Monday, September 24, 2012


Patience - it's a word that most people who enjoy the outdoors are very familiar with, but often don't give much thought to. I had this thought as I was sitting in a ground blind on Saturday waiting for deer that never showed up, and watching soybeans blowing in the wind. I wondered why, in this age of instant gratification and on-demand entertainment, that something that required as much patience as waiting on a deer to come by or a fish to bite is my preferred form of recreation.

As I sat there Saturday afternoon, I thought about the morning's hunt on a different farm. Walking in before daylight, I was greeted by the owls calling to each other just as they have for the last several years that I have hunted here. Once the sun began to rise, the turkeys woke up and added their voice to the forest conversation. Several flocks of geese flew over and contributed their honking to the sounds around me.
Saw this on the way to the blind

Later on, I was greeted by the sight of three hens feeding their way through the woods and clucking to each other. I didn't see a deer, even though I was in an area that I know the deer have been traveling through frequently. However, I didn't mind one bit. I just sat there taking in everything around me, and thinking about how blessed I was to be able to be right there at that moment.
Cabbage in the Garden

I often think about the life lessons that hunting and fishing have taught me. Patience is one of the biggest lessons that I feel like I have learned from my outdoor experiences. If I hadn't learned the patience to just sit still, I feel like I would have missed a lot in life. It takes patience to plant a garden and watch it grow all summer, to finally reap the rewards of the harvest, or to sit on the bank of the pond watching a bobber until finally a scrappy bream bites, or to sit in the woods and just take in everything around me. I wouldn't trade any of these experiences and memories, and I'm thankful every day for the people who introduced me to hunting and fishing when I was young, and through that taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of being patient.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Time of Change

September is a month of many changes. Dove season started the month off with a bang, and before long the leaves will be changing.   Archery season has arrived here in western North Carolina, and along with it the excitement and promise of another deer season. The weather is finally starting to feel like fall, with cool mornings and warm afternoons, but nothing like the heat of July and August. School is back in full swing, and the students have made it through three weeks already. The county fair will be coming up in a couple of weeks, and the annual antique tractor pull was held last weekend.

My window to the woods - from the ground blind
I love September, but it is also a challenging month for me. It seems like it is a month that is full of outdoor opportunities but short on time. I know that some of the year's best trout fishing can happen during the fall, and I have often said that I wanted to spend more time exploring the fishing on the local smallmouth river in the fall. On the other hand, the opportunity to finally deer hunt after almost nine months of waiting draws me to the woods. By this time of the year, I have been checking trail cameras and preparing stands long enough that I can't wait to get to hunt.
My time for outdoor activities in September is also limited since school is back in session, and this is another reason I tend to hunt more than anything. Both of the farms I deer hunt on are a five minute drive from my house, and my house is a five minute drive from school so I am fortunate enough to have time to get to the stand or blind after work some evenings. Trout and smallmouth involve more of a commitment due to the distance I have to drive to get to them, so they are left to the occasional weekend trip when I can pull myself away from the woods.
The mineral site where my trail camera has been all summer
September marks a month of change for the deer I hunt as well. I have noticed that the deer that have been almost daily visitors to the mineral site I established have started to show up on the trail camera less frequently. I have heard a few people mention that they are seeing bucks that have lost their velvet or that are in the process of losing velvet. This is the time of year when bucks that have been buddies all summer begin to start fighting to establish dominance and the right to breed. Fawns will begin losing their spots, and the does will start weaning them before the rut begins in November.
Ripe Muscadines
September is also a time of change in the garden.  Most of this summer's crop has been harvested and mowed down, except for a few sweet potato vines. This past week, I set out a few cabbage seedlings, but I didn't do like some years and plant broccoli and cauliflower, or any greens like turnips or mustard. Most of the garden is lying fallow now, not to be disturbed until spring planting time comes again. The muscadines are finally ripe, and the pecans are getting close to dropping. I love being able to gather these, but it's sad knowing that the fresh fruits and vegetables of summer will soon be a tasty memory. The nights are getting longer and the days shorter, and soon darkness will come quicker than I would like.
Cabbage Seedling in the Garden
The month of September is a special time. All around, nature is going through the changes that mark the transition from summer to fall. I can't think of any other month where so many outdoor activities are available at the same time. As someone who loves everything about the outdoors, the biggest challenge that September presents is deciding how to spend the time I have to be outdoors. I must admit, that is a wonderful dilemma to have!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Shotgun Start

