Sunday, October 2, 2011
I couldn't decide whether to take one last ginseng hunt or go bowhunting. After debating it in my mind all week when friday rolled around I decided on one last ginseng dig. Well mostly an exploratory trip thru some unknown woods to an area I knew where I intended to plant some seed. What a difference between now and the start of season. Friday was forcasted to have a high in the low 50's with some spitting showers while the first day of season had been 99.
As soon as I hit the woods I started seeing deer. The incoming front had them up and moving as much as I've ever seen them. Before the day was over I'd see 4 bucks and 15 does. With the woods being wet, several times I'd top a small rise in the woods and be right on top of one before he knew it. One buck I walked up on at twenty feet. He must have jumped five feet straight up and actually fell down tripping over some brush running away, I'd scared him so badly. And I was finding no ginseng and seriously questioning my decision to not bowhunt today.
Midday I worked my way down to a dry creekbed about twenty feet across. It was one of those creeks with a head high bank that you had to work to find a place to climb down and then the creek was flat like a little road up the bottom of the steep gorge.
I rummaged around under a big sycamore log and found a couple handfulls of dry twigs.
Inside my pack I kept a zip lock baggie filled with cotton balls smeared with vaseline. I pulled out a few and ripped them apart, making a fuzzy ball the size of an egg. On top of this went the smallest twigs with bigger ones on top of that. On my keychain I have a bit of striker from one of those firestarter kits and striking this with a knife produces a small spark, plenty to light the cotton balls. The cotton balls and vaseline weigh almost nothing and make me feel safer about the prospects of twisting an ankle or breaking something and having to spend a night in the woods. As well as making lunch on days like today much more pleasant. Tucked back against the big sycamore log out of the wind, I sat for a long time eating lunch and just admiring the fall woods. A few maples were just starting to turn while big sycamore leaves were everywhere in the creek bed.
After lunch I worked my way out of the woods having found only one big three prong on a little point high above the creek. Walking down the little two lane road I came to a small woods I did know and started up the steep creek I planned to plant seed at. Only a hundred yards or so from the road the creek pinches together into a steep ravine dotted here and there with cliffs and almost impossible to get around on. Just the sort of place to hide a nice sang patch. From the creekbed I could see a tiny flat spot or bench forty feet or so above me but no way to get there. I went back down the creek a bit then climbed up out of the creek. Here I could work along the top of the ravine above the flat. Holding on to small trees I worked my way down to the flat. From about twenty feet away I could see the golden yellow of ginseng. Sure enough the flat held about twenty plants, five or six old mature plants and the rest two prongs and seedlings. I felt much better about my choice of a spot now. Using my digger I raked up the soil and planted three hundred or so ginseng seeds.
Now all that was needed was patience, lots and lots of patience as it takes at least seven years for ginseng to reach harvestable size. At the end of my little bench I found a big four prong growing higher up on the steep bank, undoubtedly the grandfather of the little patch that was growing on the bench. This was the only plant I dug, leaving the others to grow along with my seed. The old four prong had a neck around three inches long with at least thirty scars on it from each years bud. So hopefully this means my little patch should be safe for a long time.
I worked my way carefully back up out of the ravine and down the hill towards the road, turning the page on ginseng hunting for the year and thinking about bow season and what tree to climb in the morning's hunt.