"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Recent Rambles
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Scifres

January is touted as the coldest, rawest, bleakest month of the year, and most of the time it is difficult to doubt the validity of that premise. Yet, this first month of the new year offers countless outdoor activities, including both hunting and fishing.

The late bow season on deer ended as the new year bowed in, but rabbit and squirrel hunters have the remainder of the month to try their luck and bird (quail) hunters have until January 15 to follow their dogs in that part of the state south of Indiana Highway 26 (roughly the southern two-thirds of the state. More specifically, squirrel hunting is permitted through January 15 only south of U.S. Highway 40 (roughly the southern half of the state).

Although hunting foxes (red and gray), coyotes, raccoon and opossum will wind down at the end of January or into February and March, trapping seasons for some of these fur-bearing animals continues through March 15.

Hunters and trappers should check regulations of the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) for exact dates, by species.

Then, of course, if you still want to spend you outdoors time trying to put meat on the table, waterfowl seasons remain open through all (or most) of the month (see column of  December 26, 2005 on this website).

Christmas Day rain played smack into the hands of waterfowlers (again, see weekly column for December 26, 2005 on this website), and continued warm temperatures have set the stage for some great duck/goose hunting for those who will spend some time scouting the possibilities.

Waterfowl season dates also will be found on this website, and should be checked to remain within the law.

So even though the last of our deer seasons (late bow) ended when the first day of the new year expired, there are plenty of interesting opportunities out there in the boonies.

Those who can’t quite give up on deer yet, can even spend some time looking for the antlers of that big, elusive buck that that never offered a good shot. Bucks start shedding their antlers in December and January speeds the process as males shed their antlers in preparation for a new set of hardware.

Brushy areas known to be frequented by deer are prime places to look for “sheds,” especially at spots where deer jump fences. Still, following a deer trail anyplace could bring shed finds. Some bucks undoubtedly speed the process of shedding their antlers by contact with limbs or brush. But when an antler decides it is time to go, it goes.

A rabbit hunt offers good chances for finding sheds, not to mention the prime ingredient for a platter of fried rabbit.

One of my most memorable January outings came on a January day when I, accompanied by two or three other kids my age, was ice skating on Buck Creek. roughly a quarter of a mile north of my hometown, Crothersville.

With ice skates, sleds, and assorted other outdoor paraphernalia, we had headed to a place on the creek that offered a long, but rather narrow expanse of ice.

The ice proved not quite thick enough for real comfort--even though the water was not deep. But, on our path back to town, we would pass a small swamp (about two acres) that was infested by a large, thick grove of ash and maple saplings.

Somebody ran onto the snow-covered ice and skidded flat-footed, prolonging the slide and changing directions by grasping the saplings while still sliding.

Soon we all were sliding and zipping around the swamp, snowplowing with our shoes to expose swaths of crystal-clear ice. The ice was only about an inch thick, but it was frozen to the saplings and the water could not have been more than two feet deep.

At the end of one of my slides, I whirled around a sapling and cleared the snow from the ice in a sizeable area. Looking at the ice between my feet, I could see a hard shell (snapping) turtle swimming slowly with its back and the top of its head against the ice.

We watched the turtle with great interest, and someone wondered if we could catch it. We had a hatchet for cutting wood for a fire while skating, so I chopped a hole in the ice a foot in front of the turtle. When it swam into the small opening, I picked it up by the tail.

More sliding, looking and chopping produced two other snappers, but one was not thought to be large enough to keep.

Still, two wintertime snappers were enough for a dinner of fried turtle at our house--at a time when turtles should have been buried in the mud.

I have looked without success for similar situations many times since that day, but have never seen it again. But I look for turtles every time I am on clear ice.

I will never know what brought about this strange set of circumstances. I can only surmise that the turtles (with both gills and lungs) had been in a hibernal state in the mucky swamp bottom. For some reason, oxygen supplies had failed, I believe, and the turtles had gone to the surface to breath oxygen that existed between ice and water.

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All columns, stories, and photos 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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