We are well past the rut and snow and ice crunch as we walk to our blinds and hunting spots. January is a different beast when it comes to hunting whitetails. The mentality shifts for both the deer and the hunter. Frigid weather challenges the toughest hunters and big bucks focus heavily on finding food and conserving calories until the ice melts and spring foliage boosts calorie resources.
Time to really slow down and still hunt. Weary bucks will pay close attention to your sound and scent. This starts from the second you step out the door. Leave your ATV or truck a long ways off and really creep into your hunt area. Silence and scent control are more critical than ever. Scent is especially sensitive as the air is clear without pollens, blooming plants and competing smells. You really standout in the crisp winter air. Eliminate and cover scents as much as possible.
Dealing with Weather
Safety is a very real concern during January hunts. Frostbite and hypothermia have caught more than one unprepared hunter. Always prepare for the worst and overdress for the blind. Layer up and bring a safety bag as well. Keep extra water, a thermos of warm liquids, hand warmers, dry socks, a first aid kit and some snacks. It’s about much more than staying comfortable in the elements. You must also be prepared to process a deer if you take a shot.
Find the Food
Food sources are limited during the winter and anything reliable will attract nice whitetail bucks. Setup right against the edge of old crops and food sources. Look for any obstacles where crops may not have been fully harvested. Hills, fence-lines, and small stands of timber will have buried food. Also make note of downed trees during the fall season. You can even drop a few trees where legal to provide a food source during the winter months.
Find the Tracks
Big whitetails follow a routine and walk the same trails each day. Glass and look for well used trails in the snow. They are a dead giveaway and when coordinated with food areas, will give you great locations to hunt. In many instances, the deer will bed right against the food source so be weary when selecting your ambush point. They will follow the routine until you pressure them, then they will change locations. Work the tracks, and you will find the deer. It is really just a patience and concealment game as locating is much easier with snow on the ground