OK, sports fans, just thought I would let you in on some inside information: Summer, the season that is the favorite for many of you, is almost here. As for my little neck of the woods in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains, we have had summer-like weather for about a week now.
(Disclaimer: This weather can change without warning. Here in West Virginia, our most beautiful and impoverished state, we enjoy going from winter-like weather to spring or summer conditions in a matter of hours.)
The actual date for the start of summer this year is June 20, in case you want to have your cheap sunglasses, sunscreen, flip-flops and that really awful T-shirt you like to wear ready to go. Summer, as we have discussed here before, can be a time of waiting and anticipation for the hunter and sportsman. I am here today to submit that you need to think of it as a time to enjoy as you prepare for the glorious days of fall.
So here, in my usual no particular order, are some activities for you to enjoy this summer and maybe be a little more ready for this fall.
Go fishing. This may seem like a "duh" statement because we are talking about summer, but my fishing has really suffered in the past couple years, and as usual for most things, it is all my fault. Some of you out there are dyed in the wool, hardcore fishermen, and I would say, well, I used to be. Take the time this summer and get out there and drown some worms, or however it is you fish.
Since most of you who see this column (and hopefully read it occasionally) are east of the Big Muddy, I would encourage you to concentrate on the smallmouth bass. Pound for pound, the smallmouth gives you more tug on the end of the line than any game fish out there, except for maybe the carp. (That ought to be good for a few arguments at the bait store and the barber shop.) The smallmouth is found almost everywhere in the eastern United States and is generally good for a day on the river, whether you want to float fish and throw artificial baits at him or take your time and wade fish with some live bait.
Trout fishing is certainly not done for the year, either. The stocking season may be over with in your state, but most trout streams have plenty of fish left. Last on this short list of fish for you to consider is the lowly catfish. There are worse ways to spend a summer night than tending several rods at your favorite catfish hole, and they may be the best eating fish around.
The idea here is to just get out there, go fishing, get on the water, get some fish slime on your hands and then tell lies about it later. You get the idea, right? OK, let us continue.
Get those guns out and burn some powder. If you are honest, you will admit there is usually a flurry of activity in early to mid-fall when we realize hunting time is almost here. The deer rifle we need to sight in has been lying idle, the squirrel rifle with a new scope has not been tested and we never spend enough time with our shotguns. (As I write this, the first day of dove season, Sept. 1, is just 84 days away.)
Get these guns out during the summer and go to the shooting range on a cool early morning or evening. Now I know what some of you are thinking: "We are still in an ammo shortage, and I don't have shells to practice very much!" I think we are starting to see some relief on the ammunition supply front. The companies I hear from — Federal, Remington, Winchester, to name a few — are going full blast in making product. We are starting to see some more ammo on the shelf, and what would help more than anything would be for people to stop hoarding it when it is available.
Shoot your bow, look at those tree stands, call in a coyote. You guys and girls who are die-hard deer hunters, both bow and gun, know preparing for the big buck this fall has almost become a year-round endeavor, not that you really mind.
Spending your evenings in late summer shooting some arrows in the backyard will yield big rewards in the fall. Check out those tree stands to avoid a big hurry-up deal in September when it is time to get them in the woods. We could argue all day about whether you need to put out protein feed and mineral blocks, but if you do it, now is the time to get it out there.
In most areas, the coyote has a year-round season, and most deer and turkey hunters figure any coyote they take out of the equation is a plus. This could take up several of your early mornings and late evenings in summer, but first check your state regulations to make sure you are OK to take a crack at Wile E. Coyote.
Well, as usual I meant to cover a lot more with you and we just ran out of time. I think you get the idea, though: Take advantage of and enjoy this summer in the woods and on the streams. My brothers and sisters in camo, it will be over before you know it.
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.