WV Bananna: Paw Paws, The Unknown Fruit (And Deer Food)


So everyone has heard the old children’s song about the “Paw Paw Patch,” that goes like this:

Where, oh where, oh where is Susie?
Where, oh where, oh where is Susie?
Where, oh where, of where is Susie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

Chorus:
Picking up paw-paws; put ’em in a basket.
Picking up paw-paws; put ’em in a basket.
Picking up paw-paws;put ’em in a basket.
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

But did you know anything about the Paw Paws they are singing about?

Paw Paws (also known as the WV Banana as well as other states claiming it to be their banana) is a fruit that grows in eastern North America forests and unless you know what you are looking for, you might just over look them.

In West Virginia, there are many festivals and celebrations that celebrate the fruit. The Paw Paw is a very tasty fruit and can be eaten raw (after it ripens and turns brown) and is also an ingredient in Paw Paw pie.

One of the things with being an outdoorsman, I am always looking at what wildlife eats. One day I was hunting squirrels in October and as I was sitting there, I kept hearing a loud plop in the hollow below me. I ignored it at first, but then I heard more plops and deer began to show up. After a while the curiosity got the best of me and I walked toward the sounds only to find Paw Paws hitting the ground and just like a deer feeder throwing corn out, the deer came running, eating them as fast as they were falling.

When you are looking to see if you have Paw Paws, here are a few photos to help you recognize them.


 

 

Here is what the leaves look like.

 

 

 

 

 

The trees are slender but tall and the weight of the Paw Paws make the trees lean.

 

 

 

 

Here are how the Paw Paws look in the trees.

The key to hunting around Paw Paws is to make sure you are in the woods when they start dropping for two reasons:  1. You want to be there when the deer are in there feeding and 2. you want to be able to pick some for yourself before the deer and wildlife eat them all.

 

Many people have never seen Paw Paws before, but in WV, they are all over the place and easy to find, if you know what you are looking for.

Watch this video that I made, showing a good Paw Paw patch. Enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer, live off the land and live healthy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Women Hit the Woods: Inspire a New Generation of Hunters


By Jeff Nichols

There is a whole new generation of hunters coming up and I am very proud and impressed by their ethics and skills. To top it off, I am very happy to see a very large number of women and girls who are starting to hunt and enjoy the outdoors. Eva Shockey, Kendall Jones, Taylor Altom, and Stephanie Ray just to name a few, are some of those women who are showing the world that there is nothing wrong with hunting ethically and harvesting game for food. You see the photos, read the articles, but there is more to hunting than pulling the trigger. That is just the beginning, after the animal goes down, then the work starts, field dressing, dragging, skinning and processing. But they all do it with excitement and a smile on their faces. Those smiles and those actions have caught the attention of a lot of young girls who see what these great role models are doing and are beginning to follow in their footsteps.

steph

Stephanie Ray hunting with her grandfather’s Winchester model 12 shotgun.

Stephanie Ray, from southern Michigan is one of the women above that has taken to the outdoors to enjoy nature and engage in ethical hunting.

What got her into hunting is the question most people will ask, and for Stephanie and just about every other hunter, the answer is usually the same. “I hunt because I love the outdoors, the sport, and the challenge. I have a sense of pride that I can provide meat for myself and my family,” Stephanie says. “Being in the woods also gives me time to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature while spending quality time with friends who enjoy the same things I do.”

After growing up in the city Stephanie decided to move to the country eight years ago, and it was seven years ago, she decided to see what hunting was about. “I went and sat in a blind with the guy I was dating at the time on a bow hunt,” she recalls. “He shot a nice buck, and me, always up for a challenge, wanted to try it too. So I bought a bow and the deal was if I practiced, and was consistent, I could go.”

Like so many other hunters, with practice and the right equipment, she set out to become proficient and comfortable with her bow.

steph_practice

Stephanie practicing during the off-season.

“Within a week, I was consistent. My first time out, I shot the first deer I saw, and watched it fall,” she says. “Although I was able to tune out, ‘shoot her, shoot her’ and focus, we walked up on a button buck. I was still so happy, and honestly wasn’t sure if this was a bad thing – I grew up in the city. This was all new to me.”

