May 2011
Howle's Hints

Make Plans Now to Enjoy the “Magic of May”

During May, the greenery is becoming established, and soon there will be plenty of fruit in the forest. The sweet aroma of honeysuckle begins to float on the evening breeze. Open fields and pastureland that were clothed in a drab, khaki during winter have now slipped into something more comfortable and colorful. The birds are building nests and some are already sitting on eggs that will soon hatch. On the farms, cows are completing their spring-calving season.

May has been a month of celebrations since the days of the Roman Empire. The English came up with the idea of dancing around a post adorned with flowers and hawthorn blossoms from the woods. This post became known as the maypole.

May fifth is Cinco de Mayo, a national holiday in Mexico honoring the anniversary of the defeat of the French at Puebla in 1862, but, then again, who hasn’t beaten the French. Two other holidays deserving attention are Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of the month and Memorial Day, which occurs on the last Monday in May. Memorial Day honors the individuals in the armed forces who died fighting for this country. Without the two groups honored on Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, none of us would be here.


Jake Howle uses this skinned hickory pole for Boy Scout hikes.

With the usual preparations for warm weather comes the cleaning and servicing of boats and hunting vehicles, replacing old fishing line, airing out a musty sleeping bag or tent, and worming and applying flea control to hunting dogs and pets. Don’t forget about post-season maintenance of turkey hunting equipment. Clean and oil shotguns, return loose shells to their original box and replace any damaged calls or missing hunting equipment. This way, you won’t have to scramble around searching for calls, strikers and shells the day before hunting season next year.

Hickory Stick Hiker

A five to six-foot skinned hickory pole one-and-a-half inches in diameter makes a great hiking staff. The length, flexibility and strength of hickory makes it possible to vault across small creeks and streams keeping your feet dry. In addition, common measurements can be notched or marked on the staff to measure items like firewood, fish lengths and frog jumps.

As a hiking staff in warmer weather, the staff gives extra protection. If you are walking through thick, snaky-looking underbrush, the staff can be used to prod the trail in front of you to discourage any potential strike from an unwanted rattler. The hiking stick is also handy for working cattle and other livestock. To preserve the staff, sand it and apply linseed oil.

Mallory Johnson tears a hole in a beaver dam to coax beaver back into the area for a shot later.


Beaver Banishment

Traveling up to 100 yards from water to get corn, soybeans and other crops for food and dam construction materials, beavers can ruin prime farming or hunting land where creeks and streams are present. In addition, they will cut down or girdle trees like yellow poplar, willow, sweetgum and blackgum. Even though a beaver can provide waterfowl habitat and certain hunting and fishing opportunities, control may be necessary to save hunting or farming lands.

Tearing a hole in the dam and waiting for beaver to come and repair the damage can offer a shot at dusk or dawn. Check with your local game officials to see if beaver are protected in your area, and get the necessary permits before starting a control program.

Re-Bake the Bread

On camping trips, bread can become dry and stale. To restore the freshness of your bread products, place the bread inside a skillet with a top over the fire. When the skillet gets hot, add a splash of water, then, recover the bread. In a short while, you’ll have fresh bread.


Leatherman or needle nose pliers aid in untying tight knots.

Needle Nose for Knots

Dust talcum powder on a knot that doesn’t want to untie. Needle nose or Leatherman pliers can also assist in undoing too-tight knots. Avoid using pliers to untie knots in ropes used to secure people. The twisting and pinching of the pliers can weaken the rope.

Hey Bud, Get out of the Mud!

Avoid this scene this May by being prepared for the mud.


Access dirt roads can become a quagmire when the rains pour. Getting stuck can be a problem, especially if you don’t have a cell phone signal. There are a few tricks to help you get unstuck or prevent getting stuck in the first place. First, if ruts are deep, ride the ridges on the high sides. If you ride in the ruts, you are much more likely to get high-centered—meaning the mud has packed under the vehicle causing the wheels to spin freely.

Be prepared when heading through muddy areas. A couple of narrow rolls of carpet just wider than the tires can help give needed traction if you are in a two-wheel drive truck and begin spinning. Finally, keep a high lift jack and sharp axe handy. You may need to jack the vehicle slightly and place sapling logs under the tires to get out of a jam.

Before you get ready to haul hay, be sure to get out and enjoy the great weather in May. If you love to fish, hike or camp alone, you better go now before school lets out for summer. Finally, make plans with youngsters to enjoy Alabama’s fine fishing and camping opportunities.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.