Hunting season is coming to an end, sporting show season is over (either gone virtual or canceled), and as of this writing, there isn’t enough ice to go fishing safely, so What’s a nature lover to do?
It’s been a strange winter, and one that only serves to reinforce the idea that one has to strike when the iron is hot, that is, seize your outdoor opportunities when they arise, and not wait for a better day, because that day may Never comes.
It could be as simple as sledding on an inch of snow and not waiting for the big northeast wind to cover the hill, or something more challenging like fishing on Lake Erie the last time January temperatures hit 40 degrees. The point is that there are still opportunities out there, you just have to take advantage of them.
From fishing to hiking to bird watching to hunting, the last days of January and all of February have a lot to offer.
While there is still some goose hunting and deer bow hunting available during the first week of February, one of the more enjoyable winter hunting opportunities is open until the end of the month, and that is rabbit hunting. While the sound of a good beagle dog adds volume to the rabbit hunting experience, simply getting out and kicking through piles of brush and walking between rows is good winter rest therapy.
We have become a hunting society so enamored with all things whitetail, that we have pushed those activities where we cut our hunting teeth, like hunting squirrels and rabbits, to the background. Get some friends together or make it a family outing, you won’t regret hunting rabbits and squirrels again.
Squirrel hunts are open in Ohio through January 31 and rabbit hunts through February 28. After that, it’s the spring turkey hunt or the hunt for a species with no closed seasons, like the coyote.
If you can’t wait for some good ice to fish in hard water, there are opportunities to fish for saugeye and striper on the Ohio River. It’s not for the faint of heart, but working imitation tarpon baits on the bottom under one of the river’s many dams, or in deep ponds, can be productive in the winter.
The next month or so is also a good time to consider what you want to accomplish in the coming year in terms of vacations and outdoor activities. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing an increase in RV sales in 2020, don’t wait until summer to make your camping reservations. The same applies to booking charter flights and hunts. Take the time now to get a date on your guide’s calendar.
And it’s not just guided trips, but those outings you do alone or with your friends. I find that if I don’t commit to a trip, I often find excuses not to go instead of excuses to go.
Now is also a good time to take stock of your outdoor gear, fixing those things you’ve put off during hunting and fishing season.
Change fishing line, check hooks, lubricate reels, fix ferrules, do preventative maintenance on your gun, check tree stand for wear parts, take ammo inventory and preventative care on your boat and motor and everything you can think of. Do it now when you have time, and not the morning of your trip.
Plus, winter is an ideal time to plan what new gadget or piece of equipment you might want to buy for 2021, giving you time to figure out how you’re going to fit the expense into your family budget.
You might also consider joining one of the many outdoor clubs in the area, perhaps joining an indoor archery league or taking part in a Saturday morning target shoot. You can join one of the local Clear Fork chapters or Trout Unlimited online meetups, or get a membership to the Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders which would open the door for online access to seminars and the world of bowhead fishing. iris.
Google and YouTube are your friends, use them to enhance your hunting and fishing experiences.
It’s winter and we’re cooped up inside, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities outside. We just have to look for them, and then follow them and make them.
Outdoors correspondent Art Holden can be reached at [email protected].