The crackle and popping sounds of small stones being compressed under the wheels of my vehicle was a familiar sound. It was one that was most welcomed, especially since the windows were down and a light breeze sailed in one window and out of the other.
The pace was slow, with plenty of opportunity to scan the woods. This time of year it’s easy for me to slow down by turning off the hard road and taking a leisurely drive on a dirt road.
Today roadways not covered with asphalt or cement are labeled as “improved dirt roads”. At least that’s how they are described.
This road less traveled and many like it provides enough room for vehicles to pass, but not much more than that. And that’s the way it should be. After all, it’s not speed and convenience we’re talking about here. Rather it’s where the road leads and the terrain that is traversed that is what’s important.
For a several weeks now the leaves on the trees have begun to lose their vibrant deep green color. Overhead the once full canopy of leaves are becoming more open. Tree leaves have begun to shrivel somewhat. It’s a sign the forest is beginning to prepare for winter.
Another sure sign of the change of seasons is found through listening. The sound of the wind parting the leaves of most trees sings a different tune.
If you listen now, other sounds fill the air. Now male cicada’s can be heard during daylight hours. But not for long. Another familiar and comforting tune heard is that of crickets. It is one that also confirms the seasons are about to change.
It’s hard to imagine that in two short months the leaves will begin to “turn color”. By then the fall migration of birds will have begun. A kind of in your face indicator that change is approaching, quickly.
Right now the bucks are in velvet. Different than what we’ll see a month or so from now.
As fall begins to approach, for deer and especially for the bucks, the boys of summer will begin to become increasingly nervous. Kind of like a schoolboy reaching puberty. But unlike the permanent maturing that takes place with humans, it is not the same for whitetails.
A whitetail’s sex drive is an annual occurrence which is controlled by the amount of light entering the animal’s eye and called a photo-period. It is the photo-period that controls the release of hormones regulated by the animal’s brain.
As the days begin to shorten and with the approach of fall, the swollen appearance of the velvet continues to be lessened.
Right now a buck’s rack will not become too much larger. From here on out bone growth is almost nonexistent. With each passing day the velvet at the end of each tine appears to become increasingly shallow. The hairs protruding from the velvet takes on a light brown color. It won’t be long until bucks will begin shedding the covering that once provided nourishment to once growing bone.
My travels began during the early evening hours. Now as daylight begins to diminish, cool air begins to be felt. With the vehicle windows down the passing air brings with it cool then warm pockets of air. The change is refreshing. Wildlife is also stimulated by the change.
Wildlife tends to retreat from the heat of the day remaining in cooler locations. Now with the heat of the day moderating, whitetails and other animals begin to move. This is when open fields receive more that an occasional glance.
The evening hours provide increased opportunity to observe wildlife. In the case of deer, the does are generally the first to be seen. The bucks tend be observed later, closer to nightfall. However what you see is not always what one can expect to find a number of weeks from now.
A good case in point occurred last fall. From the opening day of archery season until several weeks before the opening of black bear season I had located nine black bears. The majority of the bruins were observed consistently. Good news, especially since a number of friends and I had bear tags.
However as bear season approached, their readily available food sources were already consumed. Come opening day the bears left the area for areas that better provided for their needs.
Right now the cicada and the sounds of crickets bear witness to fact that change is on the way. Seasonal changes are taking place, but it won’t be long until they occur at a much faster pace. Look forward to that.
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Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, an active member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, Outdoor Writers Assoc. of America and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is GWOutdoors@comcast.net