February 27, 2021

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OUTDOORS: Beat the winter blues with outdoors-related activities to pass the season | Sports

4 min read

Despite the ice-cold chill of the season, there remains an abundance of activities for outdoors enthusiasts to beat the winter doldrums. Inside or outdoors, there’s something to perk up every nature lover during this dreary time of year.

Sausage/Jerky Making

For those with some prime venison stockpiled from a successful deer season, a slow winter weekend is ideal for making sausage or jerky for friends and family to enjoy. Partially thawed hind quarters can be cut into thin strips for jerky, marinated in a brine mixture overnight, and then either smoked, dehydrated or dried in an oven rack to remove the moisture.

Fly Tying

A snow day is perfect for tying a few flies in anticipation of trout season. Fly-tying vices and materials can be purchased from a number of outdoors retailers, and how-to videos are all over the Internet. Fix a drink, settle into a comfortable chair and start tying.

Gear Maintenance

February is a good time to take stock of any gear that needs to be updated from the past seasons and reorganize storage racks before spring. Separate season-specific gear into clearly labeled bins, tune up turkey calls and re-line fishing reels. If any firearms need a good cleaning or a bow needs to be restrung, it’s best to take care of all that now so it’s ready to go long before needed.

Reloading/Arrow Building

Many sportsmen take great pride in being do-it-yourselfers, and reloading ammo or fletching arrows is a relaxing way to spend cold winter nights. Not only can you take pride in building your own projectiles, but you can often fine tune them to fit your needs. The resulting products often are of higher quality and perform better than store-bought alternatives.

Bird Watching

Songbirds really have to rough it during the wintertime. It’s easy to help them out by purchasing a high-protein seed mix for your backyard feeders. And if feeling adventurous, a day trip to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area can be worthwhile to view the thousands of snow geese, tundra swans, Canada geese and multiple varieties of ducks that visit this time of year.

Hiking/Snowshoeing

Paid for mostly by hunting and trapping license sales, the State Game Lands comprise nearly 1.5 million acres of Pennsylvania’s public lands. These areas are open to hiking and snowshoeing in addition to hunting opportunities. Late winter is a great time to be out exploring these expansive tracts, taking in the winter scenery and scouting for next year’s deer seasons. Just be sure to wear blaze orange or other bright colors, as some hunting seasons are still open through the end of the month.

Winter Hunting Opportunities

Some of the best rabbit and squirrel hunting takes place with a blanket of white on the ground, making the animals’ gray/brown fur stand out against the snow. Predator hunting for fox and coyotes can be exciting as well, while crow hunting is a one-of-a-kind experience. All of these can be experienced in the winter woods. Be sure to check season dates before heading afield.

Nesting Structures

Those who enjoy woodworking should consider building wood duck or bluebird nesting houses. Plans that make great use of scrap lumber can be obtained online. Hanging these boxes in late winter provides suitable nesting structures when peak breeding rolls around come spring.

Shed Seeking

Whitetail bucks annually drop their antlers in late winter, and it can be a real treat to find them. Scour the landscape, keeping close tabs on frequently traveled trails, bedding areas and feed locations. Be sure to check drainage areas where runoff can wash them down a hillside, too. A matched set of antlers is the ultimate shed hunter’s trophy.

Maple Sugaring

The sweetest, purest maple syrup comes from trees you tap yourself. For the investment of $20 and lots of time, you can purchase 10 taps to collect the sap that flows freely from maple trees. Strain the debris and boil it down over an outdoor heat source until most of the water evaporates, then move inside to the kitchen stove for finishing. When the liquid hits 219 degrees and is a consistent frothy brown, pull it from the heat. Your syrup is ready to sample.

Don’t sell yourself short this winter. There are too many great activities from which to choose. Whether you bundle up for an outdoor adventure or prefer the relative serenity of an indoor pastime, keep active and continue to pursue everything that nature has to offer.

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