Winter gets to be old by March, even for those of us who love winter. To makes things worse, it’s challenging for the hard core outdoorsmen and women who are used to living outdoors. Turkey season is a long way off. The ice isn’t quite safe anymore for good ice fishing, and open water fisherman are waiting for ice out. It can be an incredibly frustrating time of year. So what do we do to keep our sanity? Here are a few ideas…
1. Pack up and take inventory.
Load your duck and goose decoys into storage, go through your clothes, and clean out your backpack (you never know you might find after a long season). I usually find a few granola bars, 9 used hand warmers, and 4 or 5 left-handed gloves. That’s right, I said “left”, because I usually take the glove off my shooting hand and lose it. Seriously, I have a pouch in my hunting bag full of left-handed gloves. Anyway, this is a great time to figure out what you’ve lost, what you’ve broken, and what you need for next year. Why now? This is clearance time for retailers. It may be slim pickings for clothing unless you’re double large, or extra tall like me. But hunters can score some sweet gear for cheap like tree stands, calls, or socks. Either way you will find some smoking deals to replace what you lost or broke.
2. Clean your shotguns.
Hunting season has long since closed, and turkey season won’t be here for a while. So take an afternoon to break down all of your shotguns and give them a thorough cleaning. Don’t just clean the barrel. Be sure to take the receiver apart, and remove the trigger assembly and clean that as well. Moisture will have undoubtedly found it’s way into the dark crevices of your weapon, bringing with it the onset of rust. Once your guns are clean, you may want to consider add a moisture preventative in your gun cabinet or safe. A great new product to do that is Gun Protect from Red Eagle Technologies. The cleaning and storage system uses a proven technology that protects guns at a molecular level by coating them with an anti-corrosive coating. Get details at MyGunProtect.com.
3. Respool your fishing reels.
Whether you used your fishing rods every weekend last year or only a few times, you should consider respelling your reels with new line, especially if you use monofilament. It becomes stretched with use and gets knicked by being drug across rocks, trees, even the edge of your boat. Over time, line will conform to the shape of the spool, especially with open faced or spincast reels. That’s when the line comes out curled looking like a corkscrew, also known as line “memory”, meaning it remembers the shape of the spool. It may look cool, but it tends to tangle in your rod eyes, and it’s also harder to detect bites with curled line. Oh, you might as well clean out your tackle box while you’re’ at it. I found an old can of night crawlers in mine last week.
4. Clean your taxidermy.
Sorry guys, I know this sounds like house cleaning, but it’s something hunters don’t think about. Consider this as a last resort if you have exhausted all fun end-of-winter activities. Over time, deer heads, birds, fish, basically all of your taxidermy, is going to accumulate dust and dirt no matter how clean you keep your house. But take a couple hours to wipe all that dust off your mounts. One way is by using a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment if the dust and cobwebs are really bad. Otherwise, a soft cloth sprayed with pledge will do a great job on deer, waterfowl and fish. Just be careful around the fish fins and eyebrows on deer. You might be amazed at how much better they look. For more taxidermy tips, check out cliffstaxidermy.com.
5. Get to the Bow Range.
Keep your archery skills sharp and get to a range. Besides, shooting indoors is a completely different experience than launching arrows in the back yard. The confinement of the indoor range seems to give me better concentration on my shot. I’m not sure why, but shooting a bow indoors feels different, in a good way, it’s hard to explain. Plus you might get to talk to other archers and see what kind of gear they use. Here are a few great ranges within a 45-minute drive from Will County: Bass Pro Shops in Bolingbrook, the Bone Shed in Ottawa (straight west on (I-80), and Strictly Archery in Shorewood.
6. Go Antler Hunting.
Even though deer start dropping their antlers as early as January, I usually don’t think about hitting the woods until end of February or first week of March. I figured that gives them a little more time to drop, increasing my odds. That’s if I can find a spot where no one has been. Which is one of the three rules to shed hunting: 1. Go where the deer are and the shed hunters are not; 2. Find areas where deer are concentrated, and better yet where they bed. The rationale is that they spend more time there and are more likely to drop their antlers there; 3. Look carefully along well-used trails, especially where they intersect fences or logs. Antlers will often get dislodged when a deer jumps over or crawls under a fence.
Well, I was going to end the list at 5. But I couldn’t leave out shed hunting, right? If all else fails, or you accomplish all this, spend some time with the family, or take your wife or girlfriend to a movie. You may just need to score some extra points so when it’s “go” time, you can actually go!