"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Winter in Hoosierland
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Scifres

There are many interesting outdoor activities for folks of all ages when winter comes to Hoosierland.

With many hunting seasons still open (deer for bow hunters, rabbit, squirrel, and waterfowl), Hoosiers need not want for outdoor activity, not to mention the potential for hard-water angling--ice fishing.

When Santa turned his bag upside down and shook it, he broadcast a wealth of outdoor activities that spread over Hoosierland from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River and from Ohio to Illinois.

And aside from the activities that require a hunting or fishing license, these "best things in life are free." Just "Do It," if we may borrow the slogan of the neighborhood hardware store.

This is an especially good time of year to get into the natural aspect of "outdoorsing." Even though the biologists are correct when they say the critters (including birds) will take care of themselves, they do not suffer from the efforts of those who set up feeding facilities which can be as simple as scraping leaves and snow away under bushes or brush and spreading shelled (or cracked) corn and sunflower seed. It is important to place the grain under brush, shrubs or some other barriers that will slow down hawks and domestic animals such as cats bent on a free meal.

If you have field corn still on the cob, you can make it available to birds and climbing animals (especially squirrels), by driving a four or five-inch nail about an inch into the trunk of a tree that has no value as lumber. Then, with a hack saw, cut off the nail head.

Just push the ear of corn onto the nail from the end that was attached to the corn stalk. The ear of corn has a nice little pithy channel that makes this fairly easy once the nail penetrates the opening.

If you don't have field corn on the cob, don't pay exorbitant prices charged by stores (this is petroleum-like price gouging at its worst). Instead, load the kids into the family flivver, take a grocery sack or two, and ask a farmer if you can glean some corn from his corn stubble fields. This will give the kids something to do and put some clean air in their lungs.

Although we do not have snow on the ground now--or didn't when this column was written--the potential is there. If it comes, get out there and enjoy it.

Shoveling snow--an art in itself--can be dangerous work, but it can be fun (and no more dangerous to the physique than walking to the mail box) if the "shovelee" learns to slide it (the snow) around to the place where he wants it, rather than lifting it and throwing it asunder.

A blanket of snow (even wet snow) on a hillside can be loads of fun. The late Max Stultz, a sportswriter colleague, used to put this into perspective with his weather prognostications: "Snow. . .followed by little boys with sleds."

But sled or no sled, snow can be fun.

Once, while on a winter sports tour of the Canadian Laurentians, I discovered what the local folks called a "fannyboggan." It was nothing more than a snakelike snow structure built like a four-foot high "U" coming down a steep hillside. . . The brave--including your reporter--merely sat on a piece of cardboard at the top and came down at 50 mph or faster, through hairpin turns and blazing straight-aways.

Building a small-scale fannyboggan is as easy as moving the snow in from both sides and creating low sides to a trough before packing it and spraying it lightly with water on a cold day or night. Needless to say, with low sides, it is a good idea to have no trees or other solid objects near the sides.

An afternoon of tracking rabbits, foxes, mink, and other marauders will offer an insight into what goes on out there in the boonies at night, even if you do not intend to take home the prime ingredient for a platter of fried rabbit or rabbit dumplings.

It won't always be pretty--especially when you find evidence of a fox or mink catching a song bird--but it is nature at its best.

Snow and winter can be just as much fun in Indiana as they are in the northland. Just "pick your poison," as the old saying goes, put on your warmest bib and tucker, and do it.

All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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