Christopher Smith: Shortening Winter: Embracing Mud Season | News

Chris Smith

It’s the end of February. Warm weather or not, it’s still…February and I feel like Bill Murray on Groundhog Day.

Several weeks of winter cold make it hard to imagine that March – and better days – are near. Instead of a welcome heat wave, we get a day, maybe two, as teasers when temperatures rise from 14 overnight to 42 the next afternoon with a strong southwest wind. Birds and squirrels pound the uncovered seeds at the feeder, and you don’t need the thick wool just to get the mail. But it’s over as soon as it starts, the cast iron freezes, and you wipe yourself down the steps to the garage.

It’s not the official changing of the guard, where winter hands over to spring, only the big piles of snow remain, and the tangled grass begins to bounce back. No, it’s the ugly preamble, where semi-brown snow melts to reveal even browner snow, and what softens one day only hardens the next. Some, like Ozzy, call it Mud Season, a descriptive term for the sloppy look, but it also sounds metaphorical because of the shitty mood it puts us in.

For sports enthusiasts, the rainbow trout is not there yet and the squirrels and rabbits have become familiar with our tactics. MNR began its annual “Ice is Not Safe” reports to deter sane people from poking holes in their favorite lakes. Crow season extends until the end of March, but snow usually prevents access to the fields, the shooting reserves won’t open for a while and we couldn’t run our dogs of birds even though the two tracks gave us access to the bird covers.

Fortunately, mud season here runs from the last two weeks of February through mid-March, and I keep my gear ready for all of the above, at the peak of forecasts, in a late effort to fend off the blues. winter.

Here are some examples. Waterfowlers love chasing crows, treating the chase as a kind of poor man’s duck hunt because we can use decoys, calls and dogs. Crow season is divided into two segments in Michigan: August 1 through September 30 and February 1 through March 31. The August season is a riot, especially to introduce beginner hunters and dogs to what they will expect on the fast approach. goose and duck seasons. The birds are young and naive, and give us an excuse to look up at the sky again. Conversely, winter hunting is a crazy challenge filled with super-smart birds, sparse cover to hide in, snow that hampers or impedes the dogs’ good work, and freezing temperatures. In a nutshell, you either have to really love crow hunting or have a bad case of cabin fever to take on these tough birds at this time of year. Unless it’s mud season.

While I’m not a fan of river fishing when temperatures dip into the teens, my gear stays in the truck during the 35 degree day when the streets glisten with roadside runoff. The winter resident steelies that linger in our local rivers usually straighten up in such conditions, but it’s not the big “rise” of fish that everyone expects, so the crowds are light (more) and I can actually fish some favorite holes with a decent chance for a few hookups.

As noted earlier, rabbits and squirrels have become aware of the orange spots lurking in their favorite haunts. But breeding season for squirrels, rabbits, and hares puts their attention elsewhere (love) and off of me, which means a chance to add a few more to the crock pot. Again, it’s a lot less appealing when it’s 4 degrees with a 20 mph north wind, but give me a warm enough morning for the fog and you can bet I’m sneaking in with a . 22 by hand.

Wildlife photography is one of Mud Season’s favorite adventures that doesn’t involve hooks or balls.

Personally, it serves me two because it’s not just water hunting, but I need material for future paintings. The warmer days of late winter come with the breeding urge of many birds and mammals, meaning they shift from hidden survival mode to wanting to be seen and heard to attract mates.

Our local population of ducks – redheads, scaups (small and large), goldeneyes and goldeneyes, mallards and black ducks – show off for the ladies in their finest spring plumage; the turkeys begin to strut and gobble; the ruffed grouse begins its spring drumming, and the early woodcock returns and begins to “peenter”.

It’s a spectacular time to see these animals behind a camera rather than in the barrel of an old gun, and even more enjoyable if you’re like my brother Jake, who some days better not just take pictures but throw his camera at the birds instead of using a gun.

So instead of retreating further into the doldrums and despair of a lousy end to winter, take advantage of mud season for the opportunities it offers and be ready to pounce when the forecast allows.

It might make winter not seem so long after all.

About William Moorhead

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