By Bill Cooper
Great things are happening in the outdoors this month. Mornings have cooled and the grasp of fall is approaching quickly. Colors are appearing in low lying areas. Sumac and dogwood leaves are beginning to flash crimson colors while walnuts are dropping yellow leaves and sassafras is flashing orange mittens.
September ushers in a flurry of outdoor seasons, many my favorites. Dove season is always a regalia of wing shooters looking for camaraderie, good times, and a dove dinner. Teal season falls in place a week or so after the dove opener. The speedy little ducks humiliate wing shooters almost as much as doves.
I spent a morning in my boat teal hunting with Wes Swee this past week. Shooting opportunities were virtually non-existent. We did attempt to down a couple of doves that had slipped in over our right shoulders. We had a hearty laugh at our well executed misses. However, the morning’s conversation was well worth the price of admission. Wes and I are of kindred hearts. We both love the outdoors and sharing it with others.
Wes Swee is the Regional Director of the James Foundation. His wife, Kendra is the director of Interpretive Services at Maramec Spring Park. This well-educated, heavily experienced, energetic couple is the best thing to happen to the James Foundation in decades. In their short tenure they have begun a massive pollinator program at Maramec Spring. It takes years to get a large area converted from hay fields to pollinator habitat, but they are well on their way to accomplishing just that. There have been smaller plots at the park entrance for a couple of years. Brilliantly colored wildflowers offer a stunning welcome to park visitors.
Kendra Swee and crew have established interpretive programs covering wide a variety of outdoor subjects covering everything from bats, birds and survival skills. Many programs are offered on weekends. They are certainly worth taking in. There is nothing more fun than learning about the outdoors in the beautiful settings of Maramec Spring Park.
Leather Britches Trail recently opened as well and has been well received by the public. Beginning at the Maramec Mine pit, the trail makes a 1 1/2 mile loop through oak, hickory and pine forests. Other trails are being planned, so watch for future announcements.
The Swees are people people. They love working with the public and educating them about the outdoors. They are providing exceptional conservation and outdoor education leadership in our community. Lend them your support.
Bow season began September 15. Archers around the area are doing well. Facebook and Instagram have been lit up with success stories. It is especially rewarding to see youngsters proudly posing with their first deer harvest. “It’s great to see kids getting outdoors,” said Lucas Adey of Bean Creek Game Calls out of Licking. “I have taken all of my kids to deer blinds since they were big enough to walk. We do a lot of short sits, but it gets them started.”
Kody Lucas, of The Outdoor Vigilantes from Edgar Springs, concurs with Adey. “Introducing kids to the outdoors is one of the best things we can ever do for them, he said.
Having spent many years in law enforcement, Lucas has experienced the trauma which kids in troubled situations endure. “It’s heart breaking what law enforcement people deal with on a daily basis,” he stated. “I often wish I could get every kid into the outdoors. The experiences they could enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, camping swimming and playing in the outdoors, just being kids, would change so many lives for the good.”
Fourteen-year-old Braxton Bahr, of Rolla, has been hunting since he was six, according his mother Jennifer. “All of my boys love to be outdoors and hunt,” she said. “It’s a family affair and always a good time when we get to be outdoors together.”
Congratulations are in order for Braxton. He took his largest buck ever last week with his bow. The magnificent 10-pointer scored 143 inches. That’s a dandy buck in anyone’s book.
Well know area archer Dusty Nelson, of Tall Tine Barber Shop in St. James, took his best buck ever last Sunday. The monster buck scored 153 3/4-inches sported 10 points, tall tines and a wide spread. I’m sure his story will be told many times in the barber shop. It’s a perk for stopping in for a haircut.
Jake Shockley of St. James posted his best buck ever on Facebook, along with a bunch of other people. Jake hit the nail on the head when he commented in his post that bowhunting is an incredibly difficult sport and that he has the utmost respect for mature whitetails.
At this writing I had only spent one afternoon in my deer blind. My food plot is the best ever this year and deer are using it heavily. Radishes and sunflowers are their favorites of all the plant varieties I planted. Turnips, wheat, oats and chicory are being nibbled on as well, but my strategically placed radishes bring the hungry deer to within 20 yards of my blind.
My first sit proved exciting. Thirty minutes before dark a yearling ran into the food plot and began feeding in the sweet spot 20 yards from my blind. The doe followed in a minute so so, but stopped short of the sweet spot and began feeding to my left. She offered several shots that I could have made, but I didn’t like the frontal angle, so I passed on the shot. Our bow season is three months long. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to put venison in the freezer.