We have had our first touch of snow for the winter. How do you feel about that? Most of the hunters I know are excited about the snow.
Snow brings different emotions for different people. Those who don’t like cold are not impressed with snow, especially if they have to shovel it. There are those people who like skiing and snow means it is time to head to the slopes. Snow is a good thing for them.
Then there are hunters — we are the weird people who like the snow and want to get out in it. Snow marks the hunting seasons for many of us. For me, waking up to a fresh snowfall creates a great deal of anticipation. It is a pristine landscape that I can explore.
Deer hunters may be the most enthusiastic group when it comes to snow hitting the ground. Snow paints the landscape in large patches of white. It is much easier to see a brown creature moving within a white world. Statistically, deer harvest numbers go up after a snowfall of a couple inches or more. It is also easier to track and find deer when the ground is covered with snow.
Small game and upland game hunters tend to like new snow. Tracking a rabbit is great fun after a snowfall. Pheasants tend to hold in place a bit longer rather than give up their warm spot, so hunters can get closer. Tracks in the snow can sure help you find your quarry. It is a great way to spend an afternoon in the field.
If you are an experienced woodsman, you can read a new snowfall like a book. Tracks in the snow can tell entire stories. I remember once when I was mentoring a young hunter, we cut across the tracks of a rabbit with coyote tracks that paralleled them. We followed the tracks and found the spot where the rabbit knew it was being hunted. A patch of disturbed snow and a few long strides showed us where the coyote finally launched his ambush. Some more disturbed snow, tall grass bent over and a couple of drops of blood showed that the coyote won the contest. It made quite an impression on my young hunter.
Waterfowl hunters like snow because they know colder air usually pushes more birds into their area. Reduced visibility causes the birds to look for places land on the water and raft up until the weather gets better. Quite often, this means the birds set down where they see decoys in sheltered areas.
Another thing related to snow and hunting: Have you ever noticed that animals act differently when a snow is on the way? Just ahead of a snow event, many animals are out and about before the storm arrives. I think they instinctively know that snow may cover their food sources, so they get out and eat. They try to consume as many calories as they can so they won’t be caught short if they get snowed in. The same thing happens with humans when they raid the grocery store and clean out all the bread and milk when snow is on the way.
I must be a hunter, because I like the snow — as long I don’t have to shovel it.
All this talk about snow makes me remember what it’s like to be in a tree stand or duck blind all day. It can get cold! Here are a few tips you can use to make youth hunting time more tolerable:
» Choose your blind spot with the sun in mind: If possible, set up your tree stand or blind in a spot where the sun shines on it. It is amazing how much warmth you can feel with some sunshine. Of course you have to figure out what that is going to take depending on whether your hunting spot is a morning or afternoon spot.
» Layer up: We’ve all heard about dressing in layers for the winter. It works. The more layers you have on, the more body heat can be trapped in the layers of fabric and the better you can keep the wind out. Choose fabric that can wick away moisture from your body for the innermost layers. Select the outermost articles of clothing with windproof and waterproof qualities in mind.
» Think about your feet: Nothing ruins a day of hunting faster than having cold feet. There are lots of quality boots with good insulation on the market. Do some homework and buy the best boot your budget can handle. Buy your boots a size or two bigger than your day-to-day shoes. You want a little extra room for heavier socks and some extra space at the toes so you have an “air pocket” around your toes. That dead air space can really help your feet stay comfortable.
» Put insulation between your feet and whatever your are standing on: Most elevated tree stands have a wire mesh/open floor to let rain or snow fall through. It is a great design for safety and footing, but it lets the wind blow right through. I put a piece of thick carpet under my feet — a cheap fix for a big problem.
» Keep your head warm: Studies show that you can lose 70% to 80% of your body heat right out the top of your head. Get a good insulated hat or cap, and one that covers your ears as well. I like a heavy wool knitted watch cap and an insulated hood (attached to my hunting coat) over that.
» Keep your hands warm: You can’t pull an arrow back or manipulate a trigger properly with cold stif fingers. I prefer an insulated muff-type bag that I can get both hands in at the same time, and a hand-warmer or two. When the time comes to get ready for a shot, I can quietly pull my hands out of the muff and tollerate the cold for a minute or two.
Be safe and have a great hunting season.