Still plenty to do outdoors in Pennsylvania this time of year
Late February through late March can be a bummer for a lot of outdoor-minded people as they wait for fishing seasons to begin in earnest with their hunting long over.
For many, the guns are cleaned and locked away. Bows hang on hooks till next season. The hunting clothing has been washed and stored, left to age until once again needed. Fishing rods and gear have yet to be touched as plenty of time remains until trout stocking and trout season begins.
But if truth be told, there are a whole lot of things to do outdoors this time of year if one is willing to head outside to woods and waters.
Small game seasons run until the last day in February, and the competition for any pheasants that remain, rabbits and squirrels is minimal at best. Just last Saturday I hunted rabbits with two friends and an old beagle. We didn’t bag a single bunny, but that was due more to poor shooting than lack of game, because in only four hours we saw 10 rabbits.
I’m not a shed hunter, but there does seem to be a healthy interest among hunters in searching for antlers that bucks have discarded. If snow covers the ground, another benefit for searching for shed antlers this time of year is seeing deer patterns left by their tracks. Bedding areas that were unknown during the prior deer seasons can now be seen, and a mental note of those spots, plus the routes deer use to get there, can mean success in the following seasons.
Predator hunting seems to be increasing in popularity, and there’s no better time of year than now. Food sources are currently scarce, and ice and snow makes it that much more difficult for coyotes to secure a meal. With fox and bobcat seasons closed, now is the time a predator hunter just might be able to persuade a coyote to fall for a recorded call and a decoy or two.
Simply walking through woods with snow can reveal many signs of wildlife, too, and if you’re a spring gobbler hunter, finding turkey sign in the way of tracks can almost guarantee there will be some gobbling birds in that vicinity come spring.
Here in the southeast, many of us keep our shotguns and camo clothing ready, because any day now huge flocks of snow geese will be passing through our area as they head north to their breeding grounds. And if you’ve never hunted this magnificent white fowl, you cannot know the frustration they cause in hunting them, and likewise, the rewarding feeling in harvesting a few.
To a certain crowd, fishing is popular now, too. Lakes with safe ice are many, and plentiful panfish are the main attraction. Numerous trout streams are open to year-round angling, most with special regulations, but still provide the pleasure of catching and releasing fish. And many rivers now flow freely, giving anyone with an urge for some early angling the opportunity to do just that.
Pennsylvania offers a wonderful amount of late winter/early spring opportunities for outside enjoyment, all within different settings and recreational forms. All it takes is the energy to take advantage of it.