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The Deer-Killer Winter Storm

March 25, 2013
The Deer-Killer Winter Storm - 8

A year ago, whitetails in most of the country were gorging on fresh greens. This year, they’re still digging to stay alive. And the snowstorm that swept through the Midwest this past weekend and is hammering the Northeast early this week just might dictate your success this fall.

Most whitetail watchers would agree that the winter of 2012 has been a beast. Whitetails in many regions have been hunkered down for the past two months. They’ve been eating less and spending most of their time on their bellies in an effort to conserve energy and avoid burning body fat. Basically, deer have lived off of what little food they can find and have gradually used up the (fat and protein) reserves they stockpiled before the first flakes of winter flew.

Unfortunately, they can only live on body reserves for so long. Winters that start early or break late can wreak havoc with a whitetail herd. The first to go are typically the fawns; especially those that were born late and entered winter abnormally small.  They simply don’t have the reserves to pull through a long difficult winter. Next are the old or injured. While last year’s abnormally mild winter allowed some of these deer to live another year, this year, Mother Nature will likely call the note in the days to come. Does absorb developing fetuses and bucks will spend next spring replacing body mass not growing antlers.

Depending upon the snow depths and temperatures where you live, you can still make a difference. If you have a chainsaw handy, head to the woods and start dropping some brush and tree tops in areas where your winter-weary whitetails can get to them. The buds are nutrition-rich right about now.

And while you are at it, put together a habitat development plan for your hunting property as an insurance policy against winters like this one. Crossing your fingers that winter will break here in a week or two isn’t nearly as effective. For more habitat development information visit www.northcountrywhitetails.com.

Comments (8)

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from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I was out last night in central illinois prepping for turkey season. I think we are far enough south to not see big effects from winter. We did have 10 inches of snow the other day, but it is mostly gone. What I do see in the winter is a huge change in what the deer consider their home base. In general it seems year after year they choose a way out of the way crop field that doesnt really have the most food, but it seems to be able to suppport a lot of deer, with a large view from all directions and for the most part pretty secure from people and predators. The only flaw is you can see them from a car in most places. The transition usually happens once deer season is over. A lot of people say scouting this time of year is a good thing and I agree as long as you are scouting for sign that is not always fresh. Maybe this is just in my neck of the woods. Craig we are passionate on here and mean no disrespect, you do a good job and if you did not you would never see comments.

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from Craig Dougherty wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I agree with you guys that the winter sky is far from falling even if the headline attached to my blog implies otherwise. The blog was written mainly to call attention to the impact severe winters have on deer and to higlight the importance of habitat to whitetails. I also hoped to find out what othrs were seeing out there. Thanks for the feedback. Craig

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from 6phunter wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

In my humble opinion, if you wish to do something that would really help,let's do what hunters do best.Start by killing as many coyotes as possible,then finish what we started. KILL COYOTES.

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from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

If we didn't have the solid winters, we could have increased diseases or the lack of increased diseases the contribute to the stability of the overall herd. Disease is not always a bad thing. It's starting to hit a level of craziness, we have to have food plots, create a water source, squirt and hack concepts, controlled burning, hinge cutting, etc.. The deer migrated to the now United States about "4 million years ago". I say leave everything alone and maybe they will survive with us for another 4 million years.

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from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I don't think Iowa deer will be impacted significantly by our weather this winter. The last few snows have melted off in a few days at most. Snow amounts have been above normal but this hasn't been a tough winter.

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from GerryBethge wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Wow--tough crowd!
I think Craig's point is a pretty good one in that deer in certain parts of the country have definitely been stressed a bit this winter and it's these late-winter heavy hitters that can do some damage. I'm guessing that "my" deer in southern New England will make it through okay the rest of the way, but I'm also guessing that antler size will be affected due to an almost complete mast crop failure and the tough winter. I'll be cutting a few trees the next couple of weekends in an effort to help in their recovery.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Come on Craig, there have been countless winters as bad or worse than this in the many thousands of years that whitetail deer have been on this planet, and they're still here and doing fine aren't they? I'm of the opinion that most of the time wildlife would be better off if humans didn't intervene at all.

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from 6phunter wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

lol CRAIG ,the sky isn't reallt falling.Although obvious food sources may seem to be depleted,whitetail deer are known to feed on 400 different items.DEER metabolism's slow in the winter TO COMPENSATE .

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from 6phunter wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

lol CRAIG ,the sky isn't reallt falling.Although obvious food sources may seem to be depleted,whitetail deer are known to feed on 400 different items.DEER metabolism's slow in the winter TO COMPENSATE .

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I don't think Iowa deer will be impacted significantly by our weather this winter. The last few snows have melted off in a few days at most. Snow amounts have been above normal but this hasn't been a tough winter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

If we didn't have the solid winters, we could have increased diseases or the lack of increased diseases the contribute to the stability of the overall herd. Disease is not always a bad thing. It's starting to hit a level of craziness, we have to have food plots, create a water source, squirt and hack concepts, controlled burning, hinge cutting, etc.. The deer migrated to the now United States about "4 million years ago". I say leave everything alone and maybe they will survive with us for another 4 million years.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Come on Craig, there have been countless winters as bad or worse than this in the many thousands of years that whitetail deer have been on this planet, and they're still here and doing fine aren't they? I'm of the opinion that most of the time wildlife would be better off if humans didn't intervene at all.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 6phunter wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

In my humble opinion, if you wish to do something that would really help,let's do what hunters do best.Start by killing as many coyotes as possible,then finish what we started. KILL COYOTES.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Craig Dougherty wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I agree with you guys that the winter sky is far from falling even if the headline attached to my blog implies otherwise. The blog was written mainly to call attention to the impact severe winters have on deer and to higlight the importance of habitat to whitetails. I also hoped to find out what othrs were seeing out there. Thanks for the feedback. Craig

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from schmakenzie wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I was out last night in central illinois prepping for turkey season. I think we are far enough south to not see big effects from winter. We did have 10 inches of snow the other day, but it is mostly gone. What I do see in the winter is a huge change in what the deer consider their home base. In general it seems year after year they choose a way out of the way crop field that doesnt really have the most food, but it seems to be able to suppport a lot of deer, with a large view from all directions and for the most part pretty secure from people and predators. The only flaw is you can see them from a car in most places. The transition usually happens once deer season is over. A lot of people say scouting this time of year is a good thing and I agree as long as you are scouting for sign that is not always fresh. Maybe this is just in my neck of the woods. Craig we are passionate on here and mean no disrespect, you do a good job and if you did not you would never see comments.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from GerryBethge wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Wow--tough crowd!
I think Craig's point is a pretty good one in that deer in certain parts of the country have definitely been stressed a bit this winter and it's these late-winter heavy hitters that can do some damage. I'm guessing that "my" deer in southern New England will make it through okay the rest of the way, but I'm also guessing that antler size will be affected due to an almost complete mast crop failure and the tough winter. I'll be cutting a few trees the next couple of weekends in an effort to help in their recovery.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

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