Where to Locate Late Season Whitetail

Scott Bestul |

iowa_snow_doe-jan_2010Here in the Great White North we’ve got a long-standing tradition of teasing “snowbirds”; those warm-blooded folk who can’t handle our cold, snowy, winters. They flee South, to places like Florida and Arizona, where they linger for the winter.

I’ve told a snowbird joke or two of my own over the years, but after many seasons of chasing northern whitetails, I’m convinced that deer do the very same thing each winter.

No, I’m not suggesting that Yankee whitetails migrate to a beachfront for daylight_8_iii-dads_hill-jan_2012winter, but they pull a similar stunt, albeit on a much smaller scale; they move—sometimes a significant distance—to a place where winter is a little easier to bear. Those places are south-facing slopes, and if you’re going to be a successful late-season deer hunter, you need to make these areas part of your game plan. Here’s why:

*Warmer temps: There are simply fewer hours of daylight in the winter months, and when that lovely sun is working, it’s hanging pretty low in the southern sky. That means a south-facing slope is sucking up significantly more heat than its northern counterpart. Also, prevailing winter winds come from the north and west, so a south slope also offers protection from those wintry gales. As a result, ambient temps on a south-facing slope can be 15 degrees higher than other areas. For a whitetail, that’s  Survival Math (fewer calories burned to maintain body temp) no-brainer.

*More food: Because they receive more sunlight throughout the year, south-facing slopes sport a greater diversity of grasses, forbs, and brush than other aspects. And since winter deer are all-about filling their bellies as often as possible, south slopes are the easiest place to accomplish that mission.

*Thicker cover: It’s no secret that whitetails like dense cover for much of their lives, and south slopes offer that for the same reasons they’re perfect for growing food. Brush and tree species offer deer food and thermal cover (especially when the tree species are coniferous, like pine and cedar) that help them thrive through the toughest parts of winter.

Sometimes locating whitetails in the aftermath of the rut can be difficult, and one of the best places to start is a south-facing slope. Perhaps those Snow Birds are on to something after all.


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