The fall outdoor season is upon us, the wild grasses in the back country are especially smelly this time of year. Some have a distinct petroleum scent, tar or creosote with an under odor of heavy decay. These perennials will soon disappear into the soil with the heavy rains of winter, leaving a mat of vegetation for next year’s growth. A favorite common weed locally is, Croton setigerus, aka. Lambs Toungue and Dove Weed. A low growing beauty with velvet covered leaves, it grows in late summer and lasts until the heavy rains. This is a favorite of local doves, they fly in clouds and peck the ground for the tiny seeds, wild turkey also like this plant. From a ‘smart smeller’ perspective, it is unimpressive but the real draw for two-legged fans is the texture of this low growing plant. You will find it growing in open fields in gregarious clumps, particularly robust in domestic grazing areas. The leaves are pale green with a silvery finish. To look at this plant Google Image search by the botanical name.
Now is the time our creeks change to fall scents; the creek waters remind me of oak trees layered with peppery Bay. Do you know some smaller streams that seem to come and go are fed primarily by oaks this time of year? The big trees hold vast quantities of water which they release in a common cycle. When conditions are right some of the withheld water is purged which then seeps into drainages. Some small creeks are dry one day and have running water the next without rain. The exuded water has a delicate scent similar to our oak trees, (Quercus family), which is also flavored by the damp roots and stream side growth of creek bottoms.
Fall is when hunters and fishers prepare for the annual harvest, soon duck season kicks off and upland game birds are hunted. If you are a hunter and have never bagged a pheasant rooster you are in for a treat. These birds hold tight to cover then burst into the air with a noisy flap of wings and their odd squawk. The stunningly beautiful ring-necks are not native here and are mostly raised on game bird farms and released for member- only hunters. So many have escaped over the years that there is a substantial wild population. For hunting specifics search the Cal DFG web site for ‘upland game birds’ there you will also find links to public hunting areas. Even though wild boar is taken year around, the fall season is especially good for taking these destructive porkers.
Fishing reports are fair in fresh water, Lake Sonoma is reporting large-mouth bass and some trout being taken on a slow troll. Saltwater fishing is plugging along right now it is not the exceptional two-fish limit in half an hour of last month but better than most years for late summer anglers. Rock fish are still available in abundance along the shores and close in for party boats.
Sportsmen’s Warehouse in Rohnert Park has scheduled classes in fly tying and the basics of reloading to occupy your time when you are trapped inside this winter. They also have an introduction to duck hunting seminar. For dates and times visit their web site or call the store.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Mycological Society. Look for his column each week in The Community Voice.