Editorial-Opinion February 2018

Steve Burch | February 2, 2018

February is a very interesting month. It is the shortest month, and for me, it is the most difficult month to both spell and pronounce correctly. It’s the “ru” part that my tongue struggles to get right. And I think I am in the majority. These are common points about this special month.

On a personal note, I was also born in February. And for me, February is special in the outdoors for at least four special points—hogs, hawgs, dogs and scouting.

Wild hogs can be a scourge across the landscape, and February is the best month to hunt them for a number of reasons. February sees the least amount of food in the woods, and the least amount of cover for the hogs. Consequently, they are vulnerable to baiting. You did know that hunting wild hogs over bait is legal in Georgia, right? Back when the state legislators divided the state’s deer hunters, making it illegal for Northern Zone deer hunters to hunt over bait and legal for Southern Zone hunters, they also legalized baiting for hogs. Statewide.

If you’re hunting hogs over a feeder, consider bringing some companions. If you can set this up where hogs are coming to a feeder, don’t go it alone. There is nothing like a coordinated broadside into a sounder of sows and pigs. Think of it as a covey rise situation with targets going everywhere in squeals of panic. Depending on range and cover, this work is often best handled with a shotgun and 00 buckshot. The shooting can be very fast. And after it is over, you are going to need others to help with the hauling and cleaning. If there is a faster way to turn corn into pork, I don’t know what it is. And February is the best month of the year for this to happen.

February is also the best month of the year for a personal best largemouth bass and crappie—prime time for both hawgs and slabs. There typically is a weather window known as the February thaw. When the water is cold—and with the prolonged hard freezes and multiple snows this winter it is very cold—fish hunker down in the channels and feast on dying shad.

But with longer periods of sunshine in February, and with the thaw warm-up, the water temperature trends up. Bass, and I mean big bass, stage at a contact point adjacent to a main-lake flat. When they do, they devour big crankbaits fished deep and slow. It is almost like Carolina-rig paced fishing with a big-lipped crankbait, and the strike typically happens when the bait is stopped. Sometimes, you feel the strike, but other times, the lure just gets heavy.

I love the Chattahoochee chain of lakes for this fishing, particularly main-lake stump rows in West Point, Eufaula and Seminole.

At the same time, crappie will move up in the water column, suspending over primary creek channels. They readily hit trolled jigs tipped with minnows. You know it is going on when you see boats with 12 to 20 rodholders headed for the lake. Coolers full of crappie are common during the February thaw and often produce the largest fish of the year. So get ready.

I am first and foremost a quail hunter. This is the best month for dogs and quail and long walks following eager dogs. But I am equally happy rabbit hunting or squirrel hunting with dogs. Stomping brushpiles to get up a rabbit, or snatching grape vines to make a treed squirrel move from its hiding place high in a bare-limbed hickory tree, are made for February days. This hunting is the type where you don’t have to be still or quiet—or alone. Small-game hunting is great fun, and February is made for just this sort of fun.

Finally, February is the best month to scout. Scouting new land is important, but so is scouting land you already hunt. Visibility through the woods is never greater than in February, and generally the presence of snakes and spider webs is way down. Meanwhile, hooked bushes and game trails stand out this time of year. You can see more of new property, and you can also see more new features on the land you already hunt.

When Hurricane Irma moved through Georgia, I was without power for five days because trees fell across powerlines. Fallen trees in the woods create new cover, new funnel points and new opportunities. Time to go take a new look.

February is the shortest month, but it is one full of fun and opportunity. Enjoy it.

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