Print Twas a Sad Sight, Even for Raw

Tony R. had to pick this past winter to trade in his circa-1970s juiced-down snow runner for one of them new-fangled gutteral trail-blasting skidoodlers. Had to sell his treasured Model 94 Whinny (unregistered), a Bowie knife, and a map clearly pointing out favourite spectacled trout fishing spots, as a down payment on the machine.

Never told the glad-hander at the dealership that the map had been penned in the pre-acid-rain days of the 1960s. Only thing in them holes nowadays is, well, acidy water. As those of you blessed or cursed to live at the arse end of this province already know, the snowflakes were few and far between this winter, so that Tony R’s new snow buggy went into forced hibernation. The mildest January since the Farmer’s Almanac began gracing Smiley’s Chip-N-Nail “desk” out on the lanai.

“Should have invested in a lawn tractor, motor cycle or Enron stocks instead of that thing,” he moaned and groaned whenever the subject of the Mean Snow Machine was breeched, albeit a mite timidly.

“Reminds me of this feller down on the island,” Ray began. The synod was trying to soothe Tony R’s remorse by abstaining (as much as we could) from finger-pointing and unkindly remarks about a fool and his Model 94 Winchester, etc.

“He went to a finance company because banks at that time didn’t talk to no one wearing big overalls and knee-cut rubber boots. Borrowed $500 and bought himself a TV set. This is back when the only station you could get was Saint John, which usually beamed in snowier than Moncton in February. And, of course, the Boston States during summer.”

We were spring cleaning at Smiley’s; opening the one window which would budge, sweeping clean the hot water tank “chimley” and hanging out Smiley’s winter collection of Yves St. Rejected duds on the branches of a nearby spruce tree.

“After missing three payments and not responding from queries from the finance company, they sent out a bailiff or whatever to repossess the TV set,” Ray continued. “He understood why they wanted the TV back and never fussed or anything, just saying he’d miss the thing. When it came time to remove the appliance, the bailiff discovered that the thing wasn’t plugged in for the simple reason that there weren’t any plugs in the room. The guy didn't have electricity. Used the TV as an end table.”

The trouble with this past winter is that most of us are attuned physically and spiritually to the four seasons. Urbanites often wonder what we do to pass the time during the cold and sunless times.

We couch potato, like everyone else. But skates, skis, snowshoes, and trapping gear are very much part and parcel of a weekly, if not daily, grind during a typical winter—along with ice fishing, when conditions are right, which they never were this past winter.

“The DFO has really clamped down on us winter anglers,” Ed mentioned as we left Smiley’s and headed to Sonny’s abode to sample a jug of hard cider he found while looking for a coyote snare. Apple juice had been allowed to perculate in a barrel which once housed demon rum. Swished some good, me dears.

We all heard about the new regulation for such species as smelts, eels, gaspereau, striped bass, etc. Daily bag limits have been placed on these. For smelts, the figure is 60.

It may seem like a lot, but in reality it does not mirror the way smelt fishing works. It's haphazard at the best of times. You could be standing on an ice floe getting your tail whipped by a howling nor-easter without getting one nibble out of an entire tide.

On the other hand, in the matter of 20 minutes, you could have all six lines going and nigh near put 20 or 30 lb. of the silvery darlings into the kit bag before the onslaught subsides. The catch limit may be good for the guy who only goes out a few times each month during the winter season, but for those who muster out on the ice on a more frequent level, the 60 limit could force many of them to watch re-runs of As the Stomach Turns on the tube.

The daily take for gaspereau is 20. None of us had any problems with that. Except for the occasional meal when the runs first start in the spring and the odd bite into a Crowell-smoked product, gaspereau usually end up as bait for the spring lobster fishery. I’ve yet to hear anyone going fly fishing for kiacks, as they're known hereabouts.

Here’s another take on last year's deer season. While we naturally headed into the deep woods and were on the whole disappointed with the results, it seems the whitetails have taken a liking to patches of greenery abutting urban areas.

Example. Sonny was out in late January on his daily jog within the areas’ only hamlet.

“Was coming out of a parking lot when I heard a clattering of hooves. Turned my head and guess what! Five fat does were skidaddling across the street and headin’ for a copse of spruce into the town. All were brandishing white flags,” he explained.

And as he was enjoying the sight, another hoof beat. A big buck klopped across the street towards the does.

“No doubt about it. Coyotes. They hear ’em every night in that part of town. No other reason for the deer to act that way considering no snow in the woods.” Tony N. concluded.

The word “bounty” has resurfaced as a means of controlling these predators from away. One politico at the other end of the province has even suggested that night hunting be permitted to rid his town of the nuisance.

“Know what?” Wayne said. “We’ve been telling folks about coyotes encroaching on our hunting grounds for years. The townies never quite got it. But now that their kittens and little poodles are disappearing from their front doorsteps, the coyote has to be eradicated by whatever means.”

How true. Trouble is, bounties rarely work, except in tales from the wild, wild west. And the coyote is one of the hardest animals to trap or control.

“Cats should be kept in the house, period. Too many of them roaming around. Coyotes might be a good thing in that regard,”  Hayden mentioned.

A good point. I mean, about cats being kept indoors and out of bird feeders and bird nests.

The jug was down to its last dram. Outside, a few spring flakes were milling about. And all us fools were getting ready for the first of April angling season. Wool mittens were part of the gear, cause we expected it to be colder than it was in January.

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