Published March 2005

Back when I was a youngster of ten or twelve, I spent a lot of time roaming the hills of southern Ohio with a cluster of boon companions. We had no televisions or computers then, so we made our own fun, and to forestall dangerous snakes, bears, alligators, and tigers, went heavily armed with slingshots. These were hand made with Y shaped branches from a hickory limb dried and peeled, strips of rubber from an old inner tube, and a leather tongue from an ancient shoe. Without bragging, we were deadly with those primitive weapons, simply because we practiced all day long, usually shooting smooth creek stones.

When I reached 14 I bought a single shot .22 rifle with paper route money, and became equally deadly with that, often shooting up a box of long or long rifles a day for days at a time. Again, practice makes near perfect. It’s a good lesson, and hunters who are feeling the effects of cabin fever and staring out the window at snow, chill rain, and sleet might take advantage of those rare sunny days to do some practice, too.

Groundhog season is coming soon, in fact the boars are already moving, and this second worst month of the year (February’s first), is prime time to head out with the chuck gun and do some shooting. Or improve that rusty eye with a round of trap at some local club, or go out with a friend and a hand trap for some REALLY challenging practice. That’s nearly as good as sporting clays. And on some truly nasty day when you’re biting your fingernails, get out the family artillery and go to work.

Each year about this time I take an hour or two to carefully clean and oil my own hunting guns, and leave them softly glowing for the next hunt. Far better than reaching for the squirrel gun only to find its barrel coated with rust. Fishermen can make good use of a few of these bad weather days too, following the old Boy Scout maximum “Be Prepared.” March is a good time to break out long unused rods, and either cut off the first 20 feet of monofilament with its frays and nicks, or completely replace the line with something new that’s untouched by the sun. Reels? Check them out, oil the lot into smoothness, removing any sand and grit, and make them ready for that first four pound bass of spring.

Typically, my tackle boxes are a mess at years end. I have one for bass, another for walleye, etc. as you probably do, and they’re in bad shape. Maybe some melted plastic worms in one tray from a hot days fishing last summer, maybe some smelly real worms in the bottom of one box or another. So, you remove most of the gear, eliminate junk, put the lot into order, and take some more time to carefully sharpen the hook of each crankbait and spinnerbait. It’s time well spent when a walleye bites gently, and is still hooked.

Outdoorsmen good with their hands can make some useful things this month, and save substantial money by purchasing molds from Cabela’s, L.L. Bean, Bass Pro Shops, or wherever. I’ve done this more than once, gathering up old tire weights from a local repair shop, and melting them down in a pan on a Coleman two burner stove. It’s vital to do this in a well ventilated place because lead fumes aren’t good, but I’ve spent some profitable hours making a several year supply of lead fishing sinkers and enough .45 caliber rifle balls to keep my muzzleloader firing for several seasons. Once I ordered a jig mold and jig hooks, and made a rather vast quantity of jigs, painting their heads, and adding twister or grub tails for walleye and saugeye. I still have some left. It’s a bad month and there’ll be more bad weather, but cleaning up your gear beats watching tv and swirling snow. Now’s the time to do it.

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