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DAVIS COLUMN: Sights, sounds, smells of autumn proliferating

DAVIS COLUMN: Sights, sounds, smells of autumn proliferating

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Every acute grasp says autumn. Blooms and fruits declare the season. Wind, and sometimes day-long drizzle, too. Decomposing vegetation may smell sweet. Temperatures approach vegetation-injuring lows. And pumpkin spice laces morning donuts and coffee.

No one should proclaim total possession, even though hunters and others who gather occasionally believe they paid the price.

Photographers and spectators quietly record the first signs of autumn blooms and fruit maturing, anxiously awaiting leaf, frond and needle pigments to catch up. Hikers, bikers and runners expectantly breathe in autumn air.

Few things proclaim autumn more abruptly than chewing a fresh black walnut nut meat embryo or shagbark hickory, if one can be found.

Hunters add timberdoodles to a growing list of pursuits. Starting Sept. 19, youth can spend that weekend waterfowling; and bear hunters unleashed dogs on September 16.

Landowners from city fringes to suburbia and beyond know as well as archers that antlers can damage, and kill, a young tree or shrub. Protect the trunk with steel T-posts and trunk boards or fencing if winter damage from a deer’s mouth threatens after his antlers have served him well.

Much of southern Wisconsin, and even farther north, see autumn starts best by thinking of small fall. The plant diversity is so vast here, that finding an entire vista, or even a hillside of golden aspens, red or orange maples or bronze oaks is dubious.

In the beginning, a patch or single specimen might say fall, so looking small almost never disappoints, as larger, diverse landscapes may.

In search of beauty minus green, look to other ecosystems, too. Autumn comes early to a marsh. Soybean fields are golden yellow for a few days before leaf drop. Some tobacco plantings appear lemon to whitish. Even field corn, where yellow ears remain husk-hidden, show bronze-to-purple twisted leaves, which never fall.

Harvesting corn for silage has begun, but has not stopped whitetails, wild turkeys, squirrels, mourning doves and Canada geese from dining there.

A rural fencerow holds up ripening wild grapes, white dogwood fruits, purple woodbine berries (red leaflets long gone), and roadside sumac knows how to turn red, purple, and everything in between.

Don’t wait for a full sun day to enjoy autumn. Complete clouds, even rain, are ideal for viewing, and spectacular for photographing. Images, even wedding photos, remain much more brilliant years later when the events are captured on cloudy or drizzly days. Really, they do.

Collared deer, mainly in Dane, Grant and Iowa counties and a bit beyond, are legal to take with a standard deer Wisconsin hunting licenses and authorizations. The hunter receives a map where the deer has been the last several years and the DNR gets an expensive collar returned.

Safety is utmost when hunting and recreating. Place a full-booted foot on each ladder-stand step. Don’t be in a hurry. Use a harness while in a tree stand. Don’t go it alone. Let someone know where you are and when you will likely return.

Kate Mosley, at Kate’s Bait near Gov. Dodge State Park, is again prepared to sample deer for CWD testing, help with deer registration questions and sell licenses, too.

“Panfishing has been great in the two park lakes, and the muskie fishing should pick up soon,” she said. “License sales have been brisk for hunting, but most are not in a big hurry. Walleye fishing is good; try the Wisconsin River.”

Don Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe concurred on sales. “It seems hunters are getting a step up on the process and not waiting to buy and repair to the last minute, he said. “Bank-pole catfishing continues to be a hot activity.”

Most who gather nuts are scratching their heads. “Where are they?” They ask.

While a tree here and there has a great basket, most walnuts, shagbark hickories and even the oaks are slim. Don’t confuse the bitternut (yellowbud hickory) with the meatier shagbark. Make sure to field-test a few before trying to gather a bucket.

Almost on hint, fawns lost their spotted coats and bucks lost the velvet antler coverings. Even the later turkey poults grew up to be nice roasters.

Opening day rains may have been a good thing. Bait and sports shops were packed with hunters, anglers and diggers getting last minute materials and permits for when the vegetation and soil dries.

Doug Williams, at DW Sports Center in Portage, described the opening weekend by saying, “It’s on.”

“Everybody is here today (Saturday’s opener). Bird hunters, deer hunters, squirrel hunters; so business is brisk, but we continue to run out of product,” Williams said. “The animals are moving around. Catfishing is fantastic. If you’re a muskie fisher, get at it, but they are trying to keep it quiet, like the man who caught a 54-inch fish. One tagged bear came back from the North, too.”

An 11-point buck was taken in eastern Iowa County on the opener.

Remain calm. Pick and choose. This is what helps make Wisconsin Wisconsin.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608-924-1112.

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