Like an old hound settled in front of a warm fire, January is asleep. Many of the smaller animals are burrowed under ground or in hollow trees. Even the bucks of deer season have grown weary carrying their headgear and are ready to shed antlers. Every acorn hidden under leaves or frost becomes a treasure for deer, turkeys and scurrying mammals.
Get Fired up
Getting a fire going on a cold, winter day is a priority. In a survival situation, it is critical. Keeping a stock of strike-anywhere matches in dry storage with you at all times is the first consideration when going afield. For a convenient match safe, a 16-gauge spent shotgun shell slides snugly into a 12-gauge shell. This will hold 12, strike-anywhere matches and can easily be carried in your pocket.
Find Squirrels; Fry Squirrels
January is a fine month for squirrel hunting because the cold weather rids the animal of many of the warm month parasites. You can hunt in the morning and have enough squirrels harvested and cleaned to eat by lunch. Once you’ve accumulated enough squirrel meat from fall and winter hunts, a simple way to prepare this dish is frying.
Wash the meat thoroughly to remove any stray hair. If you harvested the squirrels with a shotgun, hold the meat up to a bright light to reveal any shotgun pellets. Allow the meat to soak in buttermilk and salt in a refrigerator for a couple of hours before you prepare the ingredients. Crack eggs into a bowl and mix until the eggs are consistent. Drop the meat into the eggs, remove and coat with flour. Pour enough vegetable oil into a skillet to cover the bottom approximately 1/4 inch thick. Frying the meat at low heat for a considerable time in a cast iron skillet with a lid tenderizes the squirrel. Thoroughly brown both sides of the meat before serving.
Winter is a practical time to cut trees for clearing land or opening up food plots in most parts of the country because the wood is at its driest. Leave stumps at least three feet high, so they will be easier to remove in the spring with a bulldozer or tractor implement when the ground is fully thawed.
In addition to leaving the stumps three feet high, spray the top cut of the stump with a Round-Up® mixture to prevent resprouting of limbs. This way, if you don’t get around to pushing the stumps up, the stump won’t sucker out with regrowth.
If you get blood on your pants or favorite hunting jacket either from cutting yourself or dressing wild game or livestock, pour hydrogen peroxide on the blood stain before it sets in. The peroxide will foam and bubble the blood stain right out of the fabric, then, simply wipe the area with a damp cloth. Apply the peroxide and wipe until the stain is completely gone.
The next time you are scouting the creeks of your hunting land or farm, be on the lookout for unusually decorative driftwood that has been sanded and shaped by gravel, sand and water. This will look great as mounting art for your next duck or largemouth bass. Most taxidermists can mount your harvest onto the wood.
Shed Cabin Fever
Break cabin fever by searching for sheds starting late January. Start looking for antler sheds before the squirrels and chipmunks devour them for the calcium and other minerals present. In many parts of the country, bucks start shedding antlers in January. The farther south you go, the later they shed.
Fence rows are a productive place to look. Often, a buck jumping a fence will jar an antler loose or crawling under the fence can snag an antler ready to detach. If you find one in this area, keep looking. Chances are the other one is not far away. Once you’ve found one, expand your search in 100 yard increments. Also, check stream crossings and hardwood trails with thick underbrush that act as a snag. Sheds will give you a good idea of the bucks that survived hunting season.
Call of the Wild
Around the end of January, coyotes will begin to look for mates for breeding. This is the time of year you will hear coyotes become more vocal. Often, hunters or ranchers will hear barking and yipping followed by long howls. Two or three coyotes sounding off together can sound like 20 because of the wide range of vocalizations the predators make. To make a more productive hunt, try to pinpoint these sounds and remember the locations. To hunt successfully this time of year, use a high volume coyote call that imitates the sound of a coyote looking for a mate. Conceal yourself and use cover scent. Coyotes are fairly territorial if food is available, and their mating calls will help you have a successful hunt if you set up within their calling ranges.
Handle the Pressure
Tire pressure can change quite a bit during the cold days of January. Since air is a gas, it expands when warm and contracts when it’s cold. Cold days mean lower air pressure in the tires.
In most parts of the U.S. the difference between summer and winter temperature averages is about 50o F. This means you can lose about five psi (pounds per square inch) when winter’s icy temperatures hit. This can affect traction, handling and durability of your vehicle’s tires. The rule of thumb is for every 10o F change in air temperature, the tire’s inflation will change by around one psi.
Iron out the kinks
On guns with wooden stocks and forearms, small, shallow dents can be removed from the wood with a wet cotton washcloth and steam iron. Place the wet cloth over the dent and apply the steam iron to the area. The steam entering the porous wood combined with heat expands the wood which helps pull the dent out. Repeat the process until the ding is removed. This method of using hot steam to remove dents works for most wood surfaces including furniture and other wood working projects.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.
Editor’s Note: All sketches shown in this article are by Jesse Limbaugh, produced from photos by John Howle.