Our eyes, ears, noses, taste buds and touch receptors need to be ready for the season openers this weekend and beyond.
Taking a hike is a great way to reacquaint ourselves with the out-of-doors. It’s time to leave the guns, bows, camera, notepads and bird books home and just walk, listen, feel, smell and touch nature before actually going hunting.
First reacquaint our feet with the terra firma, which isn’t always firm and level. Morning dew can wet one to the skin; have the right clothes ready. Lush vegetation still hides game animals. Plants don’t look like they did during spring turkey season or even black raspberry season. Learn to recognize the plant hitchhikers before they leave their Velcro-like hooks on shirt sleeves. These activities are likely to make following jaunts safer, more rewarding, and fulfilling.
Deer continue to ready themselves for the mid-September season. Some adults are completely gray; bucks continue to seek shrubs and saplings that fight back, even buck fawns have tiny, hard antlers and their spots are fading with development of new hair.
Fall turkey permit drawings are complete and posted on the DNR web site. Cards will be in the mail shortly, and winners can already print their carcass tags. Additional permits are on sale for zones 1-5. Zone six and seven permits have all been given out. The season opens Sept. 16, along with archery, grouse, squirrel and several other seasons.
Remember, too, zones 1-5 have a continuous season, Sept. 16 through Dec. 31, including during the gun deer season. Zones 6 and 7 close Nov. 17, the day before gun deer season.
This Saturday, the DNR Ethical Hunter Award will be presented at the Vortex Optics headquarters in Middleton to a Madison hunter.
Lowland hunting and hiking areas are ablaze with yellows and purples from goldenrods and Joe-Pye weeds. A bouquet of those two bloomers will make an awakening attraction, even if the area’s school colors are not gold and purple. Be careful picking these plants because a few bumblebees overnight in the flowers and may not become alert until inside.
Take a drive to observe the month-long lake sturgeon fishing season below the Prairie du Sac dam on the Wisconsin River. Eagles and some water birds are frequenting that area, too.
The Erickson Conservation Area, in Lafayette County near Argyle, is another location to walk some boardwalks and bridges through autumn’s marshes listening to the birdlife and admiring the ponds and the Pecatonica River.
With the statewide squirrel season opening Sept. 16, hunters can consider straightening, salting and drying the squirrels’ tails and sending them to Mepps to become part of trout and muskie lures.
Mepps purchases tails of red, gray, black and fox squirrels, paying up to 26 cents each if in good condition. They will even reimburse the postage if 50 or more tails are mailed. For more information, contact them at the lure company’s web site, mepps.com/squirrels or by calling 800-713-7554.
The lure company does not advocate harvesting squirrels just for the tails. In fact, cutting the tail and leaving the animal in a woods would be illegal. The company wants hunters to eat the squirrel meat, too, or give it to a friend.
Many older folks, some who never hunted squirrels, love the meat and would be happy to enjoy a roast of fried squirrel again. But don’t just hand them the carcass; dress it in the woods and then give it away.
During these fair-weather hunts, consider sharing other parts of the out-of-doors with an older man or woman. Visit them, take them on a country drive, or share a walk or ride in a field or forest. Many of them don’t mind spending hours picking nut meats or listening to stories of excursions by those of us who can venture farther.