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A trip down memory lane takes a detour through Texas

Commentary

Early in the 1990s, I crossed the border in Del Rio, Texas. It brings back so many memories of one of the most exciting turkey hunts I ever had. And how I never would have believed the circumstances down there now.

I had the honor of being invited to go there to hunt Rio Grande turkeys with Preston Pittman, one of the country’s best turkey hunters and call manufacturers and a friend of his, Ken Woodard, a policeman from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It was wondrous experience and the three of us each got two gobblers on that trip.

While hunting on that private ranch that bordered the Rio Grande River, The three of us were headed back to the lodge at lunchtime. Temperatures were in the upper 90s and so we would have lunch, rest a bit and head out again later that afternoon.

As we walked, Woodard stopped abruptly and so Preston and I stopped too.

“I saw something move in the woods,” Ken said.

We all strained our eyes and we all saw almost at the same time … three men hunched over, sneaking through the brush. We remarked about what a dangerous thing that was to do and when we reached the lodge we told our host about it.

He got all excited, and called the Civil Air Patrol to report it. They came out to the ranch in an airplane, spotted the men, landed the plane and arrested them. They hustled them off to jail.

What a view!

The owner of the ranch owned a small two-seater plane so he took me for a spin over the Rio Grande River.

I took a bunch of photos of that river and they turned out beautifully. Once back home, I wrote an article for a major magazine called “Rio Grandes On The Trio Grande.” It was such a pleasure to see some of the photos of the river published with the article.

It starts Saturday

When October hits, several species of small-game seasons come in to play … rabbits, pheasants and so on. But the biggest attraction, I suppose, is archery season which debuts this weekend.

Weather predictions for the archery deer season opener are favorable. Chilly, foggy mornings, warm afternoons and then chilly again as evenings approach usually prompts deer to feed often so during the first week or two of season most archers post at likely food sources. Or along deer trails between bedding and feeding areas.

Bucks are now feeling the approach of the rut. They are occupied rubbing their antlers free of velvet. Small territorial scrapes begin to appear and does are annoyed at any buck’s pesky, amorous moods right now. Bucks are sparring, though not too seriously yet.

It’s just a wonderful time to be in the woods. It seems like everything is in a hurry to get ready for winter. Squirrels are scampering for mast to store in their dens, bears lumbering about looking for food as their denning time is not too far off.

Complaints from wives about the salmon eggs, mealy worms and turkey calls they find tucked away into corners of their refrigerators simply amuses me. I know what the ladies expect me to say but my reply always is that my sympathies lie with the fellows on this one.

My refrigerator also contains these necessary items. In fact, awhile back, I laughed to myself as I cleaned out my lingerie drawer and unearthed, not lavender sachet, but a bottle of fox urine and two bottles of doe-in-heat scent.

Using scents is certainly a boon to the hunter’s game plan but there is so much information about how to use scents effectively and some of it is downright confusing. A few years ago, I attended with a friend a seminar on the subject of proper deer lure use given by a well-known archery hunter. My friend had a notebook and pen ready to take down the instructions the speaker would give.

The hunter proceeded to tell how he carried several kinds of scents into the woods with him and how he saturated cotton balls with one kind of scent and hung them on bushes surrounding his tree stand. Of course he had pads that attached to his boots and he doused them with another kind of scent so he would leave a “trail” for deer to follow.

Once in the stand, he declared, he had spray bottles of particular scents and every so often he would spray one kind of scent out to the right of his stand and then after awhile he’d spray a different scent out the left side of his stand. Well, this was too complicated for my novice friend to follow so he rolled his eyes, clapped the notebook shut and slumped in his seat. It was just all too much trouble.

The vital thing for archers is for them to be as scent-free as possible while afield. Care should be taken to keep hunting clothes and boots from absorbing everyday scents, such as garlic, the dog, gasoline and the hoagie we pick up to eat on the way to the woods.

Smart archers wash their clothes, body and hair often in scent-free soaps. The spray-on scent free products are quite effective in removing odors. They really should be used as a final masking of lingering traces of human odor rather than being relied on for covering up heavy odors.

Too many hunters rely on scents to cover up all the noxious human smells that accumulate on clothes, boots and gear. This is a big mistake. Scents should be subtle, as they are in the woods. Deer have a greater sense of smell than hunters do and great gobs of scent splashed onto clothes etc. is just too powerful for deer. They know this is not natural and shy away.

A few drops of appropriate scent will help convince the buck his senses are right.

In my opinion, scents can boost your chances, if used sparingly and correctly. But reeking of strong doses of some kind of cover spray if you haven’t showered or changed your clothes for 3 days and spilled ketchup on your shirt and your breath reeks of onions is futile. Your body odors will come through mixed with a smell of pine or strawberry or even earth scent (the choices seem endless) and will more than likely spook a smart buck than to draw him to you.

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