Now that August is upon us, it’s hard to ignore that little bit of fall that is in the air. Sure, it’s going to be summer for quite a while, but when nighttime temperatures hover in the low-60s and upper-50s, good things happen. Fishing picks up and hunters stir as they know the time to hit the marshes, woods and fields is nearly upon us.
Earlier this week, I was reminded that waterfowl actually do migrate south in July and August when the 12 “resident” blue-winged teal that were born and reared on an area marsh tripled in number overnight. I stepped out of my Suburban with the binoculars to take a better look and the visitors flushed instantly, while the locals completely ignored me and went about their business.
It’s not unusual for “bluewings” to migrate south from the Canadian Prairies during late summer, and typically by the second week of August, there will be a smattering of flocks scattered across the marshes of the lower 48 states. And, while these tiny ducks do occasionally nest in Indiana, I certainly wouldn’t call it standard-operating procedure.
Another relatively-common visitor from the north during fall migration is the Common Loon. In particular, impressive numbers of juvenile loons cut through Indiana on their way to the Gulf Coast. This typically occurs in November and I’m pretty sure the majority of them consider Northern Indiana flyover country. Like all fish and wildlife, there are outlier individuals that don’t follow the rules.
Apparently, the juvenile loon that I saw on Pine Lake Thursday morning didn’t read the loon manual. I did a triple take, and when I finally realized it was a loon that was attempting to swallow what looked like a perch. I thought I was seeing things. When I lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, resident loons were commonplace, but to my knowledge, as a rule, they do not nest in Indiana. Loons are very particular about where they nest. That said, every year I see more and more of them behaving like local geese and mallards as they feed only a few feet from boats and cottages. Such was the case Thursday on Pine Lake.
It has been cool up north this week, and it’s clear, birds are on the move. Serious waterfowl hunters start to freak out when this happens - I know I certainly am.
Deer hunters are also feeling a little twitchy with the cooler weather this week. This is a great time to cruise the countryside at dusk and glass bean fields for stud whitetail bucks. It happens every August, and so far, they seem to be right on schedule. I like to size my deer spots up the next few weeks and take advantage of travel corridors that vary from year to year by placing tree stands in prime locations.
About the worst thing a deer hunter can do is disrupt their day-to-day behavior, so I’m careful to pick low-activity times and avoid bedding areas at all costs. But, if you have to enter their living room, and even mistakenly stumble into their bedroom, this is by far and away the best time to do it. Just don’t do it when they are the most active, during early morning and evening hours.
When most folks think about fishing, summer comes to mind. Honestly, I can’t stand fishing during the heat of summer – the exceptions being nighttime catfish and bass. Once August rolls around, my attitude changes. The rivers and lakes are slowly cooling down. Yes, August can be stifling hot during the day, but at night the temperatures are often moderate, if not cool. As the month progresses, fishing improves. In particular, fishing for cold-water species, such as trout, salmon and steelhead really picks up. Bass, walleye, musky and northern pike also start to gorge on baitfish that have matured and increased in size. Aggressive takes are the rule. It truly is a great time to hit the water. Just do your best to avoid the middle of the day when it’s ridiculously hot.
As things ramp up, many outdoorsmen are still focused on other things. We tend to be a tad complacent about getting our stuff ready. Often times, our gear is left in a stinking, wadded-up mess from last season. There is no better time than the next few weeks to get organized. Wash those hunting clothes, untangle those decoy lines and go shoot your guns and bows before the season is upon us. I need to read that last sentence several times for it to sink in, because I’m just as guilty as the next guy of blowing things off until a few days prior to the season.
Jay Anglin writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Argus. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.