I was fortunate enough to be given a couple of free hours yesterday afternoon, so I took to the hills. The temperature was in the middle 40's with a very strong wind that was going to be switching to the north/northwest as the sun was going down. It would be as good a day as any to catch a few trout before a freeze sets in again.
I know I'm not the only one who has had that moment - being giddy about trout fishing in January in the Midwest. It's a special feeling, almost like you're cheating nature. Fishing open water in January? Made even more special when you know you won't have to constantly be cleaning ice out of the line guides.
But here is also where nature strikes back - in the form of forgetfulness. Yep. It's January and that means a new year. That means you need a new license to harvest the fields and streams. Well, "One thing pushes out another, as the say in Bree," (Tolkien fans - you're welcome!) and I plumb forgot to renew for this year. Lucky for me, a walk through the hills is just as good as trying to get a fish to bite. Even better if the fish aren't.
Plan B quickly came to mind - walk the game trails looking for shed deer antlers. There is almost a couple hundred acres to wander here, so off I went. I soon ran into a problem, though. The tracks of another shed hunter and his dog. Try as I might, I couldn't find an area where these two had not looked. It was like I was cursed to walk in their footsteps, or I thought an awful lot like that guy did in choosing what trails to take.
No antlers were to be found, but I did find a very large decaying bolete, which means I'll have to walk the area this fall to try to find some. A couple of southward facing hillsides had just the right slope and dead elms on them to make me think that there will be morels on them come spring, and hopefully I won't forget that. There is always something that catches my eye in nature, even in a bleak January landscape - in a small gooseberry bush I found a nest which looked like it still had an egg. Just a hickor' nut, though (Little Tree fans - you're welcome!).
It's a good thing I'm open to options. These hills were made for them. I could have even taken a nap on the soft bed of needles under a sunny stand of pines, listening to the wind through the tree tops. I love these hills.