OUTSIDE: Spring is closer than you think | Sports

I saw my first robin on Tuesday of this week and got a text over a week ago that a friend of mine has two red-winged blackbirds at his feeder. Add to that the fact that I saw a flock of sandhill cranes flying north earlier this week suggests that spring is near!

Thursday morning I woke up to snow on the ground and freezing rain in the afternoon so I said to myself “Not yet”!

I passed by several ponds where the ice had already melted and where there was open water. Anyone who ventures onto this late February ice is very stupid because the ice is rotten and spring is so close it’s not worth the risk!

I’ve caught fish several times the day the ice broke off a body of water, so it’s time to prepare for open water fishing. There are only a few days left to get your fishing gear ready for your first fishing trip of the year.

For years I always thought that open water fishing in early spring required lures to be moved slowly, but I changed my mind years ago when I caught crappie on a lure quickly while the pond was still half frozen.

Although I still believe that the jig and pig is the best lure for a “super bass” in the spring, I know that many anglers in the area use rattle traps and hanging lures. Playing with early spring lures may just change your opinion of early spring fishing lures.

Has anyone found large deer sheds this year? After the deer breeding season, the bucks will drop their antlers, normally one at a time, along the paths they travel. These sheds are collected and displayed by many people throughout the region.

Knowing the difference between a deer shed and an antler from a dead deer is quite easy. A deer shed is usually only halfway up the rack, as they can shed their antlers on one side at a time. The shed will have a very porous base where the wood falls off the skull plate. Looks like someone drilled thousands of little pinholes into the base of the antler.

The antler of a dead deer in the antlers will usually, but not always, be found intact with both sides of the antler attached to the skull plate. A shed hunter would either have to take the whole set of antlers home or saw off each one from the skull plate. This would leave the wood having a smooth appearance at the base since the wood has not fallen off by natural means.

If you find the antlers of a dead deer, whether they are tied or not, you must contact the MNR and obtain a permit to keep these antlers. Alternatively, an IDNR officer may ask you if you found the antlers and cut them or if you actually poached the deer.

Deer have antlers, not horns. Antlers are not permanent and will fall off the cranial plate. Animals like cows and sheep have horns that are attached to a protrusion of bone that grows out of the skull. The horns are hollow and not solid like a deer or moose antler.

Sam VanCamp written on the open air on Saturday. Fax: 446-6648. Email: pamnsam@nwcable.net