February is a rough month for outdoorsmen.

Well, here we are — stuck in the middle of the most miserable month of the year.

As if February weren’t bad enough already, this year it lasts an extra day.

I understand the concept of having a Leap Year every few years to balance the calendar, but why does the extra day have to come in February? Why not in dogwood-blossoming April or May? Or balmy, wood-smoked September or October?

Why extend frigid February?

Outdoorsmen dread February. Fall deer season is a fading memory, and spring turkey season is far in the future.

There are still some small-game hunting seasons open in February, notably quail, rabbit and squirrel. But I don’t hunt wild quail any more; they’re too scarce. I’d rather listen to a bob-white whistle than shoot it.

Rabbits are equally scarce, and you need a beagle hound to do any good. Hunting buddy Roy Denney does his best to kick a few bunnies out of briar patches, but he’s no beagle.

Squirrels have lost their charm by now. The season opened way back in August and there will be a spring season coming in May and June. We have plenty of chances to bag bushytails without risking frostbite.

The same goes for fishing. I know some anglers who venture out for February fishing, especially for sauger. I used to be among them until my brain eventually thawed.

Up North they consider February a fine time to fish because the ice is thick enough to support their shanties. When you have to drill a hole through two feet of ice to get to the water, they can have my share of whatever’s down there.

Catching a fish is not worth catching pneumonia.

I’ve heard that ice fishermen sometimes hold their favorite bait — mealworms, aka maggots — in their mouths to keep them warm and frisky. I don’t know if that’s true, but I wouldn’t doubt it. That’s what happens when you squat on a frozen lake all day looking down a hole in the ice.

At least we modern outdoorsmen have the option of sitting by the fire during February and catching up on our fly-tying and napping. Imagine the plight of the earliest outdoorsmen — Indians — who didn’t have that luxury.

Indians called February the “Starvation Moon,” and for good reason.

Particularly in Northern climes, the weather was too cold and the snow too deep to do much hunting. Dried fruits, nuts, vegetables and meats stored from the fall bounty were about gone, and spring shopping was still a long way off.

In February we whine about boredom; the early Indians worried about survival.

There’s a reason why Valentine’s Day comes in February. Thinking about our sweetheart takes our mind off not being able to go fishing.

Another February highlight is Groundhog Day. That gives you some idea about how boring the month is: waiting for a woodchuck to poke its head out of its hole and look for its shadow.

Oh well, it beats ice fishing.

Hurry March, hurry.

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