February may be the shortest month of the year, but sometimes it seems like the longest, especially when the last week of the month brings the season’s coldest weather.
The poet, T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month.” Some might assert that March is actually more cruel. After all, Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. Two days later, the first covid cases popped up in Montana, disabusing us of any notion that in remote Montana we would be spared from this exotic new disease.
March can be cruel in other ways. Spring comes in March. I subscribe to the meteorological concept that spring begins on the first of March, contrary to the astronomical definition of spring beginning with the Vernal Equinox, which this year will happen on Sunday, March 20 at 9:33 MDT. And, yes, that MDT stands for Mountain Daylight Time, as, whether you like it or not, we go to Daylight Time on the second Sunday of March. Still, no matter when you think spring begins, we can have horrendous winter weather in March.
After a relatively dry winter, spring storms will be welcome, especially if they put down some significant snowfall to bolster our mountain snowpack.
As it happens, today, March 2, is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. If March seems late for the beginning of Lent, you’re right, but the date for Easter determines when Lent begins. Easter, for most Christian churches, is observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. We’ll have a full moon on March 18, so the first full moon after the Equinox will be on April 16, and Easter will be the following day, April 17. Orthodox churches will observe Easter on April 24.
In any event, spring does begin this month. I mark the beginning of spring by when tulips emerge from hibernation, and when the garlic I planted last October sends up its first shoots. Usually, the tulips and garlic emerge just about the same time, or within a few days of each other. Robins return to Butte in March in most years, along with other migrating birds.
March also marks the beginning of a new year for fishing and hunting in Montana, at least as far as licenses are concerned. The license year begins on March 1, so this week I’ll be going online to buy most of my fishing and hunting licenses for the 2022 license year.
There are some pre-requisites when you get licensed. First there’s a conservation license, which is required before you can buy any fishing or hunting license. Next, there’s an Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass, which raises money to fund efforts to deal with aquatic invasive species. Then, finally, you can buy your Montana fishing license, with options for full season or short-term licenses, and discounts for kids and seniors.
I always get my hunting licenses at the same time, which involves the basic hunting license, and then the upland bird and migratory bird licenses. Depending on what’s on my calendar, I might get a spring turkey license, too. I usually wait until autumn to buy deer licenses and a Federal Duck Stamp.
All in all, with geezer discounts, I usually emerge from all that with a fee somewhere between $40 and $50. With all the opportunities for hunting and fishing we have in Montana, it’s a darned good deal.
On the topic of licenses, if you aspire to hunt for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, or bison, or if you wish to apply for some special elk or deer permits, you can apply for permits now. The deadline for applying for those permits is April 1 for deer and elk, or May 1 for sheep, goats, moose, and bison. The deadline for antelope, or elk B and deer B, is June 1.
So, don’t go fishing this month without getting licensed first, and good luck if you’re applying for an opportunity for a once in a lifetime hunt.
Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.