November 2010
Howle's Hints

Be Thankful in November

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 1 Timothy 4:4 (KJV)

We’ve got plenty to be thankful for this November in Alabama. Chances are good for a deer harvest, the turnip greens are turning sweet and many across the state and nation are making the decision to practice their constitutional right to vote.

I’m thankful I know how to kill and clean a hog, and yet don’t have to these days. Growing up on a farm in Alabama meant you had to take part in some sort of slaughter of beef, pork or chicken because it just made plain good sense to eat what you grew on your farm. My job during the hog processing in November was to cut lard into chunks that would be cooked down into cracklings.

If you’ve never eaten cracklin’ cornbread, you’ve missed a true, Southern delicacy. Cracklings are pieces of fried hog fat tasting similar to the fatty pieces of well-fried bacon. A small handful tastes delicious on a cold morning. However, when I attempted to eat an entire Mason jar full of cracklings as a young boy, my desire for crackling cornbread went away for a while.

I’m also thankful for modern day clothing and boots with insulation like Gortex and Thinsulate. While rendering hogs, the only warmth of the morning was standing near the fire used to boil the tubs of water that would be used to remove the hair from the hog. Skinny feet, cloth tennis shoes and 28 degree weather do not make for a comfortable combination. Sometimes, we are the most thankful for the times that seemed the toughest.

This November, as you head for the deer hunt or move the cattle onto the last good grazing before winter, take time to be thankful for things like cracklin’ cornbread, turnip greens and Alabama’s rich natural resources.

On the Hunt

 

To find the direction of travel of a buck, look at the scrape. The deer approaches from the debris side of the scrape.

As gun season for deer opens across Alabama this November, you may find yourself stumbling upon a well-used deer trail with productive-looking scrapes and small saplings rubbed by bucks with their antlers. The scrape is a great spot to locate your stand near. It is important, however, to know the direction the deer is traveling as he comes to the scrape. To find out the deer’s direction of travel so you can set up down wind, look at the debris pawed out of the scrape. As the buck approaches a scrape, he will paw the debris behind him. This shows the buck is approaching from the leaf pile side of the scrape.

Orange flagging tied to strands of barbed wire helps prevent animal/fence collisions, and an orange cap keeps you safe during hunting season.

 

Through the Woods

Blaze orange can save a fence and a life. If your farm is in a remote area possibly surrounded by hunting land, it’s a good idea to at least wear a blaze orange cap as you check wooded fence lines or scout for winter firewood. In the remote possibility you have a trespasser or poacher on your land, the blaze orange will visibly stand out keeping you safer in the woods during hunting season, even if you don’t hunt. If poaching or trespassing occurs, quickly report this to your local game law enforcement officials.

To report hunting or fishing violators in Alabama, call 1-800-272-GAME. You can report violations 24 hours a day – seven days a week.

In addition to staying safe in the woods by wearing blaze orange, you can keep your fences safe with blaze orange as well. Fences running through wooded areas age and become hard to see. By simply tying strips of blaze orange flagging to the barbed wire fencing at short intervals, this increases visibility for cattle, deer and people.

Many times if I have to check the fence in wooded areas, it’s hard to see if the strands are standing, especially if the wire is somewhat rusty. If blaze orange flagging tape is tied to each strand at intervals, a quick glance through the woods at the fence will tell if there are any areas where strands are broken or repairs need to be made.

To the Spring

 

Clean debris from any springs on your property to aid in holding wildlife on your property.

"I’m going to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may);
I sha’n’t be gone long—You come too."

In Robert Frost’s poem, "The Pasture," Frost speaks of cleaning debris from the pasture spring so the cattle can have fresh water. The same principle can work for holding wildlife on your property.

Even though whitetail deer do not consume as much water per capita as cattle, having a water source readily-available is quite important to keeping a deer herd in the area. If the land you are hunting has no regular water source like a creek or stream, look for low-lying valleys between hills for natural springs of water just below the surface. If you find an area that stays damp, simply cleaning out the mud allowing fresh water to enter can provide the needed water requirements, and it will help hold the deer herd in the area.

Up the Tree

November afternoons offer great opportunities to harvest a few squirrels. If you head for the woods and can’t find a single squirrel but know they have been in the area, chances are they are holding up in the squirrel nests. Even if the wind is blowing, there are a few tricks to rouse the squirrels from their nests.

Squirrels can be coaxed from the nest even on windy/rainy days.

 

Often a productive squirrel tree will have muscadine vines running down the trunk. A few pulls on the vines can move the tree tops or adjacent trees causing the squirrel to jump from the nest. Another option involves the use of a pellet gun or air rifle. Sometimes, a few plinks into the nest will jump the squirrel from the nest. 

This November, don’t forget to be thankful for the things we often take for granted. Here’s to a thankful November while you enjoy your turnip greens and cracklin’ cornbread.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.