Winter walks in the woods

For outdoor people thereís not much more pleasurable than a walk in the snow covered woods. There are stories to be told and deciphered in the winter woods, yet many will not notice them.

I donít know what it is, but walking in the woods after a snow storm is something special to me. It doesnít have to be the day of but I go about things differently if it isnít. There is so much to see and take in, yet to some all they see is white and trees. As a deer hunter I find late winter to be one of the best times to scout. I also use the time to collect pieces of the outdoors for tools and art projects while getting some much needed winter exercise.

As a kid growing up in Virginia all you want in the winter is snow. It is a fairly rare occasion and almost always resulted in a snow day. You know those mornings you dust the snow off of the windshield with your arm because there isnít enough of it to warrant taking out the scraper? In Virginia everything would shut down and everyone would be in a panic over a mere dusting. It was funny for me having parents that grew up here. They had spent every winter in the snow so they were comfortable in it, so comfortable that my father was given a reckless driver ticket for driving 40 mph in blowing snow. In court he explained that he grew up in New York and snow like that was a more than a common occurrence. In fact there wasnít enough snow on the road to cause dangerous driving conditions. The officer likely raised down south, was afraid of the white stuff regardless of quantity. Not sure why but he never showed up in court and the ticket was dropped. What Iím getting at, is why I probably like snow so much. Every time I saw it I was left wanting more.

For some reason, snow has never lost its luster to me and I enjoy spending time in it every chance I get. Walking in the woods after a fresh covering is like having a book to read. Because you know when it fell, you can find tracks and signs in it that can give you detailed time-oriented information. Rabbit hunters can see where cottontails and snowshoes are moving to and from which helps a lot when hunting without a dog. Trappers are able to find fresh trails left by fur bearers and place sets accordingly. Squirrels can easily be located by their trails left between trees which sometimes show heavy wear indicating an almost sure bet spot. Photographers should also pay attention to any sign left behind; being that everything is in season for you to shoot year round. In this case, locating heavy deer or turkey sign and setting up off of it can get you some great deer and turkey pictures. The other day Rachel and I went up to Rogers Conservation Center and were lucky to walk up on a large flock of geese on the river. I wish I had my camera; there was a banded bird on the ice and almost 100 others within 50 yards. Had I been taking pictures and the geese had been out feeding, I could have seen the tracks left behind on the river bank and known it was a great place to set up, being that it was a high traffic area.

We also took a walk the other day to look for suitable hickory trees which I split into staves, to dry and make into long bows. The trip quickly turned into a combo stave hunt and deer scouting mission. The rubs and tracks were able to be seen at a great distance through the woods, indicating trails I never knew existed. We were able to locate several new trails and find some nice hickory trees to be dropped, split and hauled out this month. It was nice to walk and get some cardio going while enjoying the scenery. Iím pretty sure the exercise I get hauling out 50 to 100 bow staves wonít be as enjoyable, but will pay off in the end as almost all hard work does. No matter what you go out to do, just get out and enjoy the snow; youíll be complaining about the heat again before you know it.

Good wishes, bundle up and enjoy a winter walk.

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