Woody Snow Creek

February is a tough month for outdoorsmen.

For outdoorsmen, there’s only one good thing about February.

It’s short.

Granted, not by much, but we’ll take anything we can get when it comes to trimming a day or two off the calendar’s month of misery.

Indians called February the Starvation Moon, and for good reason. Food that had been cached back in fall was running low.

Lakes and streams were too iced over to fish, no game was stirring, and spring was a long, long way off.

Old mountain men sometimes went off their rockers in February. It was called Cabin Fever. They had been shut in since December, with over a month to go, and no cable TV.

Sometimes they got so lonely that when wolves howled, they howled back.

Nowadays our straits aren’t so dire – gloom and boredom aren’t terminal -- but February is still tough on outdoorsmen. That big buck we bagged last fall is a faded memory, and dogwood blossoms and crappie season are a distant tease.

Small-game seasons run through February, but it’s hard to get in the mood to chase a frost-bit bunny or shoot a squirrel that’s frozen to a hickory limb. Doesn’t seem sporting.

A few determined anglers venture forth in February. At least they’re not bothered by skeeters and water skiers, or distracted by skimpily-bikinied sun-bathers.

Sauger fishermen are especially hardy. After sitting in a boat all day in sub-freezing temperatures, they’re not just hardy, they’re hard. As in frozen stiff.

Last time I went sauger fishing in February, my buddy kept shivering with excitement, even though we weren’t catching anything. He continued to shiver after we got home. He finally stopped around May.

I have a friend in Wisconsin who ice fishes in February. He drives his truck out on the frozen lake, bores a hole through the ice, scoops out the slush, and drops his bait down. Then he hunkers over the hole as frigid winds moan across the frozen tundra.

In Wisconsin, freezing is considered fun. Not to me. If I’m not catching anything, I like to at least be warm while I’m doing it.

Sometimes I get so bored during February that I sort out my tackle box, which has been sitting in the closet for months. Every fisherman knows what that’s like: the tube of catfish stink bait has leaked out and hardened on your most expensive lures. Plastic worms and jigs melted and fused into an oozing gob that ate two spools of fishing line and all your bobbers, swivels and hooks.

Everything in the box is ruined and has to be replaced. February is expensive.

The highlights of February are Groundhog Day and Valentines Day.

One year, addled by the February blahs, I got them confused. I gave a groundhog a box of candy, and my sweetheart didn’t speak to me for eight weeks.

February is a rough month.