This week is one on which the seasons pivot. The autumnal equinox is Sept. 22, the day when hours of daylight are about equal to hours of darkness. With it, the official start to fall. But more important to most outdoors people is Sept. 17, a Saturday, when archery deer, upland (grouse), fall turkey and youth waterfowl seasons all open. That’s a full slate! A week later waterfowl and woodcock seasons kick in and with that fall hunting is in full.
All hunts are driven in part by weather and the early forecast shows mild temperatures through the week, lingering warmth that will suggest late summer rather than early fall. But leaf color will start to change more quickly now and cooler weather is ahead. For now, the weekend and the days after look on the warm side but pleasant.
The youth waterfowl hunt is a two-day affair and this year mild temperatures and clear skies make for less than ideal conditions. Add to that a wild rice crop that is mixed at best and ducks may be hard to find. At those lakes and streams where the rice is abundant, expect some very good hunting this weekend and in a week when the regular waterfowl season starts.
Deer hunters will find deer in a leisurely mood coming off a warm summer. There is a lot of natural food this year after a very good growing season and deer are still somewhat scattered. Oak ridges that hold a good acorn crop will always draw deer and with the ban on baiting we expect deer to move far more during daylight hours than they have in the past when baiting was allowed. Find a good natural food source and look for runways leading to that area.
Grouse hunters get mostly exercise in the early weeks as the foliage is still far too thick for good hunting. Bird numbers are reported to be up from a year ago and again, as with ducks and deer, good food sources will hold grouse. But the early weeks are, for most hunters, a good time to simply get out and put some time on the ground looking for birds that will usually not be too far away when leaves come down and hunt conditions improve.
Fishing has been steady but increasingly takes a back seat as hunt seasons arrive. Fall angling is mostly a matter of focusing on walleye and musky and locating both as they begin to disperse from summer haunts. Cooler weather will come and with it better fishing for both species.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander.