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.
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
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
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.