Outdoor Report: Hunting season kicks off
Another weekend; another opening hunt season. This week its waterfowl (northern zone) and woodcock. The former, waterfowl, is big deal to a lot of hunters. Woodcock opens with less hubbub and clamor but still is a red-letter day among the aficionados. Both birds are migrants but the early season hunt revolves around mostly local birds, those that nested here, raised young, and now wait for the push of season and weather to move south.
Duck season is a pretty big deal, bringing out legions of camo-clad hunters who wait patiently along lake and river for ducks to pass by. It is, early season, a matter of food and cover; find good waterfowl food in a sheltered area and you’ll find ducks. Or should.
This year the wild rice crop, always a staple of waterfowl, is spotty. Some lakes are full; other traditional areas are thin. This will scatter ducks that covet the rice and some areas that usually have good hunting will be less productive this year. Local bird numbers are good and northern birds, that will make up the bulk of hunting in a few weeks, are at very high numbers. All this bodes well for this weekend as well as weeks to come.
Woodcock numbers are difficult to asses but are likely off a bit from a year ago, at least for local birds. Some cold rains at about the time the birds hatched cut into the numbers of young woodcock and grouse and we think the early hunt will suffer. Add to that the leaf cover which is still very heavy and we don’t expect a banner weekend for woodcock or grouse (which opened last Saturday).
Deer at still scattered; there is a lot of food out there for them and they’ve not started to narrow their focus yet. It will get better.
All the attention on hunting has cut interest in fishing, not unusual for mid September but we are seeing water temperatures drop now, slowly but steadily, and that is the first major step toward fall fishing. Walleyes are still holding their own in 10 to 15 feet of water on most lakes (some deeper lakes will see fish quite a bit deeper). Muskies are still slower than we’d expect for now but as things cool off we think they will come on. It usually takes some hard frosts to spur the big fish to feed and we’ve not seen that yet.
Color is very slow to develop this season but in the next 2 to 3 weeks we will see that change dramatically. Then, after the days of glory, leaves will fall, visibility in the woods will improve and with it better hunting conditions for upland birds at the same time some early season migrating ducks will make their way into the area.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.