Many hunters across the Great Plains and Midwest just battled a deadly winter storm. I was one of them. My battle wasn’t with the storm, but with the logistics to wrap up filming on a TV show and get home before the wintry conditions stranded me. I won. Even if you were hammered by the storm, it can be a winning situation for you as well. How’s that, Kayser?
This December has been tough for whitetail hunters. If you’ve been in the field, I’m sure you’ve noticed the above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. I can’t complain about the comfortable conditions for hunting, but neither can the deer. They don’t need as many calories to stay warm and add fat when it’s warm outside. That means they aren’t forced to feed during shooting light and can get all the calories they need under the cover of darkness. Add a massive Arctic cold front and a heavy layering of snow and the rules change. Rut-weary bucks are forced to feed more, and that means exposing themselves during daylight hours.
If you have a few hours of time to spend in the field and were blessed with a winter wonderland for the holidays, consider these tips for late-season whitetail hunting success.
1. Look for high-energy food sources. Whitetails use foods such as corn and acorns as fuel for their internal furnaces when it gets cold. Protein might be better for them in overall nutrition, but that all goes out the window when snow piles up and temperatures dive. Look for cornfields still yielding kernels.
2. Scout for new bedding areas. Once snow piles up, deer oftentimes change bedding locations to save energy while traveling to and from preferred food. If you have standing corn nearby, whitetails might even stay in the field, feeding and bedding without moving. Plus, deer use snow for hydration, so the need to travel to a water source is diminished.
3. Update your winter-weather gear. If you want to ambush a mature buck, you’ll have to be able to stay in the field longer. Check out the new line of Gerbing’s heated clothing from Cabela’s (see my review of Cabela's Heated Performance Camo Gloves right here), and definitely consider a Heater Body Suit. And bring along lots of air-activated hand warmers that can be placed strategically in any area needing a heat boost.
4. Hunt afternoons heavily. Mature deer often vacate food sources before shooting light in the mornings, but they might visit a field to feed again by mid afternoon, well before the end of shooting light. Scout from afar and study travel behavior before setting your afternoon trap.
Many whitetail hunting seasons will be winding down before the end of December, but don’t miss out on your chance to trick a cold-weather trophy for an extra-special New Year.