Looking ahead to fall

Bevard -

Ennui (pronounce it “an we”) from the French has among its several definitive synonyms listlessness, dissatisfaction, boredom, laziness, malaise, melancholy and world-weariness.

Ennui describes me perfectly of late. Can’t avoid it. It creeps in this time of year when the sun is a tyrant, the garden soil dries to the point that each step in it raises a mini-dust storm, and whatever outside duties I must attend I hasten to accomplish by 10 a.m. to escape the heat. Even dear things — the tug of a fish on line or the prospect of stalking a hickory-nut tree full of distracted feeding squirrels — struggle against the inertia of lethargy to goad my mind to enthusiasm.

Green is my favorite color because it is the hue of grass and the growing land. But by July green has become dull, a limiter of vision, and I pine for a change. I desire that the land open up, to shed its tired growth after a display of color.

A glance at the calendar tells me that in less than a month I will become a hunter again, one who stalks through the woods in dripping dawns to revisit dear places and reenact old dramas. But the calendar also tells me that time, that relentless extortionist, has its strong hand out demanding its due. The places are fewer now and it retrospect it seems that the years have funneled me to a sad pass.

Rain has come now to get late plantings up and growing and to give hope for a late harvest to compensate for the poor early one that has not happened. That will make the fall busier — a fall in which I plan to embrace old things with fervor and new ones in the spirit of an explorer. I hope to cast my lines into new waters, in both metaphor and reality, to plant steps on fresh trails beneath unfamiliar trees. The recurrence of the familiar still comforts, but even comfort can stifle; my spirit thirsts for variety of adventure. I want a 15” crappie, a 10” redear sunfish, a 23” largemouth bass. Even if I must fish while waterfowl season is still open to catch it.

My observations, though limited, give me hope for a good upcoming season. White oaks seem to be cropping well. My opportunity to examine oaks of the black group is more restricted but I have seen acorns for both this autumn and that of 2019 on some trees. In my grove walnuts are not nearly as abundant as they were in 2017, but there are some on the trees. The hickory-nut crop looks promising, which portends a good early squirrel season. But it is the crop of the black oak group, which includes the numerous red, scarlet, and Shumard oaks, which are most vital to a good late fall and winter hunting season as well as to squirrel survival and carryover for the following year. At the beginning of my hunting career there were few deer and no wild turkeys to compete with squirrels for the oak mast. Today’s wildlife situation demands much more mast but there are fewer large trees to produce it.

I have heard quail in several vicinities of Fleming, Lewis and Mason counties while I have been fishing this year. I also hear and see doves almost everywhere. Dove prospects look great and those for quail at least somewhat better than in recent seasons if not up to ideal standards.

I have a new gun to wear in on doves and also need to pattern it with the turkey tube for the fall hunt. This sort of shooting is a necessity but not an enticing pleasure for me, so in the heat I have been putting off doing this. I got to shoot the new piece some on waterfowl last season and it worked well enough that I am excited about the prospect of getting to fire it frequently at doves. When I pattern test it on turkey targets I plan to start with #5 shot in regular shells in order to limit the expenditure of pricey turkey ammo as well as spare myself the recoil. The gun is lighter than my old Remington 11-87 and handles like a dream, but I am apprehensive that with lead magnum turkey loads it will romp and stomp. I dislike shooting paper gobblers and my confidence in a favorite 3” load of #5 shot in the 11-87 has spared me the aggravation for years, but if I’m to use the new gun on the big birds I have to suck it up and blast paper.

Squirrel season begins August 18. In keeping with my practice of recent seasons I will hit the hickory hot spots still on my agenda during those initial August days before setting aside my squirrel rifle and taking up a dove gun. There will be a cool down and the woods will have begun to thin their canopies before I take up the rifle again. I like to still-hunt until the trees drop most of their leaves and then it’s time to hunt with dogs. Modern gun deer season is a major interruption of this, but it’s a good time of year to fish. They will stock trout in the Flemingsburg Old Reservoir and at Washington in November and I hope to visit some new ponds in quest for bass. My intent is not to store away the fishing gear this coming winter.

Immediately at hand is the stocking of channel catfish in the Old Reservoir and Washington Park on July 20. These fish transfusions give anglers an extra option, and the Old Reservoir offers good fishing for other species as well. Cats offer good sport and they fight well, a fact of which I have happily twice had reinforcement this summer when flatheads grabbed the live bluegills I had out for bass.

We are at the threshold of days that should cure my — or any angler’s or hunter’s sense of ennui.