When the weather turns nasty, most people think about huddling up indoors with a good book, maybe watch a movie or sit around a fire. I must have a sickness. When the weather is sleeting, nasty and generally gray and unbecoming, I think about being outside.
There is nothing that makes you feel alive like being in the elements. Mother Nature has a way of putting things into perspective and quickly. When you have trudged across a frozen field packing thirty pounds of gear fighting a twenty mile-per-hour headwind you tend to realize you are alive. Especially when the car is parked a mile away.
Some of my best outdoor moments have come when others were barricading their doors shut to keep the elements at bay. My largest whitetail buck to date came on such a brutal day.
The year was 2006. It was December and the weather forecasters were predicting a deep, heavy snow to blanket the area. That news excited me. I had been playing cat-and-mouse with this particular buck all fall. I would see him and then he would vanish. A week later I would see him again only to have him stay just out of my range.
When that deep, heavy snow was predicted I knew that it would be a game-changer. Things were about to swing in my favor. A brutal snowfall in December would force those deer to browse and leave their loafing areas much earlier in the day then they typically would.
I parked my truck where I normally did, but the walk through the woods to the field was going to be awful. Every step would be a challenge. This was the type of snow that brought forth heart attacks. The normal ten-minute jaunt turned out to be a forty-five minute gauntlet of snowdrifts and overhanging limbs that impeded my normal route.
By the time I reached the crest of the first hill I was soaked to the core with sweat. My legs trembled from fighting the snow, yet I still had a long ways to go. I knew it would be worth it, though. This miserable weather can really make wildlife active.
To wrap things up, the bad weather was the reason I bagged that deer. I still look at the mount in my living room and think back to the horrible elements that brought that moment to pass.
The next elemental challenge that rebounds from my memory occurred on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo. I had been their pre-fishing for a tournament. The weather during this practice period was pleasant, but the fishing was not so enjoyable. Not much was happening.
The morning of the first tournament day was much different, though. I was jolted awake by the crashing of debris hurled by strong winds. Rain soon followed and dumped a relentless torrent of water from the heavens. Normally, I wouldn’t go out on such a day, but the tournament wasn’t going to wait for more suitable conditions. We launched and were under way.
The entire journey to my first fishing hole was a challenge. A boat skirting through the water at top-speed makes normally benign rain drops wickedly sharp. They pierced my face and found ways to soak me even through a top-dollar rain suit.
The rain was so thick at times I swore that I lost sight of my amateur partner standing on the back deck of the boat. My bilge pumps ran almost continuously. The first couple of casts changed all of the misery though.
Those fish were on a crankbait bite like I had never experienced before. Before long both my partner and I had caught our limits and were soon culling through fish to add to our weight. The sideways rain didn’t seem so bad anymore.
It’s odd that years after these events I remember them like they just happened. The common factor in each scenario was the less-than-ideal weather conditions. If I hadn’t ventured into the outdoors on those particular days who knows how things could have been different.
Of course, we always have to be smart about being outdoors in harsh weather. Things can go from bad to dangerous quickly. But, if you feel safe, and have the proper equipment, some of the best days afield can be had when everyone else is at home.