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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The Smell of Fall: Hunting Season is Here!


Ah, the smell of fall! Leaves falling (not fast enough in the south), squirrel season is open, bow season is open and people are hitting the woods. In a few short weeks, all the leaves will be down, the smell of firewood will drift through the air and then comes the grand-daddy of seasons, Bucks Only gun season.
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Every year, during the early seasons, it is a time to get out with family, scout your areas, sight in your guns and have some real fun, all to get ready for buck season. Of course in the south, that same time is also a great time to fish.

 

This year I was fortunate enough to be allowed to hunt on a piece of land very close to where I live, so I bought a new trail cam and set it out. Every time you check the camera card, it is just like Christmas, because you don’t know what you are going to see walking past your camera. Today I was happy to see some deer, a coyote, raccoon and an armadillo (as you can see in the photos below).

img_3926This past weekend, I decided to go to a wildlife management area and hunt some squirrels, as stated above, the leaves in the south are very reluctant to leave the tree right now, so it made it hard to see the little nut eaters!

I was successful in taking one squirrel, which will taste delicious very soon. But more important it was just a nice stress-free day, with no noise except for the wildlife. Believe me, I need about 364 days of that!

Now that we are full into fall, awaiting the first frost, just being outside allows you to breath better, think better and relax… until the BUCK shows up! The excitement is always swift and never goes away no matter how old you get. A few years ago, I went back home to West Virginia to hunt with my family. The day before season came in, we took a drive and got some great photos of deer. Buck-2One in particular was chasing does in the field across from the house. The next morning we got up to hunt. It was freezing rain and cold. As I sat in my favorite spot before daylight, I noticed my eye was twitching. After a couple hours, it bothered me so much that I decided to go to the house to find out what was wrong. Walking along a path, I looked over this bank into this “holler” and I saw a deer. It turned its head and I saw it was huge, the same buck I saw the day before. So I pulled my gun up and my scope was wet and fogged up. I cleaned it quickly and pulled up again, only to notice the deer was moving and I had the scope set on the highest power. I saw brown fur and pulled the trigger! Dang it, I missed and because I didn’t take the moment (that I didn’t think I had) to readjust the setting! 

Needless to say, I kicked myself all the way to the house to find out I had put my contact lens in backward. So two lessons learned and a 10 point was still running the hills.

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Fortunately, a couple days later, I took a nice nine point
The lesson here is, that at 52 years old, I still get excited, even after harvesting close to 100 deer in my lifetime, each one brings something a little different each hunt. Also, missing is still part of hunting. You will never get every thing you shoot at. I had a guy tell me once, I have taken every deer I have shot at. I told him he needs to keep that to himself, because being cocky and thinking you are a great shot will come back in a big way. And of course it did, he went turkey hunting, had a nice gobbler 15 yards away and missed. I didn’t let him live that down, nor should I!

With all of this being said, the one thing to take from all the jibberish I just wrote, is go out, enjoy the outdoors, make memories with your family and tell tall tales about the one that got away. Next year at this time, I will be back in West Virginia in my old hunting grounds and filling my tags. I sure do look forward to that!

Best of luck this hunting season and I hope that the your aim is steady and your freezer gets filled.

Note: I really like the app called Prisma, turns a normal photo into a work of art. As you can see from some of the photos above.

 

 

 

 

 

A Milestone! Thank You for Taking the Time


I would like to thank all of my followers and casual readers for allowing me to hit 10,000 views on my blog! stats.alltime

Many things I write about end up in places I never expected them to, like Rednecks Vs. City Folk which ended up in a discussion on a SB Nation College Football forum. Also, my best one day views on July 3, 2014 was an article about Kendall Jones (www.thekendalljones.com) when she was being attacked by anti-hunters Nature is Much More Cruel Than Humans Could Ever Be.

I do not write every day and when I do, it usually has a point to it. As you can probably see, I love writing about guns, food, West Virginia and anything outdoors (with a little politics thrown in), So it is very humbling to see so many people reading what I write and using my articles in conversations.

Thank you all and I will keep writing and I hope everyone has enjoyed the visit into my life, opinions and adventures.

jeff.nichols

 

Jeff Nichols

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Fall is Here!


Fall is here and for me it is the best time of the year. I feel like getting outside more, setting out trail cameras to see what might come by. I do not necessarily have to be hunting at that time because even near the house, it is fun to find out just what might be lurking by. Here are some fall photos to get you in the mood for the cool, crisp air and maybe motivate you to head outdoors to enjoy nature.

