Remedies for the Winter Blues and Blahs

Bill Graves, Special to The County
5 years ago

By my calculations, Aroostook County is just past the halfway point of winter. Multiple November snow storms brought winter 2- to 3- weeks early, and snowfall records are dropping faster than the frozen flakes. I’m ready to yell, Uncle!

The usual outdoor activities for sportsmen; ice fishing, rabbit hunting, coyote gunning, snowmobiling and woods touring on skis or snowshoes can only get us through so many weeks. Truth be told, there’s only so much time most guys really want to spend outside in the snow and cold weather, especially after you turn 40.

When it’s time for an outdoorsman to become an indoorsman, having an enjoyable hobby or pastime to occupy a few hours each evening or on weekends helps deter cabin fever. As well as passing time, hobbies related to other favorite summer sports keep you connected and hopeful of future warm weather outings.

Numerous Crown of Maine outdoorsmen use cold winter evenings to support warm weather pastimes by tying flies, reloading shells or building some sort of new fishing rod. This is also the perfect time to fix up older flies that have been beaten up and need to be steam cleaned or have a new coat of head cement. Perhaps a favorite fishing rod should have a guide rewound or the windings need a coat of varnish. Perfect jobs for the off season.

Some sportsmen not only tie flies, they build their own lures as well. This hobby not only saves money but helps while away a few winter evenings. (Courtesy of Bill Graves)

Fly tying is a productive pastime for cold weather months and many Maine anglers are heavily into this enjoyable preoccupation. Catching fish on a fly is great fun, but hooking fish on a pattern you tied by hand or perhaps even invented is truly rewarding. It’s also a great hobby to share with a son, daughter or friend who has shown some interest. With a bit of practice, anyone can create effective dry, wet, streamer, bass, salmon and even saltwater flies. When you tie your own flies, you never have to worry if the sporting goods store has the pattern, size, and color you require. Less expensive, longer lasting flies and well stocked boxes are the result of this hobby that helps winter evenings pass more quickly and provides excellent relaxation.

Loading shells for rifle, pistol, and shotgun is another way to spend storm days or long nights. After doing this hobby for many years, I’m not sure how much of a money saver it is, but I’m positive my ammunition is far superior in power and accuracy to any I can buy because I field test each load and match it to a specific gun. Variety is another plus of reloading shells. It’s possible to create loads with certain weights and styles of bullets, or types of shotgun pellets, that are not commercially available.

There are dozens of excellent reloading manuals available, and using them properly is no different than following an exact recipe in a cookbook. Shooters who fire dozens of boxes of trap and skeet loads, waterfowl shells, or do a good deal of plinking and target practicing will benefit money wise and have dependable ammo. When steel shot became mandatory for waterfowl and store selections were limited and expensive, I was reloading all sizes of steel in all gauges and lengths. Now I load Hevi-Shot, Tungsten/Steel and plastic matrix shotshells and never have to worry about availability, and these are a large money saver over retail pricing. It’s a fun and fascinating pastime.

Sportsmen with a knack for woodworking often turn to more in-depth outdoor-oriented projects such as constructing handmade trout nets, special canoe paddles, and push poles, or even building their own wood strip canoes. All these endeavors take patience, skill, and plenty of time, but the self satisfaction is immense. A few guys with a  bit of gunsmith training use the snow season to refinish the wood or bluing on favorite firearms, or perhaps do a bit of intricate work on a particular gun’s action.

Waterfowlers often spend their winter nights learning and practicing carving and creating decoys for field use or more elaborate models for decorative display. Over the last 30 years, collecting and trading and selling duck, goose and even some fish carvings has become big business as the work of some older, often deceased wood workers can bring thousands of dollars at auction.

Collecting hunting and fishing paraphernalia has turned from an enjoyable hobby to a rewarding business for some sportsmen, but for others it’s just a fun way to pass time. I trade and collect federal duck stamps and other sportsmen do the same with various stamps and licenses for hunting and fishing. Some anglers collect old flies, reels and extraordinary rods, especially bamboo models. Others specialize in antique lures and plugs.

Of course there’s a big market for buying, selling, and trading older models of guns. Antique ammunition, ammo boxes, outdoor magazines and sporting goods catalogs are other items that plenty of sportsmen collect and trade. Out of print or first edition books are another field that draws a lot of attention. All of these collecting markets are a perfect winter pastime for one person or another.

If none of these collecting pastimes or outdoor-oriented hobbies strikes your fancy, spend some extra time reading books and magazines that relate to your favorite cast and blast endeavors. It’s also a great time of year to catch up on all the TV shows you missed on the outdoor channels or enjoy a few DVDs about woods and water adventures. When all else fails, some of the current hunting and fishing video games for the computer are a blast for all ages.

Now if none of these ideas fits the bill or you still spend way too much time stuck inside, there’s only one option. Pack up and drive or fly to a place where fishing doesn’t require drilling a hole in the ice and shooting doesn’t require snowshoes and three layers of clothing. Hang in there.