Sometimes mid-February means that winter in Chautauqua County is almost over, or so we hope. Keeping with the tradition of using every reliable source, and depending on which woodchuck you listen to, it’s going to be an early spring. Not withstanding this weekend, a snowstorm that is supposed to hit us.

With the lack of snow and little ice on the local fisheries, it has been a tough time for winter sportsmen. Earlier this week I got wind of some hard-water anglers on Chautauqua Lake off Long Point and in Burtis Bay, but then I heard that local law enforcement was asking folks to stay off the lake.

It is no secret that I am not much of an ice fisherman. There is something about my fat butt on a block of ice with real cold water just a few inches under it keeps me on shore. For those who are ice fishermen, always keep in mind to make sure you have good ice before taking a stroll, and never head out alone.

For those of us who have been left on land, the lack of deep snow in most of Chautauqua County has made it easier to get in some preseason scouting. Snow makes it easier to track, find bedding areas and travel trails.

Generally, I wouldn’t be putting trail cameras out until March, but this season I thought it would be interesting to get a jump on my preseason scouting by placing a couple of new cameras out in mid-January. I am not sure what it is, but taking a walk in the woods any time of the year is a good thing. Stretching your legs during mid-winter on a weekly basis is also good for the body and one never knows what new adventure is just around the bend.

Another great wintertime activity in the outdoors is shed hunting. Looking for sheds is exciting and challenging, and is a great way to keep a tab on your buck population. Along with the use of trail camera pictures and actual eyeballing, finding sheds is a surefire way to know what bucks have made it through the hunting season and the first part of winter.

Some hunters like to look for specific bucks and find their sheds each season. I have spoken with many hunters who have found several sheds from the same buck and then were successful in killing that buck. There is something exciting about keeping a timeline of a buck’s life through their sheds.

Looking for sheds can also help hunters put together a good plan. Understanding where a buck is living will help you fine tune your game plan for the coming seasons.

Looking for sheds on field edges, bedding areas and food plots will be your best bet. One of the keys to shed hunting is getting to sheds before mother nature and other critters use them for their high calcium content. Ridge tops and travel trails will be sure stops on your hunt for sheds.

Knowing what to look for while shed hunting is important. Sheds will be laying in the thickest stuff you can find and will generally stick out like a sore thumb on the dark colored woodlot ground. Remember the glimmer of those antlers you saw bouncing through the woods last fall? That’s the sight you are looking for, except for the fact that they aren’t moving. Look for anything that looks out of place and you’ll find more sheds.

With winter in Chautauqua County beginning to wind down, one thing is for sure: We will get some more snow, but spring is one day closer than it was yesterday.