What's up now and yet-to-come in the outdoors
On Saturday, Sept. 1, the first hunting seasons in Minnesota opened. That included black bear, rails, snipe and mourning doves.
On the first day a friend and I hunted mourning doves in a spot where we have chased doves for a number of years. Some years we had good hunting, others not so. This year however, doves were plentiful, and despite a foggy start to the day we had a great hunt.
A week prior to the season opener I had scouted the location and saw just what I was hoping for—doves were feeding on weed seeds (Johnson grass and foxtail) along the edge of a potato field. Upon leaving the feeding location the birds flew to nearby ponds to drink before roosting for the night. For reasons I can't explain doves were plentiful, more so than what we've experienced for the past decade or so. Yes, the spot featured the essentials—food, water and roosting shelter, but it did other years, too. I can only surmise the timing of the mourning dove migration was near-perfect.
A big mushroom
About a week ago I harvested the largest hen-of-the-woods mushroom I've encountered. The giant fungus weighed a whopping 13.7 pounds. "Hens" are fine eating. With a mushroom that large I was able to give some to friends, and still have plenty for myself. I even froze several batches for the future.
Hen-of-the-woods are relatively easy to find because, in my experience, they grow only at the base of bur oak trees. So, I just wander from bur to bur oak, which to me is way easier and much less time consuming than meandering aimlessly. The good news is there is still time to find "hens" since they can sprout through September and sometimes even into October. Since my "big" find I have also harvested two smaller "hens."
Have you noticed a downturn lately in the number of deer feeding in fields? That's because bur oak acorns have been falling. Deer are nuts about acorns and will mostly forego all other foods when mast is available. This year there is an abundance of bur oak acorns. I can't remember ever seeing so many.
In fact, bur oak acorns are so plentiful that I'm sure some will still be available to deer when Minnesota's archery deer season opens on Sept. 15. That's usually not the case during years when there is a "normal" acorn crop since most will have been consumed prior to the season opener.
So, the wise bowhunter will spend this week scouting for potential deer stand locations in or near stands of bur oaks. It's fairly easy for a hunter to see deer signs under the oaks that have produced acorns because the grass will be matted, and there will be an abundance of deer droppings.
News from the aspen thickets is not so good. Spring drumming counts were down, and, if the year's grouse broods don't fair better than usual, well, ruffed grouse flushes will be at a premium this fall.
Last week while mushroom hunting I encountered a ruffed grouse hen with her brood. Bad news was her brood consisted of just one individual. Sad. For many years my hunting partners and I have insisted brood survival has been poor, regardless of summer weather. Finally, the Minnesota DNR is looking into the problem. This fall they are studying the possibility that West Nile Disease might be one reason for meager grouse brood survival. Hunters can participate in the study. See the DNR's website for more information.
Minnesota's waterfowl season opens Sept. 22. Hunters can expect to be greeted with duck numbers similar to the past few seasons. Opening day hunter success is usually reliant on the timing of the migration. Wood ducks, and especially blue-winged teal, often head south prior to the duck opener, and those two species are the predominant birds bagged by hunters during the early days of the season.