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In cold weather we just throw another log on the fire, turn up the thermostat of the furnace, put on long underwear or cook a hot meal.

But when the snow, ice and bitter cold of winter comes, fish and wildlife species resort to a variety of behaviors and adaptations to survive the extreme conditions.

Fish feed heavily in the fall, storing up energy to tide them over until spring. During winter, their metabolism slows as the water temperature declines, and they eventually become lethargic. They move to the deepest water, which is warmer by a few degrees, and feed only when the opportunity arises — without expending energy to chase prey.

Wildlife species have many ways of conserving warmth and regulating body temperature.

White-tailed deer and wild turkeys try to conserve body heat when it’s cold, feeding on high calorie foods, moving as little as possible, and expending energy only during the warmest parts of the day (Photo Provided)

White-tailed deer and wild turkeys try to conserve body heat when it’s cold, feeding on high calorie foods, moving as little as possible, and expending energy only during the warmest parts of the day (Photo Provided)

 

Mammals grow heavy coats of fur and store body fat. Coldwater fish have special proteins called glycoproteins that prevent ice crystals from forming in their blood.

The broad-winged hawk, which nests in Kentucky, vacations south of the border, spending the winter in sunny climes of Central and South America. While most species of hawks in Kentucky never leave their territories, they modify their behavior. It’s harder for birds of prey to find food so they may gather on south-facing slopes, where the snow has melted away.

Hawks and owls can get very creative in where they take shelter from the cold, often roosting in barns, or sleeping in cedar or pine thickets overnight.

Red-tailed hawks stay here during the cold weather months, but there’s a big push of migrant birds from the Great Lakes Region, mostly Wisconsin and Michigan. There are a lot more hawks in Kentucky during the winter months, and they are much more visible.

Temperate nesting geese, so-called resident Canada geese, who spend the spring and summer raising their young on farm ponds, small lakes and streams across Kentucky, gravitate to open water when their home waters ice over.

Geese re-locate to ice-free major rivers and reservoirs, flying out daily to feed in nearby farm fields. In cold weather geese also like to hang around steam plants which have warm water discharges, so surrounding waters don’t freeze up as easily.

But, as soon as temperatures moderate, these geese scatter out and go back to smaller bodies of water.

Black bears spend the winter in dens.

They enter a state of torpor, during which their metabolism slows markedly, but they can move around and may even leave their dens. They live off their body fat, and don’t eat or drink.

Rabbits, and especially quail, need thick cover to survive snow and cold winds. Rabbits can go underground to escape the harshest conditions, but quail need thick grasslands for shelter (Photo Provided)

Rabbits, and especially quail, need thick cover to survive snow and cold winds. Rabbits can go underground to escape the harshest conditions, but quail need thick grasslands for shelter (Photo Provided) 

Sows give birth in their dens and nurse their cubs all winter, emerging in March or April, with the little ones in tow. A bear den may be in a rock crevice, the root wad of a fallen tree, or inside a standing hollow tree.

Woodchucks simply go underground and sleep it off, spending the winter in hibernation. In October they go underground for the season, to a dead-end nest chamber sealed off with dirt, to prevent rabbits and other wildlife from disturbing their slumber.

The woodchuck’s body temperature drops, and its heart rate slows to as few as four beats per minute. They don’t emerge until the first warm days of February.

Other species of Kentucky wildlife hunker down.

Pond turtles such as the common map turtle, or red-eared slider, sit on the bottom of a pond, or on the bottom of the river in a backwater area, breathing dissolved oxygen through their skin. On sunny days in February, they might crawl up on a log to get some warmth.

The rat snake spends the winter in a small mammal burrow, below the frost line. Imagine being a chipmunk and having to share your home with a big snake four months out of the year.

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

Toads burrow down in leaf litter and loose topsoil. Tree frogs might spend the winter in a rotten log or in a hole in a tree. The tiny cricket frog spends the summer in ponds and wet areas at lower elevations, then moves to upland woods for the winter.

Box turtles dig down in the ground as cold weather approaches. The colder it gets, they deeper they dig.

For game animals such as rabbits, quail, squirrels, deer and wild turkey, the importance of quality habitat and adequate food, is a matter of life and death.

