The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 22, 2013

Mallards on the pond: a beautiful sight

By Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald

— 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.