With snow continuing to fall and winter finally making its presence known I thought it would be appropriate to write about the winter woods this week. It’s amazing how different the landscape looks with a covering of snow. The snowflakes glisten as they slowly fall to the ground and there’s a stillness that fills the air.
Sometimes it seems as if time stops when you’re standing in the deep dark woods with snow falling all around and on you. Oftentimes it’s peaceful and quiet and if you listen closely you can actually hear the snowflakes as they pass by and hit the ground. Normal everyday noise from vehicles, people, and even animals disappears as the frozen liquid falling from the sky drowns everything else out.
A faint caw from a passing crow can break the silence but usually there’s a solitude and serenity in the winter woods. Big game hunting seasons are a thing of the past and the wildlife and woods calm back down and revert back to normal. Food and cover are crucial to surviving the cold harsh winters. Unfortunately the mast was poor last year and with the recent heavy snow some of the weaker and smaller deer may suffer. Case in point a couple of weeks ago I found a small button buck that fell victim to the deep snow and coyotes in Braxton County. Whitetails rely on fat reserves during the late winter months of February and March and the deer I processed last year didn’t have much fat on them at all.
Acorns and other hard masts are crucial to building fat reserves and there was hardly any on the ground last fall. One good thing the deer have going for them is that December was very mild with warm temperatures that helped keep the grass green. It’s already mid-February and if the wildlife can make it through a few more weeks they should be able to dodge the bullet so to speak.
The predators still have to hunt for food and they have to move more during the bitterly cold nights just to stay alive. Fresh tracks are revealed every morning and you can see exactly what critters moved and exactly where they had been the night before. I love following tracks in the snow as you can learn a lot about not only how deer are traveling but everything else that lives in the woods as well.
It’s actually been a real eye opener the past few years with increasingly more and more coyote tracks being observed. These dominant predators are highly adaptive and are here to stay in West Virginia. I’ve been following coyote tracks since deer season on a weekly basis running a trap line and have eliminated 2 of them from my hunting area so far.
During deer season I kept noticing fresh coyote tracks following fresh deer tracks and it was affecting my deer hunting. I even saw a pack of 4 on Thanksgiving morning while waiting for a big buck to come by. Instead of complaining about it I decided to do something about the coyotes as humans are their only predators around here. I’ve learned so much the past two winters chasing these wily predators and following their tracks in the snow.
The colder the temperatures drop, the better it gets as the critters have to move to stay alive. This winter has had a lack of those single digit nights until this past week and trapping has been slower this year versus last year. I actually caught both coyotes in one night during one of the two cold nights we had in December.
One morning I remember vividly as I rounded the bend and looked down towards the river. The trees were all covered in a heavy, icy frost and as the sun came up over the ridgetops the whole landscape glistened in front of me as the river roared below. It was breathtakingly beautiful and was yet another reminder of why I call this place home.
There are always those folks that constantly complain about the cold and winter months and wish they were at the beach instead but I’m not one of those. I like the change of the seasons and our winter weather here in wild and wonderful. It’s part of growing up here as you learn how to adapt and survive with the changing of the seasons. It also gives you something to look forward to and spring is only a month away now.
I’m going to enjoy the peaceful snowy days while they last as I’m sure we’ll have a couple more. Of course, I’m looking forward to everything coming back to life once again along with spring gobbler season and spending as much of my free time on the river as I can. Actually right now is the perfect time to go through your fishing gear to make sure you’re ready to hit the water when the sun starts shining and melts all of the snow.
Take care and enjoy winter as it will be over soon.