6 Strategies For Hunting Whitetail In The Winter

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Winter can be both a difficult and, sometimes even, frustrating time for us hunters.  Deer movement begins to change drastically, the conditions begin to seem unbearable, and suddenly, that big buck on your trail camera is no where to be found.  Nevertheless, don’t give up. Not only is this time of year changing your hunting patterns, but it is also changing the whitetails daily patterns as well.

Although it is only November, us Michiganders at HuntWise have already endured multiple days of snowy, below 20 degree weather.  It is cold, and it is very windy, but that is not going to stop us from whitetail chasing. And it shouldn’t stop you either. We’ve developed 6 different topics/strategies to consider when hunting whitetail during the winter time.  

Understand Your Winter Food Sources

In the winter, a lot about our precious, whitetails “home” has changed.  Leaves have fallen, crops have been harvested, and overall, their home is completely different.  Therefore, their feeding efforts have to be vastly different as well. Yes, this does vary based on location of where you are hunting, but more times than not, a whitetail is going to alter what their food source is and change the times of day they are feeding.  Whitetail movement during the day is going to significantly decline, is you are like us in Michigan, because daylight is so limited. Deer are not going to trail as much as they would have during early season because they would be burning energy reserves for no reason.  Therefore, concentrate on areas that have good bedding coverage and winter food sources available. Take some time to research your area, and understand what vegetation will be available for your whitetail in the winter time. If you begin to focus on these smaller areas, your likelihood of success is sure to increase.

Ditch Your Stand

We’ve said it before, and we will say it again, ditch your stand during the winter season.  As previously stated, whitetail behavior is going to significantly change during this time of year, which means you must switch up your normal hunting patterns.  Get on that big bucks level by ditching your stand and learning to still-hunt. Considering whitetail are spending more time moving slowly in a more confined area, your chances of moving slowly through the woods is going to increase your chances.  Although, this is not an easy change to make, it is so worth it. The key to success when still-hunting is to be patient. You have to move slowly, use available coverage, and be ready at all times. It will be challenging to spot a nice whitetail in their densely bedded area, but if you move to quickly, you could potentially walk right past.  Therefore, as we stated, move slowly and enjoy your time afield. Spend all day still-hunting and we are sure the odds will be in your favor.

Know The Difference Between Winter And Fall Whitetail Behavior

Understanding how whitetail behavior varies from season to season is probably one of the most crucial elements of successful hunting.  You cannot use the same information that you have gathered throughout the early season. Yes, if you have evidence of a buck living in your area, the chances are that he is still there.  However, with previously touching on the changes in feeding areas and coverage, early winter is the perfect time to reevaluate your deers behavior. Although whitetail are creatures of habit, they will begin to stay in a more confined area and feed at different times.  This is a good time to check out your trail cameras and figure out what the deer are up to. Looking at your trail camera footage will help you better figure out what area the whitetail are shifting towards, which will better help you figure out your position of where to hunt.  

Seek Bedding Areas

As we have been stating over and over again, locating bedding areas are very crucial for harvesting that big buck on your trail camera. Bucks are very active during the rut, but then tend to slow down considering they have been on the move and the days are growing shorter.  Always remember that during the winter season, whitetail will spend as much as 90% of their time bedded instead of being active. They tend to veer away from open areas due to blowing winds, and shift their focus towards surviving these harsh months. Therefore, us hunters should shift our focus too and think “where would my buck be bedding?”

Skip The Morning Hunt - Weird Right?

Although typically we tell hunters to sit all day long in order to harvest a big buck, things during the winter season tend to be a little different.  On viciously cold days, many whitetails will not make it back to their bedding areas until just before daylight due to the change in feeding times. That is why you should skip your typical morning hunt, sleep in, and wait until the afternoon.  You do not want to risk scaring off a big buck.

Choose Your Tree Coverage Wisely

Finally, tree coverage is a very crucial aspect to hunting in the winter.  However, tree coverage tends to be very different during the winter than during the fall.  With the lack of foliage at this time of year, many trees that you typically relied on during early season are now not so helpful.  Most coverage in the woods this time of year is slim to none, therefore, instead of locating a very dense and thickly wooded area, look for “background coverage”.  What does this mean? Seeking background coverage simply means look for an area that is going to allow you to blend in a little better by having a lot of branches, high bushes, etc.  Having an open sky behind you is not ideal, therefore, look for an area that was probably a thicket during the early season. This will help you blend in much better while you are still-hunting that big buck.

Now that you understand why the winter is so vastly different, and how to alter your hunting patterns to compliment this time of year, it’s time to get out into the woods.  Remember to check your trail cameras, observe your deers behavior, seek areas that are more confined and covered, and mark them on the HuntWise app. Try to plot multiple areas that you believe are going to harvest big bucks within your HuntWise map, that way you can always try multiple areas based on our predictions for the day. We are sure you will see success with these strategies handy. Good luck hunters, and shoot straight.