The Defenders Of Deer

Every superhero needs the appropriate gear, and late-season coyote hunters looking to neutralize fawn eaters are no exception.

There aren't many good things a predator hunter can say regarding deep snow. About the only one I can think of is that deep snow always provides a handy place to set your rifle. Just drive the gun's butt down into a snowbank as far as the grip and it'll stand up on its own.

Beyond that little positive, it's all depressing. Where I hunt, we've had a winter of relatively light snow, with the white stuff just starting to accumulate into troublesome amounts in mid-February, when the accompanying photo below taken.

Now, the dead coyote in the other accompanying photo came running to my call at full speed, having no trouble staying on top of the snow because a warm spell put a light crust on top. But the tracks I'm seeing suggest deer aren't faring as well.

Wherever the snow is deep with a crusty surface, the ungulates are having a tough time. In these conditions, predators can pack up, run on top of the snow and kill them with ease—which makes it important for hunters to get out and defend those deer. But we sink into that snow as well, making this snowshoe weather.

Of course, if you hunt in the South you don't have to deal with snow, let alone snowshoes. And just so there's no misunderstanding, there are some days when I hate you. However, after I've been out on a sunny winter day and walked in the crystal whiteness of freshly fallen snow I ... no, forget it, I still hate you.

Around here, like in many other places, snowshoes are standard winter apparel for hunters. Fortunately, snowshoe technology has advanced a lot from the days of wood and rawhide, and modern shoes are marvels of aluminum and high-tech synthetics. They have solid foot support, pivoting cleats at the ball of the foot and easy on/off harnesses. It's been a long time since I've seen a set of bad snowshoes at the local outdoor shops.

One of the companies that seems to be doing a lot of leading in snowshoe technology is Atlas. I've been using a pair of their shoes for years and they've given me great service. High-quality snowshoes are critical, because if you're like me and walk long distances, a broken binding or a snowshoe that comes apart a mile or 2 from the truck could mean you can't get back, turning a fun hunt into a fight for survival.

So, spend the money and buy quality. If you're in the market for a pair, now is a good time to go shopping. With winter on its last legs, end-of-season sales should be easy to find. And don't forget that in deep snow, the coyotes are seeing a "sale" on deer meat, so get out there and defend those deer.

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