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PAUL SMITH: Ode to autumn

Wow, that looks like so much fun. Rory and Harry raked those leaves together mostly by themselves.
Wow, that looks like so much fun. Rory and Harry raked those leaves together mostly by themselves. - Paul Smith

Autumn is a magically season, cliché to say I suppose, but I really mean it.

The brilliant colours and hues of all those deciduous trees shedding their summer foliage is reason enough to love October and November, especial those inclined towards photography.

Orange, yellow and red earthy tones in evening and morning light are absolutely amazing. Morning is most spectacular I think.

As a duck hunter I’ve witnessed this brilliant display of nature’s wild and random beauty so many times. Picture this, a mist rising off the pond as the sun’s soft morning glow lights up the surrounding forest, the woods painted by autumn’s brush in all imaginable shades, birch, maple, tamarack, aspen, alder, and all distinguishingly different. Mingled with the green of spruce and balsam fir, it is beautiful beyond what prose can convey.

Then there’s the whistling of wings above the tall spruce that conceals us. There really is more to duck hunting then just shooting birds. Another cliché for sure, but it’s true, not only for waterfowling, but almost all of recreational hunting and fishing, double down true for salmon fishing.

The woods is a wonderful place to be in the autumn, and for me at least, the Zen, and the ambiance is the essence of the hunting life. I’m not sure I started out that way, but that’s where I am now. I think as a teenager the quest might have been more about filling my game bag, but I still did love those sunrises.

This is about as good as it gets.
This is about as good as it gets.

And why else would a teenage boy find himself hidden by the side of a backcountry pond in November watching the sunrise? I can’t really think of anything. Hunting has been good for my soul.

We got moose hunting off the agenda early this fall.

Remember I wrote about that double moose kill on the first day of the season in early October. That gives me the remainder of autumn to enjoy smaller game hunting and some good old aimless wandering around the woods. I’m planning on a few duck hunts and definitely a line of rabbit snares.

I haven’t snared rabbits in quite a while but this November I’m setting out 25 or so to secure a supply of rabbits for winter. I love rabbit, either fried, stewed, roasted or boiled. I think it is my favourite meat. The gravy from roasted rabbit is wicked, best on planet Earth.

Stay tuned for that. And yes, I have eaten boiled rabbit.

Not everybody hunts, it’s true.

There are folks who love the outdoors but never take a gun in their hand to shoot a critter. I know a few very hardcore anglers who never bother with hunting.

Hey, autumn sea trout fishing is permitted here on the Avalon Peninsula and it is a fantastic fishery. Sea-run brown trout returning from the ocean in autumn are in absolute prime condition, silver and rotund from a summer of feasting on caplin, squid, herring, and the like.

I love it. In addition, fall salmon fishing is allowed on three major rivers, the Humber, Gander, and Exploits. I have never taken this unique opportunity to wet a line.

Maybe next year I will make the effort.

One of the most popular shooting sports ever in Newfoundland was partridge hunting over dogs.

I say was because partridge populations have crashed and there just aren’t enough birds to get hunting inclined folks motivated. I think of my Uncle Jim Miller from Topsail who kept dogs and hunted partridge just about all his life.

My Aunt Marge used to tag along with him sometimes, not shooting, but just to soak it all in, the autumn ambiance and the dogs at work. She loved their setters, and took great pride in training them. It is a shame that this treasure of an autumn tradition is dying out fast.

I can’t say that I’m a partridge hunter, or ever have been, at least not in the dedicated love of the sport sense that characterizes some hunters. I’ve only hunted over dogs a few times, and that was with my friends Randy and Gordon Stone of Harbour Grace.

I loved it, but you just can’t do everything. At the time I was keeping beagles and dedicating a lot of time to rabbit shooting over dogs. And of course I hunted ducks and moose as well.

It really is a special time to be in the woods.
It really is a special time to be in the woods.

There are only so many hours in the day and days in the week.

Anyway, lately I’ve been having a few chats with David Moores of Harbour Grace. David has been a lifelong partridge hunter and loves shooting over dogs on the barrens above all the outdoors here in Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer. He’s retired from his business life now and is dedicating himself to resurrecting the Partridge Forever Society, and seeing if anything can be done to restore our heritage gamebird populations. I’m committed to helping out and you will be hearing more about this effort in coming weeks.

You know what I like about November, besides photography and hunting? We don’t have to cut grass or clear snow.

I execute my last grass cut in September. I like to leave it a bit long over winter to protect the roots, or at least that’s the story I’m sticking to. And. At least here on the Avalon, we rarely get much snow before December.

It’s the shoulder season for yard work. The only chore is to rake and mulch leaves, and that’s only a bit of fun. My grandkids love raking leaves together, and then I can just drive over the piles with my yard tractor. It a done deal, free mulch, fun in the autumn sun, and the work is complete. By spring the natural nutrients from the leaves are fertilizing new grass growth.

It really is a grand time of year. Get out and enjoy, before the snow comes. It won’t be long.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock.


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