White-tailed deer and wild turkeys try to conserve body heat when it’s cold, feeding on high calorie foods, moving as little as possible, and expending energy only during the warmest parts of the day. Cedar thickets, interspersed with stands of hardwoods and fields of brush, are necessary to survival.

Rabbits, and especially quail, need thick cover to survive snow and cold winds. Rabbits can go underground to escape the harshest conditions, but quail need thick grasslands for shelter.

Squirrels need den trees, large trees with crevices and holes, to escape the cold. They stash and bury mast (nuts) throughout the fall, to eat in winter. If it’s a poor mast crop and they don’t have enough food to last throughout the winter, they may die of starvation.

We spend the cold weather months in the comfort of our heated homes, for wildlife cold weather is stressful and often life threatening.

1Art Lander Jr.Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

 

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MissyI feel like a broken record...

the golf course is Closed due to snow and wet conditions.

We will be updating the course on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Let's hope the groundhog was right! We are ready for spring up here on the ridge!

We are in the process of getting the tee sheets ready for this season!  If you have not booked your golf outing with us please contact us so we can get you scheduled. 

Thanks!

See you at the course!

Missy Kennedy, PGA Head Golf Professional/Park Manager

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Eagle Ridge Golf Course

Yatesville Lake State Park

(606) 673-1492 business office

There’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of chili on a cold winter’s day.

And chili made with ground venison is comfort food in more ways than one. It’s tasty, warm and nourishing, and you get to relive last fall’s deer hunt with every bowl.

Each season we usually grind a few deer hams and shoulders into venison burger, and put about a pound of meat in each freezer storage bag. Tacos and sloppy joes are also very tasty when made with ground venison.

Chili made with ground venison is comfort food in more ways than one. It’s tasty, warm and nourishing, and you get to relive last fall’s deer hunt with every bowl (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

Chili made with ground venison is comfort food in more ways than one.

It’s tasty, warm and nourishing, and you get to relive last fall’s deer hunt

with every bowl (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

Here’s a basic venison chili recipe, written out here as a small batch. For more chili, just double or triple the amounts of each ingredient:

2 – Tablespoons olive oil
1 – 1-pound package of ground venison
1 – 15.5 – ounce can of chili beans, red beans in medium sauce
1 – 14.5 – ounce can diced tomatoes or a pint of homemade canned tomatoes (cut into chunks)
1 – 6-ounce can of tomato paste
1 – medium onion, chopped
2 – Tablespoons (one ounce) of chili powder
4 to 6 ounces of thin spaghetti, broken into 3-inch pieces
2/3 – cup of mild bell peppers (red, yellow or green) chopped
1 – cup of water
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and peppers in olive oil, with salt and pepper. Add ground venison and brown. Add water, chili powder, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste, and beans. Bring to a boil, then cover, and simmer on low heat for about an hour. Add more water if needed.

In a 3-quart pan, boil 4 to 6 ounces of thin spaghetti in water, with a Tablespoon of olive oil added. When the spaghetti is done, drain and add to chili about 15 minutes before chili is finished cooking.

Serve chili with saltine crackers and Louisiana pepper sauce.

Regional Preferences

If you’ve ever been to a chili cookoff you know there are many variations, with a wide range of ingredients added to the meat and tomato base, depending on regional preferences.

I grew up in Louisville, and the way my family made chili was influenced by Cincinnati-style chili.

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

Our chili had beans and spaghetti, but we added the cooked spaghetti to the chili, rather than serving the chili on top of the spaghetti. Grated cheddar cheese and Oyster crackers were sprinkled on top of each bowl.

Another difference was the herbs and spices added to the sauce. My parents insisted that we only use Bloemer’s Chile Powder. This fourth generation company was started in Louisville, in 1919, by Frank B. Bloemer, Sr., who made a chile base in the back of his neighborhood grocery store. For more information visit: http://bloemerfoods.com.

Cincinnati-style Chili

When my wife and I sold our home in Louisville and bought a farm in northcentral Kentucky’s deer country, the venison chili she began making for us was even closer to what we know of today as Cincinnati-style chili. She added garlic and cinnamon to her chili.

Real honest-to-goodness Cincinnati-style chili, made with ground round or sirloin (beef), also has has vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cocoa powder, ground cumin, allspice and bay leaves in its recipe.

Maggie Brown, who lives in northern Kentucky, gives a short history of Cincinnati-style chili and the recipe, with cooking instructions, in her book The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook.

