Still plenty to do outdoors during ‘slow months’ in Pennsylvania
For many outdoorsmen, the close of Pennsylvania’s deer season marks the unofficial transition to the “slow months” of the year — a time when treestand sits are traded for house projects, television or maybe even a good read by the fireside.
Despite the unpredictable nature of winter weather, and the mild hopelessness that sets in when deer can no longer be pursued, there’s still plenty to keep busy, even through February and March.
This past weekend, for instance, I had the opportunity to speak at a Hunter’s Fellowship Dinner at a local church, where wild game was served, stories of hunts gone by were swapped and some great door prizes were distributed to camo-capped guests seated at tables adorned with shed antler centerpieces.
Speaking of which, the first shed antler pics are beginning to materialize on Facebook, reminding me I need to soon find time to get out and cruise the landscape on an Easter-egg hunt for survivor bucks’ cast crowns.
Right now, though, I’m too busy tapping maple trees, cooking down the sap to create all-natural syrup during the prime window of the year to do so. The sugary gold has a one-of-a-kind taste that’s preferred by many, so that must take priority while the getting is good.
I did manage to get out for a predator hunt before furbearer seasons closed for the year. While my friend and I were targeting coyotes, we would’ve been happy for a fox or two. Unfortunately, the only thing that responded to our howls, yips and squealing rabbit calls were skunks (in two separate locations), placing an ironic exclamation point on the status of our hunt.
Other recent progress has been the beginning stages of a wooden smokehouse, fashioned from milled lumber out of a tree that fell on my property last winter. I still need to finalize the door, roof and work out my fire box, but it should serve just fine for hanging some small batches of DIY sausage, deer sticks and cold-smoked cheese in the future.
We’re still enjoying our bird hunts at a private upland club as well. The dogs, as well as their masters, were pleased to see the snow melt, as we found out frozen paws take weeks to heal. Our latest hunt yielded three pheasants, three chukars and 10 quail, but I’d be lying if I told you our shooting was perfect. In fact, I shot terrible at first, but made it count late in the hunt when ammo began to run low.
We’ve been enjoying all the birds showing up again around our house. Canadas and snows are regular fly-overs, and a whole flock of American robins stopped by to clean the now soft and wrinkly fruits off our crabapple tree out back. One morning before school, my son even pointed out some young red-winged blackbirds, uncommon visitors at our backyard feeder.
The blue bird boxes have been cleaned, and our wood duck box has fresh bedding just in time for spring brooding, although I had to evict four gray squirrels that had taken up temporary residency.
While milder temperatures are beginning to melt the ice we were blessed to see for so long this year, I know some anglers are already thinking about spring trout season. A friend of mine took advantage of the 60-degree temperatures on Monday to fish a delayed harvest section, landing at least one nice rainbow on his fly-rod.
There’s certainly plenty of fun activities to fill the calendar every weekend. I haven’t even found the time to tie a single fly this winter — another chore I need to add to the list before spring rolls around.
For now, I’m enjoying all that the “slow months” offer.