"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Recent Rambles
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Scifres

Mix it up and you'll love it.
Hunting and fishing opportunities abound for Hoosier outdoor types in September, but when I think of this ninth month of the year I see a jovial old lady named Mother Nature tilting a cornucopia to spill natural foods everywhere.
Yes, at this late date squirrels probably are better table fare than they are in August, and early seasons on Canada geese, teal, and doves can be inviting in terms of both outdoor adventure and table fare.
But when I get serious about "outdoorsing" in September, I think of the many items of natural food that are mature--or nearly so--and that their only toll is some effort.
September is not long enough (only "30 days hath September"), and this mean many of these goodies spill over into October . . . even November and December. But it starts in September.
For many years, my old Jeep station wagon--and later my Ford Bronco--looked like a hock shop on wheels when I left my home before daylight in central Indiana and headed for the southern part of the state--the hardwood hills country.
There would be my bow for deer hunting, a scattergun for grouse (and maybe a second for ducks and squirrels), two or three kinds of fishing tackle, and an assortment of camera gear. That, alone, was enough to assure an exciting day outdoors.
But there was more. There were buckets, boxes, bags (paper, plastic, and burlap, a k a gunnysacks), and perhaps a shovel, a rake, and an ax.
To say that I was prepared for anything would have been an understatement.

The crack of dawn often would find me 15 feet above the gurgling waters of Salt Creek (northwestern Jackson County). I would be standing precipitously on a small platform built between three ash saplings. Being surrounded by the trunks of the three small trees would make my perch much safer than it seemed, and the riffle of the creek was a major crossing for deer that lived in the adjacent thickets.
I don't know how many deer splashed through the riffle over the years, but I never drew my bow. Someday, I always thought, I would take a deer there. But I never did.
When the sun was well up I would quit my deer stand and head for the nearby hardwood hills for a go a grouse with my little 20-gauge Winchester Model 50. If I found bushytails working on the ground (storing food nuts or acorns for the winter), I would take a comfortable seat and wait for the prime ingredients for a skillet of fried squirrel, or perhaps a pot of squirrel dumplings. If these deep-woods activities took me to a grove of paw-paw trees (bushes), I would fill a plastic grocery sack or two for use in pies or wine--after sampling to make sure they were ripe. 
Toward noon I would head for my favorite seedless persimmon trees or visit a hickory or black walnut tree of my acquaintance. Trees that had produced nuts with good meats in the past would be favored. But this middle part of the day offered plenty of time for checking the nuts of new trees. And if time permitted before heading to the creek to stalk wood ducks and squirrels, I would take a leisurely drive in the hills to scan the brushy roadsides for hazelnuts, or visit a favored beech tree to stand under low-sprangling limbs to shuck out those tiny white meats for on-the-spot snacks. I would, of course, harvest some of those little three-dimensional pyramids for roasting atop the wood-burning stove when winter's ill winds howled to keep me under house arrest.
Falling leaves thwarted fishing efforts with artificial lures, but the little telescoped spinning rod with small open-face reel and a box of surface lures and a few others (like artificial worms) in the game bag of my hunting coat.
When I downed a wood duck in deep water and could not retrieve it in any other way, the little spinning outfit became the best retriever I ever owned. And occasionally stray crappies or largemouth bass signed on with the sideshow.
Often, my last official outdoor act of the day would be to drive a back road as the sun dipped and light was fast fading to a little swamp filled with buck brush and willows.

There I would don my waders or hip boots, wade into the swamp without a weapon, sit down on a moss-covered log and fill my soul with the sights and sounds of a few hundred woodies "ladderwalking" down through the trees to their quiet roost. It wasn't something you could fry, fricassee, bake or prepare for the table in any other manner. But it compared favorably with the feeling I would get when I drove slowly out of those purple hills just at dusk on a cold, rainy fall day.  
I don't recall ever bringing in a limit of any game or fish, but I remember once having to skin squirrels, pick wood ducks and doves, clean crappies and largemouth bass, and unload several bags and boxes that contained walnuts and hickory nuts, before processing a bucket of persimmons and a bag of paw-paws to end my fun-filled, 16-hour day about midnight.
Mix it up and you'll love it.

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All columns, stories, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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