Deer season winds up Jan. 8, and even though I’d like to add one more doe to the freezer, I’m not going to freeze to do it. I deer hunt for enjoyment, and quaking in the woods at dawn when the thermometer hovers in single digits is not enjoyable.
I’ve heard suggestions that the TWRA should conclude deer season at the end of December and give surviving whitetails a chance to recover as they combat the harsh throes of winter. After all, the season began back in September; is extending it into January really necessary?
My take: I favor a long season because it offers more opportunities for hunters whose are tied down with work schedules. Some may get a chance to hunt only a day or two now and then, so the longer the season, the easier it is for them to fit some hunts in around their work schedule.
As for folks like me who think it’s too cold to hunt, there’s a simple solution: don’t hunt. We can sit home by the fire and reminisce about those perfect November and December days when we killed deer without freezing off our toes.
The same goes for small-game seasons which run through February. I enjoy going on an occasional old-fashioned rabbit hunt, especially after a fresh snow, and that’s about it.
I don’t quail hunt any more – at least not wild birds. I enjoyed a hunt last year for some pen-raised quail, and in the past I’ve hunted on commercial game farms like Meadowbrook in Westmoreland -- and recommend it to anyone who likes to watch dogs work and bring home some birds at the end of the day.
But despite ongoing restoration efforts by the TWRA, wild quail populations continue to decline in many areas, so I don’t hunt them.
Foul weather is fine for waterfowl hunting, but I don’t do much of it. As a kid I used to jump-shoot ducks on farm ponds, but I never got into the serious stuff with blinds, calling, dogs and decoys.
Ditto for sauger fishing. I used to sauger-fish in the Tennessee river below Watts Bar dam on winter days so cold that gobs of ice would freeze in the rod guides. It seemed like fun back then; not so much nowadays.
Hunting buddy Clarence Dies spends part of the winter sloshing around in icy water running a trap line. Clarence recently sent me a photo of a big beaver he caught one bitter-cold morning. I don’t know which looked the stiffest – Clarence or the beaver.
This is not to discourage outdoorsmen from going outdoors. In my younger days I spent most of my waking hours outdoors during the winter, and nowadays I enjoy hiking in state parks this time of year. The parks are un-crowded and a great settings for outdoors photography.
If you go you need to take precautions during the sort of record-breaking temperatures we’ve been having. Cold that extreme is beyond uncomfortable -- it can be deadly. It’s especially dangerous for the elderly and those with circulatory ailments because of blood vessel constrictions.
Precautions are simple and common-sense: dress warmly and don’t over-do it. If you get too cold, take a break, go indoors and warm up. Frostbitten extremities are painful, and in severe cases can cause permanent tissue damage.
The biggest buck, limit of ducks or stringer of sauger isn’t worth that.