In The Nick Of Time
Published: March 10th, 2021
By: Eric Davis

In the nick of time

Last month I received a message on Facebook from one of the writers of the New York Outdoor News. The message asked if I would be interested in providing my opinion on a question. The question asked how the deer herd in your area was doing as winter continued to rage on across New York.

My first thought was, this is cool to get asked and I will be in the next Outdoor News. It was quickly followed up with, how should I answer the question they asked. So, I had to trace my steps from the fall and early winter to try to get into the mindset of deer and deer management.

I had a good bow and crossbow season last fall, harvesting 3 does before firearms season began. So, I only hunted a handful of sits in firearm season, opting to stay warm and dry on days with bad weather. Then we got warm weather the last weekend of regular season and the deer movement appeared non-existent. My trail cameras showed a slow down of deer activity after gun season began.

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So, on the last day of firearm season, I spent the morning in a duck blind with friends instead of in a treestand (We shot 3 black ducks and 5 drake mallards, so it was worth it). During the week that week, we got the monster snowstorm on Wednesday night. It took days to get all my driveway and sidewalk shoveled out. With snow above my knees, I did not even want to think about how hard it would be to walk up to my stand in Sherburne. Plus, who knows if the deer would even be moving that much with snow that is up to their chest. I was able to drive to Watkins Glen and do some drives with black powder guns where they had a much more tolerable eight inches of snow instead of 38!

The following week, we got the warm spell with rain before Christmas that melted a lot of the snow. Since the New Year however, we have had consistent snow and cold weather through January and February.

This was where I started to have some concern start to creep into my thoughts. Usually, we seem to get a thaw in January but that did not happen this year. That thaw melts back the snow and ice to reveal food sources that the deer flock to. After a couple months of eating buds and twigs, some uncovered corn stubble or alfalfa is a welcome change.

Also, the warmth of the days plus the sun’s radiant heat is good for deer low on fat reserves after dealing with subzero temperatures. On top of food being potentially covered, the ice pack of the snow we had was enough for predators to stay on top of while the deer were post-holing (breaking through the top ice crust). This can make for easy hunting for those predators.

So, after some time of thinking about it, I gave me response in a message back on Facebook. It was my opinion that the deer herd seemed to be doing alright but I was nervous that if we did not get a melt soon, that it could become bad for the deer in a hurry.

Almost as a response to that opinion, which would be printed and sent to people across New York, the next day when I looked at the extended weather forecast there were multiple days with above-freezing daytime temperatures. While we had the cold days over the past weekend, I think we are on the right side of things now and it could not come at a better time. In the past week or so, I have noticed deer and turkeys congregating along roadsides where the road salt has helped speed up melting the snow to expose the ground. Seeing them so close to roads has me thinking that they are slightly more desperate than usual to find food.


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