“Thirty days hath September . . .” the age-old
saw goes, but those 30 days “hath” a lot of great features, including a
wealth of opportunities to hunt and fish, not to mention harvesting
the items that pour out Mother Nature’s horn of plenty. September is, in
fact, one of my favorite months.
One of the things that make September so great
is the diversity of outdoor-oriented activities. It is only natural that
the innovative mind of those who adhere to the out-of-doors would find
ways to mix-and-match these pleasures.
Consider, for example, an early-September afternoon
a few years back when seasons were open on both mourning dove and teal.
Late in August I had been fishing one of my favorite
Boone County farm ponds late in August when my angling was interrupted
by a flight of four blue-wing teal that buzzed the pond (well within shooting
range), but zoomed out of sight when they saw me.
Soon thereafter small flocks of mourning doves
came to the pond and sat down at water’s edge, obviously to get a drink.
It was like waving a red flag at a bull. A few
days later, when September rolled around, I was right back at the same
old banana stand. But this time I was sitting in a lawn chair, somewhat
concealed by the shade of a clump of willows--my little 20-gauge Browning
Superposed double across my lap and a spinning outfit rigged for live-bait
(crickets from beneath dry cow pies) resting against a nearby limb.
Now and then my bobber would dance and I would
reel in a frisky bluegill. Less often, but not infrequently, a squadron
of doves would zoom in and I would blaze away.
The teal did not come until late afternoon, and
when they arrived they were accompanied by wood ducks (a no-no in federal
and state regulations). I didn’t shoot at a teal that day because I feared
I would become a game law violator if my errant shot at a blue-wing would
hit a woodie. But when darkness closed in on the pond I carried a bucket
of bluegills and two-thirds a limit (10) of doves to my car.
I might have had my limit of doves, had I retrieved
the birds immediately that fell into the water. But wind was bringing dead
(floating) birds to my shoreline and I thought I could get them later.
Unfortunately, turtles lunched on some of my birds. I chalked the loss
up to experience. Now, in true “bird-in-the-hand” thinking, I pick up birds
that fall into water as soon as I can, even if it means sacrificing shots
at other birds that flare and flee when spooked by my movements.
I also mix and match dove hunting with fishing
by sitting without camouflage in a boat while casting artificial lures
for bass and bluegills, or fly fishing for these species. Actually, fly
fishing seems to work out better than casting larger lures because lighter
flies do not sink to the bottom, or into weeds, when left idle during flurries
of shooting and picking up downed birds.
The first segment of the statewide season on doves
continues through most of October, but the early seasons on teal (blue
and green-winged) will be open only through September 11 this year.
However, Indiana also has an open season on Canada
gees that continues through September 15, and this can add a new dimension
for fishing/hunting combinations on standing waters.
Hunting Canada geese also melds well with dove
hunting, especially in cornfields that have been harvested as silage. Silage
operations usually start about the time seasons on early-migrating birds
open. Silage-cutting machines leave a lot of residue in the field and many
species of birds--including doves and geese--flock to the smorgasbord.
Incidentally, I pick high spots in harvested grain
fields to shoot from because duck, doves, and geese tend to come to the
high ground to feed. A large piece of green plastic, or a green tarp, is
helpful in blending in with the surroundings because weeds still are green
September also offers good squirrel hunting, but
it differs more than somewhat from the early weeks of the squirrel season
When Indiana’s squirrel season opens, squirrels
are interested chiefly in day-to-day feeding. Hickory, black walnut and
the seeds of many other deciduous hardwoods are near maturity when the
season opens, and squirrels feed heavily as they store up fat for the coming
winter. As hickory nuts, black walnuts, acorns of numerous oak species,
and the seeds of other woody growth mature, squirrels start thinking of
storing nuts for winter. This makes squirrel hunting a whole new ballgame.
Squirrels still feed heavily early in the morning
and late in the afternoon when air temperatures are lower, but during much
of the remainder of those sunny, early fall days they are busily engaged
in storing food for the winter. Contrary to popular misconception,
squirrels (fox and grays) do not cache their winter food supplies in hollow
trees. They store each nut, each acorn, individually in the forest floor,
often near their dens or nests. Each nut is deposited in a neat little
hole, seldom more than an inch deep in the forest humus. And when they
are on the prowl for food during the winter months, they did straight down
to extract the nut or acorn, leaving only a neat little hole.
Do squirrels remember where they bury each nut?
Not likely, the scientific guys say, adding that they probably locate buried
nuts by a keen sense of smell, and that they may dig up nuts and acorns
stored by other squirrels.
In any event, when squirrels are storing food
for winter, wise hunters change hunting tactics. Although stalking (moving
slowly and silently through the woods) is the most productive method of
hunting when squirrels are feeding, when they are on the ground storing
nuts for winter throughout most of the day, the better method of hunting
is to sit quietly and wait for squirrels to come within shooting range.
This kind of hunting can be dangerous, though,
so it is wise to use a scattergun, and to be sure other hunters or farm
animals are not in the line of fire.
September also brings an interesting and exciting
squirrel-hunting experience when beechnuts reach maturity and squirrels
flock to this smorgasbord. A beech tree that has produced a crop of good
nuts draws squirrels from all parts of a woodland.
To make this kind of hunting even more exciting
the squirrels shuck out the tiny pyramid-like kernels at an alarming rate,
and the empty shells and husks falling through leaves to the earth create
sounds similar to a rainstorm. Squirrels, of course, are on small limbs
as they feed (that’s where the nuts grow). This makes them more visible
and vulnerable, although it also makes hunting with a rifle difficult.
Still another possibility for squirrel hunting
in September--even later in the fall--will be found in woodlands bordered
Squirrels feed heavily on field corn when it nears
maturity--even afterward. Once an area where squirrels are actively feeding
on corn, the hunter needs only to take a seat at the edge of the woods
and await the action. Here again, though, a scattergun is most effective
and safer than a rifle. Acorns mature on several species of oaks, too--both
white oaks and black oaks--and this turns into good squirrel hunting.
Last year’s mast crop was sparse, but it is considerably
better this year, and early-maturing trees already are dropping their nuts.
Mother Nature won’t turn her horn-of-plenty upside
down this month, but elderberries are decorating the back roads with clusters
of purple berries. They can be juiced and turned into wine and jelly.
And, if I find a beech tree with low-hanging limbs,
picking and consuming beechnuts on the spot is not a thing that I abhor.
I shuck the triangular nuts out of the spiny husks and remove the flat
side of the inner nut with my thumbnail. The tasty, little triangle nuts
come out easily. The small blade of a pocketknife is a handy tool for snacking
on thumbnail image for enlarged view.
like a single-shot shotgun and spinning tackle for hunting- fishing along
streams and rivers.
fishing and hunting makes an interesting and productive hunt. Bass fishing
and dove hunting were good on this day.
make good snacking for hunters as well as squirrels . . . This shot depicts
the components of a beechnut . . . Top row depicts the inner nut, bottom
row the spiny outer husks. Outer husks usually contain two inner nuts.