YOU KNOW fall is just around the corner when you are standing in a store watching someone purchase multiple bags of deer corn and a big pack of batteries for the trail cameras.

Of course we all know the deer feeding and baiting part isn’t legal in many counties, but that’s not stopping people from buying tons of corn, carrots, sugar beets, apples and mineral blocks each year.

For the record, deer feeding and baiting has not been allowed in Vilas, Oneida and Forest counties since deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a fenced game preserve in Three Lakes.

Besides those incidents in multiple years, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also documented two CWD cases in wild deer near Harrison Hills, which is near the border of Oneida and Lincoln counties west of Rhinelander.

While many private landowners have adjusted to the no-baiting rule with food plots that mimic agricultural practices, there are still a lot of people feeding deer with what they call artificial bait.

And in the case of the guy buying bags of corn and batteries for the trail cameras, hopefully he’s headed to a county or state where they allow baiting for hunting purposes. 

This might be pushing the season change a little, but last Thursday morning’s low of 48 degrees was a breath of fresh air that felt a lot like fall. The humidity had disappeared, however briefly, and it was great weather for sleeping.

Another sign of an approaching autumn is when the DNR starts selling antlerless deer tags for northern counties, which happens next Monday, Aug. 19.

In Vilas County, there will be 150 permits available for public land and 350 permits available for private land. In Oneida, there will be 1,350 public land tags and 2,000 private land permits. In Forest, there will be no public land tags and 300 private land permits.

County committees in Vilas and Forest got ultra conservative and cut their antlerless harvest quotas in late winter, fearful that having up to 36 inches of snow on the ground for weeks on end would cause winterkill and impact fawn production this spring.

More intensely populated Oneida County, with more farmland and more residential areas, has the deer numbers and habitat to keep antlerless tag numbers considerably higher.

The jury is still out on exactly what impacts the winter had on both adults and fawns, but the number of road-killed deer and fawn observations suggest it might not be as bad as everyone feared.

Nobody can blame them for getting ultra conservative when there was three feet of snow on the ground for several weeks, which is the highest snow depth we’ve seen in more than 40 years.

Heck, that snow shut down ice fishing for a month, caused headaches for anyone involved in snow removal, collapsed roofs on numerous buildings and made it extremely difficult for people to get LP gas delivered to tanks in their back yards.

I’ve even seen a surprisingly decent number of deer in the national forest, far from the residential areas where illegal artificial feeding probably saved many a deer last winter.

In the past week, three people were already talking excitedly about seeing changing leaf color in their yards and woods. All involved red leaves on maple tree branches.

Every year, regardless of the weather or any early frost activity, there are certain trees that display early color. Sometimes it’s easy to see the trees are stressed or have broken branches, but other times the early color shows for no apparent reason.

What this topic should mean to the average outdoors person is that it’s time to get serious about getting the dog in shape, getting to the trap or sporting clays course to sharpen those shooting skills, and dusting off the bow and arrows if you haven’t already done so.

The hunting seasons for ruffed grouse, turkey and archery deer are exactly one month away, starting on Saturday, Sept. 14. The woodcock season opens Sept. 21 and the duck season will open Sept. 28.

It’s also time to put up any new tree stands on your property, well in advance of actually hunting from them. And it’s never too early for trail cameras to find out what kind of bucks are around and when they are moving through your area.

 It’s an exciting time of the year for those of us who live to hunt, for the anticipation and preparation for the hunt brings renewed focus and one of the most joyous things in life — hope.

This is the time of year when plans get finalized for things such as opening weekend get-togethers and special hunting trips with friends and family.

For me, it’s time to call friends in central Wisconsin and schedule a couple of mornings to hunt deer in farm country, where numerous free antlerless tags are available this year. 

It’s time to find out who is going to show up for the grouse opener, the goose opener, the duck opener or any weekend in the glorious month of October, because seeing a calendar full of scheduled hunts can bring a wide smile to any hunter’s face.

I’m not a big fall angler because the scribbler won’t give up time from these rather short hunting seasons to fish, but I know people who are laying plans for assaults on muskies, walleyes, northern pike and bass.

They say fall fishing is some of the best fishing of the year, when some fish return to the shallows and others concentrate around deep holes — both conditions making most species easier to find and catch.

That’s my pre-autumn report and it’s coming fast, so make haste to get the planning and the preparations into full swing.