Bluffton Packet

Collins Doughtie: The February heebie-jeebies have got me down

‘So what’s going on with Collins? He hasn’t written anything about fishing or hunting for a couple of weeks now.”

Well everybody, I am sorry to say it, but I have been battling the February heebie-jeebies, and if you don’t know what those are, it’s when you don’t have anything to do, so you hole up in your house and pray that time speeds up so you can get back to the business of doing what you do best: fishing and/or hunting.

The heebie-jeebies happen to me every year around this time. I looked up last year’s column, in which I rambled about how eating red meat every day seemed to help the 2008 heebie-jeebies. (Pretty weak stuff, huh?) So this year, I have tried working (yes, I said “working”) to take my mind off the fact that there isn’t squat to do. I would have tried the red meat approach again but with the economy in the tank, that was out of the question.

Things have gotten so bad that some of my buds have called saying they thought I had either gone somewhere or passed away. Obviously, I haven’t had a run-in with the Grim Reaper but I have gone somewhere — and that is out-of-my-mind bored. I know you’re probably thinking I’m a whiny baby, and how grateful I should be to live in this wonderful part of the country, but when the fishing has slowed to a crawl and there’s nothing to hunt, I go into a major nose-dive.

Luckily, I know I am not alone in this annual funk. It seems my fishing and hunting buddies are all in the same boat — and they’ve each developed their own way of coping with the February heebie-jeebies. Those with money pack up and leave for warmer climates, while those who qualify for aid from the recent stimulus package put collars on their dogs (or kids), hook a fishing line to them and ask them to run around, pretending they’re fish on the end of a line. The means vary on how to cope with these last few weeks of winter, but the seriousness of this common ailment should never be played down. It just plain stinks.

That said, just writing about this and getting it off my chest is making me feel better. So let’s talk about the future: What am I looking forward to the most? I guess the first thing I plan to do is start shad fishing. With a couple of weeks to go before it really kicks into gear, I am ready. I have spooled up my ultra-lights with new line and organized my tackle, and though I am tempted to give it a shot right now, I know these latest cold snaps still have them sitting in the ocean waiting to make their spawning run up our rivers.

Then there is turkey season, which opens March 15. Now is a good time to get out and do some scouting. The turkeys still are hanging around in big bunches (and will be for some time) but there are some great tracts of game management land that hold tons of birds, though that season starts a couple of weeks later.

But if you want to give turkey hunting a try for the first time, you have to do your homework. It is hard to call in a big tom even on the best of days but when you try to go stumbling through unfamiliar woods in the dark without scouting first, you might as well head to the frozen turkey section at your supermarket. Besides familiarizing yourself with the lay of the land, it is a great way to get some exercise and have a chance to see all sorts of critters as you scout.

I have thought about heading to the Savannah River and Back River looking for big striped bass but after trying this several times over the years during the heebie-jeebies, I always come home telling myself that would be the last time I tried that. That’s not because there aren’t fish, it’s because the places you fish for them are some of the ugliest, most depressing landscapes you’ll ever see. The fish hang out right where you see (and smell) those belching smokestacks along the Savannah River; when you cross that first bridge heading into Savannah, they are right under there and the floodgates to the left. But fish or no fish, I just can’t get into fishing in ugly places.

So hasn’t this been the most inspiring and uplifting column I have ever written or what? Don’t worry, I’ll come out of the February heebie-jeebies shortly and get back to my normally abnormal frame of mind.

So what’s on tap for next week’s article? I guess we’ll just have to let that be a surprise and will no doubt hinge on whether these darn anti-depressants will kick in.

Collins Doughtie is the outdoors columnist for The Bluffton Packet.