It’s always about this time of year when my enthusiasm starts outpacing the days on the calendar.

Call it the Labor Day Syndrome.

It’s always about this time of year when my enthusiasm starts outpacing the days on the calendar.
Call it the Labor Day Syndrome.
For most of us, Labor Day seems like a natural dividing line between summer and fall or vacation and back to school. For me it’s a fulcrum of a mind-set. My interests swings overnight from dimpled birdies to the feathered variety. I’m not so interested in booming a shot off the tee as I am about a plain and simple booming shot in a sunflower field.
As it is every year, the dove season kicks off the whole enchilada for hunters. That popular season opens in Missouri on Monday, Labor Day. Hunters can pursue doves on 100 different conservation areas, including 2,800 acres of managed dove areas located in 800 fields across the state.
In our immediate area that is at Platte Falls to the north near KCI airport, or south at the extremely popular James A. Reed Wildlife Area. Both are rated to be three out of three stars for dove hunting. The Reed Area, however, is closed on Labor Day, so the dove season does not begin on that area until Tuesday.
The next major hunting season opens only two weeks after the dove opener – the turkey and deer archery season on Monday, Sept. 15.
Then it’s just one opener after another – turkey firearms, urban deer, waterfowl, upland bird, youth deer and the granddaddy of all: the firearms deer season on Saturday, Nov. 15.
Later there are seasons for the muzzleloader and antlerless deer crowd.
But as antsy as I get this time of year for a change of sporting pace, this year is dramatically different, too. I am without my sidekick, my bird dog who always accompanied me whether I was hunting quail, pheasant, deer, turkey or simply a good stand of forest.
Of course, he preferred a romp through the woods or bird hunting because he got to participate. Waiting patiently in his kennel in the car during turkey and deer season was something only he tolerated because, after all, he got to go – and that, ultimately, was what he wanted most of all.
So knowing that he will not be either romping through fields or waiting in the car for me after a deer hunt, I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d feel about returning to my usual hunting haunts this fall. Or whether I even wanted to.
And since this is about the time I’d be poking around fields, ditches and timber anyway, I decided to test the “waters” this week.
My other longtime hunting partner, Jim Monteleone, and I headed out, curious about how the winter and summer had affected deer stands and game trails. It was time to repair, reposition or rethink strategies for the upcoming archery and gun seasons.
Since Jim is also the producer/photojournalist for the segment “Outdoor Outlook” on Fox 4 News, we also were at work preparing a future feature on getting your deer stand safely in order for the new season.
As we first began our rounds, both of us, I think, were a bit taken back about how different the land looked from only months ago when we were last there. I had not returned since deer season; Jim had been there in early spring for turkey hunting. But for both of us, it seemed like a different place. Everything was overgrown, thick with new brush, weeds and blankets of pollen covering us like a dust storm.
Jim was smart enough to stay on the fringes. Not me. I couldn’t resist venturing into the poison ivy, piercing thorn bushes and deep-shaded canopy. You’d think I would learn after years of going to such forbidden places in August that I would have learned my lesson.
Once you get past – if you do – the barriers of the poison vine, and the needle-like attacks on your thighs and forearms you will eventually succumb to the spiders and their invisible yet sticky lacework of webs. No need to travel to some exotic land to get a taste of Indiana Jones – simply walk through any Missouri timber in late summer to get a sense that you might be snared, then eaten alive by blood-sucking arachnids.
Somehow I escaped my foolish expedition for game trails – although horribly entangled in sticky, gooey strands of webbing. I eventually met back up with my smarter companion, Jim, who was headed to his deer stand, which by my standards is more akin to a Ray County condo.
It was surprising to see how concealed it was in all the summer growth above and below. Since I was already covered in assorted poison oils, sticky seeds, insects and vines, I blazed yet another new trail to the bottom of the ladder. Up I climbed to the intricate, locking front door of his elevated perch.
I tried unsuccessfully to pull up the front hatch. From the ground he yelled instructions to first bang and pound on the door in order to scare any vagrant tenants such as raccoons or snakes who might eat my face should I surprise them. I pounded away heartily.
Trouble was, I couldn’t figure out his complicated system to actually opening his front hatch. Guess I’m not smarter than a raccoon or snake.
Shortly thereafter, I gave up, climbed down and simply absorbed his vicious attacks on my intelligence and manliness.
As he climbed up, I also warned him of the flesh-eating creatures that might have rudely taken up residence in his condo during the offseason. Smartly, he banged and allowed sufficient time for any squatters to escape. He yanked and tugged all his magic pulleys that opened the hatch, and he carefully peered in. No varmints and every thing seemed in order. As he started to climb in, however, he heard a familiar and ominous sound. Just about the time he identified the noise, it was too late – an angry wasp zapped him on the right cheek.
His language and demeanor reminded me of my wife’s tongue only a short week ago when she had been nailed while trimming vines around our deck.
Aaaah, but wasp stings, poison ivy and spider attacks are all part of the sensuous payoff of interacting with nature, I say. After all, the pain is no greater than, say, a triple bogey on the final hole of a summer league championship.