It’s always a good idea to be cautious when driving on country roads, but fall is an extremely important time for several reasons. Two of them relate to activities taking place on farms and one of them is strictly a natural occurrence that happens in November every year.
Watch for Farm Equipment on the Roads
First, after a slow start to harvest because of frequent rain in late September and early October, we finally started catching up in the last half of the month. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there is a lot more activity in the fields and on country roads than there is just about any other time of the year. Always drive defensively and be prepared to encounter large farm equipment that may have a difficult time seeing you or getting over far enough if the shoulders are narrow.
Watch for Cattle
Second, after harvest, many farmers that also have a cow-calf herd will graze their cows on corn stalks. This is a good alternative for forage when pastures have quit growing and can reduce the need and expense for supplemental forage, such as hay, for part of the winter. Often corn fields are temporarily fenced to keep livestock in the field. These fences are adequate, but not as strong as permanent fences.
Cattle figure out pretty quickly where the boundaries are and usually don’t test them to see what’s on the other side of the fences. However, several things can cause them to get out and on the road. If something spooks the cattle, they may run through a temporary fence which is harder to see and doesn’t provide much of a physical barrier.
More often, deer (more on them later) will run through a fence, tearing it down, and providing an escape point for cattle in a field. Whatever the cause, cattle can get on country roads so carefully watch for them. Many cattle are black, making them difficult to see at night. All you may see is their eyes in the headlights until you are right up to them.
Deer Activity Increases
The other reason to be particularly cautious on country roads this time of year is deer. With many fields harvested, much of their normal cover is gone and they may be more likely to move at night. The other reason deer frequently get hit by vehicles this time of year in mid-November is the rut (breeding season) for deer. Deer that would normally be more careful when approaching a road throw all caution to the wind. They have one thing on their mind and it isn’t looking both ways before they cross the road! LOL
Hunting Season Begins
For those that enjoy this kind of activity, November offers great opportunities to get outdoor. While a couple hunting seasons opened in September or October, November is the prime month for hunting pheasants, deer, and waterfowl. Besides helping fill your freezer with delicious, nutritious, lean meat, hunting gives you an opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature. I’ve always enjoyed being outside, but I’ve seen so many things I never would have otherwise since I took up deer hunting and spend hours sitting in a tree stand.
When Hunting on Someone Else's Land
If you don’t have an area to hunt on your acreage, check with some of your farmer neighbors to see if they would allow you to hunt on their property. Some who hunt or have family members who come home to hunt may turn you down. Don’t take this personally, I don’t allow anyone to hunt on my place until my wife and I are done hunting. But I’m glad to let others hunt on my acreage (160 acres) after we’re done. I give preference to anyone who is introducing a child to hunting.
A few things to remember when hunting on someone else’s land, make sure you know where their property ends and where the property owner does and does not want you to hunt, don’t hunt near the farmstead or near livestock, if you open a gate… shut it, let the property owner know how you did when you get ready to leave, if you had good luck hunting, offer to share some of your game, and be sure to thank them. Although most property owners don’t expect it, a small gift is always appreciated. This might be a gift certificate to a restaurant in town or something that you have made like a couple jars of jelly or a craft item. This will go a long way to making sure you have a place to hunt next year.
Proper Handling and Care of Meat
One important thing to remember when harvesting any kind of wild game, proper handling and care of the meat is important to insure food safety. An additional benefit is it will reduce the “wild” taste that many people find objectionable. The deer I harvested above (I shot it, my wife just wanted to be in the picture! LOL) was field dressed within 15 minutes of when I shot it and in less than an hour the carcass had been thoroughly washed out with cold water and hung in a shaded area to cool. I didn’t drive around with it in the back of my pickup, showing it to all my hunting buddies! A good guide on handling and processing wild game can be found here.
So until next month, get out and enjoy the great outdoors… whether it’s raking leaves, cleaning up the garden or flower beds, hiking, bird watching, outdoor photography, or hunting… and have fun on your acreage!