Published in 2011 by the University Press of Kentucky, this cookbook ($29.95) is filled with over 200 regional favorites, for every season of the year. For more information, and to order online, visit: http://www.kentuckypress.com/ Search The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook.

Chili is a seasonal favorite, and when it’s made with ground venison, it makes everyday meals a special occasion.

 

1Art Lander Jr.Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

 

By Kevin Kelly
Special to KyForward

The allure of doing “cool stuff” for a living played into John Hast’s decision to take a seasonal job with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources back in 2006.

The Owensboro, Kentucky native considered putting his biology degree from Centre College to use as an agriculture extension agent when along came the opportunity to work as a wildlife technician.

It was a foot in the door and a launching pad toward establishing himself as a leading authority on Kentucky’s black bears.

Hast maintained ties with the department while earning a master’s degree in forestry from the University of Kentucky studying the genetics of Kentucky’s black bear population and working toward a doctorate studying the ecology of the state’s elk herd. Last year, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife hired Hast as a full-time biologist in the Deer and Elk Program.

John Hast was recently hired as the new program coordinator for the

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ black bear

program. The Owensboro, Kentucky, native previously served as a

biologist in the department’s deer and elk program (F&W Photo)

He took on a new role last month when he was chosen as the new coordinator of the department’s Bear Program.

Hast, 32, recently sat down to discuss his new role and more.

Q: What are the duties and responsibilities of the Bear Program Coordinator?

HAST: “My area of responsibility includes bears, wild pigs, furbearers and some parts of our permitting system. I work to manage our current hunting season structure, nuisance conflicts and generally keep things in line. Right now we know our nuisance season is approaching, so we’re doing a little bit of reorganization in preparation for that. I have two bear biologists in the field with a couple of technicians. Laura Palmer is our furbearer biologist. We’re getting ready to hire somebody to handle permits and wild pigs so we will have somebody covering each of those animals.”

Q: In your previous role in the Deer and Elk Program, you guided the rollout a new long-range management plan for Kentucky’s elk herd. One of your priorities as Bear Program Coordinator will be to develop a long-range plan for Kentucky’s black bear population. Where do you start?

HAST: “Our initial management plan was geared toward the management of a colonizing population of black bears in Kentucky. It’s a naturally re-colonizing species that’s proven it can pretty much fill up 16 counties in the span of 10 to 15 years. They’re here. They’re established. It’s time to look toward the future, and one way of doing that is developing a management plan that will take us into the next several decades. We want to look at multiple factors such as available habitat and social aspects to determine where management is going to take us.

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

“We also want to hear from our constituents. In that respect, surveys are a great tool to determine tolerance. I’m curious why our bear hunters hunt bears. People who live in the bear zone face nuisance issues, so I’m curious about what they think. I also would love to survey people who live outside of the traditional bear areas and get their thoughts. People who don’t have bears, do they want to have them?”

Q: You have considerable experience researching and working with bears in Kentucky. How much will that benefit you in this new role?

HAST: “I think it will a lot. My master’s was on black bear population genetics. All of our bear research in recent years has been genetics based and I was on the front-end of that to figure out where our Kentucky bears came from. My second seasonal job with the department was as a nuisance bear technician. I lived in Harlan County for a nine-month term. So I’ve seen that end of it. I know what our technicians are doing. I know what our biologists are doing in the field dealing with nuisance issues on a day-to-day basis. So now I have a good perspective and a good handle on what they’re encountering out there.”

Q: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to become a wildlife biologist?

HAST: “I have always been one to be outside and I’ve always liked science. I thought about going back to vet school after earning my bachelor’s degree, but I was going to take some time after I graduated. I thought about being an extension agent. I had done a lot of microbiology, lab work. But the fact that Kentucky Fish and Wildlife put the outdoors stuff together with hard, well-defined science was what really hooked me.”

Q: What’s been your best day at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife?

HAST: “When I first started as a tech, I spent the first two months entering deer data. I sat there very peacefully. Content. Then I got to go on a shocking boat with (now assistant Fisheries Division director) Dave Dreves and Jason Russell and sampled the Cumberland River below Lake Cumberland.

