Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer's End

Backyard Bounty

The end of August and the beginning of September mark the most colorful changes of seasons. The fairs and Field Days have passed and families are languishing in the last of summer’s freedom. Thedog days of August exhale the last breath of summer heat and the evenings begin to soften withcooler breezes from the northwest. Tomatoes ripen into bright reds and yellows. Peppers display the heat of the summer sun and turn bright yellow, green and red.

Yet, the changes in our backyards pale in comparison to the intensity of the woods and waters.

Squirrels, with their mouths chocked full of ripening acorns, can be heard chipping off the husks in the canopy of oaks. In the distance, a thwap-bap-bap-bap-bap echoes through the undergrowth as a partridge beats his wings against his chest. I like to call them “partridge” even though they are technically Bonassus Umbellus, or ruffed grouse. I do it just to irritate the gentry.

Families of turkeys, with their poults running to keep up with the hens, dart across the dirt road to the fields to dine on the late afternoon hatch of insects and grubs. The poults are pint-sized and tawny brown, and are still learning the ropes from the hens.

Colors of Fall
In the mountain streams, the water temperatures begin to drop from a series of cool evenings and the brook trout adapt their colors with extraordinarily bright orange fins tipped in white, their flanks dotted in blue, red and green. They are imitating nature’s beauty to stimulate their spawning run.

Against the far edge of a field, sitting like a Buddha on her haunches, a black bear munches on blackberries while her cubs roll in the second cut hayfield. They bat at one another, mock fighting and wrestling as if their summer would never end.

Whitetail deer tip toe out to shaded openings on the edge of another field, testing the moist grasses as the sun sets over the Adirondacks. A doe and her now mature fawns flick their tails from side to side, asking if it is okay to step out into the field a bit further. They look back over their shoulders at something still in the trees.

As the last glimmer of sunlight slips below the tree line, he steps out. His head his high and his ears are twitching. He lifts his nose into the air and breathes in deeply. The fragrance of ripe apples tantalizes him and he stretches his neck further forward. As he does, the last glint of sunlight caches his tines. They glow a polished russet brown. Eight distinct branches rise off of his main beam. The two brow tines in the center are at least eight inches high. The symmetry of the rack is punctuated only by the width of the spread.

He is the dominant buck in this area. There are two others that step out behind him with beautiful but lesser racks. They will hope to overthrow the monarch before breeding season.

Summer Fade
As the light begins to fade a distant honking grows louder and in just a few seconds big Canada geese are flying over at treetop height, wings cupped and heads craning from side to side, scanning the bay for a landing zone on the leeward side of the breakwater. Feet down and moaning, they pitch into the bay to roost for the night.

The light continues to filter into a helio horizon and finally fades into the murky mountains to the west.

Opening Morning
September 1 is the Opening Day of Resident Canada Goose season. Lest anyone not understand the proliferation of these majestic fowl, the VT Fish and Wildlife, in an attempt to manage the overpopulation of these birds, have chosen to open the season before Labor Day and increase the bag limit from five birds per day to eight per day for 25 days.

No hunter ever expects to be able to hunt all 25 days, and it is a rarity that a few can actually shoot a limit of birds on any day.

Ethical hunters will appreciate this and honor the animal by taking only what they can use to sustain and nurture their family and friends.

If you’re lucky, and you happen to be at Spear’s Store in East Charlotte after a successful hunt, you may be able to try our tamari marinated smoked goose breast.

A hunters’ cheer to all! Autumn’s bounty has arrived!