GRAND FORKS — So here we are — October.
The best month of the year for many of us.
If outdoors is your thing — and it probably is, if you’re taking the time to read this column — it’s all there to enjoy in October. Whether it’s waterfowl, upland game, archery deer hunting or fishing, the opportunities hit a peak in October.
Ask just about any angler who fishes in the fall, and they’ll likely say their biggest walleyes came in October.
And for hunters fortunate to draw North Dakota rifle tags for moose, elk or pronghorn, the opportunities are ramped up even higher.
So much to do. So much to enjoy. So little time.
Now if the weather only would cooperate, and so far, the signs on that front are ominous.
The National Weather Service office in Grand Forks on Friday said September — good riddance to the month, I say — was the wettest September on record and ranks among the top 10 wettest months ever in Grand Forks.
That rank could climb even higher depending the rain that was forecast from Saturday night through Monday for much of the region. The area from Devils Lake, N.D., to Bemidji, Minn., and north to the Canadian border is on tap to receive another 1½ to 2 inches of unneeded and unwelcome rain through Monday, the NWS predicts, and parts of the Northwest Angle could see 2 to 3 inches.
If recent history is any indication, those totals will climb even higher. That just seems to be the way it works lately.
I’ve just conditioned myself to expect the worst.
The weather definitely factored into last weekend’s waterfowl openers in North Dakota and Minnesota, at least for hunters who didn’t have issues to deal with at home. For many of us contending with wet basements and soggy belongings, venturing outdoors wasn’t even an option.
As reported Friday, Mark Fisher, district wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Devils Lake, said the 3 to 5 inches of rain that fell across the Lake Region last weekend made it difficult for waterfowl hunters to access fields and prairie trails. On the upside, hunters who braved the rain and slop “generally did well,” Fisher said, shooting mixed bags of ducks and geese.
“Nice weather if you’re a duck,” the old saying goes, and last weekend, that was certainly the case.
If you were a farmer or homeowner, not so much.
In northwest Minnesota, severe thunderstorms Friday, Sept. 20, resulted in major flooding at Roseau River and Roseau Lake wildlife management areas, the Department of Natural Resources reported Thursday in its weekly waterfowl update. The storm ruined wild rice in Pool 3 of the WMA, and most farm fields had standing water.
As in the Lake Region, birds at Roseau River are scattered because sheetwater is so abundant. Hunter participation and success was “dismal,” the report said, no surprise given the conditions.
The report was slightly better at Thief Lake WMA east of Middle River, Minn., where the DNR said hunting pressure as measured by car counts was down 25% from last year. Success for the weekend averaged 1.25 ducks per hunter, the DNR said, down from 2.77 last year.
Life wasn’t any better for upland game hunters. In Beltrami Island State Forest, for example, heavy rainfall prompted the DNR to close many of the roads and trails, several of which still were listed as closed Friday morning on the DNR website at mndnr.gov.
Looking for any glimmer of hope, I reached out to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks on Friday morning to see what’s in store for October.
The response I received didn’t do much for my optimism.
The Climate Prediction Center, I was told, predicts the first part of October will be cooler and wetter than normal — aarrgggh! — but will be warmer than normal later in the month.
The word “drier” was conspicuously absent from that forecast, but the three-month outlook calls for “near normal” precipitation, I was told.
Hopefully, September isn’t the gauge they’re using for normal. I’m generally a glass-half-full kind of guy, but it’s hard to be optimistic when it’s the rain gauge that’s half-full and not the proverbial glass.
Like many of you, I’ve got a full outdoors agenda in October, and right now, Mother Nature doesn’t seem to be in much of a mood to cooperate.
Here’s hoping for a turnaround in October. After what those of us who live here endured in September — whether farming, canceled outdoor excursions, dealing with wet basements or all of the above — an extended period of sun and dry weather would be much appreciated.
Now we wait.