Razzle-dazzle October


When October rolls around, Calendar designers never lack for colorful seasonal images to illustrate their printed wares.

I’d be willing to bet there are more autumnal landscapes and scenic photos taken now than during any other month in the year.

This is quite understandable. When it comes to show-stopping, this first full month of the brand-new season is inarguably the hands-down most spectacular.

For sure—no month does pure eye-catching razzle-dazzle better than October!

Being a photographer myself, with literally thousands of images squirreled away, on both film and digital formats, I still can’t resist doing my best to capture picturesque fall scenes.

Big and small, sweeping scenic or intimate still life, photos worth making, present themselves along every country road, woodland trail, lakeshore or stream bank—and just as frequently within the confined and familiar boundaries of my own back yard.

From meadow grass to maple leaf, in prairies fields and village parks, practically every living plant has been relieved from its familiar green chlorophyll mask and given a Technicolor transformation.

Gold and reds, oranges, amethysts, corals, and yellows ranging from pale lemon to intense saffron. The whole vegetative world is suddenly new and now irresistibly photogenic.

But October serves up more than just kaleidoscopic leaves. There are flawless blue skies—deep, and intense—which stretch from horizon to horizon and provide a perfect backdrop to the patchwork pageantry of those changing leaves. There are also sunsets and sunrises so breathtaking even the gaudiest leaf panorama has trouble competing.

Yeah, I’m obviously bedazzled. But, you say…enough of the hard-pitched visuals—how about the fishing?

I’d rate it Tony-the-Tiger Gr-r-r-r-eat! Arguably the best of the year…and unreservedly my favorite month for stream smallmouth.

“As the leaves come down, the fishing heats up!” my old angling pal and fellow bronzeback addict Frank Snare used to declare.

Frank would begin looking forward to October about the time the spring action started to slow down around the end of May.

“We’ll get some fish this summer,” he’d say, as June waned and the heat of July and August loomed, “providing we hang around on the creek until twilight sets in and the bass go on the prowl. But come October—why, they’ll be feeding from daylight clear through ‘til dark…fat and sassy, too!”

Seven-plus decades of wading Ohio’s best smallmouth waters had taught him when to expect the season’s peak action.

I was then a couple of decades short on matching his experience—but even so, I’d already learned the same truth. On days when streams ran warm as bathwater, and not a fish had graced our lures for hours, the thing that kept us from stowing our gear away for the hotter weeks of the year was the notion that you have to stick with something, pay the price of due diligence, to qualify and earn its eventual reward.

In this case, the anticipated payback was our faith in distant October’s bass bonanza.

Of course, largemouth, too, are on the feed this month. Along with bluegill, catfish, and just about any other species you can name. October is a prime time for crappie—and their flesh is sweeter and firmer than from fish caught in the spring.

Nope, if you’re a fisherman—especially one who likes to eat a portion of what you catch—you simply can’t overlook October.

October is hunting time, too. After all, October’s full moon has long been deemed the Hunter’s Moon.

Squirrel, ruffed grouse, archery deer, wild turkey, some waterfowl, woodcock, along with such esoterics as Virginia and Sora rails, gallinule, and common snipe are all in season at least part of the time during the month—though hunting dates for migratory birds classified as federally regulated may also be zone dependent.

You don’t need a shotgun or hunting license to go foraging, and October is a dandy month for filling your tote sack with wild eats.

Nuts come first to mind—walnuts, hickory nuts, beechnuts, butternuts.

Walnuts and hickory nuts are everywhere, free and easy to find and gather all you need. Dealing with them is admittedly a bit of work. You need to remove the messy hulls, crack the hard inner nut, and extract the large, sweet kernels. But nothing can beat their distinctive, old-timey flavor—especially if toasted a bit and added to cakes, muffins, breads, and candies. They’re excellent for eating “straight,” too.

Hickory nuts are smaller but easier to deal with. They also yield a flavorful nutmeat for baking and eating.

Butternuts, if you know where to find them, are a special treat. And beechnuts, though tiny, are nevertheless quite tasty.

When I was a kid, come October, we always picked up a large supply of both walnuts and hickory nuts. A couple bushels for us, additional bushels for the dooryard squirrels.

October also yields persimmons. The latter half of the month is usually best, once a good frost turns them from puckery to luscious-sweet. But you’ll have to beat the possums to ‘em.

October is truly a treasure. Rich, bounteous, achingly beautiful. It offers incredible leaf color, good eats, awesome skies, top-notch angling—and more.

So, breathe deeply of its refreshing air, snap its portraits, partake and enjoy its many bounties. Because all too soon, those frightful jack-o’-lanterns will have their night, and razzle-dazzle October won’t return for another whole year.

Reach Jim McGuire at [email protected].

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