"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres
September (written in 2005)

“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 now. 

September also offers good squirrel hunting, but it differs more than somewhat from the early weeks of the squirrel season a mid-August. 

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 by cornfields. 

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 beechnuts.

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

lsquirrel hunt.jpg (22174 bytes)
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I like a single-shot shotgun and spinning tackle for hunting- fishing along streams and rivers.  Combining fishing and hunting makes an interesting and productive hunt. Bass fishing and dove hunting were good on this day. Beechnuts 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.

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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 Scifres family.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Scifres Family, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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