Back in the day, on cold winter nights Dad would set up his homemade steel bullet trap in the basement and we'd take turns shooting paper targets with Grampa's old break action .22 rifle. The 22 Shorts were low velocity and low noise and made it feasible for our little indoor rifle range. That old Stevens Marksman is still fun to shoot and Gramps' homemade brass sight makes it sort of personal for me.
Demonstrating good sense with firearms came allowance to roam the hardwoods for gray squirrels and rabbits and many the autumn day spent with the company of a little .22 rifle. Mother could have written a best selling wild game cook book and to this day I wonder if those cringing at the idea know what they're missing. No, I don't suppose they do.
Enter the winter woods to see what's there. Bring the rifle just in case. It feels good in hand and seems more purposeful than a walking stick. There are deer tracks and trails everywhere. Keep an eye for shed antlers. Prowling fox and bobcats leave sign, and the four-inch wolf prints can't be ignored. A pileated woodpecker is working a tree. It bothers to see so little grouse sign this year. Fisher and marten seem missing, too. There are ermine and rabbits tracks, though. Snowshoe hare actually, and you'll shoot one if you get the chance. It's cold, well below zero and a supper of wild game would set well.
Dad's Winchester is my favorite 22. It's older than I am and lends a comforting heft in hand. Gun makers used plenty of good steel then, and dense wooden stocks. It's not a featherweight, nor is it heavy, just solid. It hits where aimed and makes good company on a solitary winter hike. It's said the USA is a nation of riflemen. Well, OK.
No rabbits were taken this time. The walking stick would have been useful. But it's good to have a rifle, you know, just in case.