Assessing autumn prospects during the lull in outdoors action can pay dividends down the road

Deer watchers, photographers and archers are putting game cameras out, driving rural roads and forest trails, and looking to see where deer are feeding says Doug Williams, of D W Sports Center in Portage. The first hunting season, archery, begins Sept. 17.

“This year, if it has three leaflets, leave it be, and also watch for the stick-tights; they’re ripe and dry enough to start clinging,” Williams adds.

Most of what will be gathered outdoors this fall is now on the landscape. Scouting to assess prospects for viewing, photographing, hooking, hunting, and picking are showing up in one of several ways.

Some archers may check tree stands, look for scraps and rubs, and spend time observing deer movement patterns.

Others may step back and look more generally at as much and as many subtle clues appearing, get to know more about entire habitats, but not concentrate on just deer.

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Williams calls this a bit of a down time outdoors, a slow time when assessments of a more general nature can be conducted at a leisurely pace, sort of “taking time to smell the wild bergamot.”

There may not seem like there is a direct connection between noticing bergamot and digging ginseng, or climbing into a tree stand, but it shouldn’t matter. Some of what is out there can be there in our world for beauty and noticing. It can be mentally helpful in trying to figure out what it all means, though.

After all, deer eat numerous plants and mushrooms, step on others and even change the makeup of the habitat including what other animals do or do not exist nearby. Some late summer outings may end by collecting spiderwort seeds, admiring an aggregate blackberry fruit find and kicking a pullball just to see a cloud of spores.

An all-in opportunity to assess populations, recruitments, plant growth, storm damage, water levels and general knowledge of habitats can be rewarding, informative and important.

Insects are still about, pollinators still busy with bees gathering pollen, spilling some, and collecting nectar. Some insects and other parasites have damaged plant parts, helped cause fruit to develop and eaten into goldenrod stems causing abnormalities and an ice fishing grub.

Fungi have influenced plant development, consumed, albeit internally, large portions of trees, weakened others and are about to emerge as edible or poisonous fungi.

An eastern tiger swallowtail takes nectar for Joe-Pye weed flowers.

Maybe an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly will be seen visiting a Joe-Pye weed. Maybe more common than a monarch this summer.

Touch-me-not impatiens plants (jewelweed, too) are beginning to bloom. Common names can be misleading. Here the “don’t touch” suggestion is really a gentle warning that a seed capsule (fruit) will pop when touched, giving one a start.

Walking through a wet prairie, where all sorts of animals abound, are showing common sneezeweed blooming heads and attracting some tiny lady beetles, dark and almost too small to see. Here, too, the common name suggests a discomfort, but the name came from using the plant to bring on a sneeze to loosen head colds.

The results of some summer flowers are now showing as hitchhiking plant parts. Dozens, all using some Velcro-like cling-for-a-time method of moving the populations, are waiting to hitch a ride. Stickseed is noticed as one of the most tenacious, bothersome and annoying.

There is still time to dismantle some traveling plants before the seeds and fruits mature and develop hard, sharp clingers.

They surely remind us of pulling open a Velcro fastener. It was burdock that gave an inventor this clinging idea.

Walks in the woods and fields, seeing the first of hitchhiking plant parts is not all negative. These clinging particles catch fur, hair, feathers and even bare skin. A deer, as well as a turkey, may have been targeted by burdocks and tells us something about where these animals have slept, fed and walked. Even though a particular type of bur may seem to be everywhere, there may still be clues. One gender, size, or age group of deer may carry the burs, suggesting the places visited by various deer are different.

Wayne Smith, Lafayette County, noticed four turkey poults recently. Now there are two. Williams, back in Portage, has seen some, too, and wonders if loses are due to bobcats. “And there are now bears in them, there, hills now,” he says.

Deer feeding signs are omnipresent. Even tall compass plants didn’t escape the raggedy biting and pulling by fawns, does and bucks; the males still growing antler material, and the youngest showing waning spots. Breakaway speed and new camouflage systems will make fawns a worthy challenge come Sept. 17 for anyone interested in seeing them.

Don Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe, says, “ammunition availability is no better now than last year.”

Heed sports shop clerks’ advice about equipment and ammunition availability, or lack of, now.

Gray squirrels have taken to de-husking hazelnuts, leaving little chance of filling a pocket with filberts as a snack or a good luck charm. These rodents won’t be feeding here next month, so where will they be in mid-September?

It’s a surprise that some archers and otherwise tree-positioned photographers and viewers climb up a tree and don’t know anything about the tree other than if it’s straight and solid. Is it a hackberry, a relative of the elms?

Seeming to be of little import, but noticing could prove otherwise. Ghost plants, those all white flowering parasites that connect with better plants by a fungal thread, grow close to the surface. So do morel mushrooms and their root connections. If ghost plants have a good growing season, so, too might next spring’s fungi. That would be the first time in four years.

Enjoy a walk, take a look, or a really slow ride along a road or forest trail.

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