By Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer

The only good thing you can say about February is that it’s short.

February signals winter’s stretch run, when Jack Frost takes his final pinches at our noses, fingers and toes. The end is in sight.

Meanwhile, it’s miserable.

In the old days it was about this time of the winter when snowed-in mountain men began to suffer from cabin fever. Restless and active by nature, and with no cable TV or home pizza delivery, you can imagine how hard it was on them.

Submitted photo
February can be challenging for outdoorsmen.

February was even more brutal for Indians, who called the late-winter period the “Starvation Moon.” Dried supplies from the fall were running low, hunting was almost impossible, and spring veggies and fishing was a long way off.

Nowadays we don’t have to worry about going stir-crazy or going hungry, but February is still a rotten month for outdoorsmen.

Deer season is a distant memory, and turkey season seems an eternity away.

Some small-game seasons are still open, but it’s hard to get in the mood to try to kick a shivering rabbit out of a brush pile or plink a half-frozen squirrel off an icy branch.

As for quail, they’ve become so scarce I don’t hunt them anymore. I’d rather hear one whistle in the spring than shoot one in the winter.

I never did much wintertime waterfowl hunting, but as a kid I once fell through the ice while running a trap-line. I figure that’s close to a duck-hunting experience.

Speaking of trapping, that’s how hunting buddy Clarence Dies combats the wintertime blahs. Clarence traps fur-bearing critters, and he’s so good at it he was named regional Trapper of the Year last year.

I went with him once to run his trapline. You should see his face light up at the sight of a frozen muskrat. But wading around in icy slush while reeking of beaver musk is not for everyone.

I suppose I could go sauger fishing – I’m almost thawed out from last February’s trip.

I went fishing with Lebanon guide Jim Duckworth one winter morning when it was so cold we had to use a pole to break the ice around the ramp to launch the boat.

We didn’t catch any sauger. I suspect the chattering of our teeth scared them off.

An old Army buddy who lives in northern Wisconsin enjoys ice fishing. They use an auger to drill a hole in the ice, then drop their bait down and hunker over the hole until they get a nibble or freeze solid, whichever comes first.

One of their favorite baits for ice fishing is maggots. They call them “meal worms,” but being a country boy, I know a maggot when I see one.

In order to protect their maggots from the cold and keep them frisky, some fishermen hold them in their mouths. That explains why ice fishermen rarely get a kiss from their wives when they come home from a trip.

Some fishermen wile away the long, dreary winter days by tying flies. I bought a fly-tying kit years ago and tried my hand at it. I ended up with gobs of fur and feathers that looked like something the cat hacked up.

I don’t think I ever caught a fish on one of my flies, but it’s just as well – I wouldn’t dare eat a fish that would eat something like that.

So here I sit, staring at the calendar. I’m tempted to rip February out and go straight to March. Guess that sounds nutty. Must be this cabin fever I’m running.