The late Aldo Leopold, considered to be the father of modern day wildlife management, wrote in his essay "Thinking Like a Mountain" about the only time he shot and killed a wolf: "Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn."
Across the tranquil lake in the darkness of a moonless sky, I can barely make out the faint yellow glow of a campfire. My fire is behind me, about 50 feet, crackling in a dreamy and muffled series of pops and snaps as the dry pine slowly burns.
Though autumn is a favorite season of mine, it's hard to admit that the summer of 2016 is over and the winter of 2016-17 is right around the corner. Looking out across Assawa Lake, I see that none of the yellow leaves of ash and aspen trees that were clinging to branches just a few weeks ago. And the bur oaks, which have long since dropped their meager crop of acorns, are standing tall and strong with nary a leaf a' blowing.
Since 2006, four of us, sometimes three of us, embark on our annual late-October trip to the Colorado Rockies. We hunt mule deer and elk, yet the stories we bring back to camp and the memories we tuck away in our minds, our journals, and our photo albums, are often much less about game secured than wildlife observed.
Chance are good that by now you have heard about (or have experienced first-hand!) the burgeoning mouse population in Minnesota. People all over are reporting mice everywhere — in their houses, garages, vehicles, sheds, wood piles ... you name it. The cyclic nature of rodent populations, particularly mice and voles, generally goes unnoticed until they begin showing up in unwanted places.
Despite the near countless hours I've spent in the great outdoors, Nature, and all its wonders, continues to deliver surprises and the unexpected. As luck would have it, another of those instances occurred just a few evenings ago while out hunting ruffed grouse. The evening was uncommonly warm for a near mid-October outing, but I didn't complain. Anytime is a good time to be in the woods. As I concluded my hunt at sundown, I began my near mile-long walk back to the vehicle. I chose for my return trip the same route I took in — an old two-track forest access trail.
Ecology, or the relations of organisms to one another and to their surrounding physical environment, include near limitless examples the world over. Some of the more interesting and fascinating examples involve pollinators and seed dispersal mechanisms.
It might be hard to think of now, especially with the bright fall colors of autumn still clinging to trees and the brilliant gold of tamarack yet to come, but snow could arrive most any day as October wanes and migrant birds evacuate Minnesota for warmer climates. Indeed, November and December beckons while January and February await.
Several summers ago while spending a day in a Wadena County jack pine woodland, I was startled when a large furry animal leapt from a thickly limbed nearby pine. The dark form hit the ground in a loud thud, and was immediately running as fast as it could in the opposite direction I was heading.
September's here, and along with it comes the end of summer, the season's first frosts, autumn colors, and the glorious fall months of the northland. We're already noticing the telltale signs—some songbirds are beginning their migration south, hummingbirds have become less abundant at our feeders, and white-tailed deer bucks are shedding velvet to expose the hard bone underneath and soon-to-be polished and gorgeous racks.