Outdoor Moments: New snow can be a hunter’s dream

Alan Charles
Friday, November 30, 2018

PHOTO by Alan Charles
New snow can be a hunter’s dream, revealing sign of all kinds of wildlife.

The first flakes fell soft as duck down at twilight, and I thought to myself, ‘Outstanding! New snow in the morning. A hunter’s dream.’ Sure enough, come dawn, the ground was covered with a thin veil of white as pretty as the lace on a new bride’s wedding dress.

You probably read the news reports, with the fish and game agency check stations reporting low numbers of hunters and poor harvest of deer and elk. That is often the case when hunting is more difficult without snow for tracking and making game animals more visible. Hunters don’t hunt as hard or as much without snow in this country, and while it was once true that it took a lot of snow to bring the deer and elk down out of the high country in the mountains, that is less true now that private land fencelines, not high or rough country, determine where the game animals will be during hunting season.

But the magic of snow, fresh snow, brings hope and cheer to hunters of all kinds. Snow means tracks, and tracks confirm whether or not game animals are present, and can be followed, and sometimes, found.

While new snow is great for anyone wanting to enjoy the presence of wildlife, truth is, this time of year, I rarely encounter anyone but hunters who are afield and in search of game. But new snow reveals all sorts of evidence about wildlife, game animals or not.

That’s how it can be, hunting on new snow. A huntress might hike for awhile and get discouraged after seeing no fresh sign. Then, suddenly, there they are, fresh tracks stamped on that clean white page, telling a story, how many there were, which way they went, whether they saw or winded her or not, or whether they were just feeding along and moving slowly toward their midday bedding grounds

The hunt intensifies then, and the stalk begins. The huntress looks ahead, far ahead, eyes following the line of tracks until they disappear. She hikes quietly, the soft snow muffling her footsteps. She watches carefully, and listens, and if she is lucky, she sees them first, up ahead, appearing even larger than normal against the fresh white backdrop. At the shot, her quarry hopefully drops quickly. But if not, she knows she has the snow to help her read the story of what happened and where the animal went, with tracks to help her find her game.

On the last day of this season, I hunted in fresh snow, hoping to find an elk. I did not find an elk, or even see any sign of an elk. But I found tracks. The tracks of a doe whitetail and her fawn, made earlier in the night, before dawn, meandering up a ridge. The tracks of three coyotes, running together, hunting along the edge of a coulee, once flushing some Hungarian partridge, with no blood or feathers on the snow confirming their lack of success. The tracks of a flock of 13 turkeys traipsing across a meadow. The tracks of a large buck traveling alone across the rough country, doing what the big breeder bucks do this time of year, covering a lot of country, looking for does ready to breed. And finally, just before sunset, the tracks of a bobcat hunting along the inside edge of the treeline, taking up where I would leave off, a hunter tomorrow, and the next day.

New snow. A hunter’s dream. There is a magic to it, no matter the outcome. Tracks in the snow reveal a signature of events, a story to read, and a fortune to be told. No matter whether a person is a hunter or simply a student of the outdoors, that fresh blanket of snow invites a curious person to discover a world of mystery, delight and outdoor adventure. So let it snow, at least a little bit.

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