Tips from the Posse: Alabama the cure for seasonal gloom

Eastern turkey in large numbers are frequent visitors to my tree stands. These birds are enjoyable to see and listen to as they are quite vocal. 

If there were a particular time of year I absolutely detest, it would be February and March. I have always had a special loathing for those two months. February is the cruelest month, lasting forever plus two weeks. As a school kid, serving out a sentence, we are just coming off a nice break for Christmas, only to realize there are still many more months of prison time left before the summer parole.

February can be a tease, giving you a couple nice spring-like days, followed by a foot of wet and heavy snow. If you get to feeling spring here in town, take a ride 20 minutes west and see what you think.

About 30 years ago, I started making a trip to visit friends in Alabama. The trip was to break up my seasonal gloom, and I always try and go in February when the whitetail rut is in full bore. I have been going there so long, it has become more of a homecoming rather than a hunting trip.

The two brothers who own the farm are fourth generation there. Albert and Jim Cravey were both born on this farm some 70 years ago. The Cravey family has been here in Covington County since just after the Civil War. This farm consists of 4000 acres of hayfields and woods, lakes, a river, and a number of Greenfields.

Following the Civil War, many people migrated to this area of Alabama because of the inexpensive land, untapped forestry resources, cotton, and the subsequent need for railroads.

In time, the forest industry became less lucrative and the stands of timber depleted.

The Great Depression took hold and global forces eventually weakened the textile industry. Many of the youth left the area to join the war effort and to work in the shipyards. Very little evidence of the heyday for this area remains. Most people, who remained, stayed in the agriculture business. Abandoned storefronts and grown-over farms are visible everywhere.

Currently, the Cravey family raises certified Black Angus beef, much of which is sold to restaurants around the area. In years gone by the farm raised hogs, grew corn, and once had a huge grove of 100-year old pecan trees. Hurricane Donna mostly destroyed the pecan trees in 1960.

Albert, the younger brother raises bird dogs and offers plantation style hunts for bobwhite quail. At midday, he brings his hunters back to a small lodge where they fry up the quail from the morning hunt and serve them to their guests.

I am not much of a bird hunter, but I sure enjoy watching those dogs work a covey of quail. With a sense of smell thousands of times more sensitive than ours, the dog can point out birds in the thickest of cover, and flush them upon command from Albert. I might also add, they are delicious as anyone who has ever had fried quail would attest.

The farm is also home to many large flocks of Eastern Turkey. I have had as many as 50 at a time in a field while I was hunting deer. The only natural predators these local birds have would be coyotes, and all the local farmers keep them under close control, so the turkeys do well here.

Whitetail deer make this area home. The local deer are much smaller than our deer in Colorado, with large bucks seldom exceeding 150 pounds. These deer move mostly at night, so they can be difficult to find.

The weather in Alabama can be a gamble. About every ten years, they get a snowstorm. A couple inches of the white stuff and everything shuts down. Most of the time during February, the overnight lows hang around 35 to 40 degrees. I might add that 35 there is much colder than here, probably because of the humidity.

If you decide to visit Alabama, you are probably not going to want to be there during the summer months. The southern heat can be unbearable, especially to someone who hails from the dry climate of Colorado. Add to the heat humidity so thick that fish swim in it and you will see why I visit in February, not July.

In recent years, the feral hog population has become a problem. Hogs are very problematic in Florida, the neighboring state to the south. As these wild pigs become more populated, they also become more tolerant of the cold weather, and are spreading north. Most farmers would rather have a hurricane than to be hit by these destructive, field-wrecking rooting hogs. Just a handful of feral hogs can tear up 5 acres of hay ground in a matter of hours.

Alabama is well known for their largemouth bass fishing. There is a 400-acre lake on the farm and 5 to 7 pound bass are fairly common. The lake is full of bream (the southern version of a bluegill) in that 1-pound or better size.

Admittedly, one of the best reasons to make the trek back to Alabama each year is for the food. The local people fry everything, and I mean everything. Fried biscuits are my favorite. Every meal features a side of fried biscuits or fried cornbread. The general rule is to not have your cholesterol checked for a couple weeks after you get home.

I always enjoy my time in Alabama, but I’m really glad to be back in Montrose. Soon, the weather will warm up and the snowmelt, and I will be back in those mountains having a good time. Until then, I have to survive February, the forever lasting, cruelest month.

Mark Rackay is a columnist for the Montrose Daily Press and avid hunter who travels across North and South America in search of adventure and serves as a director for the Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse. For information about the posse call 970-252-4033 (leave a message) or email info@mcspi.org.

For outdoors or survival related questions or comments, feel free to contact him directly at his email elkhunter77@icloud.com.

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