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Friday, September 27, 2013

Picking Paw Paws on a Sunday Afternoon in the Virginia Mountains (Blog 157)

Last Sunday, I spent part of the day roaming through the woods with my daughter Sarah and son Mark.  We first looked for a place to me to hang a tree stand after locating acorns on a mountain flat, but the main event was still to come.
Our main reason for taking to the mountains together was to pick paw paws, a native fruit that ripens in mid to late September.  Paw paws taste a little like bananas, some folks even call them mountain bananas.  But it is at this time of year that paw paws begin to turn brown from green meaning they are starting to reach their peak of flavor.
Paw paws are so prized by wildlife, such as deer, bear, turkeys, squirrels, and many songbirds, that if we wait until they are fully ripe and have fallen to the ground, they simply won’t be around to gather.  That’s why I like to go paw pawing when the fruits are just starting to turn.
Sarah, Mark, and I managed to pick a half bucket or so of paw paws, not a big haul certainly.  But once they fully ripen, and we can gather some walnuts, we will have the makings for a real taste sensation: Paw Paw and Walnut Bread.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sitting in a Tree Stand, Listening to Night Sounds (Blog 156)

With the goal of not spooking any deer, I arrived at my Roanoke County, Virginia tree stand during the state's urban archery season extra early this morning.  A heavy fog caused me to drive slowly to the property, but I still managed to arrive about an hour before sunrise.  Not long after arriving, I sat through a performance of a variety of creatures.

Just minutes after I had settled into the stand, I heard a rustling of leaves and feared that a whitetail had already shown up.  But the source was a squirrel that had decided to begin its nut cracking extra early.  Next was a barred owl which began to belt out "who cooks for you, waaaaah" for my pleasure.

I then expected to hear a great-horned owl or perhaps a screech owl to lend their voices, but that did not happen.  Instead a killdeer made its trademark sound, giving this avian the title of the second species to greet the morn.

As daybreak grew closer, more birds began to join in: pileated woodpeckers, blue jays, white-breasted nuthatches, and, of course, crows and ravens.  Later, Carolina chickadees, Carolina wrens, red-bellied woodpeckers, and downy woodpeckers announced that they too were awake.

Interestingly, I did hear a screech owl but it was not until 9:00 A.M. And I did not see but one deer all morning and that one at 9:18 and some 100 yards away.  The deer hunting was poor, but the birding, as it is most days, was interesting.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Boss Crows (Blog 155)

Bruce Springsteen may be called "The Boss," but in our backyard, he who goes by that name is our  5 1/2-month-old cockerel, Boss.  And at no time since our five heritage Rhode Island Reds (Boss, Johnny, Sweetie Pie, Baby, and Tootsie) arrived last May was this so apparent as it was Wednesday morning when Boss crowed for the first time.

As is his wont, Boss was the first one out of the henhouse, and as I was watching, I noted that he seemed more virile, I guess is the word.  He shook himself, stretched his neck, then emitted a screechy, quarter formed crow with no ending whatsoever.

"Elaine, Elaine," I yelled, and she quickly came running from the house.
"Boss just crowed for the first time, did you hear?"
"No," said Elaine.
But as if on cue, Boss sent forth three more crows, all as weak, poorly formed, and truncated as the first one.
But crows they were as our young cockerel is on his way to being a rooster.  I am so proud of my boy.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

First Deer of the Season (Blog 154)

Today is the first day of Virginia's Urban Archery Season, so I went hunting in Roanoke County on a parcel where I have permission.  I have hunted this property a number of times before, and the landowner has asked me to park in one of two places, either by a fence line or next to the barn.

So with high hopes of bringing home a doe, I arrived at the property well before sunrise.  I drove up the lane, unhooked the gate, drove through re-hooked it, and headed toward the barn where I prefer to park.  The barn is only 200 hundred yards from the gate and a "straight shoot." 

Yet somehow I became confused in the dark, bumbled off the track, and couldn't find the barn.  Finally, I re-found the lane, located the barn, and scrambled out of my vehicle with the landscape beginning to lighten.

I then scooted toward the woodlot, some 300 yards distant, found my tree stand, climbed the steps, secured my safety harness, and hand-lined up my bow.  Breathing hard, I noted that dawn had arrived.

Five minutes later at the early stages of shooting light, a doe appeared, and I arrowed her at 6:48.  And after arriving home, Elaine and I spent much of the next three hours, with help from our son-in-law David, butchering the first deer of the season.  I was angry with myself for my nocturnal confusion, but as the proverb states..."sometimes it is better to be lucky than good." I did not do a good job as a deer hunter today, but I was very fortunate to tag a doe.