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Chris Ellis: Make some tracks in the fresh snow

January 15, 2019

Old man winter has had his icy cold grip on us the last few days. And, for sportsmen and women accustomed to the outdoor lifestyle that is not great news.

Sure, sitting in your easy chair with a nice hardwood fire dancing flames and sending flickering light of sparks into the air sounds absolutely delightful, but we by pure definition as raised to be in the freedom of the outdoors.

I completely understand that there are ways to bring the outdoors, well, indoors. Trust me, just take a look at my collection of wildlife art and library of outdoor books and you’ll understand I get it. And sure, you can hang enough birdfeeders outside your picture window to relax the part of your brain that is craving and encouraging you to pack the truck and head into the Mon Forest to find the highest mountain trail to hike.

But, the backyard birds and squirrels only help to resist the craving for so long. Cabin fever is real indeed and for us who cherish our role as outdoorsmen and women during these winter spells we hear the call of the wild louder than ever.

So, to help you from going stir crazy and driving your loved ones you share a residence with from going bonkers, I decided to make a list of things to do when the weatherman and mercury in the outside thermometer tell us to stay in and keep warm.

Let’s start with the obvious and familiar.

When the sun peaks out from behind the gray clouds long enough to ponder the day, grab a shotgun or a fine-shooting .22 rifle and take a hike to look for some squirrels. Hunting wintertime squirrels is one of my favorite ways to spend a lazy afternoon. And for a bonus, you can cook your whole family a wonderful nature’s bountiful meal with the new Instant Pot that appears everyone on Santa’s list received this year. The pressure cooking/crock pot is ideal for bringing out the flavor and tenderness of any squirrels, even fox squirrels.

If the old is boring, try something new that takes research, windshield time and a new-focused effort. Taking up a new sport such as grouse, rabbit or even waterfowl hunting can be challenging and very rewarding. Pick a targeted species and research the when, where and how to be successful and plan an outing in search of that targeted species. Learning to call ducks, practicing your wing shooting, finding a brushy hillside full of rabbits it’s all fun because it is exciting and new.

Or, if you have a little bit of Jerimiah Johnson in your bones, grab some traps and start reading some old copies of FUR-FISH-GAME magazine and head to the hills to become a trapper. I can see it now you in an old trapper’s cabin with a fire blazing in the fireplace with a pot of critter’s stew cooking and pelts hanging in every corner drying. You could spend the rest of the season trapping and reconnecting to your inner “mountain man” soul.

Regardless of your choice this winter, get out and make some tracks in the fresh snow. Plan a day of it and go have fun enjoying nature’s wonderful bounty.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.

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