Late Season Small Game, February 2014

    For the past several years I have been making a February trip to the Adirondacks to visit my parents and hunt grouse and snowshoe hares. This year’s trip happened to fall during the storm of February 13-14th. My expectation was that this could make for some great hunting. Sadly, I was to be disappointed.
     I left southern Vermont around 4:30 on Thursday evening and what should be no more than three hours of driving ended up being four. The brunt of the snow was predicted to happen overnight with the storm tapering off the next day. Friday morning was not bad temperature wise. The thermometer was reading in the low 20s when I checked around 7:30. It is not uncommon for animal activity to increase on the down-swing of a big storm and I was hoping this would prove the case, but after spending two and a half hours on snowshoes in deep snow I hadn’t seen anything. No game, not even tracks. Now, I’m willing to hunt all day if I’m having some luck but after that much time under those conditions I had had it. Just for clarity’s sake, hunting on snow shoes is not like walking on snow shoes, at least not when you’re hunting by yourself without a dog. Keeping your gun at the ready more often than not while negotiating a host of buried logs, stumps and brush takes a toll on your whole body. On top of all that the area I do most of my hunting involves constantly going up or down hill.

Typical woods in the Adirondacks. Lots of blow downs, swampy spots and conifers.

     I skipped out on hunting the evening, mostly for the sake of spending time with my family, but the strong wind and blowing snow played a role as well. I took the time to hang my hunting clothes someplace where they could dry, but I committed an error I am not at all proud to admit. I took all the shells out of my vest pockets so they wouldn’t corrode, but I neglected to so much as give my gun a quick wipe down. Like my clothes, my gun was soaked, inside and out. The next morning I noticed a long streak of rust forming on the bolt and a ring of the same at the muzzle, around the choke tube. At that point I didn’t bother to wipe it down since I was only going right back out to get it soaked again. After several hours of plodding through snow and fighting with brush I hadn’t seen any sign of game. Even the usual hot spots weren’t producing. So I called it a morning. In spite of the lack of success at any level I was still glad I had gotten out and given it a try. I typically have to take advantage of hunting opportunities when I can, and the weather situation certainly couldn’t have been helped. Having a shotgun to strip down and clean, on the other hand, that could have.

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