Enjoy the wildlife in your neighborhood

Published 8:43 am Friday, September 26, 2008

The weather we have been enjoying the past couple of weeks has been excellent. Tuesday we were even treated to some much-needed rain.

The leaves are starting to turn and if you take a drive around the countryside the bean fields have turned a golden brown and the colors are pretty impressive.

If you enjoy watching wildlife you need venture no farther than my neighborhood. I do believe we have the market cornered on squirrels, rabbits and wildcats. Yes wildcats – I usually don’t write about this subject until spring but it has become apparent that there is a problem in some neighborhoods (mine). When I said wildcats I assume they are wild because there are three different cats that frequent my yard lying in wait to prey on birds or any other vulnerable critters that may be there. Do cats travel in packs, or does that only happen on TV?

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I don’t think they are doing me any harm except for the noticeable absence of birds in the trees of my yard. Hey, a cats gotta eat too, oh that’s right – I guess they don’t really eat the birds they just like to kill them and leave them lay. I do suppose the best way to have a cat is to feed it once a day and let it run loose in the neighborhood. This is all good for the pet owner until said owner is scraping a flattened ”fluffy” off the street and complaining that nobody stopped to help the critter.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I am not a cat hater or anything like that but I do think that if you live in town and have a pet you should not let it roam freely about a neighborhood. This spring I found numerous dead baby birds an a couple of dead baby rabbits in my yard and as far as I know this can be attributed to the “cat flu” and not the bird flu. Although it hasn’t seemed to hurt the rabbit population if you are a cat owner please try to keep it on a leash or at home so that the “real” wild critters and birds have a chance to survive.

Next week I plan a little trip north to our place in the woods. I will be going solo this time and am looking forward to enjoying the fall colors and getting in a little fall fishing. Fishing can be good this time of year if everything comes together. Fishing in the fall can be hit and miss at times with the weather playing a somewhat larger role than it usually does during the summer months. A sudden change in temperature in either direction can really affect fishing in the fall. I have found that when the temperature goes up dramatically it is usually worse than if it drops a few degrees. There is not any scientific data to support this, just my gut feeling from past experiences.

When we get to fall fishing you can probably say that we’ve come full-cycle in terms of bait. Minnows in the spring, leeches in early to mid-summer and crawlers late summer to early fall and then back to minnows in late fall. If you use artificials like a Rapala you should graduate from the smaller sizes in the early part of the season and go larger late to emulate the growth rate of the baitfish. The same can be said for spinnerbaits, a smaller blade early and a double or larger blade late or you can even turn to a larger willow leaf blade on the spinner.

If you are fishing bass you may want to try the remnants of underwater weedlines or deeper structure. Walleye can still be found on flats and sunken islands in late fall and a jig and minnow is usually a good bet. Trolling Shad Raps or long jerk baits like a No. 13 Floating Rapala or a Rebel over flats is a good bet for late evening and night fishing.

One thing about fall fishing is that they can pretty much be anywhere. On one late September trip I caught pike at 20 feet and walleye at 7 feet so you just never know for sure where they will be once the lakes have turned over.

Catching fish is nice but the idea of just being on a lake in the fall and enjoying the cool crisp fall air and the colors of the trees is a great experience in itself. When you talk about relieving stress, to me there is no better way than fishing and then throw in the fall colors and clean air — it just doesn’t get any better than that!

Reminder: With many duck hunters anxiously preparing for the Oct. 4 Minnesota opener, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds people to make sure they pack the one thing that could save their lives — their life jackets.

“The lack of flotation devices is still one of the most common law violations among waterfowl hunters and the most common cause of duck hunter deaths,” said Tim Smalley, DNR boating safety specialist. “It’s been that way ever since 1988, when life vests were first required on duck boats.”

The DNR offers these safety tips:

– Wear a life jacket to and from the blind; there are now life vests available for around $35 with mesh in the upper body that allow hunters to shoulder a gun but still offer protection from cold water.

– Don’t overload the boat; take two trips if necessary.

– Learn how to float in waders and hip boats or don’t wear them in the boat.

– Stay near shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather

– Let someone know where you are going and when to expect your return; tell them to call the authorities if you don’t return on schedule

– In case of capsizing or swamping, stay with your boat; even when filled with water, it will provide some flotation and is easier to see by potential rescuers.

“If you are near enough to a cell phone tower, it’s not a bad idea to bring your cell phone along in a waterproof, reclosable bag to call for help if you get into trouble,” Smalley advised. “You can use the phone without removing it from the bag.”

Until next time, play safe and enjoy the outdoors.

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