This past Saturday was one of my favorite outdoor events of the year - the opening day of dove season here in NC. I have lots of reasons why I enjoy dove hunting, but probably one of my favorite things about it is it marks the beginning of the hunting seasons here. The Monday after Labor Day usually marks the beginning of the archery deer season here in western North Carolina, and not too long after archery season opens, muzzleloader hunting will be open in October, along with the start of squirrel and rabbit season. As Thanksgiving approaches, gun season will begin for deer and the rut will be in full swing. After deer season, there is still time for some squirrel and rabbit hunting, and by the time these end in February, turkey season is not far away.
Sunrise in the corn field

With all that in mind, dove season is not something that only marks the beginning of hunting season for me. Some of my earliest memories of hunting revolve around doves and squirrels, long before I ever knew anything about tree stands or scrapes. It was a wonderful introduction to hunting, because as a child I didn't have to worry about being really quiet and still for long hours at a time when dove hunting. Some of us that dove hunt together every year have been hunting together since before we had our drivers licenses. We keep in touch throughout the year, but not nearly as much as we used to when we were all in school together. Dove season is one of the few times that I know I will see some of these people, and it's about catching up as much as it is about hunting doves.

This year's dove hunting was a wonderful time, just like it is every year. Everyone was excited for the opportunity to hunt, and there was a good crowd hunting on opening day. We were hunting some recently harvested corn fields, and while there weren't huge numbers of birds there were enough to keep things interesting all morning. I didn't get a limit, or even close to it, but I did manage enough birds to have a few to eat. This wasn't due to lack of opportunity, it just took me awhile to get back in the groove after neglecting to shoot my shotgun much over the last year. It's funny to me when I look back over all the years I've been hunting. When I started, my main focus was trying to get a limit of 12 doves (back then, it's 15 now). Now my focus seems to be more about the whole experience of being outdoors with good friends. I'm still there to hunt, and I love grilled dove, but my total focus is no longer on "limiting out".

After hunting on Saturday morning, we decided to meet up and hunt a different field on Labor Day. After Saturday's 90 something degree heat, Monday was a refreshing change. I did have the new experience of dove hunting in a fog, and the weather was a lot cooler on Monday. We had some birds flying in spite of the foggy conditions, and the weather was much nicer than the usual Labor Day temperatures here in the South. I managed to get a few birds again on Monday, but fell far short of a limit once again.

Monday Morning Fog
Monday afternoon's hunt was a different situation all together. There were rain storms popping up here and there, and the temperature had risen. It rained on us for a couple of hours, and the birds just didn't seem willing to fly in the wet weather. I sat out the storm under an oak tree, hoping that the doves would fly once the weather cleared. The weather cleared up around 6:30 pm, but the action was pretty much over for the day. It was off to the house to dry, clean, and oil my shotgun to prevent any rusting.
After the rain
The next day, I got to enjoy my other favorite thing about hunting doves - grilled dove breast! My brother-in-law and I grilled the doves that we had, and also some venison tenderloin that somehow managed to make it from last season without being eaten. I have to say, it was a meal fit for a king! Sometimes people ask me what I do with the doves I harvest, and my answer is always the same. They are good eating!

Doves and Venison
It was a great way to start off this year's hunting seasons, and I will always be thankful for the good times and good friends, and the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. I hope every year's hunting seasons begin with a shotgun start!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph