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The Shotem' and Caughtem' Blog is the place to find the latest reviews and commentary on gear, destinations, conditions, events, and general knowledge to inform our readers and give our opinions to anyone listening.

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Tuesday, 07 January 2014 23:18

Arctic Temps Will Change Whitetail Movements

Whitetail Deer in Winter Whitetail Deer in Winter

Many states across the US are in Whitetail deer season.  Whether your are in the midst of rifle season or on bonus doe season the current weather conditions will have an affect on where you are going to find your prey.  We at Shotem and Caughtem thought we might provide hunters with some tips on where deer go to get out of the cold so that you spend less time in the elements.  We also felt it was a good chance for us to remind you to stay warm and look for signs that you might need to head in from the cold.  As always let us know your thoughts in the comment section below and stay warm. 

In winter, deer move to suitable cover. They move around less and decrease their metabolism and body temperature. This biological “fine-tuning” enables deer to conserve energy and survive our northern winters. Landowners in areas with deer winter range can have a direct influence on deer survival. The effects can be positive or negative. There are pros and cons about providing food for deer during the winter. 

In late summer and fall deer build up fat that will become winter fuel. Acorns and beech nuts -- often referred to as “mast” -- are valuable sources of this fat. Fat reserves can supply almost one third of a deer’s winter energy needs. Deer also produce hormones that regulate body activity. You might think deer would “crank up the heat” to stay warm, but the opposite is true. During winter the deer you see may appear normal, but internally they are operating in slow motion. Body temperature is lowered, particularly in the legs and ears. As the quality and quantity of the food declines, body functions such as digestion are also slowed. 

Deer also develop highly insulated winter coats. Dense inner fur and long, hollow outer hairs create a coat 10 times thicker than the summer coat. Newly-attired, they head for traditional winter ranges known as “deer yards.” 

Ideal wintering areas provide the shelter of conifers close to food supplies. Deer are able to conserve energy by “yarding up”. Conifers such as hemlock, cedar, pine and spruce catch snow on their branches and thus reduce the depth of snow beneath. Deer pack accumulated snow into a network of trails and runways. Trails allow deer to move easily between food and cover, saving valuable energy reserves. Conifers also reduce winds and moderate the temperature. On cold nights temperatures beneath heavy conifer cover can be ten degrees warmer than in open areas. Deer spend many hours lying under the protective boughs of these evergreens. 

In winter, deer subsist on buds and twigs of deciduous trees and shrubs such as yellow birch, hazel, dogwood, mountain, striped, red and sugar maple. Cedar and hemlock foliage also provide food. 

As winter progresses, the survival of deer depends on three primary factors: the amount of stored fat, the availability of natural foods, and the severity of the winter. Added stress or mortality can be caused by predators such as wolves or free-running dogs.

Things to watch for when out in the elements during these arctic temperatures.

Frostbitten skin will become warm and swollen and feel as though it's on fire. Blisters may develop, but popping them can cause scarring, according to the National Weather Service. If skin is blue or gray, very swollen, blistered or feels hard and numb, go to the hospital immediately.

Frostbite stages:

  • First degree: ice crystals forming on your skin
  • Second degree: your skin begins to feel warm, even though it is not yet defrosted.
  • Third degree: your skin turns red, pale, or white.
  • Fourth degree: pain lasts for more than a few hours, and you may see dark blue or black areas under the skin. See a doctor immediately if these symptoms arise. Gangrene is a real threat.

Hypothermia occurs when a person's body temperature is below 96 degrees, and temperatures as low as 60 degrees can cause hypothermia