The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 22, 2014

We’ll tell our grandchildren about this crazy winter

By Clint Ferguson
For The Register-Herald

— The winter of 2014 has been a cold and snowy one for sure and I’m wondering if it’s ever going to stop. It’s really put a damper on my outdoor activities and I’m starting to get cranky. I can see years from now telling our grandchildren about the winter of 2014 and how bad it was. About how we had to walk through snow in below-zero temperatures just to make it to school … Wait a minute, that’s not this generation as they hardly ever go to school anymore let alone walk to it.  Especially this winter!

It’s been so long since I’ve been fishing that I almost forget what one looks like. My fly rod has been stuck in the corner collecting plenty of dust. In years past I would have already caught the first fish of the year by now and at least had a couple of outings on the streams and rivers. But not so this year! If I don’t fish soon I seriously think I’m going to lose my mind.

I’ve plowed snow so many times with my 4-wheeler that I’ve lost count. It seems like the routine has been to wake up, shovel then plow snow, come back in and get a bite to eat, hit the sack and get up the next morning to do it all over again. I had to add some extra weight on the back of the 4-wheeler for a little added traction. There’s an annoying squeak coming from the front tire and I think my 4-wheeler is telling me it’s had enough as well. At least I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of the snow blade this year.

Grouse and rabbit season is over now, so I oiled my shotgun and put it back in the gun case. There was just too much snow and the temperatures were too cold for good hunting conditions this winter. I feel lucky to have gotten a few hunts in considering that most of the snowstorms seemed to hit on the weekends.  

Tara and I have been tying flies and cleaning and organizing our gear. We’ve put new line on our reels. All of our hunting stuff has been stowed away. And we’ve done some spring cleaning around the house. It’s about all one can do to stay busy with the constant snow falling. Tara said something about cleaning the garage next. Please, Lord, let the weather break soon!

With all this snow and really cold temperatures we’ve had, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would start finding dead deer. So far to date, I’ve found four here in central West Virginia. Nature can be cruel at times but it’s her way of weaning out the weak so the strong survive.

Deer that have injuries, disease, and are stressed are usually the first to succumb to the harsh winters. As well as fawns that struggle in the deep snow. Two of the four that I found were fawns. The other two were adult does.  

To make matters worse, there was  hardly any mast at all in this area. The deer went into winter in poor condition with little fat reserves. It’s critical for deer to put on fat layers and build up their reserves in the fall to help them make it through the cold winter months. They usually do this by engorging on acorns when they start dropping but this year there were none.

All the deer were forced to feed in the fields where they are still feeding right now. I’ve seen several hanging out by the roads licking the salt used by road crews to melt the snow and ice from the roadways. Some of the weaker deer will become road kill when they get too close to the road as I observed first hand this week.

As cruel as starving to death may seem it’s part of living in the wild outdoors. That’s why it’s important that we have hunters to help control deer populations. Without hunting there would be many more deer die of starvation each year.

Nothing goes to waste in the wild. The coyotes had already eaten half of one of the deer I found. Foxes, bobcats, possums and other critters make use of the carcass. Hawks, crows and buzzards will come in and take what’s left. It’s all part of the food chain.

The good news is March and spring have finally arrived, according to the calendar anyway. The temperatures have to warm as it’s inevitable going into April. I mean they have to warm, don’t they? If we and the deer can just make it through a couple more weeks, we’ll all be happy again. At least that’s what I keep telling myself anyway. The spring green up and colorful landscape will be a much welcomed sight.