Our Outdoors: Stronger Suggestions
By Nick Simonson
There comes a day in every August where the shift to fall is heavily hinted at. Some years, it’s the chill in the night breeze as the boat comes up the launch after a humid evening of walleye fishing that implies autumn is on the way. In others, it seems as if the foliage on the trees and sumac is turning just the slightest hint of red and yellow along the post-weekend drive back home from the lake. This year, the dark brown and crunchy cottonwood leaves beneath my feet on the running trail and the cold steel rain the following morning with temperatures not much above 65 for the day were the sign. After this, beyond the boxes checked on the calendar, fall will bring its stronger suggestions and it is best to get ready for what’s to come.
Long walks through the hills for sharptails from slightly after dawn until the mid-morning air and the exertion up and down the grassy slopes will combine to make things just hot enough to break a sweat under my long-sleeved tee and hunting vest and be a confirmation that the season has arrived. So too will the still sunrises on stand overlooking the clover field tucked in the turns of the small river where does and fawns cautiously make their way past my perch. In that instance, fall will increase my heart rate while doing almost nothing at all, as the surge of endorphins from seeing a buck – whether it’s 10 or 100 yards away – will turn my legs to jelly and send shudders of adrenaline through my torso, radiating out through my shoulders and arms, making the idea of drawing back and holding seem like a challenge.
Between the first days of the archery season and the advancement of autumn across the region, the trip to the stand will turn from a quiet, easy one to a winding and wary one as those leaves from the tall cottonwood, elm and oak trees around the creek bottom carpet the ground, creating land mines of loudness avoided with each footstep along the trail. With the later sunrise, the glow of my headlamp will likely provide the ghostly illumination needed to make my way out to the position with as little noise as possible before the hunting day begins.
Whether the season is unusually cool or above average when it comes to temperature, other treks will suggest the onset of autumn. Strolls through the winding logging trails of the north woods for the hopeful shot at a flushing ruffed grouse in late September, as the cracking of timber and rattling of brush beneath the bounds of my lab signal a hot trail, remain a solid indication of the season settling in. Then pheasant opener will arrive in early October, providing three weeks or so before things trend seriously colder and the deer firearms opener comes in November. With it often comes the suggestion of chilly conditions, snow, and the next phase of the calendar; or as it was in the case of last season, nearly a winter’s worth of the white stuff in the first week and an early start to that long slog through the cold.
You may have felt it in the past few days, noticing certain birds grouping up, small grains coming down, or a change in the weather or the way the stars in the sky have shifted in your early morning walks with the dog. The subtle signs that fall is on the way are all around us, and those more tangible ones will follow quickly behind them. Whatever memories of autumns and hunting seasons from the past further cement this shift, and whatever hopes of adventure fueled by preparation, skill, and a little luck propel your excitement for the season to come, it’s time to get ready for fall…in our outdoors.