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Into the Outdoors: Ice Fishing, Flintlock, Muzzleloader & more!

Well, here we are, in January. Things have been pretty mild so far, but, as this is being written, there is a light skiff of snow on the ground, and the forecasts are calling for more to come. Winter can be a rather difficult time for outdoor folks. We constantly read about cabin fever and winter doldrums. As much as I hate winter, I must admit that there are still some opportunities for fun.

First of all, there’s something I don’t think of as fun, and that’s ice fishing. While I did it for a number of my younger years, about all I ever got was cold. I finally decided that the sport was just not for me, although I know a lot of people really like it. More power to them. So far, the prospect of fishable ice doesn’t look too great. There is a lot of winter left, though, so that could change.

There is still hunting to be had at this time of year. The after Christmas small game season can provide some outdoor fun. If you are a squirrel hunter, you can still pursue the little critters. Contrary to some myths, squirrels do not hibernate, although it has been my experience that they are somewhat less active in the cold. If a warm spell happens, it can amount to a real bonanza. I’m no squirrel psychologist, but I suspect that the warm temperatures are an incentive for the bushytails to get active and look for food. In fact, the only squirrel I ever got with a muzzleloading shotgun was bagged on one of these freak warm days. I should note that rabbits can also be hunted at this time, although I have never hunted them after Christmas.

It is also time for hunting with a flintlock, something I did for many years. I can truthfully state that I never missed a deer with a flintlock. The reason is because, every time I tried to shoot at a deer, the gun failed to go off. It could fire time after time on the range, but not when shooting at a deer. Go figure. One instance stands out in my mind. I, along with two buddies, both of whom are now deceased, was standing in a line, when out came a deer. We all pulled up to shoot, and there was a click click click. All three guns failed to fire. While I still enjoy shooting a flintlock at a range, I don’t hunt with one anymore. The same goes for the muzzleloading shotgun.

If you have some venison on hand, you might want to try canning it. Do NOT water bath can it. It is just totally unsafe. Pressure canning is the only safe way to go. I am not going to give specific times and pressures, as they can vary with such things as altitude, etc. There are plenty of good books and Internet sites on the subject. Canned venison has many uses. It is great with gravy served over rice, noodles or mashed potatoes. In soups or stews, you can wait until close to the end of the cooking cycle to add it, as it’s already cooked. Give it a try.

And finally, here’s a winter activity that requires very little effort or exposure to weather. That would be bird feeding. Birds have a harder time finding food in the winter, so they will flock to feeders, affording you the opportunity to seem some truly unique and beautiful specimens.

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