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WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Learn to see the hunt all the way through

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Learn to see the hunt all the way through


How do you skin a deer? How do you package it for freezing? If you do it yourself, what is the best way to do it?

All of those questions can be answered at the upcoming “Venison Processing Seminars” being offered through the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Conservation Education/Firearms Safety Program (CE/FS).

The seminars are free and will be taught by certified volunteer instructors. Two are scheduled:

■Western Connecticut, Saturday, Feb. 9, Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area, 341 Milford Street, Burlington, 9 a.m.■Eastern Connecticut, Saturday, Feb. 16, Franklin Swamp Wildlife Management Area, 391 Route 32, Franklin, 9 a.m.

Pre-registration is required using your Conservation ID Number (located on the top of your license) and date of birth. If you do not know your Conservation ID Number, you may call the CE/FS Program at 860-424-3007.

Over the years, I have seen venison processed a number of ways and have even done some myself out of necessity.

For me, it was not fun, yet other sportsmen seem to enjoy every minute of the processing. I say it was not fun for me because when I had to do it, it was strictly by trial and error, and the errors cost me some valuable venison meat.

Like they say, “live and learn.” If you are a novice at processing your own harvested deer or even an old pro, the DEEP says you can benefit from this training event led by Gary Taylor, the CE/FS Program’s chief instructor and professional butcher.

Taylor will take you through the steps of safe handling, from skinning to packaging, and will share some cooking secrets and samples.

Maximum enrollment at each seminar is 50, which is why pre-registration is required. Cancellations made 72 hours before the event will not affect a participant’s ability to register for future CE/FS classes and events.

Ice fishing?

Yes — and iffy — as of Jan. 18 and 19.

I took a couple of rides around our area to see if there was any ice fishing and, like I said, “yes and iffy.”

On Jan. 18, in the light overnight snow we had, Black Pond showed tracks of one person and one sled going on and off the ice. This was about noon.

The next day, there was one fisherman on the ice and a bunch of folks in their cars watching him. One gent said the ice was four inches, but I did not check the thickness.

I went to Beavers Pond, home of the Meriden Dog Park, on Jan. 19 and there were a couple of fishermen on the ice, one of them in the middle and the others closer to shore.

From there, I went to Silver Lake and, on both the 18th and 19th, there were ice fishermen testing their luck.

As expected, there were more on the 19th (Saturday) before the big storm hit us on Sunday. Sorry, I did not test the thickness of the ice then either, but the fishermen were spread out quite a bit.

Luckily, the arrival of the storm did not dump a whole lot of snow, and with the low temperatures expected to follow for a couple of days, this could be a good thing regarding ice safety. I hate to keep preaching about being safe while you are ice fishing, but there really is no fish worth dying for.

From the more northern reaches of our state there have been reports of some ice fishing on places like Tyler, Bantam and some of the other bodies of water.

The biggest worry I have is too much snow on too little ice. Then it can be quite hard to judge — and keep in mind that water coming up through a hole in the ice and mixing with any amount of snow can weaken ice that has not really had a chance to form.

I am saying this from experience. One of the scariest episodes I have ever experienced in the great outdoors was going through the ice. Thankfully, there was someone there to pull me out. I still think of it every now and then and would not wish it on anyone.

As for being the only one on the ice? Forget about it!

Watching that gent at Black Pond with no one else on the ice, that is really pushing your luck. And while you are at it, why not invest in a set of those ice picks designed to help you get out if you break through? Essentially, they are a set of pointed picks with a lanyard to keep them handy.

Also consider having a length of rope to toss to someone who breaks through. How does that old saying go? “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.”

Hopefully, the freeze will make some really safe ice and we can get through the ice fishing season without any local tragedies.

Over the years, I have seen the ice break in a couple of different ways. One time, the ice simply gave way, almost like shattering under you. With any luck, you will come up in the same hole you fell through and be able to get out, especially with some help.

The other break happens when a larger section of the ice gives way and swings down like a trap door. If you are on it and slip into the water under the ice, your chances of survival are minimal, at best.

Hopefully, the ice fishing season is here for a while. But play it safe on some of the places you fish. Chop a couple of holes on the way out and fish with a buddy.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.