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Wild Side Column: What happened to fall?

A wintry scene on upper Cady Creek in northeastern Pierce County. Photo courtesy of Dan Wilcox

Fall is my favorite time of year. The muggy heat of summer fades into crisp clear days, the leaves turn colorful, gardens and orchards yield their fruits and it's a joy to walk through the woods and fields. We had a few days like that this year but then wind and rain of November gales in October knocked down most of the leaves.

Climate change is happening here. According to the State Climatology Office, the average annual temperature in Wisconsin has increased more than 1.1°F since 1950 with the greatest warming of 2.0 to 2.5°F in northwest Wisconsin. The winter and spring have become less cold with nighttime temperatures increasing more than daytime temperatures.

Despite the long-term warming trend, this last month has been about 7°F below average in northwestern Wisconsin. Winter arrived on Friday, Nov. 9 with several inches of snow here and much more up north. It was 2°F in our valley on Saturday morning.

I feel like I've been robbed of my favorite time of year. We had few days when the temperature was in the 60's. My opportunities for grouse hunting up north were shut down by strong winds and rain when we were there.

I'm trying to acclimate to the cold but after spending September in sunny, hot and humid Florida it's been tough. I've dug out my long underwear, snow boots, warm hat and gloves. My dog Jack and I still go on long walks pheasant hunting, but yesterday I had a "safety violation" when my cold hands couldn't work well enough to take an easy shot at a rooster. We watched him fly away waving his long tail at us. Jack was not amused.

We will do some work in the woods to take in firewood and clear trails. Now I'll have to put the chains on the tractor tires. In most years we have a month or so of frozen ground and no snow making it easy to work in the woods.

If all this sounds like a northern Wisconsin whine, it is. After years of enjoying winter, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and wading through the snow hunting, I find that I don't like winter as much as I used to. I don't like slipping and falling or driving on icy roads. That's why we bought a place in Florida where we will spend the winter. We look forward to migrating south after Thanksgiving.