Luke Clayton


Last week, we spent a bit of time visiting about how to beat the heat. Looking ahead at the weather forecasts, it appears weíre in for at least another week of near record breaking temperatures. Itís a good bet there will be more than a week of heat but for now, thatís enough to anticipate.

† Letís fast forward 6 or 8 weeks to when we can depend upon the weather being much cooler. Fall is just around the corner and with it comes all the sights, sounds and smells we that love the outdoors eagerly anticipate each year.

You may not have consciously thought about it but, yes, fall does have a distinct smell. Itís a blend of wild sun cured grasses and weeds, musky decaying vegetation and ripening seeds and fruits. Itís the lemony smell of ripe sumac berries and leftover mustang grapes and ripe acorns on the forest floor.

And, for those of us that have been blessed with many falls to reflect upon, our noses can sometimes even detect the smell of squirrels and quite often the distinct scent of wild hogs, especially on days when the woods and fields are damp from recent rainfall.† Pointers and hounds use their noses much more effectively during damp conditions.

Modern man, many generations detached from having to depend upon all his senses for survival, has not completely lost the ability to detect different smells in the outdoors. Many times, Iíve taken youngsters or novice hunters out and had them stop and instinctively put their nose into the wind, sniff the air and ask, ďDo you smell that? What is it?Ē This smell that is foreign to them might be an area where wild hogs had bedded or where a rutting whitetail buck had moved ahead, upwind.

Then, when our travels take us along slow moving streams or backwater ponds, thereís that damp, pungent, dank smell thatís very difficult to describe with words. Itís the smell that fills your nostrils when youíre sitting on the banks of a stock pond waiting for a flight of doves to come to waterís edge for a late afternoon drink. Itís a combination of wet earth, rotting aquatic vegetation and often the sweet smell of blooming water lilies.

†Is there a scent more pleasant that the smell of a campfire of oak, hickory or mesquite wood on a crisp fall evening? How about bacon sizzling or coffee perking on the campfire while camping out at the lake or at the deer lease?

†What about the sights of fall? It wonít be long until we can look up during the harvest moon and, if weíre lucky, spot a big flight of migrant geese winging their way to the coastal marshes in the long, irregular V-formation. If youíve never experienced this sight, I suggest you keep your ears attuned to the honking of migration geese and cast your eyes skyward.

If youíre lucky, you will see them silhouetted against a full moon. Itís a sight you will never forget. I remember walking back from a set in a deer stand up in North Dakota a few years ago on an evening with a full moon. The moon seems to be bigger and brighter up in that country.

A flock of giant Canada geese was winging its way south from its distant nesting grounds in the Arctic. The birds decided to land and feed overnight in a huge recently harvested barley field. In my mindís eye, I can still see the big geese spiraling down, quickly losing altitude. The full moon was just above the horizon and I watched the geese settle down on the field. This sight will forever remain with me, or I hope it does.

†What is more awe-inspiring than the sight of a grove of brilliantly red sumac bushes on the edge of a small clearing way back in the woods? Or that bright orange/yellow sweetgum tree in full fall foliage? Did you ever stop beneath a big cottonwood or grove of† aspen and listen to fallís gentle breezes give life to the rustling leaves? On many occasions, Iíve taken a mid-day nap on hunting trips beneath a cottonwood here in Texas or a grove of quaking Aspens up in the Rockies. There is no sweeter lullaby to quiet a hunter than rustling leaves.†

†Have you noticed how far sound carries on a still fall evening? The yapping sound of coyotes assembling at dusk for their evening hunt or those first Ďhootsí of owls back in the still of a deep dark hollow or creek bottom is guaranteed to bring cold chills to your arms. Just writing about and recalling these experiences causes me to eagerly look forward to the passage of our first northern.

† We most certainly have a little bit more of the† sweltering heat to endure but, until that first northern comes whistling down out of the mountain states or upper midwest, we have memories of past falls to help remind us that cooler days are ahead. Who knows, in about 4 months, there might be periods when we almost wish for summerís heat. But I doubt it.


I recently made a trip down to the 6,000 acres Clay Hill Ranch near Fairfield and checked several of my trail cameras. Thanks to some heavy duty supplemental feeding by the ranch owner, we saw the images of several very impressive bucks on the cameras. Bucks antler growth is about 80 percent complete now and they will begin rubbing the velvet from their antlers in about a month. Much of the state is suffering from much dryer than normal conditions. Hunters usually begin feeding corn around the first of September but this summer, many hunters I know have continued feeding protein pellets throughout the summer. Thanks to this supplemental nutrition, all the deer I saw on my recent scouting trip were in excellent condition. Does were fat and healthy and bucks were sporting at or above average antlers. When we reviewed the images on the trail cameras, we noted a smorgasbord of wildlife hitting the feeders. The countryside is dry and wildlife will continue to suffer until we get some rainfall and things green up.

Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at† visit regularly with guests such as Bill Dance as well as a host of guides and outfitters that make their living in the outdoors.