Feb 12th, 2014 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Feb 12th, 2014 at 12:00 AM
It’s mid-February and the days are finally getting longer. Here in the upper Midwest, snowfalls this winter have been constant with frigid negative temperatures biting. I try to imagine what life must be like for a deer in these conditions and I shiver with mercy.
A brief warm-up in December led to rain in much of the area, followed by a deep freeze the following days. Solid ice blanketed the cut crop fields and soon thereafter they were covered with renewing layers of snow. It’s no wonder many of the area crop fields around my neck of the woods are lacking deer sign as they usually would. The deer dig with their hooves only to get to the ice beneath the snow protecting much of the residual crop and are forced to look elsewhere for food.
A quick drive through a neighborhood nearby deer woods shows they’ve been browsing the backyard bird feeders and every crabapple tree has been nipped as high as a deer can reach standing upright on their hind legs.
Yes, it’s harsh across the Midwest and much of the Northeast this winter and the deer are stressed, but Mother Nature will run her course in ways only she sees fit. All we can do is tolerate it as best we can, waiting for spring thaws and the looming floods that are sure to come as the excess snow melts and has nowhere to go. The deer will inevitably seek higher ground for the earlier part of the spring, no doubt, so I for one do not expect to see much on camera this spring and early summer as much of the lands I hunt are low and susceptible to standing flood water. When the floods subside the mosquitos are unbearable in the denser cover, so the deer will not be bedding in the dogwood they tend to migrate to later in the summer on my hunting grounds.
I’ve seen it before, “new” deer showing up on camera showing potential and raising hunters’ eyebrows on surrounding higher grounds. My indirect neighbors must be teased every year into thinking these “new” deer have found a new home on their properties until suddenly the heat of summer gets to be uncomfortable and the deer seek refuge back in the low land refuges of dense poplars, tag alders, cattails and dogwoods. I’ll wait until I see a heat wave approaching in July before I’ll start cooking trail camera batteries on the pieces I hunt; the date stamps on my pictures will tell me if my hunch was right.
For now, while there is still firm ice on the marsh, it’s the perfect time to get out and start trimming shooting lanes and prepping areas for the season ahead. The deer don’t commonly winter in the lowland areas around my local area, so my off-season scouting is limited mostly to December and sometimes the early part of January during less severe winters, but soon after they flee the coup and take up residence on the elevated lands surrounding me where the sun can reach them and there is more browse.
Shed hunting has been tough to put it mildly. Snowdrifts and endless dustings have covered much of the bone that has fallen already this new year, but some serious shed hunters with eagle vision have still managed to find a few antlers by mere inches of tines protruding from the snow. Once the snow recedes a little and the shed hunters really start putting on the miles, it is without a doubt that many will stumble upon victims of the severity of this year’s harsh winter conditions – a bitter-sweet reality for those shed hunting their hunting grounds.
A warm-up is fast approaching, however, so hang on for the ride as spring is fast approaching.