Stockpiling meat and grain for winter have begun in earnest. Harvesting crops is putting cereals in storage and bringing game to feed on combined and picked fields.
In addition to deer and ducks, hunters are getting excited about grouse (up north), pheasants and turkeys. Woodcocks have also begun to move.
Some birders are reporting the return of juncos at feeders.
Deer charts show nearly 12,000 deer have been taken collectively by both archery types. Of those, 41 percent are antlered and 59 antlerless. Crossbow users phoned in 5,545 deer (48 percent of the take), while traditional archers managed 6,085, or 52 percent of the deer.
Jada Mathews, 12, of Mount Horeb, took her first deer opening day of last weekend’s youth season with her .243 caliber rifle a few minutes after walking to a stand with her father. She was decked in blaze orange, not pink; validated and tagged her deer; and then went to Uncle Jimmy’s Deer Processing in Blue Mounds for registration assistance. She left the deer to be processed and sampled for CWD, after her father, Patrick, removed the loins for breakfast meat the next day.
When she headed home, her rifle was securely cased, too.
Turkeys continue to expand their feeding grounds as combines roll through the fields. As normally is the case, about 5 percent of the hens are bearded. Hen populations in some states have as many as 29 percent bearded birds. All genders and sizes are legal during the autumn season, which ends Dec. 31 in most southern zones.
Pheasants from the Poynette Game Farm, as well as from some conservation clubs, are being released beginning this week for Saturday’s 9 a.m. opener.
Bucks are beginning to develop mating characteristics, including enlarged necks. Scrapes and rubs are now present in many locations.
Nut crops continue to impact almost everything outdoors. Now that walnut tree leaves have fallen, nut crops are particularly apparent and impressive. A few shagbark hickory nuts are exhibiting a small hole where a grub has burrowed out. One might ponder if this small grub could make ice fishing bait this winter. Nut-covered ground under some trees is now becoming barren, as nutters and four-legged animals are finding these food sources.
Walnut stain from nut hulls is difficult to cleanse completely, making walnut pickers easily categorized in bars, restaurants and churches.
An interesting larval form of a moth is feeding on tomato plants prior to frost. Tobacco hornworms are green, several inches long, and have a red horn on their posterior end. Other markings make them distinctive and a juicy meal for any large bird. These larvae feed on a number of plants, including garden tomatoes, both vegetation and fruit. The larval form of hornworms are parasitized and controlled by wasp pupae.
Fall vegetation pigmentation is perplexing some this fall. There are many reasons for the lackluster displays, including drought in some regions. Happiness and joy of admiring these colors are improved by looking smaller. Instead of whole hillsides, look for individual trees, or even parts of branches. Include fruits in your searches, too, and take advantage of overcast days for viewing and photographing.
Even though most hunting seasons are open, there are many more activities to make autumn memorable. Find and enjoy them by hiking, biking, driving or viewing from a stationary position, maybe sitting on a Leopold bench before moving it to a November deer stand.