The signs of fall are everywhere.
That’s been especially apparent the past few days. The first hard frost of the season hit parts of the region earlier this week, archery deer season is underway in North Dakota and opens Saturday, Sept. 19, in Minnesota. The upland game season for sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridge and ruffed grouse opens Saturday, Sept. 12, in North Dakota and Saturday, Sept. 19, in Minnesota.
Early goose seasons are underway in both states.
And then there’s the foliage. Leaves are beginning to turn, highbush cranberries are ripe for the picking and late summer flowers such as fringed and bottle gentians either are in full bloom or just past their peak.
Most obvious, perhaps, are the shorter days.
In my world, these all are welcome signs. Fall is my favorite time of year.
At least when the weather cooperates.
Complaining about the weather is a fool’s pastime, to be sure, but I’ve become a bit apprehensive about fall weather prospects in recent years.
Whether it’s hunting or fall fishing, weather can make or break the season.
Last year about this time, anticipation for fall ran high. Hunting prospects for most species were favorable, fishing reports were good across the region and a friend and I had just returned from a catfishing trip to the Canadian side of the Red River near Lockport, Manitoba, that left both of us with sore arms.
Then the monsoons descended, and the season went south.
It all started late the night of Friday, Sept. 20, and continued through the wee hours of Saturday morning. The rain wasn’t unexpected, but its impact lingered until freeze-up.
I slept through most of that Friday night storm, but when I woke up the next morning, the sight that greeted me when I checked my basement wasn’t pleasant.
Water, water everywhere.
A friend whose house had stayed dry during the deluge came over later that morning with a large wet vac and helped me mop up the mess. It was a constant battle, and the water would seep back in as soon as we mopped it up.
That was my life for the next three days and a reminder, once again, of why my house will never have a finished basement.
Another friend with a finished basement had it even worse. The float on his sump pump had stuck, and he woke up that Saturday morning to a basement of waterlogged carpets, wet furniture and moisture that soon would wick up the sheetrock.
We spent the better part of Sunday afternoon hauling wet carpet and a variety of other things out of his basement and out to the curb. There are nastier jobs, to be sure, but wrangling waterlogged carpeting has to rank right up there.
By the next weekend, I had gotten my basement water problem under control, only to have another heavy rainstorm hit.
Like the previous one, it dumped some 5 inches of rain.
My house to that point didn’t have a sump pump, but that rain was the last straw. A contractor working at the next door neighbor’s house installed a sump pit and sump pump – I had to order the sump pump on Amazon because none were available locally – a week later.
The sump pump ran every few minutes the rest of the fall, but at least my basement stayed dry. I’m pretty sure I spent more time in my basement during those two awful weeks than I had the whole year up to that point.
The impact on fall outdoor activities was just as substantial.
River fishing for walleyes on the Red River and some of its smaller tributaries is one of my favorite fall activities, but every river in the region was swelled to overflowing after the September monsoons.
Ruffed grouse hunting was just as challenging. A 100-yard stretch of the road to one of our favorite grouse hunting spots was flooded, any low spots in the woods had turned into lakes and my cousin’s deer stand, where a friend had shot his first deer with a 50-caliber Hawken muzzleloader late the previous fall, was only accessible by boat.
We laid pallets to create a makeshift bridge from the firepit to the woodpile at our property in northwest Minnesota. It didn’t seem to matter where you walked, every step was followed by a squishing sound.
For me, one of the defining images of the fall came from a trail camera photo Kevin Boushee of East Grand Forks, Minn., shared with me. His brother, Jeff, had set the trail cameras on some property along the Red River that was flooded for several weeks.
Some of the trail cameras survived, and the SD cards yielded some memorable images, including a photo of four deer wading through neck-deep water on the same trail they used when the area was high and dry.
It was that kind of fall. May we not have another one like it.
Especially this year; we’ve already gone through enough.