I'm away in the land of rum drinks, gorgeous sunsets and large fish for one final summer fling. Hope you are, too.
So here are bits and pieces from around the planet and down your street to help you jump-start the fall schedule:
Women who would like to learn how to fish and hunt, take wildlife photos, use a map and compass or steer a mountain bike should sign up for the next Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) weekend workshop.
The Department of Natural Resources program will be held from Oct. 6 to Oct. 8 at the Western Maryland 4-H Center near Deep Creek Lake.
BOW, the decade-old program, is geared for women 18 and older - men are also welcome - to give the budding outdoors enthusiast hands-on experiences. The instructors are volunteers from DNR who know their stuff.
I've sat in on three courses and each one has been a hoot - informative and fun, ending with a real sense of accomplishment.
This year's extended workshop has an enrollment cutoff of 100. It fills up quickly, so don't hem and haw.
The course costs $80, and there are some scholarships available.
The registration form is available at the DNR Web site (www.dnr.state.md.us). For more information, call Caroline Blizzard at 301-387-7067, or e-mail her at email@example.com.
If you've never heard a waterfowl calling contest or you wanted to take part in one but turned chicken (sorry) at the last minute, set aside Sept. 30, when Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World at Arundel Mills has something to fill the bill (sorry, again).
Four competitions will be held back-to-back (quack to quack?) starting at 10 a.m.: the Chesapeake Bay Open Duck Calling Championship; the Chesapeake Bay Open Goose Calling Championship; the Over/Under Team Goose Calling championship; and the Susquehanna Flats Open Duck Calling Championship.
The three "opens" are for contestants at least 17 years old. The Over/Under Team Championship, will pit teams of youth and adult callers against each other.
The two duck contests are sanctioned events, which means the winners could compete at the World's Championship Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart, Ark., on Nov. 25, along with Easton's Mitch Hughes.
If you've never been to a calling contest, it goes something like this:
Callers have 90 seconds to perform a routine similar to that used by a hunter in a blind. The routine opens with a "hail," to attract a distant flock, followed by a "flock" call of geese on the ground to those above. When the overhead flock gets spooked, the caller uses a "comeback" call followed by landing instructions known as the "laydown" call.
Contestants are shielded from the judges, who rate the quality of the tone, artistry and volume.
The entry fee for the opens is $30. It's $40 for the Over/Under Team Goose Calling Championship.
If you are planning to camp in Western Maryland this fall, you might want to consider attending a free workshop at REI Timonium that will fill you in on the do's and don'ts of bear country. The instructor will explain how to handle food in camp to avoid bear confrontations, including a demonstration of how to use a bear canister and how to hang food from a tree branch.
Maryland wildlife managers say encounters between bears and campers are becoming too frequent. This summer, they had to kill a sow who had three cubs because she entered the tent of campers at Deep Creek Lake Park.
The workshop is at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21. For details, call 410-252-5920.
Traditionally, I use my spare time leading up to Labor Day reading the large volume of campaign leaflets left at my doorstep by politicians and their elves, sorting them into the "worth considering" pile and the kindling pile next to the wood stove.
With incumbents, one of the places I look to see if they've been naughty or nice to the great outdoors is the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Web site. (I don't agree with all of its benchmark bills. For example, using the early voting legislation as a barometer of conservation stewardship is just plain wrong.)
It's on that Web site that you learn, for example, that state Sen. Richard Colburn has a ghastly conservation voting record. Colburn, a member of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee from the Eastern Shore, voted against the Healthy Air Act, against giving his constituents standing in court to challenge environmental permits, and against emergency legislation to block development around the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Another committee member, Sen. Janice Greenip, had a similarly horrendous environmental voting record - no excuse for someone who represents Anne Arundel County, which depends on a clean Chesapeake Bay.
Who'd have thunk it?
On the House side, there are plenty of votes that make you go, "Huh?"
Make your elected officials squirm and explain themselves and their votes. Take some time and review the 2005-06 scorecard at www.mdlcv.org. Then ask questions.
See you next week, tanned, rested and ready to go.