The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 9, 2013

Hanging on until spring comes

BECKLEY — I officially have cabin fever. The recent snows and cold weather have forced us to retreat indoors and for me, that’s not healthy. I have dog-eared all the hunting and fishing catalogs to the point the bindings are starting to come loose.  To be honest, my bindings are showing a little wear too.

Spring begins with the vernal equinox at 7:02 A.M. (EDT) on March 20, 2013, in the Northern Hemisphere. People who live the sporting lifestyle are resilient folks and I am sure we can simply just hang in there until prettier days return. Having said that, there is only so much an outdoorsman can do to pass the idle time — we can only get our rifles so clean, tackle boxes organized and in a state of readiness to a point and camo clothing laundered and sorted.   

Sure we could find useful and necessary things to occupy our time like practicing our turkey sounds and tuning old calls in preparation for the opener of gobbler season. But if your house is anything like mine, a little turkey call practice goes a long way to driving the other occupants of the house toward insanity. Keeping the peace in outdoor-idle times is key to all parties involved.

A note came across my desk this past week from the WVDNR outlining West Virginia's late season hunting opportunities — perfect timing! My ears perked up and my homesickness for back roads and mountain air returned.  

According to the report, late winter presents an often-overlooked opportunity for hunters in the Mountain State, according to Jeff McCrady, district wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Rabbit, grouse, fox, bobcat and raccoon are in season through the end of February.

“For many hunters, this is the most enjoyable time to be afield,” McCrady said. “The holidays are long past and people just seem to have more time to get outside and hunt.”

 February can be a great time for the serious rabbit hunter. There is less vegetation to obscure vision, the ground is usually damp enough to hold scent well and the weather is generally cool enough to keep the beagles from getting overheated. Grouse hunters enjoy late season outings for the same reasons. The final weeks of February will be the last chance to hunt with their dogs until next fall.

 Raccoons are generally not very active during cold, winter nights; however, a warm spell can change everything. As the harsh winter weather begins to diminish and the days become longer, raccoons become more active. Raccoon hunters should remain vigilant through the end of the season.

Predators, such as fox, bobcat and coyote, are susceptible to varmint calls during the winter months. The imitated distress cries of a rabbit or a field mouse work well to attract fox, bobcat and coyote this time of year. While predators may be a little easier to call in during February, hunters still need to be mindful of wind direction and remain well hidden to increase their success.

“With all of West Virginia's late season hunting opportunities, there is no reason for a case of cabin fever,” McCrady said. “Success can't be guaranteed, but fresh air and exercise are certainly available this time of year.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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