By Doug Leier

I'm a big fan of spring cleaning, as it helps pass the time between a late winter cold snap and those never-long-enough flirtations with 50-degree days. Even before the last snow melts, I'll be busy preparing for spring.

But before you think I'm ruining the reputation of hunters and anglers every where, I probably won't be washing windows and wiping out cupboards. Oh, I'll keep peace and lend a few evenings of help, but the kind of spring cleaning (or planning) I'm really excited about is getting ready for open-water fishing and maybe even some spring hunting.

Actually, if you're looking for some free advice, make sure those household jobs get done soon, so when the first day the mercury first cracks 60 you won't have a list of chores remaining.

But when you get the chance, now is the time to spend a few evenings putting initial plans together for your 2006 outdoor adventures. Most are quite easy, and your odds of straining your back or hammering your thumb are minimal.

Out with the old

The spring waterfowl migration is a sight to behold

First things first. If you plan on hunting snow geese in the spring or ducks, geese, mourning doves or sandhill cranes next fall, you're going to need a new Harvest Information Program or HIP number. Call 888-634-4798 and get the registration process completed. You can also accomplish this at the Game and Fish Department website at

Next, check and recheck the opening dates for 2006. If opening pheasant, duck or deer season are traditional vacations, highlight them on your calendar. The waterfowl season won't be locked until later this summer, however, the prospective opening date is Sept. 30.

Furthermore, if you have friends or family planning on hunting trips, keep in mind this year the pheasant season opener is tentatively planned for Saturday, Oct. 14. While this might seem a bit late to some, if falls in line with the Game and Fish Department's standardized opening date of the second Saturday in October, which has a range of dates from the 8th through the 14th.

The standardized date for deer gun season is the Friday before Nov. 11, which falls on the 10th this year. By state law, all big game hunting seasons must open at noon on a Friday. Calendar dates are set by governor's proclamation.

Opening dates may seem a little trivial right now, but to hunters planning a vacation, mixing up the dates can cause headaches that last for months.

A few other pointers as winter finally gives way to spring. Take a look into your tackle box. Did you replace the split shot sinkers that ran out last fall? What else were you going to do, but didn't quite get it done?

If you're like me, you may discover a mess if you hit the ground running at the first opportunity for open-water fishing, without having first checked your equipment.

Same goes for hunting. If you didn't clean your shotgun or rifle before storing them away last fall now is the time to make sure they're not rusting and still in good working order. Work the action, safe and other moving parts. If you encounter a problem, don't put it away. If needed, take it to the gun shop. Chances are if you put it back down you may forget to have it serviced.

There's plenty of time to enjoy your outdoor activities. A little preparation can ensure more enjoyable time spent outdoors.

One last bit of advice: If you or somebody you know has never experienced the first-hand thrill of our spring bird migration, take an afternoon and get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of spring. Seeing million-bird flocks of snow geese or hearing the peaceful call of a meadowlark are unique opportunities, only available outdoors.