IT’S ALWAYS AMUSING to see the reaction people have to the first significant snowfall of the season. No, not that first skiff or two we get that usually melts within minutes or hours, but that first real snowfall that gets plows out on the road and cars in the ditch.

We got to experience our first “significant” snowfall of the season Sunday. I got to experience part of it on the road on a drive home from Madison where my wife and I, and four of our best friends watched the Wisconsin Badgers game at Camp Randall Saturday.

All things considered, it wasn’t that bad of a drive. Snow cover began just a hair north of Wausau, got a little heavier by Merrill and with 3 or 4 inches on the ground by the time we hit Tomahawk, it made driving from there on just a tad hairy. Not all that bad, but it made one concentrate and slow down.

Here in the North Woods, it was neat to see pine branches drooping from a load of heavy, wet snow. A county plow had swept Highway M by the time we hit it and had one lane plowed on Highway N. You might have called it the beginning of winter driving season, but if form holds true, even as this snow cover had already begun to fast melt away by Monday morning, it’s likely the next few will do the same.

Still, Sunday, the snow fell and hearing the hurrahs from some people and the gnashing of teeth with disconsolate wailing from others, you knew snow season had begun.

In one year short of seven decades of living in this piece of the North Woods, I have seen the first real snow come much earlier than this and, in some years, much later.

One of the most memorable, truly heavy, early snows of the season I remember happened not too far into September, maybe 30 years ago, give or take a few. That blanket of about 6 inches we got here and a full foot up in the Porcupine Mountains didn’t stop Doug Drew and I from trudging 4 miles on the Pinkerton Trail to the mouth of the Big Carp River.

We had good intel that the salmon were running out of Lake Superior and into the rivers, but after seeing no sign of fish in the Little Carp 3 miles into our hike, we were a little dubious about our prospects at the Big Carp. Our apprehension melted away quickly when we reached the bridge over the Big Carp, from which we saw many shadowy forms of salmon circling around a deep pool.

I was rigged up instantly and on one of my first casts, might even have been my first, a beautiful coho grabbed my firetiger-colored plug. Soon, 21 inches of superb eating was in my plastic, bag-lined packsack and the expedition was on for real.

Doug, who had nothing of the firetiger variety in his small tackle box wasted no time in begging a spare from me. Much to our consternation, the next half-hour of casting yielded not so much as one more hit. Soon, we were into lure switching in a big way. Ten fruitless casts with this one; cut the line and tie on another. Doug finally switched to his fly rod with a spawn sack and though he didn’t catch a salmon, he did hook into and land a dandy 2-pound brown trout.

After that rig produced no more hits, he rejoined me in throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the fish. I don’t remember what finally worked for him, but the next thing I knew, he had his limit of three cohos, all between 3 and 4 pounds, gutted and in his packsack.

Too proud to beg for his magic lure, I finally tied on the last unused one I had with me, a giant No. 7 Swedish Pimple. Straight casting and retrieving couldn’t buy a hit, but finally, out of desperation, I tried jigging it back through the swift current.

For whatever reason, the coho decided they liked that kind of action and within 15 minutes, I had two hits, two hook ups and two cohos landed. Our day on the Big Carp was over and all that was left was a long, slow slog through the snow to get back to our vehicle, both of us carrying probably an extra 6 or 8 pounds of fish in our packsacks.

Never have you seen two happier or more satisfied fishermen than the two of us when we finally got back to South Boundary Road. Needless to say, in our long afternoon of fishing and hiking, we did not see another solitary soul who wanted to buck that September snow for a long hike, an iffy chance at finding salmon and a bunch of sore muscles at the end of the day.

That was not the only time in my younger days when I still had the energy, strength and desire to buck early snow for a chance at catching a fish, flushing a partridge or scouting a buck.

One of the most memorable partridge hunts I ever had was an early October outing, when about 8 inches of fresh snow covered the ground, and loaded all manner of brush and tree branches with cold white stuff that they were all too willing to dump down the back of an intrepid hunter’s neck at regular intervals.

I hunted up in the Allequash Springs country that afternoon, working my way all the way to Nebish Lake. Despite my notoriously poor shooting rearing its ugly head as usual, I flushed enough partridges to hit a few. One bird, bedded down under the blanket of powdery snow, flushed almost from under my feet and though the first barrel of my Fox double-barrel only scared it, the next barrel brought it down.

By the end of the afternoon, I was admittedly dragging my tail feathers in the snow as I worked back to my truck, but my spirits were flying high with the welcome weight of three partridges in the game pocket of my vest.

I did not go out and play in this year’s first real snowfall, but soon, maybe, there will be another and when there is, my skis or my partridge gun will call to me and off I will go to play once more in early-season white stuff.

And with any luck, my lovely wife will have the deck, the 13 steps leading to it and the walkway leading from the driveway all shoveled.