The pace of the seasons change quickens now. The balmy days of a too-warm October are past; the 75 degrees of last Friday will likely be the last hurrah of autumn’s warmth. More typical is the forecast ahead; cold and snow and overnight lows in the 20s. October is soon to be a memory; November soon to be reality.
As the seasons change, so too changes the outdoor activities in the north. Hunting and fishing in shirt sleeves a few weeks ago gives way to extra layers to fight the chill. A pleasant walk in October woods under a warm sun now is behind us. Ahead is November and the only reasonable questions are if we’ll have ice on the lakes in the next 30 days or snow on the ground for rifle season.
This weekend is the first with true late autumn conditions; cool and damp with a chance of snow. Leaves have fallen dramatically in the past 10 days; that’s good news for upland hunters who now have much more open shots offered up. Grouse hunters continue to report fewer birds than expected. Woodcock hunters have seen a major influx in the past week as northern birds begin their migration in earnest. That should continue although with woodcock it is very much a hit-or-miss proposition as one area may be empty of birds while another, nearby, may be loaded with a flight.
Waterfowl hunters, too, are seeing northern birds. Reports of flights of redheads and bluebills are frequent now and that should remain the norm in the next weeks. As with woodcock, migrating birds are very much “now you see them, now you don’t” as migrants come in, rest up and, with a good wind, move on.
But November brings the whitetail rut and that is arguably the biggest hunt story. Bucks are beginning to move and that trend will only get better in the next weeks. Short of it all is this: This is the time when archers targeting a big buck had best be in the woods. And rifle hunters will note that we are less than a month away from that season and preparation for that hunt needs to be put on the front burner.
While hunting takes main stage fishing remains an option. Crappies have continued to be very strong players of late, taking small minnows on jigs or under bobbers. But November is the time for serious walleye and musky anglers to take to the lakes. Both species are moving more to shallower waters as lake temperatures drop and both are hungry.
This is the time for sucker rigs for musky and larger minnow presentations for walleyes. If using artificial lures keep things very slow in the retrieve. There is no magic to late fall fishing. Fish are looking for food; anglers need to work the edges of weedy areas off the shallows and be patient in the colder temperatures.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander, where a variety of outdoor products is available.