Whitetails weathering the New York winter – so far

It’s still too early to tell, but I’m getting the feeling that the white-tailed deer herd, at least around my home and hunting areas in the eastern Adirondacks, is getting by fairly well as a crucial state of winter approaches. This is good news and marks the third consecutive winter that this has been the case.

Earlier in the season we weren’t so sure. Although there was very little snowfall in our region during the fall deer season, there were parts of the Adirondacks that had their share. Then, right after the season ended, we began to get snowstorms of significant accumulation. By the time the cold snap kicked in around the holiday season and the early part of 2018, there was plenty of snow on the ground, and one had to assume that whitetails had migrated to their winter yarding areas.

With the game of wait-and-see playing out, we could only reflect on the previous warm-weather season and wonder how and if the food sources were enough to sustain whitetails through the winter months. Anyone who lives or hunts in the snow belt certainly understands this concern.

But there was a solid acorn crop again last fall, and many areas of the Adirondacks enjoyed a beechnut mast as well. The deer we were seeing late in the season looked healthy, which was all we could hope for at the time.

Since the early snow and cold it’s basically been an up-and-down winter. As I write this, possible record warm temperatures are descending on the Northeast, ruining the winter fun for skiers, snowmobilers and ice anglers. But it’s not hurting whitetails one bit.

Deer tracks started picking up around my home a few weeks ago. Out setting taps in a dozen maple trees, I always make note of the tracks I see in the snow and activity has been picking up since mid-January, when I got out in the area for a few small-game hunts.

In another area where there’s a big stand of oaks, prior to two early February snowstorms, the deer had this area torn up as they dug for leftover acorns.

Meanwhile, recent travels have taken me to different parts of the Adirondacks, where snow depths varied from town to town. Not only did I observe plenty of signs of deer movement, but I saw whitetails as well – and not in the back yards of those with bird feeders, but in some of the more out-of-the way spots.

There’s still plenty of winter to go. One needs only to look back at March of last year, when another cold snap moved in as well as a big snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow (or more) in places and put off what was looking to be an early spring.

Winter is still going. For now there’s hope that the breaks it is giving to whitetails and the fat reserves they built up from last summer and fall can get them through this final stretch of the cold-weather season.

Categories: Dan Ladd, Whitetail Deer