January 16, 2003

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

These past couple of days have been a mixed bag of emotions for me. Since my recent rediscovering of bird hunting I have been dreading January 15 when the season comes to a close. Just in the past few weeks I've been out a couple times and actually found a few pheasants and quail. But Mother Nature and all the other variables make it difficult to bank on one year to the next so a guy can't help but want to take advantage of it as much as possible while it lasts.

Besides it's been so long since I have actually had something to write about in the Outdoor Corner that I really have to latch on to any thread of hope for hunting or fishing entertainment. (At least that's what I told the girls at the office when I informed them that I HAD to take off Wednesday afternoon for the final hunt of the year.)

I have not bagged a bunch of birds this year but I have seen more than I had expected. Hope is a good thing. Maybe if we get a decent spring absent of the typical six or seven inch downpours, and maybe if we close out the winter without a 20-inch snow blizzard, these birds will serve as the breeding stock for even better numbers next year. Only time will tell, so I'll go out one last time and try to get my hopes up.

Then we will turn the page on the calendar and it will be gone again until November. Yet while I am saddened by this, the recent freezing weather has my spirits on the upturn. Everyone comes into the office, complaining about the cold, the bitter wind and the freezing conditions. I take it all in with a big smile as I know we're finally making some ice.

The old ponds already had a decent cover on them by Sunday when I was bird hunting. It was thick enough I had to shoot a hole through the ice to allow the dogs to get a drink. I think maybe by Thursday I'll be telling the girls at the office I HAVE to take off to go ice fishing so I'll have some variety of content for the Outdoor Corner. By then I'd bet there will be a good four inches of ice if the weather holds. That's more than enough to get me out on top of the pond, and generally is plenty to support myself and the ice tent. Still with it being the first time I'll probably take it safe and just use the old bucket. Of course that's sort of an oxymoron - play it safe by just taking myself out on the ice because I think the ice might break if I have too much weight on it. Boy that sounds reassuring. At least this way my survivors wouldn't have to drag the bottom of the pond to recover my tent.

The first good ice has a way of making us dedicated fisherman forget about personal safety, or at least place it aside for a while to answer the call of the ice. I guess I should remember that my excuse for going on Thursday is so that I have something to write about. But I guess if the ice isn't good enough (or at least if everyone in the office hears that it wasn't) I'll have an excuse to go back on Friday.

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