From start to finish, September boasts plenty of outdoors options
September is one of the more interesting months of the year.
If you like the whimsical, the weeks ahead have plenty of special days. Today, for example, is Emma M. Nutt Day (honoring the world's first telephone operator) and will be followed by the likes of National Beheading Day (Sept 2.), Sewing Machine Day (Sept. 8), National Apple Dumpling Day (Sept. 17) and Elephant Appreciation Day (Sept. 22).
But September has more to offer than a line-up of bizarre celebrations. Like March, it's a pivotal month that bridges two seasons in the great outdoors.
The “solstice months,” the ones that contain official seasonal changes, are not so dynamic. June usually begins warm and ends warm—no big transition here. Likewise by the first of December “autumn” has been kaput for weeks and the beginning and end of the month are often uniformly dreary and snowy. September, however, can begin with temperatures in the 90s and by month's end it's not unusual to see a touch of frost in the northern part of the state. During this time the northern woods change from green to gold.
This month gives us, perhaps, more outdoor opportunities than any other. It's still warm enough for summer activities like hiking and camping, but the heat and humidity of August has passed. So have the clouds of mosquitoes and kamikaze deer flies that make the outdoors in July miserable.
It's a good month to be out on the water. For the first few weeks, at least, the water temperature is still warm enough to swim or water ski. An accidental turnover in a canoe or kayak won't take your breath away, either, but as the nights cool, a phenomenon called “fall overturn” begins to occur. This is when the warmer upper layer of water cools at night and sinks, forcing the colder water below upward. The dynamics of this cycle eventually lead to freeze up, but even in its early stages, the process revives the fishing, which has been so-so during August's “dog days.”
Perhaps the biggest outdoors event this month is the start of hunting. Early goose, dove, grouse and several other small game seasons will begin, and an early fall camping trip combined with a squirrel hunt can be a memorable experience.
Years ago, we would always spend a late September weekend camping at the Meadow Valley Wildlife Area. The nights were comfortably cool but not cold, and being in the woods at sun-up when the first splashes of color were showing up in the scrub oak and birch was a special time. The trees were alive with squirrels rummaging for acorns and an occasional grouse would explode from a nearby balsam, making for a heart-stopping moment.
This is also a prime time to pick fall mushrooms such as the shaggy mane, banana button and puffball. I once ran into another squirrel hunter at Meadow Valley with his .22 slung over his shoulder and a basket in his hand.
“I keep one eye on the ground and the other in the trees” he told me. Along with his squirrel dinner and side dish of mushrooms sautéed in butter, he had also found some ripening cranberries in a little marsh and planned on cooking over his open fire for dessert.
Sept. 15 is circled on the calendars of many of the state's bowhunters—and not because it's National Felt Hat Day. Yes, there are still enough bugs around to be annoying, but I'd rather swat a few mosquitoes while sitting on a deer stand than slowly freeze solid on a bitter November morning. Many archers treat this early part of the season as more of a glorified “scouting” time than actually hunt it in earnest. Still, if that deer of a lifetime should show up, few would pass the opportunity.
Biking? September's bluebird weather is an ideal time. The busy bike trails have thinned out now that the kids are back in school, and most summer vacations have been taken.
September's here and the weather's great. Enjoy!
D.S. Pledger is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.