Cold weather inaction threatens outdoor enthusiasts

As freezing rain fell on my little corner of the globe Thursday night, I pondered which way my column was headed.

There’s always plenty of hard news in the outdoors world to report on, like season dates, the approach of the sturgeon spearing season, buzz on wolf regulations (there’s still no open season) and predator hunting.

Ice fishermen are slaughtering the walleyes and white bass right now, especially down Oshkosh way on Lakes Winnebago, Butte des Morts and Poygan. Swedish pimples, with or without minnows, seem to be the bait of choice.

The fishing is so hot that I’m almost tempted to get out my hand-cranked Mora drill and those cute little tackle boxes of jigs for a shot at the action, but then I remember I don’t have an ice tent and I never catch much anyway (unless I go with a real ice pro).

Then that lazy, bone-cracking feeling sets in. I’m home from work, tired and hungry. It was 44 degrees this morning and now it’s 24, headed for 14. I want to curl up in my recliner chair under a thick blanket with a bowl of soup and a glass of milk and watch mindless TV, like “Impractical Jokers” (comedy drives my wife nuts) or “Gun Stories” with Joe Mantegna (my wife will glance at it because he’s also on “Criminal Minds,” her favorite show.)

Inaction is the threat all of us sportsmen and even non-sportsmen face come January and February. Sure, you made your New Year’s resolution to work out and lose weight, but even if you drive to the gym, you have to step outside. Brrrrrrr. Maybe you were smart enough to buy an expensive treadmill or stationary bike. If it’s not already moved to the garage, you might have a shot at keeping those promises to yourself until sturgeon spearing season, but I won’t take that bet.

There’s no shame in relaxation. I’ve spent the past 21 years trying to convince my wife of this fact. She uses crazy terms like “lazy” and “worthless slug,” but I remind her that a Type A personality can end up with a heart attack if they don’t stop and watch the “Breaking Bad” marathon now and then.

Since childhood, I’ve been fond of snow. Since moving to Wisconsin and becoming a property owner that includes a pretty long, wide driveway, I’ve been less fond of snow, but still love seeing it create Christmas card landscape scenes and giving me a chance to be 6 years old again and play with my toys, in this case my Polaris 6x6 Sportsman ATV with 5-foot snow plow.

Pushing snow with it is fun, and so is creating trails on our acreage so I can pull my daughter on the sled with it.

Hunting in snow has always been magical. It’s the bitter cold that pushes me indoors and to the paralyzing recliner. Yes, I did make it out last Sunday. I hiked the short walk through fresh snow from the parking lot at Fox Valley Muzzleloaders Club to my cozy ground blind, fired up the propane heater and settled the crossbow into a bipod for my last hurrah at bagging a deer. I was also testing my new Baffin Control Max boots.

The boots were undoubtedly one of the warmest I’ve ever worn, and kept my feet fairly warm in 10-degree temps while sitting 2½ hours. My right foot was close to the heater and that one stayed toasty. The left toes got a bit cold, but I had the wrong socks and perhaps too tight of a fit because of that, therefore restricting blood flow.

My old Hodgmans are the gold standard of cold-fighting boots, but they have no arch supports (I have a high instep that needs support or my lower back aches). The Baffins also have the most aggressive tread I’ve ever worn and they bit into the ice and snow almost as well as ice creepers.

I should point out that, while Baffins are hard to find locally, they are plentiful on the internet. They even make models for use on the South Pole, and have dozens of models for varying temperatures. Mine are rated down to 94 below zero, although I haven’t tested that much cold and frankly would not venture outside colder than 80 below zero. Where is that, anyway?

This cold weather is the perfect time to take inventory of your guns, oil them up, put on a new scope, have the cables and strings of your crossbows and compound bows inspected or replaced and even trying a new load in your varmint rifles.

Visiting a gun show or two, or one of the many guide service expos (the All-Canada Show is Jan. 18-21 in Green Bay) to keep the blood flowing in those constricted veins is another fun idea.

Cross-country skiing burns more calories than almost any other activity, and if I get really bored, I’ll dig my X-C gear out of the garage.

Stay warm, my friends!

Ross Bielema is a freelance writer from New London and owner of Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC. Contact him at