Bittersweet has pushed its yellow skin aside, adding a softer shade of red to the abundant Christmas berries populating our local wetlands. Both wild ornamental berries will, over time, be snipped here and there by human gatherers seeking materials for holiday wreaths to hang on front doors, and fall floral arrangements to place in vases, stoneware crocks or old, scarred walnut trenchers centered on dining-room tables.
Yes, the blotches of pleasant, uplifting colors just keep changing in this Indian summer weather so many Pioneer Valley folks eagerly anticipate annually — perfect for light yard work and soothing conversation, installation of storm windows, screen-door removal, bicycling along back roads, or hiking old, narrow trails through the high, colorful, soon to be barren upland hardwoods, where there’s just enough chill in a shady breeze to keep all comfortable.
But for the bird hunter, Indians summer can quickly devolve into Indian bummer, not in spite of the warm temperatures but because of them. For those accustomed to pounding dense, punishing cover through mucky, boggy tangles, it’s frankly too hot and uncomfortable for anyone wearing rugged old clothing standbys like Filson Tin Cloth bibs and jackets built for ultimate protection and comfort in temperatures of 50 degrees and below. Those attired in such protective garments made for brush-busting want no part of temperatures in the 60s, never mind 70s. Quite the contrary, who in their right mind would choose to follow fit, aggressive gun dogs through thick, thorny coverts wearing heavy canvas apparel. And forget shorts and T-shirts, which would in no time leave a man’s arms and legs tattered and torn to shreds.
Likewise, gun dogs, even those in tip-top shape, spirited, athletic types born for stamina and determination, perform much better and last longer under cool temperatures and gray skies. Get them out in warm, sunny conditions like we’ve had this week and you had better hunt well-watered coverts, where exhausted, overheated animals can submerge themselves in cool-down slurping streams with refreshing water to replenish what seems like their unlimited, boundless energy under ideal, cool conditions.
An option for warm weather can always be early-morning hunts while it’s still cool or even downright cold before the sun rises high enough for warmth. But the problem with that solution is that experienced wing shooters much prefer mid-morning or midday hunting, which gives pheasant and grouse time to leave their overnight roosts and deposit enticing scent, old and new, that keeps dogs jacked up while trailing scent through feeding areas, which are this year ubiquitous, bountiful crops of wild seeds and berries in marshes high, low and in between.
That is not to suggest that bird hunters are alone among hunting brethren with their cool-weather preferences. It is no different for bear hunters, who took to the woods for the second segment of the three-way split-season this year, or even the archery deer hunters, both of whom will have to check daily for ticks burrowed into warm, moist, hidden regions of their bodies, and may even get pestered by misquotes and other similar airborne pests buzzing about in extended unseasonable warmth. That’s not to mention the clothing factor. Most bowhunting and November bear-hunting clothing trends toward at least lightly insulated pants, shirts or jackets. When wearing such clothing and walking through the woods to a stand or even still-hunting from blind to blind, a hunter can work up undesirable sweat, never good when the prey has a good nose.
Plus, who wants to harvest large, heavy animals in summer temperatures? Dragging large carcasses out of the woods can be unpleasant indeed on warm days. Plus, the warm temperatures complicating the drag also mandate immediate butchering for anyone who doesn’t have access to a walk-in cooler to prevent meat from spoiling overnight. Again, short-sleeve shirts and Bermuda shorts, even camo versions for deer hunters, don’t cut it for many reason. First, the bug and pricker factor. Plus, bare arms and legs are a dead giveaway when hunting something that requires camo concealment. And that doesn’t even address the cold factor before the sun rises high enough to warm the environment. Yes, it can get mighty chilly around sunrise and sunset, when most hunters prefer being settled into their stands for some time.
The good news is that splendid fall weather similar to what we’re experiencing this week can provide hunter respite, a short window of pleasant weather perfect for catching up on seasonal chores that must be completed before winter. There will be more than enough cool and outright cold days better suited for hunting before the seasons end.
You just gotta go with the flow, fellas. Hunt when the weather’s right, which leaves many options excluding heat.
Not so much as a word on the street or in the coffee shops yet about big deer taken by local bowhunters. The peak rut can’t be far off, so anyone who’s got a good tale to share can send it to the email address listed below or call 413-772-0474.
It’s early afternoon and the home phone rings. It’s a friend with an unusual question. He says he doesn’t agree with turning his clock back in the fall for Daylight Savings Time, which gives him an extra hour in the morning and subtracts one in the evening.
“Wouldn’t you rather have an extra hour after work,” he inquired. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people, including hunters, and all of them would rather have the extra hour in the evening for chores or hobbies. So why do we keep pushing our clocks back every fall? It’s stupid.”
Seems to make sense on a number of levels.