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Plenty to keep busy for hunters, anglers

Winter seems determined this year to linger on for at least the next several weeks.

Add to that the ongoing restrictions of COVID-19, and our options for passing those often-dreary winter days are even more limited than usual. I feel fortunate to have acquired the do-it-yourself trait at an early age, so tinkering with my fishing tackle, guns and all my other outdoor gear tends to be a year-round endeavor for me. But in the wintertime, The ability to make or repair some of my own equipment is especially gratifying. For those also suffering from extreme boredom, here are a few ideas for some DIY projects to get through the final weeks of winter.

Soon after deer season each year, I always assure myself that I will get right to work organizing and performing routine maintenance on my fishing gear for the spring season. Often, however, I seem to procrastinate on those tasks and then find myself hustling to get ready when the first nice days of springtime finally show up. I take good care of my equipment so keeping things in good shape is not too time-consuming. But I have plenty of gear, and it’s easy to get behind on the basics.

Wipe reels clean with a soft cloth and lubricate sparingly with a few drops of light oil on exposed moving parts. Excess oil is not only messy but can also collect dirt and grit that will hurt the performance of any reel. Taking a reel apart to clean and lube the gears and other inside parts is rarely necessary unless it has been submerged in water or subjected to other harsh treatment. The internal mechanism of a quality reel can be somewhat complicated and disassembling one should only be attempted by someone who is mechanically inclined. It’s also helpful to have a parts diagram and owner’s manual for the specific model if possible.

A knowledge of rod building techniques is an asset for the avid angler. Building a rod from scratch can be a worthwhile and rewarding hobby. Buying a rod blank, guides, reel seat and other components will generally cost much less than a comparable finished rod. With a few hours work, you can have a quality rod and save money in the process. Building your own also provides the opportunity to customize the rod to your own personal specifications. Even just knowing how to wrap the guides on a rod can come in handy if you need to replace a damaged guide or refurbish an old favorite rod you own.

Making your own fishing lures is another way to save money and customize some of your favorite baits. I enjoy assembling some of my own crankbaits and other hard baits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and inline spinners. This project started when I bought an assortment of treble hooks and split rings along with a pair of split ring pliers to replace any dull or rusted hooks on my collection hard baits. Some of the suppliers of those components also offered various lure bodies already painted and ready for hooks and split rings to complete them. Next, I bought an assortment of parts and tools to make my own spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. Making any of those lures only takes a minute or so and will cost half or less of a comparable store-bought model.

No other fishing-related hobby has meant as much to me as fly tying. This spring will mark the beginning of my fifty-seventh year of wrapping feathers, fur and an endless array of other materials on a hook to tempt a fish. I have no idea how many flies I’ve tied or how many fish I’ve caught during that time, but I cherish the memories of it all. I can’t imagine fly-fishing and not being a fly tier.

For those who don’t tie their own flies there has never been a better time to learn to tie flies. When I started tying, instruction and sources of materials were scarce. Nowadays, there is a mother lode of both. Although in-person fly-tying classes are likely to be on hold this winter due to COVID-19, many excellent books, videos and online instruction are available.

One popular DIY project for hunters and shooters has been reloading ammunition. If you have been to a sporting goods store in recent weeks, however, you probably have noticed that the gun racks are virtually bare and the ammunition shelves all but empty.

The same is true for gunpowder, bullets, primers and other reloading components. This situation is being attributed to an extraordinarily high demand for all types of guns and ammo caused by a variety of factors, including an estimated seven million new gun owners during 2020 and hoarding caused in large part by the new, overtly anti-gun regime in Washington. Some sources believe this shortfall could continue well into 2021 or even longer so, sadly, reloading will probably have to be a project for next winter at the earliest.

One winter DIY project for shooters is refinishing a gunstock.

Many popular guns currently (or when you can find one, that is) are fitted with synthetic stocks, which are just about impervious to wear and weather. That has not always been the case, and the mark of a fine gun used to be a fancy walnut or some other desirable wood stock. Most personal gun collections have one or two favorite guns that bear the honorable scars of many days afield. A few nights this winter of sanding, finishing and polishing can do wonders for them.

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