Winter hunting can be far more fun and rewarding than hunting during the warm weather, so long as you know what you’re doing.
These tips and tricks are designed to enhance your experience and ensure you’re bringing home more game than you originally set out to do.
- 1 1. Whitetail Deer Stay in Bed
- 2 2. Identify Winter Game in Your Area
- 3 3. Hunt Early Morning
- 4 4. Pheasants Run Uphill
- 5 5. Wear Boots to Muffle Sound
- 6 6. Use a Bow
- 7 The Benefits of Winter Hunting
- 8 Is Winter Hunting Legal?
- 9 Types of Animals You Can Hunt in Winter
- 10 Necessary Winter Hunting Gear
- 11 Stay Frosty
1. Whitetail Deer Stay in Bed
90% of the time that a whitetail is awake during the cold months, it’s bedding instead of moving around.
Food is scarce for them, but since they don’t hibernate, they need to reduce their metabolism by resting more often.
Since they’re the most abundant big game in North America, this makes them easy targets.
2. Identify Winter Game in Your Area
Different regions will host different winter games, so it’s important to research what you’ll be hunting before you go in.
This can seem like common sense, but the information is always changing based on animal population and activity, so keep updated on it.
3. Hunt Early Morning
Deer and other game will feed during the mornings and evenings, so the middle of the day will be filled with inactivity.
You can camp it out and wait for them to come out, or you can just go at specific times to account for their schedules.
4. Pheasants Run Uphill
During winter, you can see pheasant tracks in the snow.
They go uphill whenever they feel threatened, so positioning yourself at the top of a hill, or having a friend with you to drive the birds in that direction, can be an easy way to bag game.
5. Wear Boots to Muffle Sound
Your sound might travel more during winter, but your ability to remain silent is also fantastic this time of year.
Having the right boots to trot over snow with will muffle movement noises, and foliage will be sodden and buried beneath the snow, so you won’t snap a twig and alert a nearby whitetail of your presence.
6. Use a Bow
If you’re not a bowhunter, you should become one while winter is afoot.
Gunshot sounds will ring out far louder in the winter than in warmer months, but an arrow moves swiftly and silently through the air.
You won’t rouse a nearby game, meaning you can bag more than usual before you head home.
The Benefits of Winter Hunting
No Ticks or Mosquitoes
Ticks and mosquitoes are an absolute nightmare to deal with during the warmer months.
You have to bring additional repellent, repelling lamps, and you have to inspect your deer for ticks after you bag them up.
Not a very fun time, but in winter you don’t even have to worry about them. That’s less you have to bring with you.
No leaves, no greenery; all visibility through the branches.
Light reflects off of snow, lighting up areas and showing game through the woods.
However, this also makes you slightly more visible to prey, especially if you’re in states where you need 500 square inches of reflective hunter orange on your jacket.
It’s like someone turned off all the ambient sounds, and it’s just prey noises left.
You’ll be able to hear just about everything that’s going on, which comes as a double-edged sword.
You need to stay plenty quiet, which means that hunting with friends will come with less chatter.
You’ll also have to keep your hunting dog quiet and prevent it from barking so you aren’t scaring off the game. You can hear them better, but they can also hear you better.
Animals can’t help but leave their prints behind, giving you a clear map of where to go.
It will tell you which watering holes are active, and potentially where whitetail deer are currently bedding.
Put this information to good use, and track your targets with precision.
You might think that your warm-weather camouflage is good, but winter camo is actually far more effective at keeping you concealed.
Everything is white in winter, so animals aren’t going to be able to tell the difference between you (apart from hunter orange sections) and the rest of the weather that’s going on.
If you hunt while it’s lightly snowing, you’re practically invisible to them.
Covering Your Scent is a Sinch
Trying to hide your scent?
While a dog’s nose might be more acute during the cold, many animals lose a percentage of their ability to smell oncoming predators during the winter.
This means you’ll be poised to be completely undetectable to whitetail deer, rabbit, pheasant and more.
If you’re using aid to cover up your scent, it will be doubly effective.
Packing Game is Easier
You’re supposed to put your freshly killed game on ice as soon as possible.
In winter, you have the benefit of snow and ice-cold, frigid air helping you cool the meat quicker.
You should still pack it in a cooler of ice before leaving, but that actually brings another point up: your cooler ice isn’t going to melt at all, so you can stay out for longer trips if you fancy camping in the middle of winter as well.
Diversity of Game
You’ll run into just about every possible winter game while you’re out there.
There are fewer places for them to hide as well, so predatory animals, like coyotes, switch up their tactics while hunting.
It’s likely that you’ll leave with more variety in game than you originally planned on when entering the woods.
Mixing up a bit of venison with rabbit meat for your freezer stash just gives you more options, all from less planning.
Is Winter Hunting Legal?
Yes, it’s legal to hunt certain animals during the winter, so long as you abide by the local laws and stick within the parameters of hunting seasons.
They’re there for a reason; to enforce control on deer population, for example, without removing your right to hunt them.
Winter hunting is less common than hunting during the warmer months, so if you don’t mind the cold, you might actually have more luck in winter.
Fewer hunters on public land mean that you’re not going to scare the game away.
Your hunter orange cap is more visible to animals during winter, so the fewer people are out there, the better.
Types of Animals You Can Hunt in Winter
There’s plenty of game to hunt down in winter, regardless of the hibernation season for some animals.
These are the best animals to hunt in winter.
- Rabbit: There’s a reason that these seasons extend through February in most states. A 12-gauge shotgun and a good hunting dog will allow you to hunt rabbits like it’s nobody’s business.
- Coyotes: You have to exercise caution, but in most states, these can be hunted year-round. It’s not uncommon to get special permission from farmers in rural states to hunt coyotes on their property. It saves them the hassle.
- Wild Hog: Wild and feral pigs are basically a nuisance to everyone, and they’re not only readily available in the dead of winter but are often open season in states like Hawaii.
- Beaver: These are usually in trapping seasons, so firearms might be restricted depending on where you go.
- Crow: They’re in abundance during the winter, and they’re fun to hunt. They’re not going to provide you with a ton to take home, but it’s about the sport when you’re tracking these guys down.
Necessary Winter Hunting Gear
You already know what brings down the game and what navigational equipment is needed, so let’s talk about clothing.
It’s easy to underestimate just how cold things can get, so make sure you have the following:
- Waterproof Hunting Boots: We’re going to try and avoid any moisture getting inside, especially since it will expedite fungal growth and potential frostbite.
- Sweat-Wicking Socks: These are imperative; fungal growth doesn’t need a full eight hours to get going, so these will prevent your feet from building up bacteria and an odor.
- Long Underwear: Your top layers are usually temperature neutral, meaning they don’t contract cold or heat very easily. Instead, they repel them, so you need a good under layer to keep yourself warm inside that jacket.
- Pocket Warmers: You can’t always predict how cold the wind will blow, but you can be ready for it regardless. Pocket warmers are wonderful for winter hunting.
- Durable Hunting Jacket: It’s going to provide a shell for that under layer to stay warm, but it’s also going to protect you from snowfall and the harsh wind.
You’ve got a nice little arsenal of tips and tricks up your sleeve now—what are you going to do with them?
You can brave any winter, find any prey, and hunt like it’s nobody’s business (because it isn’t).
Put our knowledge to good use to make it through the cold, and show yourself what you’re truly made of.