you need when you hit 50. Many of you are just sitting idly back waiting for turkeys to gobble and the season to open. I have one word for
Get out and continue your scouting. Winter offers big-game hunters, small-game hunters and turkey hunters a window of opportunity to survey local game populations. Why is winter better? Winter's unique character forces most animals to expose themselves during daylight hours. Sometimes it may be for a brief glimpse, and other times the animals are in full view all day long.
Snow, cold temperatures and reduced nutritional opportunities cause animals to spend more time foraging, oftentimes in the wide open. You can take advantage of this winter phenomenon by spending a few hours surveying your favorite hunting location, and you may not even have to leave your vehicle if you have a vantage point and incorporate quality optics.
Here are some winter scouting tips:
1. Outfit yourself with a high-quality binocular and spotting scope. Quality counts. Yesterday I watched a large herd of elk from the comfort of my living room using my Nikon EDG spotting scope and, believe it or not, they were approximately 9 miles away as the crow flies.
2. Watch food sources. Deer will be visiting high-energy foods such as corn or soybeans, and Western game will be raiding hay fields whenever possible.
3. Pay attention to south-facing slopes. Regardless if you live in the East or West, deer use south-facing slopes to shield themselves from the bitter North wind, and to soak up the sun of a cozy microenvironment.
4. Keep your distance. Winter game is stressed already, and bumping them can cause unnecessary strain on their taxed bodies. That's why I urge shed antler hunters to lay low and avoid bumping game until winter's grip begins to break (more on that to come).
Winter may be miserable and cuss-worthy at times, but for the hunter it can be used as a crystal ball for what to expect next season if you just take a look.