Opportunities abound for outdoors fun in this wacky Michigan winter

A trip to the gun range to shoot clay pigeons is a great way to spend these unseasonable warm winter days.

The clay pigeon broke into a dozen or more pieces at the report of my shotgun.

A clean hit.

Not bad for my first shot of the day. The next clay was already in flight and I swung left to catch up with my target. I was a little behind and swung quickly, only to get too far ahead of the bright orange disk before touching off my second shot. A clean miss. Ouch!

No disappointment though. After all, that’s why I was at the range working on my wing shooting skills – or, apparently, lack thereof.

Usually at this time of year I’m seated on a bucket, hovering over a hole in the ice waiting for a fat bluegill to inhale my waxie. Sadly, I waited a little too long to hit the ice this year and now, at least in southern Michigan, it doesn’t look like I’ll even get to wet a line this winter.

But, as it is said, “When one door closes, another opens.”

With a recent afternoon to myself, rather than hitting the lake I hit the range and took advantage of these unseasonably balmy winter temperatures we’re experiencing to shoot some clays. And I wasn’t alone. The course was full of shooters, clad in light jackets and taking advantage of what Ol’ man Winter is dishing out this year.

With no snow and no ice the fishing and hunting in my neck of the woods have been tough. But that doesn’t mean those of us who have a hankering for the outdoors have to sit in the house and watch reruns of John Wayne classics. There are a lot of options available when if comes to enjoying the outdoors.

There is still some good fishing to be had.

I saw a couple of boats out on my local lake. While I don’t know exactly what the early ice melt has done to the fish, my bet is that if you target them as you would if the ice was still solid you can ply a few fish from the depths. Because the water is still bone-chilling cold, their metabolism continues at a reduced level so finesse tactics should produce a good panfish bite.

If you have access to Lake Erie, the open-water walleye bite has been nothing short of phenomenal this winter and should continue right through the spring.

With the lack of snow, rabbit hunting has been tough this year. If you’re up for a challenge, drop the poundage on your compound bow, screw a small game tip onto a couple arrows  and try a slow and steady rabbit stalk. You probably won’t upset the balance of nature, but you are sure to get some action if you move slowly and deliberately through some good rabbit habitat. Keep your eyes focused for a rabbit out soaking up some sunshine. If you move slowly enough you can sneak up into  shooting range.

Keep your eyes pealed for sheds, too. Bucks drop their antlers at this time of year. Under normal winter conditions it would be difficult to find those cast-off trophies in the snow, but with no snow on the ground now is a great time to start looking.

If nothing else, lace up your boots and head out for a hike in your favorite spot. It’s the best time of the year to learn the lay of the land because you can see everything for a country mile with no leaves or brush to obstruct your view.

Last fall’s rubs and scrapes should still be clearly visible and deer trails will look like motocross paths right now with no vegetation obscuring them like in the fall.

With this warm and wacky winter it may seem like there‘s nothing to do, but there’s actually a plethora of outdoor activities awaiting if you step outside the box.

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