Winter’s Tale


It is alleged that when Rogers Hornsby, a baseball star of unbelievable talent 100 years ago, was asked how he got through the winter, he responded:

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

When it comes to hunting and fishing and many other outdoor pursuits, that’s many of us.

Right now, it’s too late for hunting, too early for fishing and I’m too old for winter mountain climbing.

Yes, yes, there are exceptions to everything. There are elk shoulder seasons, for example. And ice fishing. Even ice climbing.

A good winter chore can be cleaning firearms used last fall.

Equally, there are excuses for everything. I don’t need elk meat bad enough to struggle through deep snow drifts in below zero temperatures.

Occasionally, there is a sunny, calm day on a frozen lake when big fish are biting like crazy. Occasionally.

And ice climbing or winter mountaineering? Oh, forget it.

In northern latitudes like Montana, winter is time to meet, plan and spend. Gather friends and family to plan vacations, long and short, for the coming year. Then figure how best to spend money to reach those goals.

It’s also time to clean and repair equipment. At the end of last summer did you remember to replace the frayed line on your fishing reel? Or did you put it away quickly, thinking you would get around to it, meanwhile grabbing the gun for a trip to the hills.

Speaking of firearms, how clean is that antelope, or deer or elk, rifle fired last fall?

Cleaning and repairing sure is cheaper than replacing. And that’s not even considering the big-ticket items like a boat, pickup or camper.

Perhaps fly tying or reloading ammunition is your thing. Those winter past times are low tech and can yield fun, educational and rewarding equipment that eventually helps fill the freezer.

Making one’s own equipment is also a way to bypass expensive, high-tech gadgets that may tempt our ethics.

All of which brings us back to baseball and an ethical discussion fit for a midwinter’s night.


Recently, Major League Baseball has been in an uproar over the use of modern technology to cheat, tipping off the batter to what a pitcher is going to throw.

What is cheating in hunting? Of course, it’s illegal to use drones, night vision goggles and remote operated cameras to hunt game.

Fly tying is a hobby that take up winter hours and prepare one for next fishing season.

There is also ethical hunting that looks askance at legal but unfair equipment. Once upon a time, it was considered unfair to use a scope on a hunting rifle. How quaint.

In today’s world we have at our disposal every technological advantage: fish finders, GPS units and bow sights that glow in dim light. And that does not even touch stuff like no-scent, lightweight, waterproof and windproof clothing.

Let’s be clear. Advances in gear and clothing are wonderful. It’s up to the individual whether they are fair. The problem is not technology but what it does to us. It can lead us to believe that conveniences are a shortcut to knowledge and practice.

Perhaps an invisible line is crossed when we no longer use mechanical aids but are used by them.

Trying to hit a major league curveball without advance knowledge is tough. On a different level, hunting and fishing can be tough, too. And they should be.

Somewhere lies the invisible line between too much technology and not enough ethics. And that’s something to ponder on a long winter’s evening.