Less than one week until small game season starts with the early Canada goose opener and teal season on September 1st. Less than one month until the Autumnal equinox. What does this mean? Fall is almost here. Fall is by far my favorite season of the year. I’m sure many of you can relate to this favoritism, after all, this season holds what many of us prepare for and look forward to throughout the year; hunting season. Many of us have been preparing for hunting season’s arrival since the last one ended.
This morning, I woke to a crisp 54 degree breeze blowing in the open window of my apartment. The sky becomes gray as cold fronts meet the lingering summer warmth and brews storms to bring in the new season. Although there are still a few weeks of summer yet, I look forward to witnessing the foliage turn from green to vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow. Surely, I will get a very good look at the changing of colors from my tree stand!
No matter what season or game species it is that you hunt, there are plenty of ways to prepare and be ready for that opportune moment. Whether that is by shooting a hundred arrows to keep your archery technique in check, cultivating land for a food plot, scouting the land you plan to hunt for signs of game trails to place your tree stand or ground blind to hunt from, checking up on an aspen regeneration stand for grouse activity. Perhaps you’ve been working hard on your fitness to make sure you can get to where the quality bucks are; which is more than likely farther than the rest of hunters are willing to hike in, let alone drag their well-earned harvest out.
With hunting, along with many other aspects of life, you get out of it what you put into it. This saying applauds the many volunteers that have dedicated their time at an On the Ground habitat event, or several of them. Just this year, 323 people have volunteered for wildlife. They’ve woken up before the sun breaks the horizon and hit the road to travel up to two hours to a State Game Area or Nature Preserve on a Saturday. They readily grab a shovel, a chainsaw, a handsaw, a trash bag, loppers, or a paddle and set off into the woods or out on the marsh with faces both familiar and new.
Enduring hours of hard work and sometimes light work in temperatures hot or unpleasantly cold, these people don’t speak a single complaint. Chainsaws break the silence in a snow-covered field as volunteers fell trees in fence rows. Standing dead trees become large brush piles for rabbits and other small game species to take refuge in from predators and winter weather. Wood duck boxes are hung on trees in wetland areas lacking nesting structures for the waterfowl. Shovels strike the ground to unearth soils that will embrace and provide nutrients to the roots of newly planted oak trees. In turn, the oak trees will provide browse and cover for the game species these volunteers hunt.
All in half a day’s work, volunteers wear a smile of accomplishment tinted with the dirt, mud, sweat, or sawdust. These are the folks that are well prepared for a successful harvest this fall in whichever season they may hunt. There is no doubt that they can endure the haul in to their best hunting location. After all, I’ve seen them wade through swamps, rivers, deep snow, fields thick with thorns, and forests. They’ll wait patiently and contently for the opportune moment, as they do for my instruction at events, and when the moment presents itself, they’ll be ready.
There’s still time to prepare for your hunting season and give back to wildlife conservation. Join us Saturday, September 26th, at Allegan State Game Area for a coastal marsh clearing event to restore duck habitat! Check out the OTG event calendar here and sign up to volunteer. Best of luck to all the hunters next week for the early goose opener and teal hunts; check out the small game season dates and bag limits here.