Our Outdoors: Sudden Shift
By Nick Simonson
It’s strange how one day in November, you can be staring out at a beige and brown field, watching deer move back and forth, going about their annual chase in an effort to beget the next generation; and then the next day, staring silently as drifts and drifts of white grow in the front yard, pinning you indoors until the first plows make their way to the neighborhood. It doesn’t always happen in November, sometimes it’s late December, right around the holidays, or as it was last spring, mid-April, putting some amazing early season fishing on hold. Particularly this time of year, though, the late season aspects of hunting can come on quickly with a rogue storm requiring a shift in gear, location, and tactics for both deer and upland game.
Late season hunting, with its snow, cold and often windy conditions, requires one to dress warm. For those late season deer hunters, this means layering up for a sit, and even for those quiet spot-and-stalks with a muzzleloader for that late season adventure. Thermal base layers, heavy pants that don’t make a lot of noise, and top layers going from jacket on down through a couple others can make time on stand more pleasant. For pheasant hunters, who are in motion for most of their hunts, it may mean bulking up a bit, but typically adding a thermal base layer is enough to keep things warm when moving through thicker cover where birds are found more often once heavy snow is on the ground.
Where’d They Go
As the gear for each season changes, so too do the actions of the animals pursued. Deer will typically begin yarding up, finding areas of good cover, such as abandoned farm groves, areas of thick brush, and those spaces which provide protection from the wind and cold temperatures. These areas too become community havens as herds of sometimes over 100 deer will shelter there and take on new daily activities and travel routes. Adjusting bowhunting tactics to capitalize on those shifted movements, or knowing these new spaces being utilized by deer in snowy conditions will help increase the success of late season deer hunts.
The same is true for pheasants. Birds will look for deep cover to shield themselves from the elements and will bunker down in those spaces that have not snowed in. That’s why deep sloughs and stands of willow thickets and other brush are popular points of interest for hunters in late season. A quick examination of their bases will often show tracks in the new fallen snow and evidence of their presence at one point or another and provide a good starting point for dogs in the cold-weather portion of the hunting season.
Finally, there’s something about a snow-trimmed landscape that seems to carry the slightest noise. When approaching areas that hold huntable game, remember that silence is golden. A whistle to a dog, a quick word to a hunting buddy, or even the distant slamming of a truck door or tailgate can put game on high alert. Maintain quiet communications as best as possible to prevent spooking of deer while heading out to the stand or sending a flock of pheasants into the air on the far side of their winter haunts before you even have a chance to shoot.
While late season conditions may have settled in across much of the region, it doesn’t mean that hunting is done. Just as many people are reacting as best they can to a sudden change in the weather that comes with this time of year, so too are the animals, and knowing how to still be able to get out there after them, and do so comfortably and quietly, means the hunting season doesn’t have to stop. Target those spaces that hold game in late season and adjust accordingly to continue to find success…in our outdoors.
Our Outdoors: Sudden Shift