By Frank Jezioro – Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
Hunting is my passion, as my friends and family will quickly tell you, and I do it whenever I can make the opportunity. Most hunting is, by tradition and biological necessity, a cold weather activity reserved for the winter months. Hunting essentially ends in February with the closing of the seasons for bobcat, raccoon, fox, rabbit, hare and my favorite, grouse, although you can still get in some coyote hunting beyond that time frame.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do in the outdoors during those cold days when you can’t go hunting. My wife Beverly and I recently took our gang of grandchildren for an outdoor adventure on our Marion County farm for a day of fun, family bonding, and even some education.
When there’s snow on the ground, that’s an invitation to some first class sled riding on the slopes and hills that make up just about anyplace in West Virginia. Backyard adventures can include something as simple as wildlife spotting or as adventurous as learning how to build a fire in the winter woods for comfort or even survival.
Of course, not everyone has a farm or a backyard to experience the outdoors. Fortunately, this is West Virginia, and there are hundreds of thousands of acres of public land across the state you can use for your winter adventures. It’s your land, paid for with the revenue from the hunting and fishing licenses bought each year, so you might as well take advantage of it. There’s at least one wildlife management area near you no matter where you live in West Virginia, and it’s waiting for you and your family to show up for a hike or a cold water fishing trip.
State Parks are great places for winter adventures, as well. There’s a surprising amount of things to do in them in the winter, including one of my favorites, the sporting clay shooting range at Cacapon State Park. Many of the parks have their campground areas open year round, so for a real challenge, dig out the tents and camping gear and go for a winter camping trip. You’ll likely have most of the park to yourself and can enjoy the solitude of nature like no other time of the year. Of course, the parks have lodges and cabins if you don’t want to brave the winter weather with just a tent, so there’s opportunity for just the right amount of adventure for everyone. I invite you to check the West Virginia State Parks Web site at www.wvstateparks.com for more details of activities at your favorite park.
I encourage parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts to dust off your outdoors skills and take the time to pass them along to the next generation. The things they learn as kids will last a lifetime, and they don’t stay kids for very long. Learning in the outdoors, especially in the wintertime, will be some of the most memorable experiences you and they will ever have.
The point I’m making is that the cold weather is no reason to say inside when West Virginia offers so many opportunities for outdoor fun year-round. Grouse and rabbit hunting are my leading choices for February, but there is a lot more that can be done on your own or at a wildlife management area or state park during this time of year. Do some exploring, and have an adventure!