I spend a lot of time outdoors, both for work and play. There are times when both require you are out there regardless of the weather. But on many occasions, usually in the winter time, I have referred to that fine line. You know the one. It divides dedication and stupidity.
I do believe I’ve crossed it a time or two. The one instance that immediately crosses my mind is when a friend and I sat in a cardboard box blind in the middle of a corn field hoping to shoot a goose on a January day in 1997 when temperatures were below zero and wind chills were so far below you couldn’t even see zero. We had a heater, but I’m certain it only warded off death. It was the only day that entire goose season we were skunked. I’m not sure I would speak more highly of that day if limits were had.
My dad thought I’d crossed the line when I was pheasant hunting in North Dakota this year in sub-zero temperatures. I’ve sat in trees and lied in snow drifts in single digit temperatures waiting for a deer to walk by. I’ve spent four days in a photo blind watching bald eagles under the same conditions. In each of those cases, I was dressed for the cold, making it but a slight annoyance.
Give me cold over heat any day, I always say. You can always put more clothes on, but you can only take so many off. And without shades, you don’t want to be anywhere near me when the sun is glaring off my pasty white skin. Add in the humidity the eastern portion of Nebraska is cursed with, and it can be down-right unbearable. On those days, I long for the arid plains of western Nebraska where I spent the first 30 years of my life and sweating actually does you good.
On those hot and humid days, I would rather stay in the office or at home. There have been some days in the woods or in the photo blind when the sweat washed off the sunscreen and skeeter spray as fast as I could put it on. I truly believe that it can be too hot to fish. That’s when you hear me complain. Not in the cold.
Which brings me to the point of this blog. We had a little “blizzard” here in Lincoln and throughout much of the state December 11. The high that day was 46 … at 2 a.m. I think someone said it was 15 when we pulled up to our farm pond goose blind 4 hours later. There wasn’t much snow, but the wind was howling at 30 to 40 and officially gusted as high as 58 mph, making the wind chill a balmy 10 to 20 below zero.
Two days earlier, we had broken a hole in the ice in front of the blind. Had that not been the case, I would’ve stayed home that morning. But the possibility of having the only open water north of Salt Creek was too good to pass up, so I braved the cold along with three other willing souls.
Setting out decoys, and occasionally stepping out to right them after they were flipped by the wind, was downright miserable. But in the blind, protected from the wind, warmed by the new propane heater and a skillet of bacon and eggs, I was fine. And I get cold feet in the summertime.
We pulled two geese in as if they were on a string, and got a decent look from a few small flocks that dropped into the field north of us to have a bite of corn. Many more geese were feeding in a field a mile southwest of us. Those geese weren’t going to feed in the fields all day like my cohorts believed. I’m certain it would’ve been a great shoot if we had stuck around until those birds left the field. But we didn’t. The whining about the cold started early and, led by a coworker of southern origin who shall remain nameless (you know who you are, Jeff) that was sitting directly in front of the heater, reached a crescendo sometime after 10a.m. With all the work we’d done to get to that point, we might as well stick around, I said. I coaxed all into staying until 11 before I caved.
The trio certainly believed we were on the wrong side of that line. I disagreed, but was smart enough to know that sticking around and finishing the hunt by myself would put me squarely on the side of stupid. One wrong step in the pond, and I’d have to get myself back to the truck before I turned into a popcicle. Not a smart move.
Oh well. It’s only geese. The story from the hunt might’ve been a great one had we stuck around. But every hunt has a story, and this one’s about weather wimps. I’ve enjoyed telling it. Some day, that coworker will drag me down south for some bass fishing, and he can tell stories about how I whined about the heat until he couldn’t stand it any more. He’s definitely not a wimp on that front.