What to do in the middle of Winter

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Dennis Clay

The middle of winter is here. This week is a bit unusual, as the weather is above freezing. Usually the temperatures this time of year is below freezing and, sometimes, near zero.

The 10-day forecast has the lows in the low 30s and the highs in the high 30s to low 40s. Unusual for sure. When the weather is warm enough, go for a hike or fish an ice-free water. Hunt the few hunting seasons left. Get outside when you can.

Still this is the middle of winter. Outdoor-minded people are looking for activities to occupy their time. This is the time for anglers who tie flies to resupply their fly boxes.

Take a look at a fly angler’s fly box and the contents might contain several hare’s ear nymphs. There may be nymphs in size 12, 14, 16 and 18 and in colors of green, brown and natural. Next to these 12 flies there may be 12 more nymphs of a different style in the same size and colors.

A fly angler may lose several flies of various styles, color and sizes each year. This isn’t a bad thing, usually, unless it is last fly of the size and color catching fish. So, each year, the fly box needs to resupplied.

Of course, an angler could purchase all of the flies needed, but it is more rewarding to tie your own. This thought also includes the complete circle of hunting, fishing and eating what is caught and shot.

Shoot a deer, eat the meat and use the hair of the tail to make a fly. Shoot a mallard, eat the meat and use the feathers to make a fly. Shoot a turkey, eat the meat and use the feathers to make a fly. Shoot an elk and use the hair to make an elk hair caddis. This complete circle of harvesting the game, eating the meat and using the hair and feathers to make flies to catch fish is a part of my life. Wouldn’t want it any other way.


Just as the angler needs to replenish the fly box, the recreational shooter and hunter needs to resupply rifle shells and shotgun shells.

There are multiple steps to each and my plan is to cover it all in detail in several columns in the future. Four of us are involved in reloading and besides providing the shells we need, it is fun.

Reloading involves taking an expended .30-06 cartridge, one without the bullet and powder, but with the fired primer in place. This brass is resized with a tool to place it back into the original size, as the brass expands when the cartridge is fired. This step also punches out the old primer.

There are several other steps to make a finished cartridge, which will be explained in the future. OK, so this is simply a tease, so you will want to read the rest of the reloading process.

However, reloading rifle and shotgun shells is part of the complete process mentioned above. Reload the rifle shell to shoot the deer to use the hair to make a fly and catch a fish. Yes, it all fits together.

Perfecting recipes

Anytime of the year is a good time to cook wild game, but using the slow cooker in the winter allows some great smells to flow through the house.

The experiments will continue with the Chef’sChoice meat slicer and Excalibur Meat Tenderizer and Jerky slicer. If there are other ways to use these tools, to prepare other useful recipes, I plan on finding them. Look for the results of these kitchen tools in future columns.

Fire starters

OK, we have covered this topic several times. It is now time to revisit the making of fire starters. My best and easiest version of making a fire starter has centered on using petroleum jelly and wood chips or sawdust.

Putting the compound in a plastic jar of some type was discussed when we last visited the subject. This worked just fine, as I experimented with it during the winter. The procedure required digging the compound out of the jar with my pocket knife. No matter the temperature, the fire starter was easy to ignite in any weather. Is there another way, an even easier way to use the compound?

Remember, this compound was first placed in an empty egg carton, a clump of premixed jelly and wood chips in each egg compartment. However, the jelly would be absorbed by the carton. Therefore, it would contaminate other items in a backpack.

One solution is to place the fire starter in the egg compartments, but cut them into individual sections, then place them into a resealable bag. Or seal the egg compartments in a small FoodSaver bag. Either way, the compound could be easily removed from the bag and used to start a fire.

Think I’ll start by using both the resealable bag and the FoodSaver machine. Stay tuned for more results of the experiment. The middle of winter is a great time to make fire starters to use during the upcoming camping season.

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