It’s hard to believe it’s October. For some reason this time of the year makes me very nostalgic. Maybe it’s normal because if you look around in nature, just about everything is going through a metamorphosis.
The brilliant green leaves of summer are getting that reddish orange around the edges. Flowers, especially annuals, are wilting away, and fall bloomers are taking their place.
Out on the water, fish, shrimp and crabs are all staging for a mass migration to their wintering grounds. It’s like they are nervously waiting to see if they can get a seat on a plane or be put on standby.
Back when I did a lot of bird hunting, this was the time of the year when I would knock on any farmer’s door and ask if I could sit out in his just-harvested cornfield and shoot doves. Unlike now, when so many farmers have given up farming in favor of growing pine trees in their fields, back then farmers would almost always give you the nod to have at the birds landing in his fields. It was wonderful. Dove hunts were as much a social gathering as they were a gathering of food. Probably my favorite game bird to hunt and eat, doves would fly into some properly prepared fields by the hundreds, maybe even thousands. Dipping and weaving, it always amazed me how one single dove could make it the length of a 20-acre field with hunters every 60 feet with nary a feather touched. I loved it.
Another October memory goes back to when a group of us would head to the James Bay in Canada to hunt ducks and geese with the Cree Indians. Talk about an experience; it was sensory overload.
Usually consisting of 6 to 8 of us (and our dogs), it would take us a day and a half just to reach our destination. As we made it further north, the planes would get sketchier and sketchier. The final lap was an old Dehavilland Otter floatplane with no doors and a pilot that reeked of alcohol. As we flew over endless miles of barren tundra, plane wrecks seemed to appear every 10 miles or so. It was a bit disconcerting to see nothing but the tail of a plane sticking out of the muck below.
Arriving at the Cree village, it wasn’t what you might see in some slick travel brochure. This was no-frills hunting from dawn ’til dusk. The chief frowned on alcohol of any form being given to our guides, but we would sneak in cases of rotgut whiskey not for us, of course, but for our guides. We drank the good stuff, but all it took was a fifth of Old Mr. Boston’s Rock n Rye and your guide would take you to some of the best duck and goose spots imaginable. With two hunters per guide in oversized canoes, it was anything goes. It was a workout, though, as we might walk several miles a day through the wet, ankle-deep tundra to get to a particular pothole.
Nothing we shot was ever wasted. On one particular occasion, a swan flew in leading a flock of snow geese a hundred strong. The guide yelled, “Shoot shoot!” so we did not knowing that swans were a no-no. No sooner had that swan hit the ground than the guide runs behind a bush and plucks and cleans the bird. It was the only bush for nearly a mile. Anyway, a few minutes later, here comes a helicopter that lands next to the pothole. It was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police! As it hovered to land, its tail rotor blew all the white feathers behind that bush into a cloud of white. Proof that there indeed is a God came that day when the officers took their time getting out of the copter and gave the feathers time to flutter back to the ground.
It’s a bummer that dove and duck hunting around here are a thing of the past, because it was so much fun.
Development has driven the ducks away, and good dove hunts are all but gone. But October still has the best fishing, shrimping and crabbing of about any month of the year. It also has the third annual Waddell Benefit Inshore Fishing Tournament scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 21 out of Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head.
Established in memory Of Collin Stokes, this year’s tournament is all about what we can do to make the Waddell Mariculture Center even better. There will be tons of awesome prizes, and this year’s proceeds will go toward the purchase of a spawning tank for Waddell. A spawning tank will allow Waddell to mimic perfect spawning conditions, including water temperature and light for fish such as cobia, redfish and trout. Mark it on your calendar and spread the word. It’s a great cause!