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A few cures for cabin fever

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hang in there, boys and girls. Spring is just seven weeks away.

Yeah, I know; that's not much to hang one's hat on when it's 25 degrees outside and snow covers the ground.

We want to get outside, breathe some fresh air, climb a hill or wade a creek. But until the weather warms up a bit, we'll mostly stay inside and endure our annual case of cabin fever.

Ah, cabin fever! Every time I think of those words, I think of when my son was young and would watch a "Muppets Treasure Island" video for hours on end.

The video's characters sang a song about cabin fever. One particularly memorable line went like this:

Cabin fever has ravaged all aboard; this once-proud vessel has become a floating psycho ward!

Fortunately for us outdoors enthusiasts, there are ways to take the edge off our cases of cabin fever without actually going outdoors. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Gun cleaning: Once each winter, I like to pull all my rifles and shotguns out of the gun safe, give them a thorough inspection, and clean them whether they need it or not. I haven't done much hunting or shooting in the past few years, so it isn't a big job.
  • It does, however, give me a chance to play with some of my big-boy toys - to feel the warmth of a walnut gunstock, to run a patch through a barrel and see it come out clean, and to once again enjoy the sweet fragrance of gun oil.

    It's a "pride of ownership" thing - but also there's a certain satisfaction in knowing the firearm you just cleaned will be in perfect working order and ready for use when next you pull it from the safe.

  • Tackle tinkering: I have loads more fishing tackle than hunting gear, and maintaining it takes some effort. Reels need to be lubed and loaded with fresh line. Rods need to be inspected. Lures' hooks need to be sharpened or replaced. Waders need to have leaks patched. There's probably no better time to perform that maintenance than over the course of several cold winter's nights.
  • Turkey call maintenance: Choosing an evening to inspect and service my turkey calls can be dicey. My wife, the Silver Fox, has to be out of the house because even the softest turkey calling drives her up the wall.
  • Occasionally, though, she dons her third-degree black belt and heads to the mall to practice a little shop-fu. That's when I chalk my box calls, sandpaper my friction calls and inspect the reeds on all my mouth calls.

  • Fly tying: The great thing about having been a fly tier for more than 35 years is that I have
  • accumulated about all the hooks, feathers, threads and furs a tier could ever want or need. It's a joy, then, to go into my office, sit down at my tying bench and crank out a dozen trout flies or a couple of bass bugs. It never ceases to amaze me that I can clamp a hook into the vise and, in mere minutes, create an object that a fish will want to eat.

  • List making: Inevitably, some of the aforementioned activities will reveal unexpected needs.
  • The gun-cleaning kit might be missing a bore brush or running low on patches. The turkey-call kit might need some fresh chalk. I might be running low on 6-pound-test fishing line. I try to maintain a master "needs list" so I don't forget anything when I go to the sporting-goods store.

  • Gear shopping: Of all the cabin-fever breakers, this might be the most pleasurable. It's always fun to head for an outfitter's store, list in hand, and browse through the aisles looking for things I need or things that strike my fancy.
  • I almost always run into friends while there, and we almost always end up shooting the breeze, swapping war stories and sharing a laugh or 12. My wallet is always lighter when I leave, but so are my spirits.


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