By the time you read this, it will be February, the shortest yet seemingly longest month of the year. You wake up every morning and think, “It’s still February!”
February can be deceitful when it comes to the weather. Just when it starts to feel like spring, it socks us with something nasty.
Although they can be hard to find, there are some rather good things about the month. Due to Valentine’s Day, focus turns to love and romance. This is true not just for humans, but for other creatures as well. Among the most notable are great horned owls. February is their mating time. The little owlets hatch when it is often bitter cold.
Years ago, a friend somehow managed to get a photo of a nest of baby owls. They were so homely, they were cute. Of course, their parents are forced to hunt even harder than usual to keep them fed. This can lead to increased boldness on their part. For this reason, it might be a good idea to watch out for your cats and small dogs. A friend once actually saw an owl taking a full grown cat.
Owls are not the only wildlife to find love in February. According to the University of Virginia, bald eagles, cottontail rabbits and skunks also mate at this time. This can lead to an increase in encounters with humans. This is not all that bad, except for the aforementioned pets. Regardless, you should not feed wildlife or otherwise encourage wild critters to hang around.
Now for a little look at groundhogs. It turns out that they are really part of the ground squirrel family, or so my research indicates. I found this rather surprising.
Anyway, as we all know, Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day. The idea is that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. Punxsutawney Phil is probably the most famous of these furry forecasters, but celebrations are held in towns across the country. Sometimes they go a bit awry. Several years ago, I read where, in one town, the groundhog fell over dead. In another, the critter went berserk and severely bit and clawed the person handling it. I wonder what sort of weather those things portend.
Anyway, while on the subject of groundhogs, although they are still hibernating around here, let’s look at hunting and eating them. Personally, I feel as if I shoot something, either I or someone else should eat it. This, of course, excludes vermin like rats, etc. Groundhogs, when prepared properly, are actually quite delicious. When you get one, be sure to handle the meat correctly. Clean it promptly and be sure to remove the glands. After that, you can prepare it like you would rabbit or squirrel. The best groundhog I ever ate was a batch I had in my early twenties, but my best friend’s mother took that recipe to the grave.
As of late, I have not done any woodchuck hunting, although I am well equipped to do so. As I have gotten older, the task of cleaning them, in the warm weather is a bit too much for the old stomach. It seems like they have a lot of guts, and they smell really bad. I still have a certain hunger for them, though, so I may get up the nerve to tackle the job.
Next month, spring will officially arrive, although the weather will probably still be mean. There are always some nice days though, and that is a great thought. Sucker fishing usually heats up in March, and we will take a good look at it. We will also look at turning suckers into “poor man’s salmon.” That should pique your interest.
[Chris Henderson has been writing for many years. He lives in Brady’s Bend with his son, Ray, and his cat, Maggie.]