Autumn is in the air; hunting season nears

This is the last Saturday in August 2014. Autumn is in the air, particularly with these cool mornings we have had for the past week. Right now, it is too late to start early in getting ready for this year’s hunting season. I hope the kids who are anticipating going squirrel hunting next Saturday are ready. This is the day for the special youth squirrel season.

Back in the late 1950s when I was about 15 years old, the squirrel season did not open until the second Saturday in October. A youth squirrel season was something unheard of. For me, the opening day of the bushytail season was better than Christmas.

About a week before opening day, Dad would give me permission to check the guns and give them a cleaning if they needed it. I would get my 20-gauge shotgun and the .22 rifles out of the closet to make sure they were ready for serious hunting. They usually were, because they had received a good cleaning before they were put in storage.

The night before opening day, I found it difficult to sleep. I was afraid it would rain, and I knew Dad would not be going out in the country in that kind of weather. There were only one or two times I was disappointed because of this, though. When hunting season started, I simply wanted to go. No ifs, ands or buts.

The day before yesterday, I mailed my mast survey and hunting outlook report to the Elkins Operations Center. From my limited observations on Files Creek and the Gilman area, it looks like the nut trees will have some fruit, but not in abundance with the exception of white oak. On this kind of oak, the acorns appear to be quite heavy on some trees. This should be good for the deer and turkey.

I did not see very many beechnuts. I know the beech tree disease has really done a job on the older trees, particularly in the higher elevations. A good friend of mine who lives on Point Mountain has informed me just about all of the large beech trees have died and fallen. The wood from these trees has decayed faster than it could be cut up and used for something. Some people may look at this as being a waste, but it is simply “Mother Nature at work.”

The statewide archery deer season will open on Sept. 27 and run through Dec. 31. Now is the time for bow hunters to be practicing or tuning up their bow-hunting skills. If adult bow hunters plan on taking a youth squirrel hunting next Saturday, here is a good time to scout for a good locations to bow hunt for deer. During the regular squirrel season, I would often use this as a good way to scout for deer.

For me, just being out in the woods – private or public land – in early September has always been an enjoyable experience, because change is taking place everywhere. Many game animals are changing their behavior and movement patterns in response to the availability of mast or food.

This is the time for hunters to seek out and find abundant sources of hard and soft mast. As nuts and apples start to drop, the small game, along with bear, deer and turkey, will start spending more time close to these areas. The odds of having a successful hunting season will increase.

Just being in the woods or taking a drive on the secondary roads to observe the leaves changing colors always has been “my cup of tea.” This also is a good time to take a youngster in the woods to learn about nature and wildlife. Finding out about trees and other sources of food for wildlife is a good way to teach young sportsmen and women the ethical ways of being a true outdoors and/or sportsperson.