In the eyes of many outdoor men, fall is hunting season. The deer are in their rut, and it is the only time of the year to get that trophy head. Their billowing roars spread throughout the valley, as the dominant males compete for their harem.
It is also game bird season, the young quail, pheasants, and ducks have fledged, and their populations need to be culled before the onset of winter when the lack of food puts a strict cap on population size. In many parts, migrating geese also make an appearance. So, it is a great time of year to be a hunter, and the number of people hoping to fill their freezers with fresh game is at a high.
This is a trout fishing, not a hunting blog. So how does the influx of hunters into our trout stream impact our recreational activity? I will start by saying, hunting accidents are extremely rare, and most accidental shootings occur between hunters, rather than other outdoor users. With that said, in the fall when there are more hunters it does not hurt to be more cautious.
1) Be visible, and make yourself heard
As trout fishermen, we are constantly being told to dress in low visibility color, and blend into the background. The idea is to reduce the chance of spooking trout. During the hunting season, it is generally good advice to dress visibly. You do not want your pale vest to be mistaken for the white hair of a deer’s bum as the last of the day’s light disappears over the horizon.
The official recommendation to hunters is to wear “orange, red, fluorescent yellow, or bright blue clothing. I personally favor the latter, I feel a bright blue shirt and hat does a decent job at blending in with the blue skies of fall while looking nothing like a deer.
I am also far from convinced that we even need to wear dull clothing, when looking out of the water, towards the sky. Everything appears bright, in some ways high visibility clothing blends in with the brightness of the sky. I also paddle and trout fish from a bright yellow fishing kayak, and I wear a bright orange hat and I still catch plenty of trout.
Also, I will add that trout do not care about loud sounds. So, if you think there might be hunters nearby, be loud. Speak loudly, make sure they know that there are people nearby.
2) Avoid the most popular hunting areas
Some areas are more popular with hunters than others. If I know a park or forest, is very popular I might avoid fishing the streams that flow there during the peak of the rut.
It also applies to waterfowl hunters, some of my favorite trout reservoirs and ponds, get taken over by duck hunters for a few weeks every fall. So I normally avoid fishing them early in the morning, when there are more likely to be hunters nearby.
If I am out fishing, and I know there might be hunters in an area, I also try to stay out in the open. I avoid crutching behind scrubs and even avoid a few locations that I know are very popular with hunters. At dusk, I make sure to use my headlamp, this is a time when accidents often happen.
3) Because so many outdoor people are hunting, the trout streams can be empty. It is a great time for solitude.
A lot of trout fishermen, also hunt. This means that during the hunting season, many popular trout fishing spots empty out. There are fewer people fishing because they are hunting. The trout are under less pressure, making them more confident.
The result is that fishing can greatly improve because you are not fishing in the footsteps of others. This is combined with excellent fall weather, and the colder water temperature triggers the trout to feed hard. They need to pack on the condition before winter.
Fall is simply one of the best times of the year to be out fishing.
Trout in fall are also feeding hard, putting on condition before the winter.
4) I actually see more wildlife while trout fishing than hunting
While I am not really into hunting, I do it occasionally. One, experience that always confuses me a bit, is when I am trout fishing. I often see more wildlife, than when out hunting.
It seems like the deer know when they see me with a rod in my hand, that I am not a threat. I once got close enough to a yearly, that I could have whipped it with my fly line. It was just standing there staring at me. When I go into some areas with a gun, I normally just see tails disappearing into the trees.
I suspect this occurs because when I am trout fishing, I move very slowly and deliberately. Any wildlife in hiding, forget I am there and come out of cover for some grazing.