Hunting on Snowshoes after Deer Season

With the end of gun deer season, many hunters put their guns away until next year. Those who do that miss out on a lot of good hunting. Throughout the years, I have had some of my best hunting experiences in January and February. Here in Wisconsin grouse in Zone A and squirrel are open to January 31. Coon and fox seasons are open until February 15, cottontail rabbit until February 29 and snowshoe hare and coyote have no closed season. That means that there is a lot of hunting to be done after gun deer season. So why don’t more hunters continue to hunt during January and February? Oh, I know, there is ice fishing, but everyone does not ice fish. Then there is the excuse of the cold and the snow. You can dress for the cold and there are snowshoes to take care of the snow.

Back when I was about 11 years old, I read all of the stories of the north. Tales such as White Fang and The Call of the Wild, and then there was the show Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. All of these shows and some of my uncle’s outdoor magazines romanticized the use of snowshoes. As we were not able to afford snowshoes at the time, I decided to make a pair for myself. We lived on a farm and there were a couple of willow trees there, so I used them to make the frames. The easiest to make were the Bearpaw style, so that is what I made. After making the circles from the willow limbs, I used baling twine for the webbing. I also used the same twine as bindings to keep my feet on the shoes. These crude snowshoes worked remarkably well. The main problem was the fact that after every couple of uses, I needed to replace the twine. They did, however, make me a dedicated snowshoer.

As I got older and started earning my own money, it was not too long before I had a pair of real snowshoes. For a while I stuck with the Bearpaw style, but after doing some time in the Air Force I came out and switched to the Michigan style. It seemed to me that the longer tails made it easier to traverse hills and other rough terrain. However, I did find it much harder to get around brushy areas. The tails kept getting in the way.

Nowadays, the snowshoes that are available are much lighter and easier to walk in than the old wooden ones with the rawhide webbing. The new snowshoes are made from light metals and have strong, reinforced decks and crampons to bite into ice or hold on hills. They range in price from around $50 to several hundred, depending what you want. I have used these snowshoes and they are much easier to walk on than the older ones. The bindings are also much easier to step into than the old leather bindings on the Michigan, Alaska or Bearpaw snowshoes.

Hunting on these new snowshoes will be fairly simple. If you are new to snowshoeing, you will probably want to go out and do some hiking on trails before you try cross-country hunting. Once you are used to the snowshoes, you can go out and hunt just like you would any other time. One of the things to consider is trying grouse hunting in the snow. This is a great time, especially if you do not have a dog. Without snow on the ground a grouse can be difficult to find on the ground. With the snow, they stick out like a sore thumb. Squirrels are another animal that is easy to spot when they fall in the snow.

If you intend to hunt fox or coyote and plan to use a blind and call them in, getting to the area where you intend to set up can be a lot easier on snowshoes. Slogging through a foot of snow carrying your blind material, your gun and maybe some lunch can be quite a chore. Being able to stay on top of the snow makes it a lot easier.

When I was in high school, my buddies and I used to go snowshoe hare hunting a lot in the winter. We used to drive these big bunnies just like you would drive deer. We would go to a cedar swamp or a tag elder swamp, put a couple of standers at one end of the swamp and two or three of us would walk through the area. There were a lot of those big bunnies at the time and we usually went home with a couple each. While there are fewer of these hares now due to coyote and wolf populations, I think you could still hunt them that way.

However you do it, if you really love hunting and you have never tried hunting on snowshoes, you need to try it. If you are not too sure about it and do not want to spend the money, there are places that you can rent snowshoes. Rent a pair and go out for a hike on a trail. Once you find out how easy it is to handle snowshoes, I am quite sure that you will decide to hunt on them. Personally, I still use my old-fashioned Michigan style snowshoes. I have purchased a second pair of heavy winter boots and I have them permanently mounted on my snowshoes. This eliminates the extra work of lacing the bindings every time I use them. Some of you may still want to go the old-fashioned way and go with the wooden snowshoes, and that is great. There is something romantic about doing things the old way. Having said that, I hope to purchase a pair of the new metal snowshoes soon. I probably will never get rid of my Michigans, but there are time when going through the brush that I wish I had something lighter and smaller. So get some snowshoes and go out and enjoy another month or two of hunting.