“How do you like me now?”Those have to be the words Mother Nature is asking us as she teases us with her various weather patterns this winter. Snows that do not last, subzero temperatures that have ice fishermen chafing at the bit wanting to get out on the hard water and then a January thaw that took some of the ice right out from under them. One has to wonder what the old gal will come up with next. I shudder to think of the possibilities.The first good weekend of frozen water in our area saw Black Pond with wall-to-wall ice fishermen on it. Silver Lake also had plenty of ice fishermen running for flags as well. Then came a warming trend with temps in the 50s, plus some very heavy rains that did take away some of the ice as well as break up much of the river ice in some spots. Some of the reports I have been receiving from various ice fishermen say that there has been some ice fishing in the more northern portions of our state, but I have yet to receive “official” confirmation from the state.Some of our outdoorsmen are still doing some upland game hunting, targeting pheasants for the most part, but that is beginning to slow down also. There is still some pretty good squirrel hunting if you know where to look (but not in our city limits). Upland game, for the most part, will end February 28. Areas 11 and 12 in the Connecticut Hunting & Trapping Guide still have archery hunting for whitetailed deer and that ends January 31. What used to be one of the more sought-after critters during the winter months was the cottontail rabbit. However, over the years the loss of so much farmland to development has resulted in a lack of interest for this very tasty game animal.There was a time when the howling of a beagle or even a pack of beagles on the track of a fleeing rabbit would be reverberating across our suburban countrysides on a cold, crisp winter day. Sad to say, this appears to have vanished over the years. As I pen this column, I have to wonder how my old buddy Carmen Petruzzi and his rabbit hound “Burt” are doing?In our growing years in the Village of South Meriden I can remember quite a few men that hunted rabbits with a beagle. They included George Metzger, Walt Faustman, Leo Michalski, Vinnie Rossetti and one of my hunting buddies, Jack Sears.There were others who had an interest in beagles at that time, including a man I used to work with at the L Suzio Companies, Rocco Barillaro, and our boss Lorenzo Suzio. While the hounds were essentially used for the hunting of rabbits, it was not at all unusual for them to kick up a pheasant or two while they were seeking out their quarry, and that only added to a tasty game dinner or two.Speaking of beagles, I have a tale that I have been asked to tell for a number of years and figure now is as good a time as any. Many of you know Bob Rancourt from the Village Barber Shop in South Meriden. Bob still remembers the incident and even tried to get the former executive editor of the R-J, Jim Smith, to get me to write about it, but for some reason I had a hard time putting it into words. OK Bob, you got your wish. Bob once owned a beagle named “Murphy.” We were young and adventurous back then and went hunting on snowshoes in some deep snow up in the Hartland area for snowshoe hares that were only found there. After an unsuccessful hunt, I told Bob we could head down to a piece of land on the Quinnipiac River and hunt some cottontails, and so we did. We were hunting a swamp that abutted the river and Bob said, “I’m gonna have to take a break because I have to go to the bathroom.” I thought he meant Number 1, but he meant Number 2, so I sort of headed off a bit to give him some privacy in the matter at hand. Bob stomped a clear area in the snow to go about his business with his snowshoes and then assumed the position.The next thing I heard was Bob yelling, “Get the dog! Grab Murphy!”I turned around and collapsed in the snow, I was laughing so hard. Murphy had taken an interest in what Bob was doing and had stuck his ice-cold nose onto Bob’s bare bottom. Even as I write this, I can see Bob, still in “the position,” hip-hopping in the snow trying to get away from Murphy’s cold nose while Murphy stayed in close contact with his master. It was a sight that I will never forget. I then named him “Stinky Murphy.”Over the years, things have changed and will more than likely change even more as time progresses. I know many of you would have a hard time believing me if I told you that some of our rabbit hunting hot spots were the areas now covered by housing in the Jepson Lane, Dee Avenue, Douglas Drive areas and farms like the Godeks, Raven, Slomkowski and Phillipi that were located on the outskirts of the Village of South Meriden.I know I have told you this before, but one of the hottest rabbit hunting spots in Meriden was the area in back of what was once called “The Dump” and bordered the Quinnipiac River (just ask Bob Rancourt). It is now the former landfill. Once, it harbored excellent habitat for the rabbits and they were there in abundance before the landfill took over.Of course, another thing that has changed for many sportsmen is the availability of a place to hunt. While this might be true in various towns and cities, if they take the time to look at their Connecticut Hunting & Trapping Guide for numerous state-controlled areas that they can hunt, many of them containing thousands of acres. One only has to look at the Cockaponset State Forest and its 17,186 acres, to name just one.There are other Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), state parks, state-leased and other access areas, flood control areas, plus permit required areas that need only a daily permit to gain access to them. For sportsmen in Connecticut, the Connecticut Hunting & Trapping Guide as well as the Connecticut Angler’s Guide can open up a whole new world of hunting and fishing to them if they would simply use them.Now is an excellent time to get in touch with Millstream Hunting Preserve for some extra curricular upland game hunting, especially pheasants and Chukar partridge. They can even fix you up with some excellent rabbit hunting on some of the prettiest farmlands you could ever want to hunt.Millstream will be hosting hunters for these hunts right up to the end of March. After that, you will have to wait for next September to get in some hunting. Millstream is an excellent place for that busy businessman who finds it hard to get in any hunting time.Millstream Preserve is also an excellent spot to introduce a whole family to the sport of hunting and spending prime time in our great outdoors. Millstream can host hunts for the ladies and even the junior members of the family. The best part is that they do not even have to have a hunting license to participate.A Millstream hunt includes a guide, bird dog, a continental breakfast before you start and lunch after the hunt. Don’t like cleaning birds after a hunt? You can exchange the game you shot for birds already cleaned and frozen for a fee. I choose to exchange my birds whenever I hunt there. I simply bring them home, put them in the freezer and cook them when the notion pops up for some pheasant in wine.Millstream Hunting Preserve offers up all kinds of hunts throughout the hunting season and beyond. During the regular hunting seasons you can hunt wild turkey, Canada geese, rabbits and even deer on their lands, but you must have the proper permits and licenses for these types of hunts. I have received reports of some very satisfied customers that have experienced turkey, Canada goose and whitetailed deer hunts at Millstream.If Millstream sounds like the place for you, why not give Don Favry a call on his cell phone at (860) 836-5744 or (860) 295-9974. You can also go to www.millstreampreserve.com and check them out. WALLINGFORD WISHING WELL GAME DINNER The WWW 24th Annual Game Dinner benefiting needy children in Wallingford will be held this Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Villa Capri Banquet Facility, 906 North Colony Road in Wallingford. Doors open at 5 p.m. Dinner is at 6 p.m. There’s also a huge raffle. For more info and tickets, contact Chick’s Auto (203)-269-5836 or Chris Holcomb (203) 537-2774. That’s it gang, gotta run. See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving.