*Quality Winter habitat consists of a combination of high quality daytime browse and high stem county security cover types of grass and conifer species. For more info on great cool season habitat combinations, check out Daytime Browse for Whitetails.
Do you have quality Winter whitetail habitat and if so, is that really a good thing? Building a quality deer herd and hunting parcel, hinges on your ability to maximize your efforts to meet the needs of the local deer herd during the hunting season. Does a Winter habitat parcel provide those needs? That depends!
Just because your land is collecting deer all Winter long, doesn't necessarily mean that your land is an influencer, when it comes to creating a quality herd. Make sure that the following habits clues reveal that your land is great, when it matters most!
Winter Deer Habitat Can Be Deceiving
Piles of deer during January, February and March can't be wrong, right? The Winter months can at times be the great deceiver, when it comes to revealing if your land has what it takes to be the neighborhood influencer. There are several clues that can let you know if you are being led astray, when it comes to the whitetail deceit of the Winter months:
When the snow opens up in late February and early March, a quality hay field can hold a huge percentage of the local deer herd. However, after the last cutting in September and first frost in October, even a quality hay field can be completely vacant for the bulk of the hunting season.
2. Conifer Highways
Stands of heavy conifer can hold great deer numbers during a Winter Blizzard, but deer don't often choose to be there during the hunting season unless they are forced to. Why? Because just about any stand of heavy conifer (even browsed out white cedar deer yards), contains little to food. While stands of conifer can appear to be the golden habitat ticket for deer attraction and bedding, keep in mind that the level of Winter habitat attraction is typically temporary.
3. Shed Habitat
Often bucks return to their Summer habitats of hay and various grasses before dropping their antlers. I can think back to a landowner who found at least 30 sheds on his land in the late Winter, but had a hard time getting a buck photo on his land during the hunting season. Quality Winter shed parcels are often not very high quality hunting or herd influencing parcels.
4. Thick Native Grasses
I love switchgrass, but switchgrass alone is very deficient when it comes to creating quality Fall bedding cover. Switchgrass is another great deceiver, because during Summer's fawning season and Winter's bitter nights, whitetails often gravitate to a high quality field of switchgrass protection. But often the protection is only temporary, as whitetails consistently gravitate back to daytime bedding locations containing high levels of habitat diversity.
Winter whitetail habitat is at its most reliable, when it mimics quality, diverse, Fall whitetail Habitat. Grasses, conifers, hay and sheds can certainly be a part of the puzzle of habitat clues, but each of those features can also be misleading when it comes to accurately assessing your progress.
To put it bluntly, the land that is the most attractive during the daylight hours of the entire hunting season, is truly the herd influencers for the local neighborhood. Can true Winter habitat hold the key to the ultimate whitetail parcel? While great numbers of deer on a particular small parcel during the Winter months can be a pure joy to observe, make sure that you study the habitat clues to find if your land has what it takes create great herd and hunting opportunities, the rest of the year.
The greatest clue that your Winter habitat is making the grade, is when quality daytime browse, grasses, conifers and various greens, all take place on your land at the same time, during the Fall. It is on those parcels where quality Fall and Winter habitat blends to create the perfect mix of herd and hunting influence.