Spring, summer and winter each have their special attributes, but autumn is the greatest season of the year for the outdoorsman. Here are 13 reasons why.
1. Hunting Season
Let's get this one out of the way. Fall means hunting season. That's surely the number-one reason, for most of us, why autumn is the best season of the year. Sure, there's always something to hunt throughout the year (spring turkey season, anyone?), but autumn is when hunting season kicks into full drive.
Bowhunting begins, and all of those arrows you've been shooting at paper and plastic targets all spring and summer will finally have live, antlered targets in front of them (hopefully). All of those clay pigeons you've been shooting will suddenly become grouse, pheasant and ducks. Hunting is the single greatest reason to enjoy the fall season.
2. Salmon Runs
Big chinook and coho salmon begin their spawning runs in early autumn. It's a time of excitement and anticipation for anglers. Big silver rockets that peel line from your reel, and visions of ice chests full of fat fillets, or salmon steaks and tasty fish boils if you're from the Great Lakes region.
3. Petrichor... that Earthy Aroma
It's that "earthy, dead leaves and damp earth" smell. I don't know if petrichor is the precisely proper term for it, but it's close. If we could bottle this aroma or put it in a candle, we'd be millionaires. The whole woods is a seductive potpourri.
4. Autumn Colors
This one is obvious. For a few short weeks, the woods are alive with fiery orange, rich burgundies and reds, neon yellows... browns, golds, greens...
This is when you can't help but think of nature as art. Sometimes, we just sit at the base of a tree and stare.
5. Fireplaces and Bonfires
Possibly the only time a fireplace or campfire feels better is in winter, but then again, maybe not. Winter is when you need warmth, and usually the other side of your body is cold. Autumn is when the fire just feels so comforting.
Can anything beat standing around a campfire, beer in hand, chatting with friends about the day's outdoor adventures?
6. Mushroom Foraging
Chicken of the woods, hen of the woods, puffballs, chanterelles, boletes, pig snoots, buttons, oysters, honeys, lions mane, blewits, and more! Sure, morels come in spring (hooray!), but autumn offers a cornucopia of edible mushrooms and another excuse to get outside and traipse through the woods.
7. Apple Cider
Foraging for apples is easy and fun. There are farmhouse apple trees, abandoned orchards, and trees nobody picks anymore all over the countryside. And all you need to make some delicious apple cider is a food processor and some cotton cloth. Pulse chunks of apple in the food processor, plop the pulp into the cloth, and squeeze the heck out of it.
Of course many of us get really into it, with apple grinders, presses, glass carboys... the whole nine yards. But squeezing them by hand is how I started, and it still works.
It's a lot of work, but it's fun work on a beautiful autumn afternoon, and you will have some of the best-tasting and freshest apple cider this side of heaven. Mull it and drink it hot to warm the bite of that autumn air.
8. Camping Pressure
Many folk say camping is best in autumn. The bugs are down, and the sleeping is better on cool nights than it is in the summertime. But best of all, the number of people who visit our state and national parks and campgrounds goes down a bit. Camping pressure is down, and that means that the best sites are often available.
It used to be a tradition in my family: go hunting on a Sunday morning, come back at noon, watch the Packers game on television, then head back out into the woods when the game's over.
But football itself is an outdoors sport, and watching the game on a TV set up in the garage or driveway and hanging with your buddies is a time-honored tradition, no matter who you are.
I trapped for a few years when I was younger, and even now, though I no longer trap, I look forward to buying a trapping license each year and the anticipation of seeing trapping photos online. Coyotes, muskrat, red fox, raccoons, mink, and a whole lot more.
Trapping is a wonderful tradition that competes with hunting for many outdoorsmen. And who doesn't like running his or her hands through the luxurious pelt of a fur-bearing critter on a cool autumn day?
Thanksgiving is an autumn tradition for everyone. It is the biggie holiday of the season. It's one of the holidays when you take your hat off to sit at the table, eat until it hurts, and then come back at half-time of the football game for seconds.
Turkey tryptophan drowsiness never felt so good. It is truly a meal that celebrates the bounty that most of us are blessed with in America. And if you can cook that wild turkey you harvested as the centerpiece, all the better!
Autumn is dress-in-layers season. It's temperature control at its simplest and finest. Getting chilly? Now's the time to throw on that red and black checked flannel shirt. Getting chillier? Throw that vest on over the flannel. Raking the yard or hiking uphill making you overheat? Take off that outer layer and breathe in that brisk autumn air while your muscles get a workout in a t-shirt.
You're not as hot as you are in summertime, nor are you so cold that you need an actual puffy coat like you do in winter. Dressing in layers is, in my humble opinion, one of practical and fun things about autumn.
13. Cooler temperatures
You can't beat sleeping with the window open in autumn. Blankets feel cozier and that autumn smell lulls you to sleep. Everything just feels better when the temperature hovers in the midrange of the thermometer. Whether you're 'still hunting' through the woods after squirrel or grouse, or canoeing on a river or lake, the cool air is refreshing and invigorating.
It's not sweaty hot like it is in summer, nor is it cold enough to make the inside of your nose stick to itself like it does in winter. Everything tastes, smells and feels better in this air: the cider and coffee, the campfire, grilling, flannel, the very earth under our feet.
Yes, every season of the year has its own special charms, but autumn is easily the best time of year for the outdoorsman or woman.
Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.