Go Winter Backpacking in Your Hunting Area

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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.


hunter25's picture

Good ideas to geta new

Good ideas to geta new perspective on how things move out there for sure. Honestly I have always planned to do this just to stay in shape and not have to work so hard in the summer from being lazy all winter. I woould like to say I'm going to do it but since I just found this tip today I guess it's going to have to wait till next year. lol

The snow piles up fast here and makes hiking all but impossible quickly after the first of December but it would still be smart to get out there and do as much as possible.

groovy mike's picture

You should go - in the snow!

I hesitate to call it hiking in winter because THAT sounds like work.  But walking around your hunting area with snow on the ground is always beneficial.  Like I told my son just last week, you are literally learning with every step you take.  Not only do the depth of the snow and the drift patterns from the wind tell you about the path your scent will take and where the animals might find shelter from the wind, but there ate the tracks too.


The tracks tell you not only where the animals have been but how many have passed and how frequently they do so.  They tell you which direction(s) they travel and whether they do it alone or in pairs or in groups.  Whether different species use the same paths or different ones.  Which animals follow others and if they hunt them.


You learn where animals feed from their pawing through the snow to reach browse or mast, and you learn where they bed.  White tail beds tell you whether the deer who bedded there is a buck or a doe.  You can tell by the location of the urine in the snow.  Doe urine will show at the back of the bed, buck urine generally more toward the middle.


The tracks in the snow can tell you what paths get used the most frequently and where those trails converge you will either discover the ideal ambush point for next season – for example where white tail deer trails intersect at some low point in line of ridges (a saddle), or you will find where your predator animals den.  Think about it.  Every wolf, coyote, and fox trail in the woods start and stop at their den.  If you want to find a bob cats lair, all you have to do is hit its track in the snow and follow it in either direction (forward of back).   It will eventually lead to the animal’s den.  Once there you can see if there are multiple residents or just the tracks from a single animal (one size and shape paw print).


Besides learning where animals sleep or den, where they feed and the travel routes between sleeping and eating, and where the animals might take shelter in inclement weather from the tracks and the wind’s drift of the snow on the ground.  Hiking in the winter on snow covered ground can tell you something else with literally every step. 


You learn where the animals do NOT go.  If there are no tracks, there has been no traffic since the snow fell (unless it has drifted in of course).  There might be a place that you think is a great stand to hunt from, but the snow may tell you that deer just don’t pass that spot, or do so only very infrequently.


So by all means – go for a hike in the woods, or at least a well prepared walk in your hunting area during winter.  I promise that you will learn things and as long as you prepare enough to stay warm and dry while you travel (be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you will be back) – you will not regret it!

numbnutz's picture

good stuff, i love winter

good stuff, i love winter hiking and camping

Critter done's picture


I'll admitt it sounds like fun,but My old legs better stay in by the fireplace. Great Tip.

ManOfTheFall's picture

Good tips, thanks.

Good tips, thanks.