By Bob Fala
Out and about in their sleek summer coats and new set of velvety growing antlers, bucks form bachelor groups. It’s a good time of year to get out and check out this year’s crop of antlered ones. These buck groups won’t be so tolerant of each other when the fall mating season arrives. The female deer are still a bit solitary and suspicious, not wanting to reveal the location of their fast growing, spotted and still yet suckling fawns. All that is amidst a colorful array of summer wildflowers to enhance the show.
There are the flat whites of summer daisies and wild carrot or Queen Ann’s lace. You can grab a pinch of their parsley looking leaves for that, you know, fresh carrot smell. The light blues of chicory, bright yellows of evening primrose and the black-eyed Susans chime in. Now throw is the pinks of milkweed plus the scarlet red of bee balm.
But those late blooming elderberries had better get to the fruit stage fast before the first frost arrives in the high country. The rhododendron State flowers have hung in there nicely, but the forest floor is now littered with their rotting petals.
It won’t be long ‘til that summer flower patch gives way to goldenrod, purple asters and the blues of ironweed to signal yet another season turning. The fawns will be coming out of the woodwork, losing their spots while growing into their first brown winter coat. The antlers of the bucks are reaching their full growth potential, starting to dry out and harden for the arduous mating tasks to come.
The autumn mast is forming and children begin to sense the coming school days ahead. Farmers and hunters also ponder what lies ahead, around time of the harvest moon…
The Kentucky or spotted bass looks something like a perfect cross between their better known and larger cousins, the smallmouth and largemouth basses. Closer to the latter in appearance, the spotted bass however also earn their own individual species rights. They prefer the warmer climes south of the Mason-Dixon Line including right here in southern West Virginia and Kentucky of course.
Also more akin to the largemouth, the “spots” prefer sluggish waters, particularly around woody structure. The smallmouth bass on the other hand are fixated on the faster flowing, rocky bottomed river and streams. Smallmouths also do well in the rockier bottomed portions of lakes.
Locally, the Guyandotte, Tug Fork and Coal River systems have decent numbers of Kentucky Spots in the right places. For another, R. D. Bailey Lake right here on the Upper Guyandotte River is a perennial producer of West Virginia trophy class or “citation” spots.
Trophies in the fish world are relative by necessity. Reason being, the spotted bass just don’t get as big as their kindred game species. Along those lines, it takes just 1.5 pounds to muster a trophy spot citation; whereas, five-pounds are needed for a largemouth and four will do you for the smallmouth variety.
By the way, a tip of the hat goes to Delbarton’s Rebecca and Clyde Pruitt Jr. who received not one, but three separate trophy citations for spots caught right here at you guessed it, R. D. Bailey Lake.
A little follow up is in order. That’s to a recent feature on all those critters out there that like a little fish on their outdoor menu. We received a report complete with photos of a mink and a fish hawk or osprey from the Coal River system. From the Hart’s area a whole family of young mink made some headlines as did one along Buffalo Creek in Logan County.
Then there were these local barred owls that were quite fond of their crayfish meals. Thinking that an oddity at first, another publication revealed the mini-lobsters are a staple food item on the barred owl bucket list. And every now and again, we get a local report of the “big bird” of the fish eating world, the bald eagle.
Captain D’s and Long John Silver’s had better be on the lookout….