How Is Your Fall Shaping Up?

This morning, I sent my kids off to school, their first day of 5th grade. That event alone is the most dramatic sign that summer is over and fall has begun...the one transformation I can witness without ever leaving the house.

Out in the woods, autumn's signs are more subtle, but no less dramatic; sumac and dogwood are showing hints of color. There are white oak acorns falling from a handful of trees. The fields of my farming neighbors, full of soybeans and corn, are slowly morphing to yellow. The last hay crop of 2009 is mostly-harvested as of this past weekend.

The deer have their own way of showing that fall is here, of course. Most of the whitetails I see now have lost their red summer coats and sport the sleek brown hair of fall. I pulled a couple of trail cameras this weekend, one of which was set near an apple tree dropping fruit in a big way (above). Five different bucks stopped in for a candid photo, and two of them had shed their velvet. Those still holding velvet sported fully-formed racks. In the days ahead they'll join their hard-horned buddies.

Fall is here! The archery season is less than a week away in Wisconsin, a mere 12 days off in my home state of Minnesota. It seems slightly surreal that I'll be in a tree stand in mere days; while I'm obviously excited about the season opener, I'm a little slack-jawed that yet another summer has whizzed past.

So how are things looking in your neighborhood? Are bucks still packing velvet, or has the transformation begun? When do your earliest deer seasons start?