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Getting in touch with winter hunts now

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
Aug. 1, 2003
Hunters can't abide many months without doing something associated with pursuing game, and this includes even the steamy months of summer. That is one reason we will flock to the likes of the Meridian Star Outdoor Expo and the Mississippi Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Extravaganza. These events help satisfy a hunger to be using the outdoor products we see there and they fuel imaginary jaunts into nature's wilds that keep our batteries charged until autumn reality arrives.
Of course we read the outdoor publications in which writers take us to the hunting grounds of the world. And we watch the television shows filmed among the quaking mountain aspens of Montana or the giant ant hills of East Africa or the briar thickets of South Carolina or the greening flora of Missouri's turkey woods.
But what can we do with our hands right here in the air conditioning? Make stuff. I like to make stuff. Everyone has his or her own special leanings some folks are artistic and others cater to the more practical accouterments for hunting. Let's look at some ideas for practicing our craftsmanship. After all, if you create something really useful or imaginative, you are likely to enjoy it for a long time and the compliments from others won't hurt either.
Quality crafting
I will address my own projects and hunters of my ilk later, but first let's consider the talented. My friend in North Dakota sometimes keeps his passion for the outdoors alive in the off season by making things that are both useful and artistic. The difference here is that instead of keeping the air conditioning going, Larry keeps plenty of wood on the fire. For months before and after hunting season, it can get cold enough in North Dakota to keep one inside as much as the August humidity does down South.
Larry made a powder horn from a steer horn he got off a skull on the Texas range. He plugged the large end with a piece of polished mesquite and put brass fittings for pouring powder on the small end. The shoulder strap he made from neatly platted split leather. Then he gave this art object to me as a gift. Too pretty to use, I have it displayed along with the knife he made for me from an old buggy spring he found on the northern prairie where Custer's men may have discarded it. The mule deer antler handles on the knife accent perfectly the blade, which is polished to a chrome-like finish that doubles as a mirror.
Another friend was so moved by the comings and goings of waterfowl, that he spent the spare days outside of duck season making duck calls superb duck calls. I was honored that he made one for me several years before his death. It's polished wood sends forth the perfect chuckles of a feeding mallard almost before you get it to your lips. It too, is such a piece of art that it has never accompanied me to the marsh.
Practical projects
Collectibles aside, there are plenty of simple projects that can be crafted by the rest of us. I am particularly proud of a holster I made 45 years ago for my little Iver Johnson .22 pistol. It has rivets that show my hammer marks and the buckle I made from stiff wire has plier marks aplenty, but it has carried the little revolver on my belt all these years to more places than I will ever see again.
Rifle slings. They are fun to make. I set out to make the lightest one on earth to go along with my mountain rifle, that coincidently I lightened several ounces from its factory weight. The result is a sling that is so light that I have to keep it in a drawer for fear it might go floating off somewhere. A light, inch-wide nylon strap with the new nylon swivels and a thin leather shoulder pad will carry your rifle up steep slopes just as well as the stout factory models, and without the bulk and weight.
Game carriers for toting birds, squirrels, rabbits, ducks etc. can be easily fashioned from coat hangers. Turkey callers have been made from almost anything snuff cans, various species of wood, slate, latex rubber and even terrapin shells.
Ideas for hot weather projects are endless. Take part in your winter hunt now by creating a piece of gear that will later serve your needs afield. It might still be around 45 years from now and stimulate a little pride.