October is a month of change. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves and the yellows, reds, purples and browns become the prominent, woodland display of autumn. Breezes begin to smell more earthy and less floral. It’s a month of appreciation for hay in the barn, harvest moons, fall festivals, pumpkin pies and Indian corn. This is also the season to become reacquainted with a solid handling, smooth shooting firearm.
At the beginning of gun season, do not assume your rifle is still zeroed in from last year. Hauling the gun around during hunting season last year could have jarred or vibrated the gun enough to knock the sights out of alignment. Go to the shooting range and fire a few rounds days before hunting season. This will give you time to make scope or sight adjustments before opening day.
A quick way to zero in the scope on your hunting rifle is to set up a target at 25 yards. Place the gun in a solid position on a shooting table in a gun vise or use sand bags to hold the rifle steady. Fire three rounds after looking through the scope and aligning the cross hairs on the bull’s eye. Look through the scope to see where the bullets hit. While the rifle is in an unmovable position, move the cross hairs on the scope with the windage and elevation adjustments until the cross hairs line up in the center of the three bullet holes. The gun should be roughly sighted in at this point. Further shots will be necessary to zero the gun in at 100 yards and beyond.
A scope adjusted to the lowest power and possessing reasonable light-gathering properties is sufficient on most hunting situations. If you have the scope adjusted to its highest power, when an animal does appear, it will be difficult to set the crosshairs.
Often, all you’ll see through the scope is a close-up of fur. It’s easier to spot the target and go higher in power rather than find the target through high-power adjusted lenses.
Add a backstop to your 3-D archery target. A round bale of hay turned with the strings facing the 3-D target will stop an arrow that misses the target. This will make bow shooting safer and it will help in retrieving your arrows. A tight, round bale of hay is dense enough to stop the arrow in its flight. Pick a tightly-packed round bale for your backdrop. Otherwise, you may have to dig the arrow out by the fletching.
After you have harvested your share of dove or quail, dress the birds carefully. Hold the meat of your game birds up to a bright light to reveal any shotgun pellets embedded in the meat. It just might save a trip to the dentist.
If your deer stand is located near livestock pastures, cover-scent your boots by deliberately stepping in livestock manure. Deer in the area are familiar with this smell, and therefore, will not be alarmed. However, remove the boots before sitting down to dinner with the family.
While bow or gun hunting from a tree stand, it’s convenient to have a hook to hang calls, a bow, rattling antlers or your back pack once you are off-the-ground. Screw-in hooks with a rubber coating are sold at hardware stores and can easily be screwed into the tree once you are in the tree stand.
Two or three unscented candles in a two-pound coffee can make an ideal heater. Whether you are stranded in a broken-down vehicle on a cold night or hunting in a chilly blind, the can serves as a wind break for short candles in the can. Melted candle wax will hold the candles secure. It is surprising how much heat is generated with this simple device.
Scrambled eggs for breakfast make great comfort food while camping in the outback or the hunting cabin. To prevent eggs from fracturing or bursting creating a mess in your grub supply, crack the eggs and pour the contents into fruit jars before leaving home.
When you are ready to cook the eggs, simply pour the desired amount of eggs out of the fruit jar.
The chilly nights of October make a fine time to camp out under the stars around an open campfire. To cook on the campfire, a large fire is not needed. If you don’t have a grill, you can create a forester’s fire. This involved placing two green logs in a "V" shape and building a small fire in the vortex of the "V." As the tinder turns to coals, place a skillet or pan over the "V" for cooking. You will have plenty of time to cook before the fire gets hot enough to catch the green logs on fire.
Even without a soil test, the native forage growing in the woods can tell you whether the soil has a low pH or is acidic. Wild blueberries, heavy moss and native pines flourish on acid soils. To get the best food plots, a pH reading of 6.5 is ideal for most forages.
Hauling fertilizer and lime for food plots and salt for licks can quickly corrode the bed of a pickup. Be sure to wash the bed out thoroughly with a water hose to remove any of these corrosive agents before parking the truck for the night.
If you planted forage like oats and winter wheat mixed with clover last fall, you may have witnessed a good stand this year until late spring and early summer. Often, all that is needed to re-establish the plots for this winter is a light disking. The disking breaks down the grass stalks and dry clover seed heads and allows for seed to soil contact. Conduct soil tests on your plots to determine the right amounts of lime and fertilizer.
Enjoy the changes of October as you move from hay season to hunting season, and don’t forget to involve the youngsters in as many outdoor activities as you can.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.
Editor’s Note: All sketches shown in this article are by Jesse Limbaugh, produced from photos by John Howle.