Beating the winter-time blues

January 4, 2009 

Whether described as cabin fever, winter time blues, the blahs or, as my grandfather put it in his pithy way, 'miseries,' this time of year can be frustrating for those who love the outdoors.

Another deer season has come and gone, waterfowl hunting will soon be at an end, there doesn't seem to be enough bobwhites to be worth the trouble anymore, rabbits seem to be as scarce as proverbial hen's teeth, and too often than not the weather is so bad that even squirrels, the most predictable of South Carolina's small-game animals, stay holed up in their den trees. It is too cold for all but the hardiest of souls to fish, and the temptation is to throw one's arms to the heavens in abject despair while wishing spring would come tomorrow.

Such need not be the case, for there are all sorts of readily available remedies for the winter-time blues. For those who treasure all the comforts of hearthside and home, a good book offers a fine way to while away the hours. After all, as noted angling writer Arnold Gingrich once remarked, "some of the finest fishing is done in print."

Another approach can be hiking, for modern gear is so comfortable that all but the worst of weather is easily defeated. There are thousands of miles of maintained trails in the Palmetto State (visit sctrails.org for details), and for the adventurous even more beckon in the mountains of neighboring North Carolina.

Another most useful resource, and it should be readily available through your favorite bookstore, is Allen de Hart's "South Carolina Trails" (published by Globe Pequot Press). It gives detailed descriptions of the nature of trails, access points, distances, physical features, and the like.

An alternative to hiking, one I've enjoyed numerous times in the past, is a day of paddling one of the state's rivers in a canoe. Indeed, if you are so inclined, you make a two- or three-day trip with overnight camping along the stream.

A different sort of option, although passive in nature, is to watch any one of the many television programs focusing on the outdoors. I must acknowledge that there's a bit of a burr in my saddle on this one, because many of the outdoor programs offered on various networks are somewhere between lousy and horrendous. There's far too much ego, and too many "heroes" who desperately need some basic lessons in speaking and grammar.

Still, there are some great programs, and it doesn't take a lot of viewing for the discerning sportsman to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This is also a grand time of year for the sporting craftsman. Try making a turkey tote from a section of deer antler, craft a wingbone turkey call, build a gun rack, or try any of scores of do-it-yourself projects. Similarly, for those who enjoy the simple pleasures of piddling (and who doesn't?), clean your guns and other hunting equipment and store it for another year; get out your turkey gear and check to see if there's anything you need to put in your vest, or maybe start out the new year by beginning a sporting diary.

Finally, this is the season for shows. The National Wild Turkey Federation's convention is scheduled for mid-February in Nashville, the annual Southeastern Wildlife Exposition will be held in Charleston earlier in February, and at the end of this month (Jan. 30-31) the Fly Fishing and Wingshooting Show comes to the Charlotte Merchandise Mart.

Such activities, both active and passive, are a sure cure for cabin fever. We are fortunate to live in the part of the world where outdoor pleasure can be enjoyed in ample measure during all four seasons, and winter even offers one special benefit. This comes in the form of the undoubted joys of solitude, for if you venture into the woods at this season chances of seeing anyone else are minimal.

Jim Casada would welcome information on upcoming events of interest to area sportsmen. He can be reached through his Web site (jimcasadaoutdoors.com) or at 803-329-4354

OUTDOORS FORECAST

With another deer season at an end, it is time to turn attention to small game or, as this week's column suggests, some alternative activities for the sportsman. For the hunter, the best bets at present are bushytails and an overlooked little challenge to the wingshooter, woodcock. Another option is to spend some money and enjoy an outing at a hunting preserve.

OUTDOORS CALENDAR

Oct. 1-March 1 -- Squirrel season. Limit 10 daily.

Nov. 1-Mar. 1 -- Crow season. No limit.

Nov. 24-March 1 -- Quail season. Limit 12 per day.

Nov. 27-March 1 -- Rabbit season. Limit 5 per day.

Dec. 19-Jan. 15 -- Third and final segment of dove season.

Jan. 2-31 -- Woodcock season. Limit 3 birds per day.

Jan. 3 -- Statewide youth deer day.

Jan. 30-31 -- The Fly Fishing Show, Charlotte Merchandise Mart. For details, visit flyfishingshow.com.

Feb. 13-15 -- 27th annual Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Charleston. Visit sewe.com for details.

Feb. 19-22 -- National Wild Turkey Federation Convention, Nashville, Tenn. For details, visit nwtf.org.

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