There was an air of drama in the past week. It was a week of big change when leaves came tumbling down, when the chill in the air brought a familiar ache to cold fingers, when snow fell for the first time this season. Everywhere you looked you saw change.
In the woods the change was apparent. Leaf fall opened up sight lines, good news for hunters of grouse and woodcock and deer. Bucks are beginning to feel the urges now; scrapes and rubs are increasingly common in certain woodlots. But keep in mind that the rut, while generally well predicted in hunting circles, can vary in a given region. We’ve always seen certain parts of the county have bucks very active even while other acres, not too far away, always seem to come on later. The increased activity of bucks will overspread all of the north in the next weeks but often at a slightly uneven rate.
This is a time, while early, that a doe-in-heat scent can pay off. Years ago at a buying show for work I talked to a man from Iowa who’d killed a monster buck. He killed it in early October over a hot doe scent. His contention (and he had enough big racks on the wall to give him some credibility) was that once a buck had rubbed the velvet from his antlers he would respond to a doe-in-heat scent. Bucks are starting to move now and while it is admittedly very early a hot doe scent might be worth a try.
The harsh storm weather of last week brought a good move of ducks into the north country. Predictably enough there were bluebills and redheads on larger, deeper lakes even as a few early mallards from the north drifted into the area. Weather drives ducks and all waterfowlers are paying close attention to weather north and west of here. We expect good hunting for the next weeks.
Grouse and woodcock hunters are having mixed results, with some hunters doing very well. Woodcock flights have started and birds have moved into certain areas. With dry conditions, woodcock may be having trouble finding their fill of worms and that may cause them to move on rather than linger.
With fishing this week, it is a matter of looking back so that we may see the future. Back as in last weekend when the wind blew hard and steady, snow fell, and hands ached in the cold. That’s fall fishing and that, what we had last week, is what the future holds.
This is the time of simple fishing tactics; big lures, large live bait, all moved slowly for the larger fish. Musky anglers will rig up suckers now, even as they toss large lures. Walleye fishermen are going with larger minnows fished along the edges of weedbeds. Those tactics will continue to serve anglers well from now until ice up.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.