My Grandpa Joe used to say, “August can be agony.” Yet the old mountain codger who was my “granscer” (i. e., grand sir or grand sire) was at heart an optimist, and even as he complained about just concluded August he would wax eloquent on the joys of September.
“Just listen to those katydids singing their hearts out,” he’d murmur softly, “they know frost’s a-coming before too long” (standard folk wisdom, according to him, suggested that the season’s first frost would come 90 days after you heard the first katydid singing). He’d then turn to the promise of September and the way it foretold the hunter’s greatest month – October.
“Christmas in September,” as longtime buddy Roy Turner describes the dove season opener, is just behind us. It is a watershed marking the break between the doldrums of dog days and a renewal of the ages old rites of autumn, and the smell of burnt gunpowder drifting across sere September fields bears grand promise of what lies ahead. Most dove hunting embraces only two or three outings — opening day, Labor Day, and maybe one or two more Saturday shoots.
Dove season really is, beyond that, a harbinger of good things to come. The opening of bow season for whitetails is at hand, and if you are an archery hunter and haven’t tuned up your bow and done some practicing, time’s a wasting. Similarly, if you take advantage of the black powder season, or wait for October’s modern gun hunting opener, there’s a lot to be done. If you’ve been on the ball stands already in place there’s still shooting lanes to be cleared; trails bush hogged; food plots disked, fertilized, limed, and sown; and guns sighted into a 1-inch group at one hundred yards. On a personal level I must admit there is some enjoyable “work” still ahead of me, they need attention in the next week or two.
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On top of the anticipation of deer hunting, at least some of us still think about small game. Squirrel hunting was the center of my fall existence when I was a boy. It was from the time I began scouting in late September through the opening of the season in October and on until rabbit and bird season in November. Although small-game hunting’s popularity has faded over the course of my lifetime (squirrel hunting was the No.1 sport, in terms of numbers of participants, in many Southern states 50 years ago), I would still maintain that there’s no finer way to introduce a youngster to hunting.
Beyond the anticipation associated with another hunting season — and here in South Carolina we can hunt some game animal from early September through the end of February — we can recharge batteries a bit for most of March, and then have turkey hunting in front of us as greening-up time arrives. There is some type of hunting season open for a bit more than seven months of the year (and that doesn’t count things that can be hunted throughout the year).
But the arrival of another hunting season brings the extra energy that somehow puts pep on one’s step when the first cool front brings lower temperatures and lower humidity. Also, the emotionally moving sight of a harvest moon or a hunter’s moon turning the gloaming to gold. It’s sumac and black gums and dogwoods showing scarlet even as poplars and hickories herald seasonal change with yellowing leaves.
Yes, September is sweet, and it’s made all the more appealing because October is on the near horizon.