By Nick Simonson
Summer, as it so often does, has flown by in a blur of green and warmth, punctuated by memorable days on the water with snapshots and postmarks of places fished. The season seems to disappear doubly quick when we get a late start and a transition from winter to warmth in a matter of days, as we did in that week which some referred to as spring this year.
Through warm stretches and thunderstorms, windy days and the rare, perfectly calm ones that seemed to coincide with (or plague) my few walleye trips, the ebb and flow of a fleeting season in the upper Midwest was as ephemeral as the midges, mayflies and monarchs that came with it, and was punctuated by those days that stood out from the rest. Several moments serve as guideposts in a season gone too fast: a large trout in early May and smallmouth bass at the end of the month; the State Clay Target League shoot in rain and wind in mid-June, a rumbly Fourth of July weekend, and an August that produced some hefty bass in their favorite haunts. As this particular summer fades into memory, though, another disappearing act begins.
Soon from the vantage point of a stand, or a blind brushed in along a sprawling boxelder tree, in as fleeting a form as summer’s warmth in the northern tier, the first deer of autumn will come creeping through the creek side brush and grasses, as the foliage fades from lush late-summer splendor to the frost-chilled browns, grays and yellows of fall. The animals’ presence alone stokes a rush as exhilarating as the first warm days of a seemingly endless summer in its infancy, and the excitement will increase exponentially with each step they take in the direction of a hunter’s chosen spot along the trail. As quickly as they appear, they will vanish back into the grays and browns of the river bottom or the dried gold of a nearby cornfield.
Similarly, the bucks that showed up on trail cameras after mid-summer will turn up less frequently on film, disbanding from their bachelor groups and establishing their territory in preparation for the rut and avoiding the high-traffic stretches of summer. Their greatest trick will be appearing out of the corner of an eye, in those drowsy moments of first legal light, antlers set out in pre-dawn shadow like the gnarled branches of a leafless sapling blown bare by the first few cold fronts of fall, requiring a slanting sideways squint and a slow reach for a hanging bow. Visual confirmation of such a timber ghost replays the greatest magic trick in perhaps all of nature – how a creature can render a near-sleeping man on stand with a pulse of 60 beats per minute into a spasming and shuddering moron incapable of controlling his limbs due to the mainlining of adrenaline and a sudden jump in pulse to 200 beats per minute. Like all good illusionists, Ol’ Otis hasn’t revealed how he does it.
The disappearance of summer sets the stage for a fall filled with wonder, whether on the stand, in the blind or glassing a field for a spot-and-stalk style deer hunt. Wide-ranging opportunities exist to experience the enchantment and excitement of a deer season which spans several months of incredible transitions that start with the last surge of warmth, sweating high up in a tree and end with a fall through a trap door into the cold, deep embrace of winter, while shivering in a box blind, hands frozen in position around the black synthetic stock of a 30-06 rifle. Through all the wide and varied changes, challenges and chances at a deer of a lifetime, it is a season filled with a magic all its own…in our outdoors.
Featured Photo: Now You See Us. Antler velvet will disappear shortly and bachelor groups will break up, as bucks become less social and more territorial in the coming weeks. Simonson Photo.