November is full of gray skies and temperatures that often take a nosedive. Squirrels, deer and turkeys are busy scrambling around for the fruits of the forest to store up winter energy because the lowest temperatures of the season are on the way. Bullfrogs are settling deep in the mud for the long winter’s rest, and ducks and geese are creating much traffic in the fly zones. It’s a month of thanksgiving for we live in a free country full of natural resources and food aplenty in the woods and along the rivers of Alabama.
Even though Novembers are different now than when I was a boy, I vividly remember cold, winter mornings with my Dad and Grandfather that were suitable for killing a farm raised hog. We would have the meat prepared by mid-day, and the best lunch was fresh pork tenderloin. I sometimes chuckle to think of today’s modern deer rifles in calibers high enough to take down elephants, and my grandfather, with a well-placed shot from a .22 rifle, humanely laying a hog on the ground weighing twice what a deer would weigh.
Speaking of small caliber bullets, it’s quite aggravating to have a box of .22 caliber bullets come out of the box during small game hunts. Many of the containers are flimsy, and when you start moving, sitting or any other normal hunting activity, the bullets are sure to work themselves out of the thin box. For a convenient .22 bullet storage case, use a plastic film canister with a snap-on lid. The canister will hold plenty of bullets and keep them from getting lost in your pocket or on the ground.
A 20-foot section of chain with hooks on each end is a handy item to have around the farm or in the toolbox of a pickup. Often the chain gets tangled around tools and other objects in the box. To prevent this, a one-gallon paint can makes a convenient carrying case and tangle-free storage bin for the chain.
Heat it before you eat it
To decrease the risks of food-borne illness when making jerky from the meat of any wild game, while the meat in is the marinade, boil the mixture for five minutes. Use a long-stem meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the strips has reached 160o F. Drain and pat the meat dry before beginning the drying process.
Calling all game
A squirrel call with rubber bellows has more uses than just calling squirrels. The next time you are hunting big game on foot in squirrel territory, softly hit the call every few yards to disguise yourself as a squirrel traveling over dry leaves.
You’ve found a well-used deer trail, but you don’t know which direction the bucks were traveling. If you can find a scrape, examine it. The buck will clean out his scrape by pawing debris behind him with his front feet in the direction he is traveling.
A low cost way to cover scent hunting clothes is with the smoke from a small, tepee fire. Stand near the fire allowing the smoke to penetrate your clothing before the hunt. Never hunt with clothes you’ve worn while grilling or smoking meat. The smell alarms large game like deer.
Motorcycle chain lube is a great rust protection for the metal surfaces of firearms. Designed to adhere to and penetrate fast moving links and rollers, it comes in an aerosol can and sprays on in a foamy, yellow liquid. The lube adheres to gun metal and prevents exposure to the elements like rain and snow. In addition, the chain lube works well on hay baler chains and prevents rust on farm implements.
If a timber company owns your hunting land and clear cutting has taken place, for a couple of years the property will look like a wildlife wasteland. There are, however, productive ways to hunt chopland, and a variety of wildlife can be harvested. Chopland provides easy access to seeds for birds, and this makes dove and quail hunting an option. Rabbits will frequently forage in chopland areas, and they will den in brush piles found in harvested timber areas. You will also find productive sites to set up for coyote calling and shooting. Finally, deer will be found in fringe areas of chopland like streamside management zones and forest corridors. Deer can also be found bedding in chopland once the briars and other forbs begin growing.
Conditioning your body before and during hunting season can prevent injuries and fatigue, possibly even death. The adrenaline rush when spotting your quarry can elevate blood pressure and heart rate to high levels. Dragging a harvested animal through the woods can exert much stress on muscles and the heart, and hiking up steep hills with a gun and backpack places great demands on the body.
Be aware of any medical problems you may have, and check with your doctor before going on any extended hunting trip that you feel might jeopardize your health. This may involve completing a stress EKG. Do this well in advance of hunting season.
Farm work is one of the best ways to stay fit. Even in the winter, chopping wood, checking fence lines or digging postholes can offer health benefits. Any workout program combining strength and stamina conditioning will better prepare you for the hunt.
In addition to the body, the brain needs to be conditioned. A positive outlook allows the hunter the ability to hunt more successfully. Eating right, keeping your body physically fit, keeping a positive mental attitude and strong prayer life throughout the year makes hunting season safer and more productive.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.
Editor’s Note: The sketch is by Jesse Limbaugh, produced from a photo by John Howle.