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Busier than a long-tailed cat

Winter is the slow time for farmers, gardeners and sand volleyball players. The same holds true for hunters and ice fishermen in summer. There’s little to stalk or shoot from May to September. But come mid-September it gets busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

This month there’s a nearly unlimited supply of things to hunt inMissouri. As of Sept. 15 it was legal to harvest a deer or turkey with a bow, and as of Oct. 1 you could take rabbits by any legal method. Not that most people would want to kill and eat a rabbit prior to the first hard frost … but you could legally. And squirrels were already in season as of mid-May, but then again who wants to squirrel hunt in woods filled with ticks, chiggers and other annoying bugs. I used to squirrel hunt on opening day each year just because I could, but common sense and wisdom have caused me to abandon that tradition as I’ve aged. There’s plenty of time to hunt squirrels starting this time of year and extending through to Feb. 15.

Turkey hunters got the green light to take fall birds using shotguns as of Oct. 1. They have the entire month to harvest their birds. Of course hunting birds in the fall is nothing like hunting turkeys in the spring. I recently wrote a magazine article where I talked about fall turkey hunting tactics. While interviewing several Ozark fall hunting “experts” one suggested a proven method which just happens to be very illegal in this state. He mentioned how a hunter could wait until a flock had roosted in trees at night and then rush the area and scare the birds off the roosts and scatter them. It just so happens that such actions constitutes “harassing wildlife” according to Missouri law, and likewise it wouldn’t be very sporting.

But scattering flocks of birds during legal daylight hours and then calling them back in is by far the most popular way to hunt fall turkeys. For anyone who’s been told you must be super stealthy and a superb caller to kill a turkey in the spring, the thought of running into a flock of birds while screaming, screeching and flailing your arms as a means of eventually shooting one sounds out of sorts. But that’s the most popular method: scatter, call back in, shoot! So why not just walk within range of the flock and shoot without bothering with the “scatter, call back in” steps? Have you ever been able to walk within shotgun range of a flock of wary turkeys without being noticed? And, besides, even if you could, it’s simply more sporting to include the calling aspect of the hunt into the process.

Coyote are also in season until March 31. Crow season starts Nov. 1 and runs until March 3. Neither provide usable meat for the table, but coyotes prey on small livestock and yard fowl and are good target practice with a rifle on a fall evening from an overlook of an open field. Crows are fun to call in with a mouth call and can test your wing shooting skills if you’re not a regular waterfowl hunter. And speaking of birds, dove remain in season until Nov. 9. Nothing says early fall like a meal of several dove breasts wrapped in bacon, seasoned and baked to perfection and served on a bed of rice.

The start of November will bring quail season through Jan. 15. Firearms deer season, including the youth-only weekend portion, will be held on dates in November, with the “antlerless-only” portion extending into early December. The first youth-only portion will be Nov. 1-2. The regular firearm season runs Nov. 15-25, not to mention alternative methods season (previously blackpowder season), antlerless-only season, urban season where it applies, and a second youth hunt weekend (this one in January). 

Of course, we can also fish if we feel like it. And while I’m not an expert on mushrooms, I do know morels and elkhorns. While morels are an April or May delicacy based on weather conditions, late October and early November are ideal for finding elkhorns. The elkhorns grow as an intertwined mass of pencil-thin stems.

All that’s required is a good rinsing to remove any dirt and bugs which might be hiding within, battering and deep frying. Afterward place the ‘shrooms on a plate or pan layered with paper towels to absorb the excess cooking oil.

As with any mushrooms, make sure you’re confident of what you’re eating. Consult a guide book, video or local expert before trying any new mushroom. And even then, eat just a small sample to start with to assure you have no allergic reaction.

I often find elkhorn mushrooms while squirrel hunting or pre-scouting for fall firearms deer season. They’re a delicacy indeed so many months removed from the last meal of fresh morels. 

If October and November doesn’t offer enough to do outdoors to keep you out of trouble then there’s obviously no hope for you. And in you’re free time you can start making your outdoor gear wish list for Christmas. It’s just around the corner.

Doug Smith lives in an old house, drives an old truck, tinkers with old tractors, is married to a young woman, hunts and fishes often, and can be found on any given day wearing his Buffalo plaid flannel jacket and matching Elmer Fudd hat. ( … and considers fall his favorite time of the year).

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