The signs of the season are everywhere you look; short days, frosty mornings, blazing fall color, harsh, dry brown of standing corn. There is a feel of fall in the air as the dusty skies of summer fade to royal blue of fall and gusty winds now hold the promise of cold to come. Things are happening fast now, each day seems changed from the previous, each week moves closer to real chill.
The woods are beginning to open up after some frost this week. By mid-week leaf fall was starting in earnest, and each day will bring more of the same. Now, nearly two weeks into the season, the grouse hunter has an opportunity to see farther, and birds that were concealed in thick greenery now are more visible as they fly. Grouse numbers are down in some areas, but very good in others. We are having reports that indicate as much, with some hunters doing quite well.
Woodcock hunters are finding some birds, probably a mix of local and early migrants. Last weekend, opening for woodcock, was good but strong northerly winds moved birds out by early week. More will come, and as leaves fall, hunting should be better. The key now is to get out after a north wind that may well move northern birds into the local forests.
Those same winds can bring ducks down from the north as well. Last weekend’s opening found ducks scattered and success spotty. We did hear of some very good hunts locally, but mixed in were reports of slow going. Harsh weather will move local birds out, but even in early October early migrants will begin to show up, redheads and ringnecks as well as some mallards. The key, as always, is food and shelter; locate a lake or stream with that combination and you’ll likely find ducks.
Many deer are now used to having hunters in the woods, and the smart ones are beginning to adapt. For the next three to four weeks deer hunting slows down. The first weeks of the season can be very good, and we have heard of some good bucks being taken. Now it’s a matter of putting in the time, scouting the woods and looking for early sign of the rut in a few weeks.
While hunting takes the stage, fishing continues, and while we’re not hearing as much as many anglers move to hunting, walleyes and muskies have been steady and we expect that to continue. The bigger fish want larger meals, now so medium size minnows for walleyes and some sucker for muskies can be very productive from now until ice up. Large, slow-moving lures will also turn a musky in autumn. The key is to slow the retrieve down, far more than a month ago.
One thing to keep in mind is the Youth Deer Hunt the weekend of Oct. 6-7. This hunt allows young hunters the chance to hunt deer with guns. Given that there is often heavy leaf cover remaining, it’s best for all outdoor enthusiasts to wear blaze if they’re in the woods. Hunters (except for waterfowl hunters) are required by law to wear blaze in accordance with the regulations.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.