January in N.H. means hunting for hares, rabbits, coyotes and ice fishing

For the Monitor
Published: 1/27/2020 10:42:15 PM
Modified: 1/27/2020 10:41:57 PM

Come January in New Hampshire, exciting times are at hand for hunters and anglers. Hunters have the opportunity to hunt rabbits and snowshoe hares. Now hunters without dogs can have a successful time hunting for their quarry. That said, hunting rabbits and hares with beagles is the ultimate winter hunting experience.

So, where are the rabbits? Well, they aren’t on the eastern part of the state and if you check the hunting digest, there are specific parts of the eastern state where hunting rabbits is strictly prohibited. Part of the reason is to improve rabbit habitat. There is good rabbit habitat in the western part of the state and with it, significant numbers of rabbits.

So, where are the hares? The White Mountain National Forest is a good starting point. Hunting hare and rabbits is not for the faint at heart.

What other hunting opportunities are available to the hunter? Coyote hunting is a 12-month season. During the January-March period, night hunting is allowed. Why the change? January-March is the mating season for coyotes. During the normal season, scents, lures, and calls imitating a wounded prey are what draws a coyote close. During the night hunting season, the calling is based on mating issues.

This calling overcomes the normal interest in food. To night hunt on private property, you need prior landowner permission.

Currently, towns and cities restrict the use of centerfire rifles during the deer season. As of this writing, those restrictions do not apply to coyote hunting or later on in the spring woodchuck hunting. My choices for coyote caliber are 204 Ruger, .17 HMR and 223. The only reason for including the 223 is that there are so many inexpensive 223 offerings that that it is a natural.

The main family outdoor sporting activity is ice fishing. Winni was recently declared to be ice over. What was not declared was safe ice over. Winni is a challenging lake for safe ice. There are many inlets that flow into the lake. There are many rock buildups. The rocks retain heat and make the ice above them thinner. And to make matters worse, there are currents in the lake. All of these factors add up to the fact that the ice will not be uniform.

Every year the ice making experience is the same. Small ponds ice over first. Medium ponds and lakes ice over next. And finally, the big lakes kick in. A few years back my retired highway engineers and their friend decided to build the ultimate bob house, and so they did. They pushed it out to the space in the lake where they wanted to set up the bob house and proceeded to anchor it in. That’s when panic struck. They were in a little over 2 inches of ice. They quickly left the area without incident. They knew they were lucky. These same two individuals recently made their annual trek to the Allagash in Maine for ice fishing. The attraction is 4½ and 5-pound brook trout.

I have reduced my own ice fishing rules to two. First, always measure the thickness of the ice and second is to never drive your vehicle on the ice regardless of thickness. A time back we were fishing in Winter Harbor. The weather turned very warm and the ice became very slushy. We made it off the ice but barely. To me driving your vehicle on the ice has no reward for the risk. ATV’s and snowmobiles are a different matter. With the lack of uniform ice, caution needs to be exercised.

The attraction of Winni is the number of fish species available. I would rate number 1 as lake trout. Cusk, also known as burbot, are unique as they are fished at night with bait on the bottom. Cusk are an excellent chowder fish. Rainbow trout are also a favorite. They cruise along sandy bottom areas looking for bait fish. Ellacoya State Park is an angler favorite for this reason. There is an inlet nearby and the water stays shallow with a sandy bottom and rainbows are constantly cruising the area.

One of the less glamorous fish, but one highly sought out by anglers for the table quality, is the white perch. These football-sized fish are delicious. I started catching them in a local lake this past summer and was amazed at their fighting quality.

In lake trout waters you can have two lines in the water. In non-lake trout waters you can have five lines in the water.

I was surprised to receive my 2020 Moose Lottery application so soon. Before making your selections, I would to check to see what the zone assignments were and what the success ratios were. For the past two years it has been about 76%. The downhill for the moose population started when too many permits were issued in A-1 and A-2. And then the winter tick scourge took over, which has led to a further decline. Whether or not there will be a 2020 moose season remains unclear.

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