"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Knee-Deep In June
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

James Whitcomb Riley wrote it and I quote it: “Tell you what I like the best . . . Long about knee-deep in June . . . ‘Bout the time strawberries melts . . . On the vine some afternoon . . . Like to jess git out and rest . . . And not work at nothing else . . . "

June is a grand month . . . a great time to be outdoors . . . a grand time to see nature at its best. 

The skeeters are a little worse that usual at this time of year because of the damp spring. But a good spray, will take care of them. In the old days, squirrel hunters and others of the outdoor ilk, carried a small bottle of oil of citronella that sometimes kept bugs at bay. 

Poplar (tulip) trees . . . our state tree is blooming now to offer one of our most colorful and beautiful wildflowers and the blaze of white, yellow, green, and orange tulip-type wildflowers are being replaced by taller, later-blooming flowers and shrubs, not all of which are favored.

Rivers, streams and lakes are falling to summer normal levels now (not withstanding the gully washers we had last week) and fish are settling into their summer habit of seeking cover during the middle (bright) part of the day. Many fish quit the cover to feed at night, but hole up under structure (natural or man-made) by day.

Take the big cats, for example. Flatheads, one of our really big catfish, hole up under big drifts (driftwood) by day, but often feed on the surface on hot, dark nights by hanging down . . . their mouths barely touching the surface . . . to feed on live critters there . . . by the same token, goggle eyes (rock bass) love to nestle with big rocks (other cover) on gravel bottom riffles . . . very good on the table.

One time, for example, many years ago the Muscatatuck River got very low (in the late 1930s) got very low and a neighbor found several artificial lures on logs exposed by the low water. He did not have any use for the lures, so he gave them to me. I carried the lures around in my tackle bag for several years and used all but one of them. Then one hot summer day, I found myself standing three feet above some inundated root wads changing lures. I had used all but one of the lures I owned (an important chattel in those days for a boy), and at last the lure that looked like half a penny on a wire post with spinner in front and brownish-red bucktail behind with single hook.

I tied on this contraption and dropped it near the tree roots to view it’s action in the crystal clear water. No sooner had the lure hit the water before a bullish largemouth attacked. Unfortunately, I later lost the lure to a deep log hangup. I have not found such a lure since, but would buy another.

Lazy June also is a prime time for watching the critters that are reproducing. One time on Grassy Creek, north of Crothersville, I watched, at close range, a mother mink and three six-inch young as they frolicked over lily pads just before dark . . . on another occasion I watched a mother mink and young as they scampered about their summer driftwood home high and dry on the high banks of my river.

The rule of thumb is never to disturb, or touch, Mother Nature’s children . . . even if they may seem abandoned. It has been said that adults of the wild will disown young if a human touches them. I don’t know about that.

June also is a time for checking on wildlife species because it is the height of the reproductive season. If the main thrust of this scouting is squirrels (fox and gray), observing new nests will tell one many stories about the numbers of young of the year. Harvest figures later (in August’s season) will be highly dependent on young. The young are more tender, too. We lived on squirrel in late summers and early falls in the 30s. When we skinned squirrels, the heads were left attached on young to tell my mother and grandmother which were fryers and which were for dumplings. The heads were cooked, too, for the cheek meat and brains.

Heads, incidentally, were cracked with the handle of table knives to extract the brains after the heads were stripped of cooked meat.   

IWF MEETING – The Indiana Wildlife Federation will stage its70th Anniversary Celebration & Conservation Awards Banquet Friday and Saturday (June 6 and 7) at Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park. More details available by calling the IWF at 800-347-3455. 

All columns, essays, 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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