 

Although women have been hunting since the beginning of the human race, it wasn’t until a few years ago when they began featuring women hunters on prominent hunting shows and in outdoor magazines. Now with a new group of young women hunting, the sport has gotten a whole new generation interested in the outdoors.

Like many others, Stephanie loved being in the outdoors and after harvesting her first deer with a bow, she decided to try gun hunting. “After I shot my first deer I was pretty hooked, she said. “Gun season rolled around here in Michigan and I figured I better get a gun.” So she bought a Remington 870 20 gauge shotgun and shot two does that season.

steph_8_pt

Stephanie’s first buck.

The following season she shot a nice eight point during gun season, and many people told her that she would never take another buck that large. “I’m honestly glad that was my first buck,” Stephanie stated. ” He humbled me. Set my standards and the bar high. I’ve let dozens of smaller bucks walk, and I’m OK with it.”

Over the past few years, hunting has become a passion for Stephanie. She hunts small game, waterfowl, turkey, and  fishes. “I’m very lucky to have a great support system, my friends and boyfriend that offer their wisdom and experiences, share their passion, and share the fun.”

steph_grandparents

Stephanie’s grandparents circa 1940s.

One thing that Stephanie holds close to her heart is the Winchester model 12 shotgun her late grandfather left to her father. Her grandparents hunted small game growing up and now she uses it to hunt squirrels and geese.  “It’s awesome to hunt with! I shot my first squirrels and geese with it this year,” she said. “The first time I took it out I had tears in my eyes.”

With the legacy she found from her past, Stephanie is definitely making the most out of her time in the field and sharing stories and experiences with others. This is what role models do and for years to come, women like Stephanie will not only be helping with conservation of wildlife, but teaching young men and women how to enjoy the outdoors.

 

 

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There I was (37 years ago)…


37 years ago I experienced one of my greatest hunts in my life and I was only 14 years old!

We were off school for Veteran’s Day, and at that time in my life (most of my life), in the fall, when school was not in session I was in the woods.

While walking up my favorite tree stand before daylight, I saw four does bedded down about 50 yards from the stand. They jumped and started running. after watching them run off I proceeded to climb up into the stand and get settled in. Hanging my Bear Whitetail Hunter bow in the tree, I sat back against the tree and waited. It was a cold morning, and a heavy frost had set in the night before. As I sat there, I was getting pretty chilled, that is until the sun started coming out and shined right on me. The warmth felt really good and I closed my eyes for a minute. When I opened them back up (it was around 9 a.m.) and something shining in the sunlight caught my eye off to the left.

If you look long and hard enough, you might get to see a large buck like this 10 point.

 

I looked down and it was a very nice buck, walking steadily with his nose to the ground. He was heading right down to where the does were earlier that morning. When he got about 35 yards away, he stopped. I drew back and let an arrow fly. Dang thing hit the tree right in front of him. He bolted and my heart sank. Now it should be noted that at that particular time, I was shooting instinctive, which means, I was not using a sight or a release.

After the miss, I stood there more mad than anything as he stood about 100 yards away looking around, then to my amazement he decided to put his nose on the ground and walk right back up to the same exact spot! Wrong move for him! I drew back, let the arrow fly and hit him!

Now I was not cold anymore. I waited for a little bit, then got out of the tree. I walked over to the last place I saw him and found some blood. Then a little bit further, and found a lot of blood. So I decided to get some help tracking. We tracked that deer, with a blood trail that was not hard to follow at all, for about 300 to 400 yards. Then out of nowhere, the spigot ran dry.

Deer are more active during the fall and have lost the velvet from their anlters and prepare for the breeding season.

Most of the time, when a deer stops bleeding, it means that he is probably down, maybe jumped off the trail, or in a pile of brush. We did a circle around the area to see if we could find the deer. No luck. I had to go to school the next day and I had someone else look for it. As luck would have it, someone did find it, said a truck had hit it, although, sure didn’t look like it, since it had only one hole in the lungs from an arrow. I was asked what the antlers looked like, and explained that on the right side there was a fork in one of the tines. That proved that this was the buck that I had shot and it was a nice 14 point, but never got to put my hands on him!

Even though I did not get to bring that nice buck home with me, it was still a great hunt!

If only we had iPhones and digital cameras then…

Still, to this day, I will never forget that hunt!