Just about any outdoorsman will tell you that the weather the past four or five years has been sketchy at best for fall hunting opportunities, and in many cases, even fishing. Just because it’s nice out, doesn’t necessarily mean it should be. The natural world evolves with the given seasons and in our case, this means the frost shoulda been on the punpkins, and the fodder shoulda been in the shock, long before it was this fall.
No offense to Hoosier poet laureate James Whitcomb Riley, but if he was penning “When the Frost is on the Punkin” now, he’d have gotten it all wrong. Call it whatever you like; Global Warming, climate change…yada, yada, but the fact is the seasons are not as they should be at this latitude. Going from summerlike to Arctic conditions in a matter of a week or so is absolutely ridiculous. Besides farmers and individuals that work outside, perhaps no other group is impacted by this as much as outdoorsmen.
If this crazy weather is because a lot of us drive big-heavy vehicles that burn copious amounts of fuel for a robust carbon signature, so be it, we are to blame. But, I wonder if the folks that drive electrics and hybrids realize how much fossil fuel it takes to build and transport their vehicles and how much fossil fuel gets burned to create that magical, clean electricity?
Wind-derived power you say. Ask the hawks, owls and songbirds laying in heaps underneath them how they feel about it. Oh wait, they can’t talk, but if they could they wouldn’t be able to answer you anyway because, they’re freakin’ dead. Whacked by wind turbines. By the tens of millions.
My personal take on these bizarre weather trends is a lot less diabolical than the incessant argument that we have ruined everything. Sure, man has had an impact on this planet and likely skewed the thermal balance to some degree. But I’m inclined to believe that odd weather patterns are much more likely associated with natural cycles. Of course, there is data to support both sides of the debate, but as always, the devil is in the details. It’s not too difficult to tweak numbers to obtain the desired result when it comes to research. Sadly, it hardly makes sense to prove somebody’s agenda wrong when the money is in proving them right. My advice, be really careful what you believe and who you listen to. I’m sure most of us do that. Right?
Regardless of the “why,” the “how” of it is we are holed up in our homes with the furnaces grinding away at keeping us warm and cozy. It’s definitely cold, and though I was mad about the unseasonable warmth since early September, I have to admit that I’m kind of missing it now. We’ve been spoiled and now most of the country is being thrust into a season that normally takes many weeks to ease up on us.
Most of us don’t prefer this type of cold. You can’t do much in it safely and working outdoors should be highly discouraged. I let the dogs out at about 3 a.m. Thursday morning and wore Crocs over my bare feet. I stood out there in a T-Shirt for 10 minutes as they moseyed around sniffing all the good smells in the crystallized-icy landscape. Then the puppy, Takoda, stuck her tail between her legs and did a little spin move, and ran to the front door and started to claw at it to get back in. She’d never dealt with anything like that before. I couldn’t help but think about wildlife that cannot claw at a front door to get out of the elements.
Animals that live outside can handle this sort of thing without much difficulty, given that they are well nourished and have good cover. Waterfowl only need a little bit of open water and high-caloric food to survive, but neither lasts forever, and once snow starts to accumulate all but the hardiest of birds – Canada Geese and large duck species – get the heck out of Dodge.
Deer amaze me in their ability to live out in the open in sub-zero temperatures. Turkeys also somehow manage to pull it off. Animals of all kinds maximize movement and feeding times and know exactly where to go to avoid exposure. Once they settle in, they are able to maintain body temperature and get some rest.
Knowing the facts, I still worry about wild animals when it’s like this. I try to give them a pass and avoid harassing or hunting them. I had a home run pheasant hunt lined up for Thursday, but the last thing those birds needed was me and a dog pushing them around, displacing them from critical winter habitat and forcing them to burn calories when they need to stoke their body’s warmth the most.
I took a ride out to see if they were there mid-afternoon, and sure enough, the birds were enjoying a little sun right where I could have taken advantage of them. I watched them with my binoculars from the road. They looked miserable, but one old hen stood tall and watched me suspiciously from 150 yards away. I drove on and left them alone.
Like my buddy, Eric Stulc, always says, Indiana pheasants are survivors. They don’t have much habitat to work with and making a living is that much harder. Pheasant season ended at sunset Thursday. Maybe next season I’ll get a crack at a few of them.
I was supposed to be on the river today, but any fool can tell you that fly fishing for steelhead when the high temp is forecast to be under 20 degrees is a bad idea. We postponed. My ice-fishing friends are elated, of course. I’ve never been much of an ice fisherman. I’m not a huge fan of standing on a sheet of frozen water to pull a semi-conscious fish through a hole in it. Maybe that’s because I’ve fallen through the ice so many times.
Given these horrifically-cold temps, you’d think the ice would be great everywhere. You can bet that it isn’t though. In fact, last night two “juveniles” fell through the ice in Pike County, and as I type this, a recovery operation is underway. People, I implore you, do not walk on the ice unless you are absolutely certain that it’s safe, and even if it theoretically is, take precautions so that if you do go through, you do not drown and can be rescued. It’s just not worth it. Be safe out there.
Jay Anglin writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Argus. Write to him at email@example.com.