Hank Williams Jr.’s famous song, "A Country Boy Can Survive," begins with the line, "The interest is up and the stock market’s down, and you’re gonna get mugged if you go downtown." Sounds bleak, but the song goes on to say country folks can skin a buck, run a trotline and grow good tomatoes among other things. This song reflects the fierce, independent spirit of Alabamians who live off the land and provide food for their families whether the government is offering stimulus packages and bailouts or not. This October, use some ingenuity to get your harvest and feed your family.
If you harvest a deer, the animal will transport much easier after being field dressed. One item to bring along in your day pack is a five-by-eight foot tarp. The tarp takes up little space and makes dragging a deer much easier. Wrap the tarp around the field dressed deer and the composition of the tarp will slide across the ground much easier than fur. The tarp also helps to keep dirt, leaves and other debris off the deer. Avoid carrying a deer over your shoulder or on your back even if it’s a small deer. Since visibility is limited in the woods, a hunter could mistake the deer on your back for a live deer and take a shot.
One of the most common and most serious hunting accidents is falling from a tree stand. The higher elevation offers a better view of the terrain; however, climbing to dizzying heights will most surely result in serious injury, paralysis or death if you fall. In addition, at dangerous heights, maneuverability in the tree stand is limited, and shooting becomes shaky. Always wear a comfortable, nonrestrictive safety harness when in a tree stand. If you stumble and fall, the harness will catch you. Even if you have tumbled completely out of the tree stand, the harness will suspend you allowing enough time to bear hug the tree, cut the harness and slide to the base of the tree. It’s easier to recuperate from bark scratches than from broken limbs.
Traveling to and from a tree stand through a thick, wooded trail is a tricky matter in the dark even with a flashlight. During the day, flagging works well with spots marked, but, at night, it’s of little help. In addition, flagging detracts from nature’s beauty. To mark a path for travel at night, try a product called "Cat Eyes." These are basically thumb tacks with reflector heads. They reflect better than real cat eyes when even a small light is thrown in their direction.
Completing quick shots at passing game birds is easier with a well-fitting shotgun. To see if your gun fits properly, wear the clothes you would hunt with (thick coat or t-shirt) and quickly shoulder the gun. You should be able to bring the gun to your shoulder in a quick, fluid motion without the butt snagging on your clothes. While holding the shotgun in shooting position, the base of the thumb on the trigger hand should be about two or three inches from your nose.
This may sound obvious, but check the choke in your shotgun before dove shooting or bird and rabbit hunting. If you use the same gun for turkey hunting and wing shooting, it’s possible the full, turkey choke is still in the gun. A choke throwing a wider pattern like a modified choke is better suited for making more hits at moving targets. Specialized, tight pattern chokes used for turkey hunting like full and extra full chokes can result in a disintegrated dove, pheasant or rabbit since the pellets are concentrated in a tighter pattern.
The brass of a shotgun shell makes a rustic, drawer pull or cabinet knob. Remove the primer, cut the plastic off in front of the brass, and attach the brass casing to the wood with a screw through the primer hole.
Mineral oil truly has 101 uses. It’s odorless, tasteless and makes an ideal coating and rust prevention on knives or guns. In addition, when the weather turns cold, a light coating of mineral oil on your face or hands is a great scent-free wind protection.
October is the ideal time in many parts of the country for planting winter food plots. To estimate acreage for food plots, visualize a football field. An acre is 43,560 square feet and a football field without the end zones is 45,000 square feet.
If you are planting a food plot in an area formerly forested or newly-cleared, be sure to have the soil tested. In many parts of Alabama, the soil may require up to three tons of lime per acre to neutralize the soil so the plants can get to the nutrients. Without the lime, the nutrients remain locked in the soil and are inaccessible to the plants.
When you are hauling fertilizer or lime in the bed of your pickup, be sure to wash out all residue once the truck is unloaded. Lime and fertilizer will corrode the paint and metal if not removed. Be sure to spray out tight corners and hard to reach spots as well.
This fall when you plant food plots, don’t forget to include greens. Once the first killing frost or two occur, the sugar content goes up in greens making them tasty for humans and deer. This way, if you don’t harvest a deer, you still might be able to bring home a sack of turnip greens. Remember, country folks can survive.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.