Outdoors With Craig Robbins

Winter Projects To Keep Sportsmen Sharp

It has been an interesting start to 2018. It seems Mother Nature either delivers bone-chilling cold or above-average temperatures. This has made it difficult to get on task, or at it least it has for this old man. What it has done is allow me to spend more quality time with family.

Recently, during a Saturday afternoon visit with my grandsons, my oldest grandson, Jack, was showing off a few of the toys Santa had left for him. It wasn’t until he brought out a new box of Legos that I got excited. Now, back in the day, there wasn’t much that could get this chubby little outdoor communicator more excited than a fresh box of Legos. You all know the ones, the box that nobody has touched, where all the pieces are still there. To me, a new box of Legos is like a new turkey hunting spot. The fun in it is figuring all the different things one can do with it, but I digress.

It wasn’t until I my son asked if I had a couple hours to work on this project. Of course I made the silly statement, “I got this one, it’s just Legos.” It didn’t take long to realize what my dear son was laughing about.

Now, you all have to picture this:grandfather (me), first-grade grandson (Jack) sitting at a huge dining room table with a new box of Legos. The excitement was building as we tore into the fresh box. Then reality hit the old man. When did they start putting directions in Legos boxes? Well, you all guessed it, it wasn’t just any Legos set, it was a theme set.

Needless to say, after more than two hours, grandpa threw in the towel, while Jack didn’t, and his dad stepped in to bail out this old man. Later that same day, I received a pic of the completed project. The text message that accompanied the photo read, “5 hours later.” It was a beautiful project that was started up by a first-grader and his grandpa, but had to finished by a dad and his son. I’m sure there is a lesson buried somewhere in there, but I haven’t discovered it yet.

Winter months can be very productive if one puts together a plan. I always try to have a plan. Now, often times the original plan gets “fine-tuned,” but it’s best to have a direction, for example, like for the Logo project.

Each winter I would make a standard list. The list includes, but is not limited to, making sure all firearms are cleaned and replace any part that is required. Clothing is important to me. I spend good money for all my hunting clothes and take care of them. Any tears, broken zippers or worn out pockets are fixed. There is nothing better than a good pair of boots. Keeping up with your footwear can, and has, saved more than one hunt for me. Each year I dry out and then water proof each pair of boots, always making sure to take out laces and replace them, even if they don’t need to be.

I also spend a ton of money on my waterfowl decoys and keeping up with them can be a full- time job, but it is an good investment to make sure the decoys are ready when I need them. Touching up paint, or as I have been “flocking” each decoy, is a great winter project. With a little research and some time, your old beat up decoys will look good as new come this fall.

Those are just a few indoor projects that can be done.

Outdoor projects can be a little more challenging. One of the things that I do each offseason is working on trailers. In the Robbins’ household, we currently have four that need upkeep. Over the years I have done everything from a total rewire, to paint, to replace blubs, to floors. Keeping up with your trailers ensure that when you hook them up at o’dark thirty, they will be ready to go. There is nothing worse than trying to fix a light or broken wire on a trailer in the dark.

Each offseason I try to tackle a major project. This year it’s my 12-foot Lund. Years ago, I camoed the boat with Camo Clad. While it worked great for many years, years of beating the sides up on dead falls, rocks and just regular use took its toll on my camo. This season I decided that I was going old school and stripping the camo off and painting my new camo on. Of course, if one doesn’t have a garage, this has to be done outside.

I made a promise to myself that I was going to do this project outside. While I do have a garage that would make this job quicker and easier, I wanted to go old school. The weather has much to do with this project, but that is part of the fun. Keeping an eye on the weather and breaks therein, I so far have been able to strip the old camo off and begin the process of priming. If the weather holds this week, I should be able to finish priming and start final painted camo.

After that is done, I’m going to turn to the inside and work on the floor. My thought is a non-skid surface that I can either spray on of paint. This will make it easier and safer on the cold, icy days.

As for hunting, I’m looking forward to putting a dent in the local coyote population.

Coyotes are a tough critter to hunt, so keeping your movements down and using a long range weapon is a best. A selection of calls, from rabbit, howler and often times a kee kee are good starting points for calling.

There has been a good selection of decoys on the market. From moving to stationary, decoys can help get coyotes into range.

Of course there are other factors that make up a successful coyote hunt, but calling is top on the list. Over the last couple seasons, I have been able to field test an open reed coyote call. From reports I have gotten back from around the country, it has been working really well.

Another great winter activity in the outdoors is shed hunting. Looking for sheds is exciting and challenging. It’s a great way to keep tabs on your deer population. Notwithstanding trail cam pictures or actual eyeballing, finding sheds is a sure-fire way to know what bucks have made it through the hunting season and the first part of the winter.

Some hunters like to look for specific bucks and find their sheds each season. I have spoken with many hunters who have found several sheds from the same buck and then end up killing that buck. There is something about keeping a timeline of a buck’s life through their sheds that makes it real good story.

Looking for sheds helps hunters put together a good plan. Understanding where a buck is living will help you fine tune your game plan for the coming seasons.

Looking for sheds on field edges, bedding areas and food plots will be your best bet. One of the keys to shed hunting is getting to sheds before mother nature and other critters use them for their high calcium content. Ridge tops and travel trails will be sure stops on your hunt for sheds.

Knowing what to look for while shed hunting is important. Sheds will be laying in either the thickest stuff you can find and they will generally stick out like a sore thumb on dark-colored woodlot ground. Remember, the glimmer of those antlers you saw bouncing through the woods last fall? That’s sight you are looking for, except for the fact they aren’t moving. Look for anything that looks out of place and you’ll find more sheds.