Along The Trail 7-24-14

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The article centers on all things ‘outdoors’ from hunting and fishing to woodmanship.

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The bowstring slips from my fingers and the arrow hits the target with a thud…I send two more down range. A good group, about the size of a grapefruit. I stroll down to the foam deer target and pluck the arrows and place them back into my quiver. The air is unusually cool for July, almost Autumn like, fueling my fire for October. Two quail sneak in and out of the weeds and blackberries beyond the target. Further distant, another whistles out their trademark “Bob White” call…I hang my recurve on a peg off the back porch and just as if on cue, a small spike buck steps into the backyard to munch on a patch of clover, oblivious to my presence. I silently draw an imaginary bow and send an invisible arrow his way. “Lucky little buck” goes through my mind as deer season is still over two months out…

Mid-summer is a tough time for hunters. I pass my outdoor time fishing and doing some scouting, but for a dedicated bowhunter, there’s nothing that can take the place of being in the woods on a crisp October morning. I’m not one to wish summer away, but with school beginning ever and ever earlier each year and my oldest off and in college and my son’s recently acquired drivers license, well, summer doesn’t have the punch for me that it once did. The reality of getting older I suppose…

Sure, I enjoy the warm weather, the bass fishing, the 4-H fairs, the sweet corn, the boating and such, but no season strikes a cord with me like autumn. The changing of the season, the orange, crimson and yellow of the leaves. The first chill in the air. The breaking out of our flannel shirts and jackets to chase the nip away. There’s something refreshing about the fall…not the clean, rainy, green refreshing of spring, but the coolness, the calm, the almost relaxed feel of autumn. For me, it’s a magical time…

It’s a time for transformation…The fields have changed from the deep green of the soybeans and the bright green of the corn stalks to beige, tans and yellows and browns as the harvest is on. The hayfields are dormant preparing for the cold ahead. The woods on fire with color. The squirrels, chipmunks and other critters are in a rush to stock up on the bounty of nuts, seeds and grasses that this time of year provides. And, the whitetails are changing as well. Changing from their bright orange coats of summer to the muted grays and browns to blend into their autumn woods. The does are fat as are the fawns from a summer’s worth of gorging on crops and early acorns. The bucks are priming for the upcoming rut. Necks just starting to swell, testosterone beginning to flow, tree rubs appearing overnight marking the buck’s territory. Antlers polished and burnished to a high shine, getting ready for fighting season like a champion boxer.

Time passes by too quickly for the most part, especially for those of us that have kids, but for this bowhunter, October and all that comes with it can’t get here soon enough. Until then, I’ll hook a few more bass, enjoy a few more campfires, work on a sunburn or two, fling some arrows and wish for cooler weather and changing leaves and big antlers…

– David Hewitt