When I was a kid at Crothersville in good ol' Jackson County, I didn't
need a calendar, yellow Goldenrod writing pads, lead pencils and other
signs of a dwindling summer to tell me that fall was nigh.
There were things like a swarm of squirrels creating the raindrop effect
as they fed on a "sprangling" beech tree, fox squirrels busying themselves
through the hot part of the day at burying the winter supply of nuts and
acorns in the forest floor, darkness cutting short my after-school hunting
trips, and dozens of other story tellers of Mother Nature.
But the sign of the inevitable fall I remember best was no more complicated
than air temperature as the sun sank behind me and I headed for the comforts
of home from the bottomland woods west of my old hometown.
A well-worn path led through a large field of giant broom sedge (we
called it sagebrush), a course I always followed as I neared the single
strand of barbed wire that seemed to unofficially mark the town limits.
The sedge (three or four feet high and so thick it made departing from
the path difficult) was interspersed by patches of blackberries, saplings
of numerous species of trees, and a variety of other obstacles. Thus, it
was wise to follow the path.
I would, of course, hunt as long as I could see the sights of my little
rifle. This meant that I would have to walk as fast as possible get to
the edge of town before the streetlight came on.
The pace on a balmy afternoon would dictate that I would be perspiring,
and that set the stage for my early encounters with fall. When the path
dipped through a wide brier/brush infested hollow, I would be point-blank
with the oncoming fall. Subtle as it were, the drop of 10 to 20 feet of
altitude brought a drop of 10 to 20 degrees in air temperature.
The 100 yards or so of frigid air made the thought of reaching the far
hillside reassuring. But it left no doubt that the frost soon would soon
fly. It is a thing that is easy, and wholesome to remember. It is as ingrained
in memories of what some called a misspent youth as the little Springfield
single-shot .22 that still sits by my side.
It is something of value.
The first segment of our seasons on doves opened Monday (Sept. 1) and
it has coincided well with the gregarious propensities of the mourning
dove. In the next few weeks it will be easy to find doves in good number
in cornfields that have been harvested early for silage or other uses.
Concentrations of doves on roadside telephone and electrical wires will
pinpoint their locations and nearby fields of corn (even weeds) will be
the place to hunt them.
But where in the fields does one hunt?
Observing areas where the birds feed is the best way to decide on where
one should hunt. Favorite feeding spots will be high points rises (hills)
in the fields, but if a farmer's harvest operation has inadvertently scattered
grain the birds will find, and utilize, it.
Once the location of a hot feeding area is established the hunter should
avoid setting up close to the hot area. This will keep the birds out. Pick
a stand from which you can intercept birds going to and leaving a hot feeding
area and you will have good shooting sporadically for several hours.
The high-point method will also pay big dividends when hunting grain-eating
ducks or geese in harvested grain fields.
A Migration Bonus
Toward the end of last week I was treated to a beautiful migration
luncheon menu by what appeared to be a family group of blackburnian warblers.
It all happened in the little redbud trees outside my double glass doors.
After a morning-long brunch of hummingbird antics, the little natural
stage outside my glass doors was suddenly invaded by at least three or
four--possibly as many as six--blackburnians.
I couldn't photograph it--pictures don't do well through glass doors--all
the worse when those glass doors are laden with spider webs and other soilings.
But occasionally I could catch both young and old sitting still for a few
seconds with my little binoculars, which sat them on my nose.
I had several momentary rare views of the bright orange bib and cheek
patches of the bull of the herd. And a few times the yellowish adult female
filled my view. It was my best view ever of a blackburnians and, like quail,
they came by the covey. Not to be outdone were their awesome black and
white back patterns.
My exciting birdwatcher's lunch only lasted for about 30 minutes. And
they were gone as fast as the blink of an eye.
But an adult female redstart--yellow tail patches and all--served up
a beautiful dessert before the hummers opened act two.