It’s late winter and many of us in the northeast are deep into what has become one of the most severe winters we’ve ever seen. The snow is measured in feet, for inches have become irrelevant in Snowpocalypse 2015. Yet for the most part, these deep snows are little to no threat to the urban and suburban bucks we have come to covet.
Our suburban neighborhoods are a survival paradise for whitetail deer. They provide essentially unlimited food as well as safe travel and bedding areas close to their next salad bar. There’s no need for the fifteen-plus mile treks many northern whitetails are forced to make in order to survive this onslaught of Mother Nature.
This time of year is one of the most valuable moments for any hunter looking to break the complex code of suburban deer movement. Many plan to shed hunt. Myself and many other hardcore suburban bowhunters will seek to piece together the puzzle of a mature whitetail. The sheds are just an added bonus we hope to attach to a deer this fall.
Snow provides us with a readable record of deer movement. That being said, we need to be looking for a number of key factors beyond a mere dropped antler.
Buck Travel Routes
Mature bucks generally use travel routes outside of the rut that are not in line with major whitetail runs. In deep snows like this, we are quick to notice the highways cut through neighborhoods by groups of does. Many hunters walk these overrun trails in an effort to find sheds. They have little success, however, because bucks do not really use heavy deer runs.
We need to take the time to pay attention to less-trafficked runs and the size of the tracks inside them. Basic woodsman skills, like estimating weight by track size, is essential this time of year. By recognizing the deer track of a 200 plus pound animal, we can begin to target mature buck movements.
Connect the Dots
Now more than ever is the time to connect the dots of all our hunting. This is no less true when it comes to non-hunting grounds. Snow allows us to dissect the code of whitetail movement in highly developed human areas. The intelligence we gather now is the piece of the puzzle we’ll need come fall.
The snow reveals where they exit our hunting grounds, how they enter, and where they are trying to get to. Since deer season is closed, people tolerate others trekking through neighborhoods. I suggest leaving the hunting clothes home, of course. Taking advantage of that tolerance is a good reason to get out there, as is the opportunity to pressure the deer well out of season.
Throughout the course of this adventure, we will find ourselves in the core areas of mature whitetails. Rub lines we never knew existed will lead in and out of the vital bedding areas of a mature buck. Suburban bucks will often have multiple bedding areas in their core area. This allows them to adapt in the face of constant human influence.
Take the time to map out the areas. Understand how they all relate and make note of it as part of your fall season’s plan of assault. The most importance piece of knowledge revealed by mature buck core areas is future deer behavior. Buck live there for a reason. It could very well be that a mature whitetail has yet to move in. This all brings us one step closer to breaking the code of suburban bucks, one of the most frustrating enigmas for the modern suburban bowhunter.
A.J. DeRosa founded Project Upland in 2014 as an excuse to go hunting more often (and it worked). A New England native, he grew up hunting and has spent over 30 years in pursuit of big and small game species across three continents. He started collecting guns on his 18th birthday and eventually found his passion for side-by-side shotguns, inspiring him to travel the world to meet the people and places from which they come. Looking to turn his passion into inspiration for others, AJ was first published in 2004 and went on to write his first book The Urban Deer Complex in 2014. He soon discovered a love for filmmaking, particularly the challenge of capturing ruffed grouse with a camera, which led to the award-winning Project Upland film series. AJ's love for all things wild has caused him to advocate on the federal and state levels to promote and expand conservation policy, habitat funding, and upland game bird awareness. He currently serves as the Strafford County New Hampshire Fish & Game Commissioner in order to give back to his community and to further the mission of the agency. When those hunting excuses are in play, you can find him wandering behind his Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in the mountains of New England and anywhere else the birds take them.