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Nothing better than walking down a trail in the early fall.

Fall is a beautiful time of year, the leaves are changing colors and falling and although it seems like everything is dying, there is much more to Fall than that.       

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In the country, you never know when you will see something.

Having a trail cam, less than 50 yards from your home will give you an idea of who comes to visit after dark.

Bucks in the fall lose the velvet from their antlers and prepare for the breeding season.

If you look long and hard enough, you will come across a large buck, like this 10 point.

Here is a schedule for you and your spouse, we all know there are seasons for all of us!

Y’all come back, Ya’hear!

I hope that you enjoyed the photos, now get out and enjoy what nature has provided, it will make you forget all the problems in the fake world!

Nature Photography: As Close As Your Back Yard


So, you like nature, you like photography but you don’t have time or money to get out in the wilderness to try and capture the beauty of nature in photos. Well, nature is everywhere, in your garden, around your house and pretty much anywhere you are. The key to photographing nature is to always have your camera ready. It doesn’t have to be an expensive camera, a point and click will work in most cases, but the more you get into it, the more detail you want to capture, might prompt you into investing a little money to buy a better quality camera. Still, the most important part of nature photography is not the quality of camera you are using, but watching out for that right moment to take a photo.

I am not going to go into what kind of camera’s to use, or how much money you should spend, that is up to the individual. Instead, I am going to tell you what to look for around your home so that you can get some really cool photos.

I live on 1.5 acres of land in a rural area, so it gives me the opportunity to have room to be able to walk around and look for nature close by. Take for instance, your garden. There is no better place on earth to take photos of some of the most colorful and raw nature there is. From the garden spider to the tomato worm, you can get breathtaking beauty as well as raw nature by setting up in your garden and taking photos.

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The garden spider will put a web between plants and catch insects that are harmful to your garden for food, so it is a win-win for everyone.

Sometimes you need to catch an insect and throw in the web to get some action when you want it, but when you do, make sure you are ready, because it happens fast!

The tomato worm on the other hand, eats your tomato plants, but the color and beauty of this insect will amaze you and you will find yourself snapping photos instead of worrying about your plants. Image

If you have a large yard, then you probably have a grass clipping pile. This is a great place to get photos of all types of creatures. As I was mowing one day, I passed my grass pile and there was a very large broad-head skink.Image

The color and size caught my eye, so without scaring it, I shut off the mower and grabbed the camera.

Anyone who lives in the country has most likely seen a killdeer in their yard. The ImageKilldeer in the photo had decided to lay eggs in my driveway (in the warm gravel). The great thing about killdeer is, that if you approach the eggs, the bird will try to lure you off by acting like it has a broken wing and can’t fly.

It will get you as far away from the eggs until it feels it is far enough and then it will quit acting. It will continue to do this until you leave the eggs alone. The killdeer always gives great photo-ops.

Even if you are not near water, you never know who will visit your porch.

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 There is also another way to capture nature on film though you don’t actually take the photos yourself it is fun to see what comes around your home when you are not looking. Now mind you, I set up a trail camera aimed at a deer feeder. Expecting deer of course, ImageI was pleased when photo I got was unique in the fact that it was two does (female deer) sparring in the early fall. It is not every day that even hunters see action like this.

The only time you want to actually have a good quality camera is when you try to get photos of the sky at night. When the super moon comes in the early spring, it can provide you with a great opportunity to get some great shots (weather permitting of course).

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But taking photos of a full moon is much different than taking photos during the day, especially with digital cameras. The great thing about the super moon is that it really doesn’t move much and gives you plenty of time to get your camera to the correct settings to get some great photos. I used a Nikon D100 with a 70mm to 300mm lens to get this photo.

Last but not least, the best subject to photograph around your house is your own pets. You never know when they will do something crazy or give you a great pose that defines their character. Buddy, my chocolate lab decided he would channel Elvis as he looked in the kitchen window.Image Pets are always doing something and even though they don’t always sit still for photos, the best thing to do is have your camera ready.

So there you have it, this is what I look for when I don’t want to drive 20 miles to the state forest to look for nature. It is out there, within steps of your house, all you have to do is be ready and look for it. One other thing, and probably the most important thing is, take a lot of photos. You never know when one of the photos will be an award winner and since digital photography came along, you don’t have to wait to develop.

Enjoy nature, it is all around!

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