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How Whitetails Handle the Winter

What do whitetails do when winter is in full gear?

Like any other type of animal residing in the cold areas of the country, whitetail deer hunker down and decrease their activity levels in order to weather the bitter cold of winter weather. This is nothing new.

However, during the 2013 deer hunting season, you might have observed a bit of this "hunkering down" activity - or suffered from the shortage of deer activity it caused - and wondered why the deer had disappeared early this year.

Quite simply, this winter has already been a long and cold one, marked by plentiful amounts of snow, frigid temperatures, bitter winds, and more. It's hardly surprising that many deer saw the weather as a reason to retreat into the deep woods and stop moving rather than later. Frankly, it's likely what kept many hunters out of the woods this year, too.

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Still, the sighting of empty deer fields and deserted food plots has undoubtedly caused many hunters to wonder precisely what deer do when the winter sets in.

How do they handle the snow? How do they stay out of the cold? How to they stay nourished if they are cutting back visibly on their trips to the nearest food plot? What about bucks that have not yet regained the body weight and fat reserves they lost during the rut?

Put simply, how to whitetails deal with the winter?

If you found yourself hunting with less productivity during the late season this year, if you found all of your property's most viable and delicious food sources and still saw nary a deer, then chances are that you were a victim of the same unseasonable winter weather that caused whitetails to hunker down early.

When we say that deer "hunker down" when the winter sets in, we mean just that. They cut back on their trips to their favorite winter food sources, lay down in deeply covered bedding areas - heavily wooded areas, spots surrounded by bushes and other evergreen brush - and either go to sleep or spend their time stationary in order to conserve energy.

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Sometimes, bucks and does will also lie down on south facing slopes in order to find protection from the wind. Either way, if you didn't see deer at your food plots in the cold late season, it's probably because they were taking it easy, trying to stay warm, and avoiding needless waste of their fat reserves.

This year, insufficient fat reserves may cause a problem for some bucks, since they may not have had a chance to build back up their body weight between the end of the rut and the arrival of winter. Because of this fact, some bucks may be forced to take chances and hit up a food plot where they can gorge themselves and replenish - especially if there is a break in the cold and snow.

However, in most cases, deer won't risk the trek from the bedding area all the way to a distant feeding area, opting instead to stay put and scavenge for acorns, woody browse plants, or other scraps of food that they can find within a short distance of their well-covered bedding spot.

Did you see less deer in the late season this year? Leave a comment below.

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How Whitetails Handle the Winter