Go Winter Backpacking in Your Hunting Area
First of all, if you haven't gone winter backpacking, it needs to happen in the near future. It puts a very unique twist on the summer version of the activity. Yes, it's cold but it's nothing that being prepared can't remedy. Beyond it's therapeutic and recreational value, I think it is a very good tool for the big game hunter as well. I don't think that you can spend too much time getting to know the ins and outs of the area that you hunt. And there is no better way to gain experience in your normal haunt than to backpack in it. And in winter, you get a perspective that you don't during the rest of the year.
When the air is cold and the snow is deep, you get a very good idea of what it would be like to try and make a living in the wild year round. Game animals have to do this. By backpacking during the winter you can get a snapshot of what they might have to deal with. This can prove beneficial because it allows you to envision what routes animals might take when the snow really starts to fly. If a drainage is far too nasty to even think about traversing with too much snow, than it might be a safe assumption that game might steer clear of it as well. You might find drainage's away from roads and trails that receive comparatively less weather and are thus easier to travel through. Just as it makes your trek easier, it makes the going a little easier for the critters. This exploration just might lead you into new areas that you haven't even thought about hunting up to that point.
When planning for your trip, don't just backpack in the area that you normally hunt in. Expand your horizons and travel through new areas. Another tool that you can use to help plan a trip would be to talk to your local big game biologist. They have migration data on most herds and can get you started on areas/drainages that get used during the migration to lower, less daunting winter range.
Winter backpacking is not only fun and rewarding, but can increase your odds of success come fall. So this winter, get out there, be safe and spend some extra time in your normal stomping grounds.