The allure of hunting true bottomland swamps is almost sacred. Wedged deep within creeks and rivers are areas that most people seldom venture. Thick canebrakes and ancient hardwoods hold treasures that most never get to see, much less collect. Without a doubt, these haunts are absolutely my favorite places to invade with shotgun, rifle, and bow. Thick bearded gobblers and bucks with dark mahogany antlers make their living in these places. Words can’t describe how close one can become entangled in the truest sense of nature unless you’ve been here. They are hard to find and much harder to penetrate, especially with the climatic conditions we are experiencing this winter. It takes a concerted effort to make it in and out on foot to ensure it stays quiet. Four wheelers and side by sides only disrupt the natural state of these sanctuaries. I must admit, even I know when to holler calf rope.
Wearing waders and carrying a rifle and bow doesn’t go hand in hand. Sure, it would be appropriate if I was lugging decoys and calls with me but this is crazy just to climb a tree. Alas though, this has been the only way to get to the trees we have perched on for decades but this past Sunday wrapped it up. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. So it’s off to better days and thoughts of blue skies, sunshine, and all that entails.
The days are near when several hundred pounds of “Black Kow” are tilled into my garden of nearly 10 years. The soil is rich in potassium and phosphorous and will be completely prepped for the spring planting when I add the basic slag. Anyone that has experienced blossom end rot on tomatoes need not worry for there are simple solutions that will keep your baskets full for the upcoming season for BLT’s. Calcium is the key and if you have questions, give me a buzz for the rifle is about to be cleaned for the year.
Crappie will begin to search out chartreuse jigs tipped with a minnow in the coming weeks. I can only hope to hear the lonesome, lovesick call from loons on Lake Weiss in the next few weeks. I’m quite certain I will forget these quagmires of brown loam soils when my rod doubles over from the slabs that are still in the dark, cold waters for now. Rest assured, our freezers will begin to fill soon with snow white filets from the genus, Pomoxis. Though the early deep water bite helps with the number of bags that go into the icebox, the fierce, shallow bite is what we live for. It won’t be long.
As the days grow longer, the blood-filled caruncles on the old gobbler’s neck will soon urge him to release a dose of testosterone in the form of a raspy gobble. Though it may be half-hearted at the end of February, this sign of spring will soon echo down the bottoms filled with may apples and along the dogwood studded ridges in March and April. The 18 feathered fans will attract the receptive hens to ensure that eggs are laid and poults are hatched to give us something else to do between now and dove season. If it doesn’t stop raining, at least these tall timber Gabriels will concentrated on the high ground. I am just about ready to float two clucks to a roosted Tom just before he flies down. Just maybe my mood will improve if he obliges me with a throaty reply.
I suppose a sign was sent to me in the form of a shed antler this past weekend. I have been watching a promising four-year-old 10-pointer all season. He isn’t where he needs to be quite yet and I have been worried that a neighbor’s bullet may find him. I was encouraged when I picked up one side of his rack this past weekend. This is Mother Nature’s way of telling us it’s over when this phenomenon begins to take place. I know the bucks are tired of playing and I’m sure they wish we would leave them alone until this fall. Everyone else may continue to pester them, but I am happy to give them a nine-month break until we re-engage in October. At least a couple of six-year-olds have a permanent place of residence in my rustic study to be remembered for years. I am privileged to have known them.
The warm moist soils of the delta will soon be the home for trillions of corn, cotton, and soybean seeds. The landscape will return to a sea of green instead of the gray days that winter brings. Life will return and the dormant forests will be rejuvenated from sunlight. With this change, I will also adapt. It’s time for the camouflage to be hung with care until this fall. It’s time to prepare for the long summer days of misery fighting bugs and weeds that will protect the crops that we’ll be growing this season. Of course, this will also help to re-stock the checkbooks, for the coveted Kansas and Nebraska tags will need to be applied for and deposits with outfitters are due soon. This also means it’s time to put “Outdoors in the Sun” on hold for a few months for the work season is about to begin in earnest. I can’t help but laugh when friends ask me to go to Florida or the Caribbean for a week during the summer. There are no days off for pleasure when you’re a bug man. I have a couple of friends that I would love to watch trying to keep up with us just one day in late July. On second thought, I really don’t relish the idea of attending a funeral.
I hope you have found this column both informative and entertaining over the past six months. I told you it would come to an end before we know it. I have truly enjoyed writing for you and I appreciate the opportunity to do so. We’re always interested in feedback so please let me, Jimmye, and Wyatt, know what you think of “Outdoors in the Sun.” We’ll be back before you know it and I will be thinking of interesting topics and stories to bring to you this fall. Thank you again for allowing me into your homes and I hope to see you soon.
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.