Late, Great, South-Facing Slope

Scott Bestul |

Wintering deer love a south slope because it soaks up more of that low-hanging winter sun than any other aspect. Even a few degrees of extra warmth is critical for deer now (and especially so in late in the winter, shed hunters take note), because that thermal advantage reduces the calorie requirements deer need to maintain body temperature. Last winter was brutal across the Midwest, with temps well below zero and food sources scant. Still, I watched deer thrive on south-facing slopes, even when they could find little to eat.

But if its food they need, a south slope is where to find it. Because of the bump in sunlight, south slopes typically boast more vegetation; trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs. And winter is the time when whitetails feast on all the above; browsing on the tender buds and twigs of young trees and brush species, and digging through snow to scarf down grasses, sedges and forbs that will pull them through the lean months ahead. Modern deer nuts have come to believe that most whitetails would perish without help from a food plot, but Nature equipped deer perfectly to survive winter eating nothing more than browse. Shocking, right?

It’s impossible to sugar-coat the challenges of hunting right now. Some of the bucks I’ve been chasing are now in another hunter’s freezer. And the ones that remain are uber-wary, having slipped past throngs of hunters for the last 3 months. But I’ll be out there regardless, hoping one big old guy (or his chubby female companion) will make a mistake in what’s left of the season. Sometimes the steepest task now is to simply find deer, but I know exactly how to rise to that dare; I’ll be searching out south slopes, and I hope you’ll join me.

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