Some whitetails have it easier than others
I’m willing to bet that due to a lack of snow during the late fall, or even early winter, that whitetails in many areas did not migrate this season. You might ask if that’s good, or bad? It sure is different.
I’m seeing it with my own eyes around my home in the southeastern Adirondacks. We have some deer around the house, which is good for the bow and muzzleloading seasons, when I like to hunt them here. But it’s not-so-good for the gardens, and sometimes, the deer.
Throughout the spring and summer months, and even in the fall, deer around these parts get hit by vehicles. Some years there’s just too many of them and when food (or especially water) is scarce, they travel to find it and someone’s car insurance takes a hit.
Come winter, they sometimes hang around and this is one of those years. It’s not unusual to see deer sign dry up around here in late December, or sooner if heavy snow and cold hit. But during a year like this, with snow totals (so far) well below average (both Glens Falls and Albany are currently at or below half their normal snowfall), whitetails stick around.
Eventually, the snow comes, as it did in late January and February. Suddenly these “resident” deer were everywhere in search of food. They found it in my driveway under the bird feeder where tracks told the story. One morning, while getting a cup of coffee, I noticed the shadows of two deer in the driveway, cleaning up bird seed. Fearing there would eventually be more, I cut back on the bird feeding (sorry birds), and only put seed in the feeders as opposed to on the ground. It has seemed to work, for now.
Deer have been hitting the small Christmas trees I’d planted the past two seasons. They’re just tall enough to protrude through the snow and make for easy nibbling for browsing deer. I’m overdue on some winter woods walks, but I’m sure I’ll find sign of plenty of browsing once I do get in the woods.
Around here, there’s plenty for deer to eat, but that’s not the case in the mountains. A few weeks ago, in early February, we did some trail cutting to a beaver pond to help a trapper have better access to it. Tracks in the yard at the camp showed deer had been around. That day, we saw seven whitetails, which is almost unheard of this time of year. If they’re not in their winter yarding areas, what are they eating and how are they surviving? Fortunately, these deer looked healthy.
I also spent a weekend recently in the central Adirondacks, where there’s plenty of snow and and I saw no sign of any deer. Some normalcy, perhaps?
Mild winters, in terms of snowfall might seem like a good thing for deer. But they are not natural, and there could be consequences in the form of drought and lack of spring runoff. But that’s another story.