It’s 80 degrees in November. The ducks are hung up, not much of a migration. The whitetails are not moving much during the hot daylight hours. Last November and December, you only got in a couple good weeks of duck shooting. The warm temps kept the whitetails off the food plots and the geese up north. Warm and wet seems to be the norm the last couple of hunting seasons. Is it global warming or just a trend? Hell, I don’t know what to believe anymore.
I can remember in my youth measurable snows by Thanksgiving and frozen lakes by the end of November. Now, November, is a wet, nasty month in the Midwest. Ninety percent of the lakes are open, and the fields are mud. At first, you fight the mud and damp warm air. You set your decoys and spend endless hours in the deer stand with a wet butt because that’s what we have always done. Our calendar was set by our dads or grandpas. We religiously follow these family dates because it’s what we have always done. Holidays were spent in the goose pit chasing pheasants and quail or even ice fishing. Well, my friends, if you are still following this calendar, you’re probably watching barren skies, muddy corn fields and soft water.
The Midwest calendar has changed. For some, the better. For me, the worst. I, for one, don’t like change. I string my duck decoys on the same date. I plant my butt in the deer stand on the same dates and I fill my pit with goose decoys on the same date. In fact, I mark these dates on my monthly calendar right after the spring turkey season for the upcoming fall. These dates stand as a shining light that gets me through the hot, muggy months of summer, longing for that first killing frost and the sound of combines picking the fields. However, the last couple of years, the first hard frost came well into November or December, not on October 15, like my book says. The ducks don’t get here until late December, but my book says November 12. The geese, well, they just don’t come this far south anymore, but my book says December 15. Mother Nature is evidently not paying attention to my damn book and needs to go back on her meds! I am tired of the preverbal phrase “not bringing home the bacon.”
So, last fall, I started to accept the change in climate. But this year, I even changed the dates in my book. November brings hunting the rut no matter how hot and crappy it is. Instead of chasing ducks that are not here, I have backed off winterizing the boat and stowing the tackle for a few last panfish trips. These trips have rivaled my normal springtime trips in sheer numbers. The fish were hungry and biting. I moved my mallard shooting from November to December. With afternoons getting into the 60-degree range on some November afternoons, I have spent them chasing muskies on the lake or sauger on the river. I even tried to find some of the fall wild mushrooms. I have decided I need a better ID book and a little help since I did not trust anything I found to be eatable.
Instead of stocking the goose pit with heaters and decoys by December 10, I don’t start stocking it until Christmas in hopes that Wisconsin and Chicago get some big snows to drive the geese south in January. If the trend continues, I stock it just for the hopes that January brings at least one hard freeze and the local geese move to the cooling plants and deeper lakes and provide a couple weeks of, at best, moderate shooting. I have kept my bow hunting packs ready for the late season. The 2nd rut, as I call it, has been better than the November 1st date the last couple of years that we all mark on are calendar coming in a week or so before Christmas. The scrapes were active and bucks I had previously only seen on camera at night earlier in the season were active during shooting hours.
I spend a lot of time in November and December chasing and trapping coyotes, and other Predators, something that we desperately need to help the turkey flocks and deer population get reestablished. There are a few things you need to look into before you modify your own calendar. Check dates and times that local lakes and state areas are available for access. Some are closed for fishing during the waterfowl season, and some are closed only during the morning. This holds true for state areas with late firearm seasons. It is site specific, so each lake and state area are different. If you are going to use private farm ponds, make sure you avoid these areas during the whitetail gun seasons or at least wear orange if you are tromping around during these dates, keep your pets leashed if you take them, because there’s steel (traps) hunting 24/7 around a lot of lakes.
I forever hope my calendar dates will one day return to their previous grandeur, but if they don’t, I will still enjoy my outdoors by changing my times and dates!
Happy thanksgiving, I hope, for all of us, the winter is much better than 2021 because it sure sucked…