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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Scouting for Deer (Blog 153)

Today, I spent much of the mid-afternoon period rambling over two Roanoke County farms as part of my preparation for the county's urban archery season.  Visits to both farms, as well as my earlier pre-season jaunts around Elaine's and my Botetourt County parcel, indicate that acorns are going to be scarce this autumn.

I only found about a half dozen white oak and scarlet oak acorns and they were not overly big for the species.  Although of course, conditions can change, my pre-season hunch is that Southwest Virginia's whitetails will need to be visiting fields and agricultural areas if the animals want nourishment.

Again, though, autumn has not even officially arrived and much can change between now and early October. But I would still doubt that hard mast will be abundant come autumn.

What about soft mast?  Friday, I did locate some persimmons on a tree in our yard and have made note of some grapes.  I would be interested in hearing from other bowhunters.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Elaine and the Corn Snake (Blog 152)

Thursday morning before school, I was working on a magazine article upstairs in my office.  Suddenly, I heard a scream then "Come down here right now!"

Elaine was babysitting our grandson Sam, and I was afraid that something had happened to him.  Bounding down the stairs, I was greeted with another shriek.

"There's a snake under the table!" Elaine yelled.

She then picked Sam up off the floor and plopped him into his crib, which caused the youngster to start crying.  Sam knows when his naptime is and this for sure was not it, and his cries were a protest against this injustice.

"Get that thing out of here, right now," demanded Elaine.

"First, let me see if it is poisonous before I start messing with it," I replied.  "Get me the flashlight so I can see it better under the table."

Elaine retrieved the flashlight and shining the light under the table, I saw a six-inch snake with round eyes, meaning it was not venomous.  Upon further examining its markings, I identified the reptile as a corn snake - a harmless little creature that mostly eats insects at this stage of life.

While I was going into a detailed explanation to my wife on the virtues of corn snakes, she interrupted me.

"Get him out of here, right now."

Using a dust pan, I flipped the snake into the device then released him outside.

Order restored, Sam was removed from his crib, Elaine looked relieved, and I headed for school.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Deer Season Fast Approaching (Blog 151)

Mid August may not be considered "deer season" but for those of us who pursue whitetails, the season is truly fast approaching, and there is much to do.  I have been practicing with my compound bow for well over a month now, and today I want to sight in my Parker Thunderhawk crossbow.  I have ordered a muzzleloader and that as well as my 30.06 rifle will have to be sighted in, too.

Habitat improvement projects have long since started.  Today, my son Mark and I plan to finish mowing the seeded logging road that crisscrosses our Botetourt, Virginia 38-acre spread.  Earlier this week, I limed and reseeded the food plot behind the house.

This week I also obtained a new ladder stand, and that needs to be put up in that same food plot.

Also earlier this week, the deer stripped all the apples from the Rome apple tree in our backyard, which reminded me that I had put off too long the necessity of putting a wire enclosure around the tree.  That, too, will be accomplished today.

The Dolgo crabapple tree is bearing heavily, and it too will have a new enclosure constructed around its perimeter.  Elaine is studying recipes for crabapple tree.  I don't mind the deer eating some of the crabapples, but I do want some of them.

And when the chores are finished, it will be time for me to visit some farmers in Botetourt and Roanoke counties.  I have plenty of farms to hunt in the area, but it never hurts to have a few more.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Highlights of the Summer (Blog 150)

Soon it will be time for me to return to teaching high school English and my summer will be over.  I really cannot complain about my summer, because it has been wonderful.  There have been many highlights. Earlier this week, my son Mark and I floated the James, as he too is about to return to teaching school. 

In June, guide Britt Stoudenmire of the New River Outdoor Company and I fished the New River at night for a magazine article and had a stupendous fishing trip - certainly my favorite one of the summer and also the one where I learned the most.  I also made trips to the Greenbrier River and Second Creek in West Virginia for stories.

Elaine and I picked 10 gallons of wild wineberries and blackberries and she made jam from both (see below) as well as we froze a number of  quart bags for wintertime pies and cobblers.
Our heritage Rhode Island Red chicks that we ordered are now much larger, and we hope to have roosters crowing and hens laying sometime in September.  I worked on the food plot behind the house and hope to have the plot reseeded by the end of August.

All in all, life is good.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Of Grandsons and Chickens (Blog 149)

One of the joys of my life has been Elaine and I spending time with our nearly 14-month-old grandson Sam.  Recently, I decided to teach Sam how to feed bread to our three mature hens: Ruby, Spotty, and Tallulah.

So Sam and I sat down on the front stoop of our house and gave the "lookie, lookie," call which is the cue for the hens to come running.  I gave Sam a piece of bread and announced.

"Sam, feed the chickens!"

Sam's response was to eat the bread.

"No, Sam, feed the chickens," I said as I handed him another piece of bread.

Sam again ate the bread.

Meanwhile, the chicken trio, beside themselves with bread lust, were crowded around Sam.

"Feed the chickens, Sam," I instructed again.

This time, Sam dropped the bread on the stoop and he and Tallulah both tried to grab a piece...which both of them accomplished.  This seemed to make Ruby and Spotty more agitated as they had consumed nothing.

"Sam, feed the chickens!" I tried one last time.

This time, Ruby grabbed the bread from Sam's hand, and she and Spotty took off  with the latter trying to steal the bread from Ruby while Tallulah was off eating her chunk.

I don't think Sam has mastered the whole feeding the chickens thing.