Are the bone-chilling temps and dreary skies of winter bringing you down? Have exciting hunts of a glorious autumn's past slipped away with the onset of falling mercury and dwindling daylight hours?
Not to worry! There still remains an abundance of activities for the outdoors enthusiast to enjoy – even through these dreaded winter months of bitter cold, unforgiving weather and post-holiday food comas.
What follows are some great outdoor-themed winter activities to help you enjoy the season. Half of which take place out in the elements, while the rest can be done indoors … for those who don't like to stray too far from a steady heat source.
Explore the State Game Lands
Hunting/trapping license sales over the past several decades have made it possible for the Pennsylvania Game Commission to purchase more than 1.4 million acres of beautiful property across the Commonwealth for use as State Game Lands.
Not only do they provide hunting opportunities, but also hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and horseback riding trails – even some limited-use snowmobile routes. Please respect their primary purpose, though, as the monetary contributions of hunters and trappers are the reason these natural areas have been acquired in the first place – although they do benefit all Pennsylvanians.
Some of the best small-game hunting opportunities arrive with a fresh dusting of snow on the ground. Now is the ideal time to pursue rabbits and squirrels, whose dark hides are easier to pick out against a white backdrop. Both seasons extend through late February, so gather a few friends and try obtaining some tasty stew meat today.
Ice, ice baby
If you're an ice fisherman, you just might be in luck. This big arctic blast might finally prove to have what it takes to create safe ice conditions across the state. Bundle up and dig out those tip-ups, for the fish will surely be biting.
Call in a predator
Those who've never given predator hunting a thought are missing out. When foxes or coyotes occupy an area, the action is often quick, but finding the right prey sound to draw them in without being detected can be a real challenge.
Managing these animals is a responsibility that hunters must take on to maintain a harmonious balance in the ecosystem. With predator densities at an all-time high, population control is something worth considering now more than ever.
Wild for waterfowl
Winter is a great time to target migrating ducks and geese. Often times, encroaching storm fronts will put birds on the move. If you can locate fields with leftover grains or open water, you will often find waterfowl there too.
All tied up
If wintry weather forces you indoors, a stormy day is perfect for tying a few flies for trout season come spring. Fly-tying vices can be purchased from a number of sporting goods stores, and how-to videos are all over the Internet. Fix yourself a nice drink, settle into a comfortable chair and start tying.
Make some jerky
As the deer seasons close, there's a chance you may have some fresh venison in your freezer. Since you have more time on your hands, you might as well take out a hindquarter and make a bit of jerky for your friends and family to feast upon.
Partially frozen meat can be cut into thin strips, marinated in a brine mixture overnight, and then either smoked, dehydrated or dried in an oven rack to remove the moisture. While you're at it, make a double batch, because these delectable little morsels won't last too long.
It's for the birds
Songbirds really have to rough it during the wintertime. It's easy to help them out by purchasing a high-protein seed mix for your backyard feeders. Your appreciative guests will provide hours of beautiful, often comical entertainment in return for your support through many difficult days in the cold.
Shoot your bow
No one likes losing arrows, but that's precisely what will happen if you miss a target with snow on the ground. Fortunately, a growing number of archery shops and clubs now offer indoor 3-D or techno-hunts. If you're looking to keep your shooting skills sharp through the off-season, go check them out. They'll have the heat on.
Pennsylvania is fortunate to play host to multiple quality outdoor shows, many of which take place over the next few months.
From the NRA's Great American Outdoors Show to the Pennsylvania Fly-fishing show, all of them feature lots of exhibitors, good food, professional guides and outfitters, as well as outdoor merchandise at discounted rates. They can be very fun to attend, as they turn an otherwise boring weekend into an intriguing event to anticipate.
Don't sell yourself short this winter. There are too many cool activities from which to choose. Whether you bundle up for an outdoor adventure, or prefer the sanity of an indoor hobby, keep things "woodsy," and don't give up on your outdoor passions.