You need a walk in the woods

The recent rains have our woodlands looking like a South American rain forest.

Weeds along fields are so high you can’t see into the field. The browsers, such as whitetail deer are happy with all the tender leaves and the bears are looking for berries ripening all over the woods. Grouse and songbirds are dining on buds and berries now, bears are overturning rocks and tearing logs apart looking for juicy insects.

How do they grow so large when they eat such small stuff?

For me, when one season ends, I begin at once to ready myself for the next season. But the thing I have always done in the off-season for hunting is to simply spend time in the woods walking. Not hiking but walking, slowly and carefully, learning and enjoying what is there.

I generally contain my woodland wanderings to roads and trails in the summer because there is just too much risk when trekking through high grass in fields or dense foliage in the forest. Insects, snakes, bear cubs or fawns that you can get too close to, ticks, poison ivy and oak are all some of the pesky upsets you can run into during an early summer walk. I especially love to slowly walk and explore the roads on state game lands that are gated off to the public for most of the year.

Low, muddy spots in a road will reveal various tracks that spell out what is in the area. Big turkey tracks always get my heart pumping a tad faster but so do big deer or bear tracks. Droppings reveal the presence of wildlife in any area. I tuck away these locations in my memory bank for further exploring as their particular season draws closer.

But mainly, the purpose for a summer walk for me is to just enjoy the serenity, the slow pace, the quietness and the many sights of wildlife I can watch through my binoculars. Not unusual to come upon fawns and I generally just move on when I see one. I know mama is nearby and I do not want to cause either doe or fawn any stress.

Still I never go to the woods that I am not immersed with a good insect repellent that is made up mainly of DEET. My outer clothes are sprayed according to directions with Permathrim to ward off ticks. A bottle of water is a must, along with my cell phone, compass, matches and a space blanket tucked in my backpack. The latter provides great shelter should you get twisted up or even lost and face a night in the woods.

If hiking is your bag, this area is blessed with many good trails for that. Local state parks offer many fishing and hiking opportunities. Locally, Canoe Creek and Prince Gallitizin are two great places to start. Carry a small digital camera because there will be wildflowers, birds and wildlife that will offer great photo ops.

Recently I took a tour of Glendale Lake from a Pontoon boat and noticed the beautiful woods there. I wished I lived closer so I could get there more often.

July is a month that still has great fishing of many sorts, especially when lots of rain keeps the water levels up. To the trout fisherman, stream sides are now lonely places. I’ve often written of my favorite way to lure trout in summer: with a spinning rod with lightweight line, hooks and BB shot. Pick up worms, beetles, Hellgrammites and crayfish, in fact any creepy, crawly creature you come across, impaling it on a No. 14 hook and casting it softly into the head of the current and letting it drift, is a sure-fire way for summer fishing excitement.

Properly protected from the sun, insects, and from getting lost, a slow summer walk will usually reap big dividends. Once, I sat at the base of a tree to rest and soon a terrible racket began. It was several young Pileated woodpecker babies screaming for their lunch from a tree just a few feet away. I had a wonderful show that day, watching through binoculars as the mother bird tirelessly brought them worms and insects. I treasure such experiences.

Depending on the time of year, you can enjoy wild strawberries or huckleberries. Why do they taste sweeter when picked right out there in the woods? Early this last spring gobbler season, as I waited for a gobbler to react to my calls, I glanced down and there was a patch of teaberries. They tasted really good. Remember teaberry gum?


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