Outdoor Report: Fall arrives in the Northwoods
The first day of autumn has come and gone by any measure, either the calendar page or the simple feel of a cool September morning. We will have warm days ahead but they will be fewer in number as crisp fall days become the norm. Fall color is in the early stages but the next two weeks should see major changes. And lake temperatures are beginning to shift down, a sure harbinger of better fishing conditions soon to arrive.
The last of the major early fall hunt seasons starts this weekend with waterfowl hunt kicking off. Local bird numbers are spotty and some birds may have left the area a week go on strong northerly winds. Waterfowlers will deal with several key factors this weekend, notably food and water (for the ducks, not the hunters!).
We’ve had a lot of rain and that has water in every low spot in the Northwoods allowing ducks a wide expanse of area to seek shelter. This will allow ducks to spread out more than usual and make locating them more of a challenge. But, the second factor, food, will allow hunters to focus better. Any lake with wild rice will hold ducks and the rice crop is good but not exceptional so there are fewer lakes with good rice. Find one and you’ll find ducks. The acorn crop is also good and oak trees adjacent to water will often draw ducks.
Woodcock season opened last week to decent numbers of early migrants. The stiff winds of late week a week ago brought birds in and some hunters had good shooting. There is still very thick leaf cover but that’s simply the way it is and one has to get out and make the best they can.
Grouse numbers were forecast to be lower this year and early season hunters will not disagree with that assessment. There are just not many birds in the woods. The cause for that is still in debate but the DNR board will decide this week if they will shorten the grouse season. That decision is due at their meeting this week in Hayward. Look for that statement late this week.
Deer hunting has been slow to date but hot weather on the opening cut participation dramatically so hunter hours in the field have not been high. That will change as cooler weather comes in.
Fishing holds steady. The musky tourney of the past weekend showed good numbers of fish caught and good sizes in the mix. Walleye fishing is improving as well and both those seasons will continue and improve with cooling weather to come.
The most significant change in the week ahead may well be fall color; it is slow to come and a week or two from peaking but every day will bring more color in what is the most dramatic show in the outdoors.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander, where a variety of outdoor products is available.