Mid-September: the pace of season change quickens. Hunting moves into full swing; fishing action picks up; fall color reaches further into the greenery. Every morning brings the feel of fall; every evening draws to dusk sooner than the previous day.
Deer season for archers kicks off the 15th and cooler weather the past week set the stage as the mornings feel like fall now. Deer are still going to be moving at a leisurely pace, but that will change with the first frost. Mark any date on the calendar for seasonal change, but none mark the date as a hard frost. We may be a week away from that day, maybe two weeks or three. But when it comes, the deer will move hard to oak ridges. For now oaks are still a draw, but there is enough green browse to spread them out. Bucks will be in bachelor groups now, and moving causally. It is a good time to be out as early season deer hunting can be very good.
The same cannot be said of early season grouse hunting. That season opened the same morning as archery, but results are most often not very notable. Leaf cover is still exceptionally thick, and will remain so for several weeks. Birds are scattered and overall numbers are down. The best early season tactics involve very slow walks punctuated by frequent pauses (birds get very nervous when a hunter stops and the bird cannot be certain where the hunter is). Bird hunters with dogs have an advantage, as scent holds and dogs can often find birds where the hunter could not.
Waterfowl season opens in a week after the Youth Hunt of this weekend. Duck numbers are good on the large scale, which bodes well for migrating birds. Local numbers are mixed and birds are scattered. Wild rice is thin this year, and that will make birds more difficult to pattern as they will be feeding in other areas. Pre-season scouting (and there is still some time for that) will help, but most hunters will set up for the opening at spots they have had success at in previous years. We expect a so-so opening.
Fishing continues, and musky action is picking up as cooler temperatures drives down water temperatures. Local anglers have been seeing more fish in the past week, and that trend will continue as long as the weather cooperates. We are seeing fish come to surface lures (often overlooked in the fall they continue to produce) as well as mid-size bucktails. The latter is always a good choice as long as the colors match the water; dark tails and blade for dark water, white and silver combos for clear.
Things are changing fast in the outdoor world, and the pace of change will quicken with each week. There is arguably no better time to be outside than in the next weeks.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.