It’s that time of year again when even the hardiest sportsmen consider taking a couple of months away from the woods. While it’s true that we all deserve a little relaxation, hanging up your camo for the winter months could mean you’re missing out on some significant hunting scores.
So grab your hat and gloves, make sure your boot liners are in good shape, and pour something hot into a thermos because the hunting season isn’t over. Depending on your location, it might even be time to invest in a decent pair of snowshoes. We’re heading back out into the woods to hunt down four reasons winter is the best hunting season of all.
1. Ease of Movement
There’s no denying that a few feet of snow makes it a lot harder to move through the woods, but have you thought about the ways snow can make getting around easier? For instance, when you’re in snowshoes, last summer’s brush and thorn-riddled thickets are today’s empty plains and easily walked over.
Getting across streams, ponds, and swampland becomes downright simple once the water has frozen over. Just be 100% sure the ice is thick enough to bear the weight of you and your equipment before attempting any crossing. Use the ice to your advantage but treat every body of water with respect and don’t take chances. It doesn’t have to be deep enough to drown to ruin your hunt – or worse. Something as mundane as a wet sock can rapidly become a threat to your safety in freezing conditions.
Snowy terrain also allows you to add some work-saving tools to your hunting strategy in the form of cross-country skis, the snowshoes mentioned above, snowmobiles, and our personal favorite, the utility sled. Pulling a deer out of the woods on a sled is far easier than dragging it down a root-infested trail or trying to position it across your shoulders.
Finally, winter conditions can mean less movement. Animals tend to fall into consistent winter patterns, especially deer, who would rather be in a condensed area over warmer weather.
Choose a simple, reliable bolt action gun like a Remington 783 rifle, which is available in a wide variety of calibers to suit whatever you’re hunting. You can even get by with something as light as a Marlin 22LR rifle for small game hunts. Magazines and websites will recommend all sorts of cold-weather gadgets, but don’t bring anything that will weigh you down unnecessarily.
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Even if snow and cold aren’t your favorite things, no hunter can deny that this is the season for tracking! Snow can drastically improve your ability to find game animals.
Except for a nice, open patch of clay-rich mud, you’ll never see better animal tracks than the ones you get on days with that perfect snowball-making snow. Even less ideal snow (e.g., very fluffy or sloppy) can hold excellent hoof- or paw-prints, at least for a while.
And if you don’t have snow yet, the colder temperatures can help preserve tracks in mud for days or weeks, giving you a complete picture of animal behaviors.
We’d all love to take the perfect shot every time and down our quarry immediately, but the reality is that tracking an injured game animal through the woods to finish the hunt can be the most tedious and challenging part. Snow helps immeasurably in this task.
Following a trail of blood through a muddy forest of red and orange autumn leaves can feel like an impossible puzzle. Doing the same over snow is so easy it almost feels like cheating. You may feel inclined to stick with your stock clip and go without extra high-capacity magazines for hunting rifles unless hunting pack animals like coyotes. The snowy conditions make it likely you’ll only need a round or two to locate your animal and complete a successful harvest.
3. Easy Camouflage
Snow also simplifies the job of choosing camouflage – just wear white.
There are, of course, all sorts of advanced snow camo patterns available, which you can buy on sweatshirts, parkas, lined pants, boots, rifle stocks, and more. Ensure you know your state’s hunting laws and add the proper amount of safety orange if required.
Perhaps the best thing about winter hunting is the vibe, which is serenity. If you can get over the cold, it’s a beautiful time to be out in the woods. Watching snowdrift across an open field or the sun glimmer on ice crystals means there’s always something interesting to watch, even if the hunt doesn’t go your way.
Being one of the few hunters to brave the cold also has a natural benefit because your favorite hunting areas will be less populated than during the fall hunt. You probably won’t bump into another hunter on the trail or have a dirt bike rip by while you’re sitting quietly in your blind.
Winter hunting can be challenging and uncomfortable, but the one-of-a-kind experience quickly becomes its own reward if you can hack it.