Monday, August 31, 2015

What You Can Do With September

 This late August buck still has velvet covered antlers.

  Too green, too warm…This doe can't believe it is bow season already.

        There are some bow-hunters who will hunt deer in a week or so, when they open the bow season way to early. If they hunt the last week of the season they will indeed be pursuing their favorite pastime in two different worlds, as different as September and January.
         You begin in 80-degree heat, mosquito's and flies and spider webs.  You watch for copperheads as you walk to your hunting area, and strain your eyes to look through a green canopy from your tree stand, unable to see what you can hear so close.  In the final days of the archery season, you will bundle up against the cold, carry a hand warmer in your pocket and treasure whatever is hot in your thermos, whether you prefer soup or coffee.  If there is a deer 150 yards away, you can see him well through the barren branches. You can watch the sun set...early in the evening.

          I love bow-hunting, when the fall colors are bright, and the groundhog is fattening up for a long sleep. I love bow-hunting when there's frost on the ground, and geese passing overhead.... and I love bow-hunting when there's about two or three inches of snow on the ground, and you can see a buck's breath when he snorts.  I like to hang a dressed deer from the oak tree in my front yard and let him season in temperatures which only rise into the forties in the afternoon.
          But I don't love bow-hunting in September, so if you are out there when it opens you are about half crazy.  Maybe all crazy, I don’t know...  because of what you will be missing. There is still some great float-fishing for smallmouth who love topwater lures in September, and catfish to be taken on a trotline, and crappie which cannot get enough to eat.

          If you do hunt deer in September, you will need to get any deer you kill cleaned quickly and skinned and cut up, so the flies and insects don't have a chance to get to it.  The only way a September deer should be allowed to season is in a cold meat locker. 
         And though I won't join you just yet, I understand your obsession with a few hours in a tree stand, it is a fascinating way to see the ways of living creatures close up and interacting in a woodland environment so far from what most people ever see, even in September, when you can’t see anything very far away.

          In late September, bow-hunting can be fun if you hunt from the ground and hunt young turkeys, which are chasing insects in the field edges.  Young turkeys aren't so bright, and you can get well hidden on the ground and watch them come close enough for a fairly sure shot.  If you are good enough, you can bring home a young Jake, which weighs ten or twelve pounds.  But you still have to be wary of copperheads and check yourself for ticks when you get back home.

                  I’ll be exited if I draw an arrow on another buck this year, sometime in late October, or November or just before Christmas.  But not in September.....  I leave that for the younger, more specialized outdoorsman, with all the gadgets on their bows.  There are still those other things to be done.... first things first.

         Dove season opens this week too, followed next weekend by the opening of teal season.  With me, dove season is a ho-hum affair, which I find myself a little ashamed to be a part of.  And yet every year I find myself being a part of it anyway, swearing never to do it again. If I am out there in the weeds sweating over a little patch of sunflowers, and some passing hunter asks if I am that outdoor writer they occasionally see in the newspapers, I deny it. I use an alias for the first weekend of September. 
         And it isn't that I do not respect the morning dove.  As a game bird, he is beyond reproach, responsible for the sale of more shotgun shells than the quail, the pheasant or the mallard combined.   If you get a good platter of doves on your table baked in some kind of gravy or fresh from a crock-pot with mushroom and celery soup, and you can keep it all to yourself, you'll have a meal right up there with any wild game dish.
         But you'll need to see to it that there aren't many hungry people at your house, or you won't get enough.  Doves are small!  That small size is part of why so many shells are fired by so many hunters to acquire so few of them.  Of course, us grizzled old veteran outdoorsmen don't have so much trouble hitting doves, but there aren't many of us who are top-flight shotgunners.  Sure we are!
The early part of dove season is often very hot and very hard on dogs…hard on hunters too.
         Dove season attracts more greenhorns, neophytes and would-be'ers than any pastime except deer hunting.  The farther south you go, the more it becomes a social event, with numbers of hunters joining to hunt grain fields where doves congregate. It's so easy that fathers take their kids out to hunt doves years before the kids can hit a can on a fence post.  You don't need much....shells, shotgun, and a bucket to sit on.   And water.... Be sure you have water for everyone, and for your dog if you take the poor thing out there in that heat.

   It is a fact that probably 90 percent of all dove-hunters will hunt only the opening weekend for doves and not again the entire season.  Only a small percentage of dove hunters hunt water holes in the evening, and it is my favorite ways to hunt.  It is cooler then!  Doves come to small ponds, which have an open, clean bank, or sometimes lake points of similar description to drink water before flying up to roost.  I have trained many a young Labrador over water holes, where they have plenty of water to keep them quenched, wet and cool.

         Sometimes there is excellent dove hunting in the last half of the season because early in September, so many doves remain up north.  At times in late October I have seen up to 100 doves watering at a small pond on my place, with some roost trees nearby which they use as a migration stopover.
         But as you read this, I am already looking forward to the blue-winged teal season.  It is a challenge made for the real hunter, not some guy with a 5-dollar box of shells and a bucket to set on.  And a flock of teal makes doves look like dickey birds when it comes to flying...they are little rockets, gone before they even get there.  If you ain't a grizzled old veteran duck-hunter, you'd best not get interested in teal hunting, you'd best hunt doves again next weekend.  But truthfully, you’d be much smarter just to go fishing.

         If you would like to tell me I don’t know what I am talking about, as so many do, just write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at  You can call our office to talk to my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, a woman so spacey at times she’d make a good dove hunter.  That number is 417 777 5227, in case you’d like to order one of my books or get a sample copy of our magazines.

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