Brad Harvey: Keep that Christmas spirit year ‘round

December 23, 2013 

I’ve always been crazy about Christmas. Of course, it’s not like I’m alone in that regard, but even in a year such as this one that holds many voids for my family, there’s just something about seeing that smile on a young child’s face that quickly makes you forget your troubles, even if just for a few minutes.

I can remember how, when I was a youngster, the anticipation would increase with every event that led up to the big day. It usually started with the airing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” right after Thanksgiving.

The build-up continued with other classics, such as Rudolph, and continued right through the decorating of our tree and a family ritual that involved a whole lot of people at our house on Christmas Eve.

Then, just before the climax of all of this anticipation, my sister and I were sent to bed to await Santa’s yearly return. You’ll notice that I didn’t say “to sleep.” Who could sleep?

I would toss and turn in the bed for what seemed like all night. Of course, I did fall asleep at some point, but it always took much longer than any other night of the year.

When morning finally arrived our house would already be full again. My parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle would be downstairs in the den prepping for our arrival onto the scene. Protocol required that we yell down to let them know that we were up and getting ready to make our grand entrance.

At the end of the day, after all of the gifts were unwrapped and the turkey devoured, I would always feel a bit of a letdown. This deflated feeling came from the realization that this meant the next one was 12 months away.

As I would return my thoroughly worn out body to bed on that Christmas night, I never failed to make a little wish that Christmas could last all year.

What do you do with your Christmas tree after the holidays? It seems that most folks never put much thought into that. They simply toss it out or send it to be filler at the landfill.

Doesn’t exactly seem appropriate for something that once held a position of high honor within the house and served as the central backdrop for such a memorable family event, does it?

This is the one thing from Christmas that can carry on throughout the entire calendar year and many more.

Most fishermen will tell you that an old discarded tree makes for some super fishing. Once tossed into the appropriate site, the sunken trees become great fish attractors.

On the bottom, they provide the perfect habitat for aquatic insects to live and grow. In turn, these attract small baitfish which, of course, attracts the larger fish which feed upon them. The criss-cross of branches under the surface also provides a safe haven for the fish.

Discarded Christmas trees have a number of uses outside of the water as well. Brush piles formed from them benefit small game such as rabbits and quail by providing a resting place or escape from predators and, if replenished annually, these piles can become a usual hot spot for avid hunters each season.

“We’re getting to the time of year when the leaves are off and evergreen cover is a pretty important part of a total wildlife management plan,” said Judy Barnes, a biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, in prepared statement.

“Even though the needles of old Christmas trees will brown and fall off in two or three months, if you get enough trees piled up they will make pretty good cover,” she said.

Instead of piles, trees can be placed sporadically throughout the woods and will be used by deer as well. These provide perfect cover for young fawns in May and June as the youngsters are often left alone in a protected spot by the doe for several hours during the day.

Their spotted coats help them to blend in perfectly and not be noticed by the coyotes.

Ever struggle to erect a makeshift brush blind during turkey season?

Because of the density of branches on most Christmas trees, they can make an excellent base for a blind come spring.

Just clip a few green branches from the nearby surroundings and stick them into the old Christmas tree and you’ll find that you’re covered enough to make plenty of movements without that old Tom catching you.

Properly placed Christmas trees can serve as useful erosion control or be ground into rich mulch, too.

Another great alternative is to plan ahead next Christmas and purchase a live tree that can be planted after the holidays. By doing so, it will provide good evergreen cover for wildlife for many years to come.

DNR reminds us, however, that many of the popular species will not survive our hot humid summers. Among those that do well are Virginia pine, Scotch pine, sand pine, spruce pine, Eastern red cedar, white cedar, Leyland cypress and white pine. There are even two varieties of cypress that were developed right here, the Clemson Greenspire and Carolina Sapphire.

Whatever option you choose, rest assured that every time you catch a fish in June, flush a rabbit in February or see a newborn fawn, those great memories from Christmas will rush to the forefront of your mind and you’ll know that you’ve done your part in contributing to both our love of the outdoors sports and the conservation of our wildlife.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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