October 2, 2023

Fall Senses

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Quite some time ago now, I wrote two stories leading up to the opening of the fall hunting seasons. The first one titled, “Fall Senses” I will post here today. The second I will do in two parts, the first part beginning on Thursday followed by Part II on Monday November 6th.

Here is Fall Senses.

Fall Senses
By Thomas Remington

Aaahhhhh! The smell of autumn is in the air. Is there really anything like that familiar smell of fall in Maine? I’ve traveled around some and lived in other parts of the United States enough to know that every region has four seasons to some degree – some so subtle that it takes a while living in a region to notice season changes. I’ve been living in Florida now year round for about 5 years. Now I can tell when fall is in the air here. When I first came down here, it was laughable when people talked of there being fall in the air. Living most of ones life in Maine and experiencing the extreme season changes makes it that much more difficult to sense the changes in places where the transition is not that noticeable.

There is something magical about walking outside in mid-October on a frosty morning and smelling rotting foliage that has fallen from the trees only a couple of weeks prior. The stubborn leaves such as winter beech and scrub oak cling tightly to their host trees. The already fallen leaves begin to curl and become dry and crunchy sounding when you walk on them. The brilliant colors of what seems only a few days ago are now turning brown and the pine trees are also shedding some of its summer clothing in preparation of the harsh winds and snows about to dominate the landscape. What once seemed only a thick and sometimes non-penetrable forest, now opens to reveal itself in a way that drives many away because of its starkness and lack of color. For those who know what is actually in there, it is a magnate and a world of discovery and beauty.

So what is so magical about that familiar smell? It really isn’t a pleasant smell. It is strong and pungent and often makes the inside of your nostril sting. I don’t think it is the actual odor that tingles the senses as much as it is association. After all, isn’t that what helps us to remember odors. Most times we connect a specific smell with an event. Perhaps it is something that we are doing at the time that we thoroughly enjoy that helps us to recall. To me the odor that comes from an outboard motor triggers memories in my brain that take me back to hours and hours of fun times at the lake water skiing, swimming and playing with boats. So too is the smell of fall related to the memories of hunting and being in the woods for long stretches of time.

Fall is a time that means different things to different people. For me it signals hunting season. Ducks are migrating, geese are honking overhead, and the partridge have ceased their incessant drumming and are now seen sunning themselves in the bright sunshine on a cold day. The apples have fallen and the deer can begin their evening treks to the old orchards in search of a delicious Macintosh or a Golden Delicious. The oak trees are also shedding their crops of big acorns and if it is a good year, the beech trees will offer up some hearty feasts for the squirrels, partridge and deer. All of these events seem to culminate around the same time of year to usher in an event that’s cherished by many Maine natives.

The days grow shorter and the nights get colder and most hunters believe the combination of these two prompts the whitetail deer to start moving around more in search of food supplies to get fattened up for the long winter ahead. Mating season begins in the fall as well and in many instances, affords spectators a glimpse under a car light or a flash of tail in the woods as they are roaming about seemingly out of control by the urges that Mother Nature bestows upon them.

Our senses are keen, if we pay attention to them. Our eyes take in more photographic impressions to the brain but too many times we are too busy to click the shutter and embed that moment into our thought file. Fall can be a dismal time of year for many because they refuse to see what is hidden in the natural beauty around them. The forest is open and the moments to capture are endless but you have to go into the woods, deep in the woods many times and remain quite and watch.

The years I have spent hunting in the Maine woods for me has etched what seems an endless supply of moments – moments that sometimes cannot be described. There have been times when the silence was overpowering, the scenic vistas unending, the recollection of the monster buck quartering away in the morning sunlight with steam spraying in two directions as he breathed surreal and they are mine – mine to share if I choose. Do you have yours?

All of this adds up to one thing. Fall is here and what is magical about it comes from within. A world that becomes stirred-up beginning in September and reaches a rolling boil by about November first each year. One little smell on a cold and frosty morning can trigger a chain of events that can become uncontrollable.

Tom Remington