One clue that autumn is rapidly approaching: You wake up with a rather large dog stealing your covers and trying to absorb as much body heat as possible.
Another: You take that dog outside for her morning walk and the lawn is covered with frost.
When the temps reach 80 this weekend, you may decide that I’ve jumped the gun a bit, but believe me, this morning was downright chilly. I, for one, am ready to embrace the season. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that this is the best time of year to be an outdoorsman (or woman) in Maine.
Don’t get me wrong. I like beach season, and love to spend time at camp on those steamy summer days (All four of them). But considering the recreational options available at this time of year, it’s hard to complain.
On Monday, hundreds of lucky moose hunters will head into the woods in search of a burly bull. If you live in the northern or eastern part of the state, you can share some of the excitement on Monday. Just head to your local moose-tagging station, wait around for a bit and ask the happy hunters who show up to tell you about their Monday morning moose.
I’ll be doing the same thing up in Ashland, where I’ve found that the stories are always abundant and the hunters are always willing to share them. Stay tuned later on opening day, and I’ll share some of those tales with you.
Of course, moose hunting is not the only thing that’s going on in the great outdoors.
Bear hunters have been at it for nearly four weeks, and the regular baiting season is winding down. Bowhunters who take advantage of the expanded archery deer-hunting zones — more urban spots where bowhunting is really the only way to reduce the deer population — have been in the woods since Sept. 7. Regular bowhunting for deer starts Oct. 5. And firearms hunters will begin targeting deer Nov. 4 (with Youth Deer Day a week earlier, and the residents-only opener set for Nov. 2).
Those crisp, cool mornings are also a signal to the state’s bird hunters that their favorite season is nearly upon them.
And they won’t have to wait long. Upland bird hunting for ruffed grouse starts Sept. 28, and plenty of hunters will take advantage of that opportunity by loading their loyal bird dogs up and heading to productive covers, or by simply riding the state’s plentiful woods roads, hoping to spot a bird that’s sitting in a sunbeam, warming up after a cold Maine night.
In certain parts of the state — up above American Realty Road in Aroostook County, for example — hunters will tell you that filling their four-bird daily bag limit does not take too long at all, because grouse are so plentiful.
That’s not the reality for me and my friends, who mostly hunt birds on the west side of Moosehead Lake. None of us have ever filled our limit in those woods, though we do always seem to find enough birds to keep us alert, and to provide a meal or two.
Of course, fall’s not all about hunting. Ask an avid fly fisher, and they’ll likely tell you that fall fishing here in Maine can provide some of the best fishing of the year.
Adding to the allure of those autumn days of fishing: Biting insects have largely vanished, the foliage provides a stunning backdrop while you’re wading in a remote river and the brook trout you catch will be equally beautiful, sporting bright orange bellies and the vivid colors that they wear during spawning season.
And if you’re a hiker, you can’t beat being out on a mountain trail, looking down at the valley below as the trees seem to glow in various autumn hues.
So yes, summer’s gone, and as a famous writer once told us, “Winter is coming.” But that’s not a bad thing.
Instead, it just means it’s time to head outdoors and enjoy all that Maine offers. I certainly will. See you out there!
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” will be released by Islandport Press in October.