Outdoor Trails: Signs of autumn all around us

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Most water bodies, while a bit low right now, are at their highest temperatures of the year — perfect for most water sports, but the autumn cool-down is coming very soon, especially with shorter daylight hours and cooler nighttime temperatures.

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If you look at the treetops at a distance, you’ll notice the bright green is gone and the leaf canopy is looking old. There are lots of trees and wild shrubbery in low areas already tinging up and colours are turning — often, these places lose their foliage earliest.

One half to three quarters of my local hummingbirds have pulled out mid-week, but I leave my feeder up until Thanksgiving as I will have drop-ins as other migrating birds will be coming through.

Fishers need to get out and ply their sport now before cooling water drives fish out deeper, where they can be far more challenging to catch. Most trout seasons close at the end of August, with a few exceptions found in the fishing regs.

Here are some of my thoughts on important nuts-and-bolts issues for big game. Not everyone will agree, and I’m good with that — different strokes for different folks.

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Quads can be a major tool to help get you deep into remote areas, but quads can and will be heard by all big game animals, alerting them into your intrusion into their safe places. I recommend walking to the gamiest areas on foot, so as not to disturb the animals’ peace and quiet. Better than a quad, if you are physically fit, is a mountain bike with wide tires. I’ve never been on a unicycle, so can’t vouch for their bush-travel potential.

To use a tree stand or not? If the land is generally flat, a tree stand gets you up away from ground air currents and out of immediate sight — both good things. Often in our Precambrian North, you can find high rocks and outcroppings that can negate the need for a tree stand. Tree stands should be put up now and you should clear any shooting lanes and add any enhancements such as salt licks, etc, well before the season.

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You need to understand that most big game critters use streams and low areas as their game corridors. When it comes to smaller lakes and potholes, they will have a favourite area where they cross, such as near beaver dams. On larger lakes, big game usually stay one ridge back from the lake, as usually wind is not as intense. They also use breaks in big ridges, sometimes called saddles, as travelling is easier there, and can also be found around big beaver pond meadows, where tall grasses and shorter browse occur, such as shrub-like bushes, maple, red osier dogwood, poplar and willow.

You will need to get your harvested animal out of the bush as quickly as you can, so you’ll need to see how close you can get with the available equipment at your disposal. If you plan to acquire some help, do contact the MNRF regarding who can and can’t help you, so the game warden doesn’t pinch you.

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You should use scentless soap when you go into the bush, and ditto for laundry detergent for your hunting gear. No matter how clean we are, we humans give off human scent, especially our breath. If you are up higher in the air currents, much of this is dispersed harmlessly away, but if you have a blind on the ground, your odour remains in the near-ground air currents that animals use to wind you.

I don’t recommend shooting even close to where you plan on setting up and hunting — not even with a .22 rimfire. If you wish to shoot grouse, referred to as partridge by many of us Northerners, then use a standard powered pellet rifle or learn to be proficient at using a slingshot. A pellet rifle makes almost zero noise and, with a good head shot, will be adequate for grouse. Grouse season opens in a few weeks.

Early goose season opens on Sept. 1 for Northern sections and you can pick up your migratory bird permit at most post offices. There are a few new rules, especially for young, apprentice hunters which you can surf out at the Environment Canada website.

I love chatting with other like-minded Northerners, do email me if you wish.

John Vance’s Outdoor Trails column runs every other week. Contact him at  [email protected]

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