By Nick Simonson
As a youngster, I was fond of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. More often than not, I’d cheat and just read each page and then figure my way back through the story to slay the dragon, escape from the alien prison camp, or ultimately get the best result possible in its pages. Similarly, when visiting a restaurant now as an adult, I also enjoy making my way through those special menus that often include mixing-and-matching an appetizer, main course, side items and dessert all for one ridiculously low price. That’s perhaps why, as a sportsman, I also find fall so enticing, especially as we get into the heart of September. There are so many options in the field and on the water that choosing any one cast-and-blast combination can be difficult, especially for those who hunt across all species and know of close by, and fast biting fall fish populations.
Some of my greatest memories have come from cast-and-blast combinations, and many have run late into the autumn, but it’s most often during this month that they are the best. A good afternoon of late-summer walleye fishing can easily be capped off with a dove hunt, hunkered down around the edges of a small stock pond as the harvest horizon turns the sinking sun red. From September 1 until the end of the month when most doves depart, a quick trip to the edge of a cut field or a water source provides an easy opportunity to add some shooting to a day filled with fishing. Add in the facts that many fish are starting their fall feeding forays and the weather is not quite as unpredictable, good times on the late-summer and early fall waters in our region are almost a given.
Similarly, with sharptailed grouse season firing up mid-month, partnering those prairie birds with any swimming species is particularly enjoyable. I often visit a small WMA west of town that has a covey or two hiding in its hillsides, and in its middle is a stretch of thirty acres or so of deep water which harbors an aggressive autumn population of stocked trout. As the air cools and the small impoundment follows suit, an hour’s walk usually provides a couple of shots at laughing birds before flies and spoons start taking to the air and splashing down for the feisty rainbows that have fattened up in the depths during the warm water season.
Depending on the autumn conditions, and especially in those warmer seasons, many great fall bites last into October and pair well with just about any later season hunting opportunities. On big waters such as Devils Lake, it’s not unusual for sportsmen to turn a successful morning of waterfowl hunting into an afternoon of abundant walleyes and pike on the line. Even small flows loaded with smallmouth bass, which can get downright mean as the pre-dormancy cues of autumn settle in and they smash every lure with reckless abandon trying to bulk up for the winter hiatus, provide the chance to add some bronze to a colorful day afield for pheasants. While firearms deer season can be a toss-up in terms of conditions which might foster fishing, especially in recent years where we’ve seen temperatures below zero and some on up into the 70s, aggressive pre-ice walleyes are an option after a buck has been tagged, hung and processed after a morning hunt.
Whatever the focus of a particular day this fall – be it upland, waterfowl, bow hunting deer or pursuing big game with firearms – don’t forget to pack a rod and a tackle pack along with the decoys, camo, hunting chaps and your favorite four-legged friend. Because having the option close at hand to add some cast to fall’s usual blast makes it that much easier to choose your own adventure…in our outdoors.