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'Tis the Season

October is here and I'm not ready. Once again, the month has taken me by surprise, like the bird that flushes when I'm straddling a fence or the fish that waits until I'm chugging a soda to bite.

The sad thing is that this happens every year. I'll be idling along in my summer mode, still wearing shorts, applying sunscreen, barbecuing half my meals, when suddenly the temperature drops and the leaves turn all yellowy.

It's October--time to shift gears.

I haven't yet prepared my summer stuff for hibernation and already I'm under the gun to gear up for a full slate of fall activities. What room did I store the flannel shirts in? Could my hunting bow be out in the garage? Didn't I have both boots last year?

My mindset becomes different in October, too. Spring has me tittering with youthful enthusiasm, which summer invariably melts into a puddle, but fall brings forth responsible and mature elements hidden deep within me. The effect probably dates back to earlier times. Human genes know that October represents a deadline. No more shilly-shallying around; if we don't get ready for winter now, we won't survive.

It is harvest time, and our woods and fields lure us outdoors. Some take a gun or a fishing rod, some a mesh sack for mushrooms and ripe wild fruits. Some just grab their binocs and start walking, content to surround themselves with the rich texture of fall colors, sounds and scents. Their harvest is beauty.

Happily, chiggers, ticks and mosquitoes celebrate October differently, so we can tread about with nary a welt raised. Snakes also have a different schedule--a relief to those prone to squamataphobia. Gone, too, are the heat and humidity, adding bounce to our step, elasticity to our lungs and time to our outings.

This issue should help you get ready for fall. We're offering you quail lessons, and we identify the continent-wide plan responsible for the amazing number or waterfowl that now crisscross our nation.

Speaking of amazing, we introduce you to a mystic duo who blend magic and fishing--not to catch more fish, but to attract more people to the sport of fishing. Our article about the new Columbia Bottom Conservation Area suggests a dandy place to visit. This new acquisition, a few traffic stops from St. Louis, protects and opens to the public the historic confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

History buffs also will appreciate learning about arrowhead and artifact collecting, a way to connect with Missouri's earliest inhabitants.

Those brought up bereft of exposure to the outdoors will be tickled to read about the Conservation Department's Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program. This innovative effort helps women learn about and enjoy activities that for them--in the past, at least--would have been nontraditional. We know the program works from all the fun the participants have.

As a capper, the October issue contains the Conservation Department's annual Nature Shop offerings. This 16-page insert can be pulled free from the magazine and consulted throughout the year for gift giving or personal shopping. We run it in October because most of our readers' Christmas lists include loved ones who would appreciate receiving a compendium of toad and frog calls, a book about butterflies, a video on controlling musk thistle or a lapel pin in the shape of a salamander.

Tom Cwynar, Editor

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