“I have pictures with 40-pound stripers, 14-pound walleye, 10-pound brown trout and that absolutely blew my mind. The true value in that was that was a normal day for those guys. I was like, alright, whether it’s Fisheries or Wildlife, if this is a normal day, I’ve got to see this through.”

K Kelly 1

Kevin Kelly is a writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. An avid angler with a passion for muskellunge and stream fishing, his journalism career has included stops at daily newspapers in Cincinnati, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Charleston, S.C. Get the latest from Kelly and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, click here.

Anglers find late winter is quality time for stream smallmouth

By Kevin Kelly
Special to KyForward

A stretch of mild weather that loosens winter’s grip is an alarm bell for stream smallmouth anglers fed up with being stuck indoors.

For them, wade fishing a cold stream for bronzebacks is a surefire way to melt away the winter doldrums.

This is a laborious style of fishing. Hours spent casting and retrieving at a painstakingly slow pace may produce just a few bites. Soldier through and the payoff could be your biggest stream smallmouth of the year.

“This is probably one of your better times to catch some quality or trophy-sized fish in these streams,” said David Baker, assistant Central Fisheries District biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “They’re not overly active because they’re not feeding a bunch, but it’s a quality time of year. It’s not a numbers game.”

The author holds a smallmouth bass caught from a central Kentucky's Elkhorn Creek on Feb. 1. Winter warm fronts bring stream smallmouth bass out from their winter lairs to feed (Photo Provided)

The author holds a smallmouth bass caught from a central Kentucky’s Elkhorn

Creek on Feb. 1. Winter warm fronts bring stream smallmouth bass out from

their winter lairs to feed (Photo Provided)

 

It pays to act swiftly and decisively when a mid or late winter warm-up settles in and persists for a few days. That means having the necessities – rod, reel, waders, lures, a valid fishing license – ready to grab and go.

Since stream conditions can change with little notice, particularly after a heavy rain or snow, it pays to pick out a few potential destinations. The statewide streamflow table available on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website at www.usgs.gov is the next best thing to laying eyes on a stream to determine if it’s high and muddy or clear and fishable.

Seek out areas with prime winter habitat, typically defined as deep holes with undercut banks, logs or boulders, in close proximity to feeding shoals or stream drops. The deeper water concentrates smallmouth and other fish.

“When we say deep water, it’s relative to that stream,” Baker said. “In a lot of these winter spots, these fish will school up because it suits all of their needs as far as food and refuge and shelter from the current. If you find these spots you have the ability to catch quite a few fish.”

Subtle lures tied to 4- or 6-pound test line are good bets.

A three-inch Senko style soft plastic stick bait rigged on a 1/16- to 1/8-ounce lead head produces year-round. Plastic tubes in green pumpkin or watermelon with red flake and weighted similarly also deserve a spot in your stowaway box. Hair jigs are a tried-and-true producer of big winter smallmouth. Try one in 1/8-ounce adorned with purple or black craft hair or bucktail or rabbit fur dyed black or a combination of brown and orange.

“You can still catch them on the lures that you would throw during the summer but know that they’re not going to chase as much,” Baker said. “You need to get the bait down to them.

“I think repeated casts also are very important this time of year. Even though you think you’re throwing to the same spot, you’re going to be hitting different nooks and crannies because of the current. It may just take that bait coming by them before deciding it’s worth expending energy to go get it.”

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

Cold water calls for slow retrieves to entice lethargic smallmouth.

Cast upstream and toward the opposite bank and let the current help the lure along while imparting action with the occasional gentle flick of the rod tip.

Don’t allow too much slack in the line. Strikes may be faint and can easily fool an angler into thinking the lure simply nicked a rock or brushed against a submerged log.

A positive mental outlook and reasonable expectations help an angler maintain focus, but so does knowing that you’re fishing in a good spot. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website atfw.ky.gov leads you to them. It features a list of Kentucky’s smallmouth streams and an abundance of maps and mapping tools.

Anglers may also purchase a fishing license online while perusing the website. The new license year starts March 1. Until then, squeeze some more value out of a 2015-16 fishing license by taking advantage of the next nice winter day to pursue one of Kentucky’s most prized game fish species.

K Kelly 1

Kevin Kelly is a writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. An avid angler with a passion for muskellunge and stream fishing, his journalism career has included stops at daily newspapers in Cincinnati, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Charleston, S.C. Get the latest from Kelly and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, click here.