New snow can bring an almost magical fresh start. Suddenly, you can slip silently through the woods. Your scent is smothered. Bucks are on the move and easy to spot. And when you connect, an obvious blood trail leads right to your trophy.
But not all snow is so helpful. A windblown blizzard can keep bucks bedded for days, for example, and crusted snow can have bucks fleeing your footfalls. Fact is, the white stuff comes in many flavors, which affect deer behavior and hunter success in various ways. Below are six snowy conditions, and how to tailor your strategies to make the most of each.
Powder Snow Deer love to move in fine, light, dry snow. Let them come to you by taking a stand overlooking a travel route. Be sure to avoid bedding areas, as late-season bucks are especially wary. Instead, hunt an afternoon stand close to a major feeding area.
Wet Snow Because this sticks to and dampens a deer’s coat, bucks will head for sheltering cover. Find tracks leading to small, precisely defined thickets and put on small drives.
Crunchy Snow Sleep in. Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but moving in these conditions is noisy and taxing for both deer and hunters. Go to places you don’t have to walk far to reach; and watch brushy fields, clear-cuts that offer browse, and south-facing slopes. Listen for the crunch, crunch, crunch of approaching deer.
Deep Snow When accumulations surpass 10 inches, bucks will typically bed down in dense conifers close to food or move to sunny, south-facing slopes. In some northern states, they’ll travel to yarding areas in softwood swamps. Still-hunt all these spots, using snowshoes if necessary. Glass ahead to try to pick out bucks bedded beneath evergreens.
Blowing Snow Such conditions quickly rob deer of body heat. They’ll move to the lee sides of ridges and into hollows and valleys. Try still-hunting these areas with a partner, one working 75 to 125 yards ahead of the other. Any buck that circles back behind the lead hunter may walk into the trailing hunter’s sights.
Gently Falling Snow Ideal for still-hunting and for tracking, new snow quiets your footfalls, covers old buck tracks, and reveals the freshest ones. Also, because bucks travel readily when the flakes are falling straight down, you can set up inside an enclosed ground blind near a staging area and stay dry, comfortable, and perfectly positioned to fill your tag.