The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 12, 2014

Outdoors fun is good for the soul

Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald

— Although there was never a formal election or a gathering of the state’s sportsmen where a motion was made electing me as their speaker, I am going to speak on our behalf anyway.

I would like to cordially, let’s not forget our manners here, say goodbye to the polar vortex and its record-breaking cold air that held our West Virginia hills in its icy grip for way too long. It’s hard to live the outdoor lifestyle when most of our back porches were colder than Antarctica last week.

To celebrate our uninvited guest’s departure, may I suggest one of the following ways to rejoice in the out-of-doors? You might just find one that is exactly what the doctor ordered — a little fresh air to clear the mind and ease the weary soul.

--- Squirrel Hunting (my personal favorite) — Find a crisp morning overlooking a beech tree flat with the sun’s warming rays as a backdrop to the scenery, and you have possibly just sliced off a little piece of paradise. Throw in a scoped .22 rifle, a good pair of binos and a few fox squirrels and there is no finer way to celebrate the warmer weather than that! The closing date for hunting squirrels is Jan. 31. (If you happen to find a particularly good flat on your farm, with plenty of squirrels, feel free to give me a ring and I will come celebrate too!)

--- Rabbit Hunting – All you need is a brushy hillside or old farm fencerow to throw a celebration that will not soon be forgotten. A fine beagle hound or two and a shotgun that shoots where it is pointed makes for some fine entertainment on a bright Saturday afternoon.  Rabbit hunting is the perfect way to share in nature’s bounty with others — a rabbit hunting party is a lot of fun. I fell in love with the sport the first time I heard the beagles bawl and remain in love today. The closing date for rabbit hunting is Feb. 28.

--- Late-Season Waterfowl — With the arctic blast driving in from the north, ducks and geese are on the move into our waterways. If you can find some open water and can get to it without an icebreaker boat, the hunting should be outstanding. I have been watching a few sloughs and backwaters close to my house and the ducks as of late seem to be piling in nicely. A few more warms days and hopefully the ice will recede and my little duck boat and I will have a date. I simply can’t wait. The closing date for ducks is Jan. 25 and geese on Jan. 31.  

--- Predator Hunting — In the last several years, predator hunting has grown to quickly become a very popular sport in the hunting community. Manufacturers have introduced everything from dedicated firearms and ammunition to technically advanced calling systems and everything in between to a very enthusiastic market of hunters. With abundant information on how to get started predator hunting available in print, video or a simple click away, this recent warm-up might just be the best time to get started. Check the WVDNR regulations for season dates and limits for bobcats, foxes and coyotes for daylight and nighttime hunting opportunities.

With temperatures a little more tolerable in the forecast and with plenty of great hunting opportunities still open, this is the perfect time to shed the coat of cabin fever. Go forth and enjoy nature’s wonderful bounties. After all, we are experiencing a heat wave; enjoy it. I expect a full report.