Two more hunting seasons open this weekend, waterfowl and woodcock, bringing the autumn hunt into its full glory. Leaves are changing color daily now, and a touch of frost earlier in the week helped emphasize season’s change. We are into fall now, no question about it.
Waterfowl season marks the last of the Big Three September hunts, following the start of archery and grouse season a week ago. Waterfowl hunting is always a fickle affair given the here today, gone tomorrow nature of ducks and geese. The Youth Hunt a week ago produced mixed results, and that’s what we think this weekend’s opening will bring. Birds seems scattered, and traditional hot spots that focus on wild rice are diminished this year after a week rice crop.
The key with ducks this weekend will be to find either a good source of food that they are working, or focus on the small potholes or beaver dam backwaters where the ducks go when they’ve been pressured. Overall duck numbers are reported to be good, both here and in Canada, but we may not see the real benefit to that until migrants move into the area in the next weeks.
Grouse opening was, as expected, a mixed bag, as thick foliage and spotty grouse numbers combined for a slow opening stanza. Certain areas do hold good numbers of birds and finding those areas is the key to a successful hunt. Much land that held grouse in the past is now overgrown and grouse numbers down. Woodcock season opens this Saturday, and the local numbers are reported to be sound, with migrants due to filter in over the next few weeks.
The light frost this week will hasten the progress of both bird seasons and deer season, as continued frost will thin out food sources and concentrate both deer and grouse to prime areas. The heavy wind of Wednesday night will have taken down some leaves, and visibility for hunters will have improved by the weekend. While we have not heard of a lot of deer being taken, we are getting reports of drivers seeing more deer than in the past few years, and that bodes well.
In all the talk of hunting, fishing is often overlooked, but it remains constant. Muskies and walleyes now are the main game for most late season anglers, and the lower water temperatures will bring better opportunities for both. Any time of the year can bring weather fronts that can shut things down in a hurry, and fall is perhaps more likely to find that happen than summer. We saw that last week when a strong cold front moved through and fishing success plummeted.
But we are into the fall phase of fishing, which means slowing lure speed down for muskies and moving to minnows for walleyes. Lakes will vary dramatically in the fall in terms of temperature and turnover, both of which drive success of failure. But overall we will see fishing success improve in the next weeks.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.