The thing I like best about September is the
fact that it puts me in a happy quandary about what I should be doing outdoors.
If one forgets that September probably offers
the best possible weather conditions for outdoorsing, the oversight is
negated by the multiplex of activities the ninth month serves up. Fishing,
hunting, nature study, harvesting Mother Nature’s bounty, photography safaris,
or just soaking up some out-of-doors, September has it . . . it belongs
to all of us . . . and much of it is free for the effort.
With my original thesis in mind, I find it difficult
to journey forth in September without being prepared to play it by ear
. . . to cash the many opportunities this early-fall month offers. That
is to not to say that I have hopes of trying everything. But it is to say
that if you mix it up you will love it. That’s what September was made
It never is easy for me to decide to fish for
crappies, bluegills, or even bass, or to try my luck at dove, teal, or
goose hunting. So I go equipped for both, and often wind up sitting in
a small boat on some pond or small lake with fishing rod in my hands and
a single-barrel (breakdown model) 20-gauge shotgun across my lap.
When the action comes, I am ready.
Fishing is to hunting as bacon is to eggs. But
this former happy combination does not stop when breakfast is done. Doves,
teal and Canada honkers view water as a thing that is right next to the
importance fish attach to it. And you never know when the teal doves or
geese will seek it out.
As a matter of fact, as the sun goes down doves
(with craws full of seed) will head for water for that last drink, it seems,
before going to the roost.
Thus, fishing is a good way to pass the time while
waiting for the birds to come.
Combining fishing with wing shooting can be cumbersome--not
to mention somewhat dangerous--if more than one person is involved. With
this thought in mind, I do my thing as a loner, making sure that the muzzle
of my loaded shotgun always is pointed at the sky when I am concentrating
If I am interested in doves as targets, I do not
have to worry about steel shot. Lead shot is legal for doves, or for squirrels
for that matter. However, if teal or honkers are involved, lead shot is
a no-no--federal and state regulations prohibit even having lead shot in
your possession while hunting ducks or geese.
The regulations on steel shot are (as I have said
from the outset) more than a tad goofy. The regs stress the importance
of hunters shooting steel (or non-toxic) shot while jump shooting ducks
and hunting squirrels on a river in the winter. So why is the use of lead
shot for doves in harvested cornfields and over shallow water not an equal
threat for waterfowl? The thinking behind non-toxic shot regulations is
aimed at keeping lead shot out of farm fields and shallow waters where
waterfowl may feed.
Having spent many wonderful days combining duck
hunts with squirrel hunting on rivers and streams, and being aware of the
importance of eliminating lead shot in areas where waterfowl might ingest
it while feeding, I am a firm believer that non-toxic regulations are much
needed. But the regulations should be more realistic. In my book lead shot
spewed from scatterguns in the dove fields can be just as lethal as lead
shot that missed a duck or honker in the same field.
Incidentally, non-toxic shot does not have the
clean killing potential of lead shot, especially for squirrels. It hurts
me deeply to think I have killed squirrels that I did not get because they
were able to survive long enough to get to a den.
Although I often mix and match my outdoor activities
in September, I like a cool, rainy day in the gray-squirrel woodlands of
the southern hill county with nothing but a mess of gray squirrel on my
mind--providing, of course, that I can keep my eyes skinned for groves
of paw-paw underbrush where I may also harvest some Indiana
A cool, rainy day in the woods is a great experience
for several reasons. True, it is difficult to get comfortable on such a
day, even if you are dressed for the conditions. But any discomfort I experience
on such a day is offset many times by the fact that all of God’s critters
are less wary on such a day and that gets me closer to the action.
A hunter sitting quietly with back against a tree
might see point-blank any bird or animal that lives in Indiana. I carry
a 14-by-18-inch piece of carpeting in the game bag of my hunting coat to
keep my fanny relatively dry, and wear foul weather gear top over a hunting
vest or coat for the showers.
A hunt for grays--or even fox squirrels--on such
a day also is made better than a hunt on a good day by the fact that a
cool, rainy September day puts squirrels in a food storing mode. Such a
day tells them it is fall--time to put away some food for the winter.
Unlike popular misconception, gray and fox squirrels
do not cache nuts, acorns and other seeds of trees and underbrush in hollow
trees and other winter lairs. The piney (red squirrel) and the ground squirrels
make caches in this manner, but fox and gray squirrels “plant” each morsel
of winter food an inch or so in the forest floor.
(To answer the obvious question, biologists say
fox and gray squirrels do not remember where each morsel of food is stored
in the forest floor. They simply locate the nuts with a keen sense of smell,
and dig straight down to recover the winter snack. Thus, it is presumed
that the hard-working squirrel that buries a morsel is not always the squirrel
that later enjoys it.)
On a good day in the woods, gray and fox squirrels
will take respite from the winter food storage chores to take a midday
snooze (the gray in a den or nest and the fox squirrel high on a sun-bathed
limb). But a cool, rainy day keeps both gray and fox squirrels at the storage
task until almost dark, when they quit work to enjoy a snack before turning
in for the night.
A cool, rainy day makes stalking game easy, but
even under such conditions I spend a lot of time with my back firmly against
a tree and my little rifle (or shotgun) across my lap. But before I sit,
I find a hickory or oak tree from which squirrels are getting nuts or acorns
Finding such a tree is easy. Nutshells on the
forest floor will tell this story. By this time hickory nuts will be falling--rain
and wind will speed this process. If there are a lot of outer shells of
hickory nuts on the forest floor below a tree, but few of the hard inner
nuts, squirrels are carrying them to places close to their winter dens
in the hollows of trees or large limbs. But most often, squirrels prefer
to get nuts for storage--or even to eat-- that still cling to the tree.
Outer husks of a hickory nut (in quarters) will most often be stripped
from the hard inner nut high in the tree and the pieces can be heard falling
for great distance on a quiet day.
Under these conditions, a squirrel usually will
travel an established route, but it is not a game trail, as some writers
have suggested. So if it is not possible to shoot on the first trip, just
wait a bit. That squirrel will be back for another nut and will make the
same moves on the same limbs.
Click on thumbnail
photo to see enlarged image.
dove hunting with fishing often provides mixed bags for me.