Outdoor Report: Deer should be on the move
We are a week away from deer season. The frenzy is starting to build. In one week, and then for nine days running, the Northwoods will be filled with blaze orange, and the air filled with talk of deer and deer hunting. The grand and glorious tradition of the Wisconsin deer hunt is about to begin again.
From the perspective of a week away, it is difficult to predict exactly how the season will unfold, but we can make some assumptions. First off, deer numbers in this area are up. We have enjoyed two consecutive mild winters, and the deer herd has rebounded. We won’t pretend it’s at levels we saw a decade ago; there’s a good chance we’ll never see those numbers again. And there is not a deer behind every tree. But there are more than two years ago.
Second, the rut will linger into opening weekend. Field & Stream has their “Best days of the rut” article every year, and it has some accuracy. One of the days they list as one of the best 5 or 6 of the entire fall is the 19th, Opening Day. So expect bucks to be on the move.
The moon will be pretty faint, rising after midnight, but a long way from full, and providing scant light in the dark hours before dawn.
So, there is a lot of potential this year. Weather is the wild card, and anyone who ventures a guess this far out is taking a leap that we are not comfortable with. Regardless of the weather, the opening morning holds some promise that has been missing the past couple of years.
We think that with the rut probably continuing into the season that doe-in-heat scents will be productive. Rattling horns or bags may turn a buck as well. Scrape activity will vary with the location; some areas historically lag behind others, so late week scouting may turn up some surprises. We usually go lightly into hunting areas late in the week, but a quick in-and-out scouting trip may be worthwhile.
Opening weekend is usually a waiting game, as most hunters stick to their stands. If it’s cold, warm clothing is key, and we figure an extra layer rarely does any harm. We’ve never heard of hunters leaving a stand because their feet were too warm. We always figure to err on the side of too much rather than too little. You can always unzip the jacket to cool off if need be. And if we get an old fashioned cold snap, the extra layer is worth its weight in gold!
In the past week we have heard of a lot of buck activity, and while that does not assure a great rifle season, it does raise hope that there are more deer this year. The mild winters of the past couple years should have more spike and fork bucks in the woods than last year or the year before.
While rifle hunting gets all the attention, archers are set up for a strong final week. Deer are moving, and they’ll move during daylight hours this week. It simply pays to be on the stand.
Woodcock and dove seasons have closed but grouse and waterfowl hunters are still out and about. Northern ducks started to show up last week, a trickle rather than a torrent, but they are coming down steadily now. A strong weather front can trigger large surges of northern ducks, so that situation can change overnight.
And finally, we are looking at late open water fishing that, although it can be bitterly cold, can produce large fish. The same fall tactics still apply: large live bait for both muskies and walleyes. They can be very active and very large in late November.
(The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.)