The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


September 22, 2013

Mallards on the pond: a beautiful sight

The telltale signs of fall arrived this week with the appearance of 14 Mallard ducks in the pond I can see from my office window. They seem perfectly content with their short-term home feeding in the shallows and resting sleepily during the day under the shade of the silver maple. I cherish their arrival every fall.

An after work stroll through the woods this week also provided a strong indicator of fall. A glance overhead at the canopy of leaves showed the trees responding to the gentler rays of sun with hints of yellow and pale greens as their leaves begin to change. This time of year, squirrels are busy cutting beech and hickory nuts, scattering and hoarding their stash in preparation for winter’s cold grip on the natural world. In between their chores, they can be seen flashing their tails and heard barking at each other throughout the treetop canopy.

Backyard apple trees are full and their limbs bowed from the hanging fruit that is enticing deer with the sweet smell of ripening fruit. Soon, produce counters will be filled with seasonal apple varieties like Stayman, Rome and Honeycrisp that are perfect for snacking or making homemade pies. Cellar shelves are once again useful to store cans of fresh-picked vegetables from the garden patch. Cool evenings allow for the thoughts of soups being prepared for dinner giving the back porch grill a rest from its summertime tour of duty.

Like in nature, we too begin the process of change that occurs when summer turns to fall. At home, air-conditioners get a much needed rest with windows being opened to allow the fresh air to fill the rooms with the feel of fall. There will certainly be a day or two left of summer-like weather to catch a bonus day of fishing or two, but for most sportsmen, the transition into fall means the excitement of time afield and the anticipation of the chase of game that can only be enjoyed in months ending with the letter “r”.  

With archery season opening here in West Virginia on Sept. 28, bowhunters will be busy this week with last-minute scouting chores of checking trial cameras and deciding where the perfect spot is to hang their stands for the opener. Plenty of arrows will be flung at backyard targets to ready themselves and their equipment for the moment when Mr. Big walks slowly toward them and the shot is presented. The anticipation and planning of that moment is enough to keep even the most seasoned hunter awake tossing and turning the night before the hunt.

For those of us who choose to hunt ducks, there is still time to find the perfect location for a new blind to be built and plenty of time to tune an old call. Nothing says fall like driving those who live in your house batty trying out a new duck call in the still of the evenings.  The three-way split season for ducks starts with the first segment opening on Oct. 1.   

This week I plan on driving to work with my windows down, dragging out a flannel shirt from deep within my closet and spending as much time as possible outside in the cooler air. Feel free to join me and don’t worry about dinner; I will have the vegetable soup on the stove simmering and waiting on us to return from afield.

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  • Gettin’ ready for gobbler season: Step 4 — the setup

    This just in — in a recent study on turkey hunting and turkey hunters it was found that 98.7 percent of the time when hunters were unsuccessful when calling in a gobbler, the hunter made some mistake during the last 50 yards of the bird’s approach.

    April 17, 2014

  • 041314 Ellis.jpg Spring break is an attitude

    Finally, warmer weather has arrived to the Mountain State. I’m told, it’s socially acceptable to be late nowadays and there is even a term for it — being fashionably late. Of course, I have also been told that camo is the new black in fashion. I don’t care much for tardiness, or for fashion for that matter, but I am perfectly content with the weather forecaster’s report as of late. And if wearing camouflage is trendy, I will fit in just nicely at any social gathering.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Coming soon to a garden near you: Hummingbirds!

    One of the things I look forward to each spring is the northbound migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds. Until 1997, that meant waiting until one showed up at my feeders. But that year a website (, began mapping hummers as they moved north.

    April 13, 2014

  • Morel mushrooms are a W.Va. delicacy, but be careful

    The morel mushroom is one of West Virginia’s best-known delicacies that grows wild in the woods statewide. Mushroom hunting is a wonderful way to get exercise and be in the outdoors at the same time. There is no expense involved, and a bag is all that is needed.

    April 13, 2014

  • 041014 Turkey Call Gettin’ ready for gobbler season: the mystical world of calling

    Do you think that calling wild turkeys into shotgun range is some sort of art form that can never be yours?

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fishing is a good way to introduce kids to the outdoors

    Few experiences are more rewarding than introducing a child to the outdoors. I remember teaching my daughters at the age of 3 to recognize the voice of a barred owl — “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all!” They were amazed they could identify a bird without seeing it.

    April 6, 2014

  • ‘A river runs through it’

    He was a natural at reading water. Whether in a kayak, a whitewater raft or a fishing boat, he simply saw water differently than most. He was good, no doubt about it. When I was learning to row a raft down whitewater, I asked him for his guidance. He would sit in the back of the raft coaching me on waters and their currents. With his help, I too began to see the waters differently and read the river.

    April 6, 2014

  • 040314 turkey feather Gettin’ ready for gobbler season: Step two — scouting

    So you want more hero pictures this year crouched behind a big gobbler fanning his tail out? Either that or the ever popular gripping him around the neck and straining to hold up his 20 plus pounds?

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • 033014 Ellis.jpg Sportsmen’s tax dollars prove very beneficial

    If you enjoy wildlife recreation and conservation, you may want to find the nearest sportsman in your neighborhood and shake their hand. Ultimately, it’s their spending of dollars on the equipment to fuel the passion of the lifestyle they cherish that brings in millions of dollars to our state for wildlife.

    March 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • You may know more bird songs than you think

    Early migrants began returning several weeks ago. Turkey vultures, killdeer, and phoebes were probably as befuddled by the late winter weather as we were. But by early April, we should be safe from any more extended cold snaps. And that means the parade of returning migratory birds will accelerate every week.

    March 30, 2014

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    Click HERE for stories about natural gas and Marcellus shale gas extraction.

    Click HERE for stories about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    Click HERE for stories about the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

    Click HERE for stories from The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR event.

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