The phrase "four-letter word" has a bad reputation, for obvious reasons. But there are good four-letter words, too. Here are a few four-letter verbs for outdoor lovers to keep in mind as fall begins.
"Hunt." Shorter, cooler days mean a variety of hunting seasons are opening. Waterfowl, small game and white-tailed deer keep hunters busy into next year.
Many hunters also "shop" in the fall for new guns, scopes and tree stands. Outdoor store parking lots become seas of SUVs and pickup trucks as business booms.
And between shopping trips and actual hunts, hunters "plan." They scout their favorite locations looking for signs of wildlife activity. Their ultimate goal is to "fill" the freezer with fresh meat.
"Fish." Though some may consider fishing a warm-weather activity, many anglers enjoy their passion year-round. An autumn trip to the East Coast finds many charter captains making daily off-shore trips. The Great Lakes remain busy even in mid-winter after the water freezes. Ice fishing is not for everyone, but for some it's almost a way of life.
For birders, fall "bird" migrations are second only to spring migrations. Skeins of ducks and geese head south in familiar V formations. And hawk watches at places like Hawk Mountain, Berks County, have become annual rites of passage for many.
"Swim" and "wade." It may seem odd to suggest swimming and wading as fall activities, but large bodies of water are heat sinks. Water cools slowly, so when air temperatures cool, water is often a warmer place to be. Just last week, I waded in the surf at the Jersey shore, watched an osprey fish and identified four species of gulls, two shore birds and a common tern. And as I birded while wading, a few brave souls surfed.
Against a backdrop of fall colors, it's hard to beat a brisk "walk" in the woods. You invariably get a peek or two at some interesting wildlife, and if you do it with a purpose, call it a "hike."
Among my favorite fall activities is to "camp" by a fire and "gaze" at the night sky. When my daughters were young, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows while watching for shooting stars and listening for owls and coyotes.
To outdoor enthusiasts, four-letter words can make life worth living.
Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 AM WVLY (Wheeling) and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 AM WMNY (Pittsburgh). He can be reached at scottshalaway.googlepages.com and 2222 Fish RidgeRoad, Cameron, WV 26033.