NOT to make light of our final glorious weeks of summer, but notices showed up last week to signal that fall hunting is right around the corner.

First the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sends out notification that antlerless harvest authorizations are available in the farmland zone. That’s where multiple “tags” are offered in many counties and they are free.

Then they announce that antlerless tags will go on sale starting Monday, Aug. 16, in the counties that comprise the northern and central forest regions.

On top of that, press releases were sent out statewide encouraging people to get their hunter’s safety education certificates completed because the fall seasons are at hand.

At the same time, Ducks Unlimited popped out an email screen titled “Countdown to Fall” and the Ruffed Grouse Society did something similar.

Don’t read that as any kind of complaint, for those are the kind of notices we hunters live to see. I’ve never been a huge fan of summer, hot humid days, tough fishing conditions and going months without a gun in hand.

The news was enough to get me focused on the fact that the fall hunting seasons for deer and ruffed grouse are just five weeks away, opening this year on Saturday, Sept. 18.

The bear hunt will come even faster as it always opens on the Wednesday after Labor Day, which this year is Sept. 8.

For the scribbler, it’s a wake-up call that there’s a black Lab named Gracie who needs to step up the training routine, and it’s time to plan some trap shooting or a trip to a sporting clays course to get the eyes and reflexes in shape.

Heritage Hunt Club in Laona reported that they are already booking some pheasant hunts, though because of the summer heat, they must be scheduled early morning or late evening in the best interest of dog health and safety.

There’s also a sporting clays course at the club, so maybe it will be some pre-season training for my shooting and a couple of flushes to get an aging dog motivated.

Gracie will be entering her 12th hunting season as she will hit the dozen-year mark in November. And right now, there’s no signs whatsoever that she won’t be ready and willing despite her age.

The old girl has been re-enacting her puppy years, stimulated by a new dog in the house. Wife Alice brought home a small aussie-doodle late last fall, just after Thanksgiving, and all the household activity has put an extra hop in Gracie’s step.

I’m not sure I’d believe it without seeing it, but Gracie and Coco do laps around the yard and around the house — tearing up living rooms and bedrooms and the kitchen. 

Gracie, who is sometimes the instigator on these all-out chases, has a new lease on life. The two make the tug-of-war game quite entertaining.

The little doodle weighs in at 30 pounds dripping wet and isn’t destined for any kind of hunting, yet its got quite the nose. There’s not a squirrel track or scent post that doesn’t force Coco’s nose to the ground.

Personally, there have been no sightings of grouse broods so far this summer. But other hunters have reported seeing multiple hens with chicks, and that’s mighty encouraging for the grouse hunt.

The DNR’s spring drumming counts showed a 7% drop in grouse breeding activity this spring, but the comparison was to 2019 because no surveys were run in the heart of the pandemic. Only time will tell how many birds we find this fall.

There’s big optimism for the fall hunts in that duck and goose numbers are solid, the deer herd is growing following a mild winter, bear numbers are at near-record levels, and turkeys seem to be everywhere.

It’s been a decent growing season for pheasant cover at the preserves in this area, and DNR?stocking on public and leased lands in southern counties should again exceed 50,000 roosters this fall.

If you haven’t tried it, there are thousands of acres of public land available that are stocked with huge roosters from the Poynette Game Farm. And you can shoot two roosters a day, only one less than a prime pheasant state such as South Dakota.

Hunters with connections in western states say pheasant numbers continue to rebound in Iowa and the Dakotas, yet those states have lost so much crop reserve program (CRP) grass and other prime habitat to corn production that the recovery will be limited.

I’m going to attempt to enjoy the boating and fishing and golfing that’s left this summer, but my mind is already drifting to days when a crossbow or a shotgun will replace rods and clubs.

Long walks and swimming your dog are the best way to start the training process, for there’s no way you want to jeopardize your pet’s health during the dog days of August.

Anticipation is building and having something to look forward to, like exploring new territory for grouse and deer, is already building excitement for another hunting season.

As fall approaches and nighttime temps get cooler, I’m reminded of the lyrics in an old Phil Collins song, “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord.”