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There's something special about fall in Minnesota

Yellow lab, Ole, with a drake mallard he retrieved through the cattails on a crisp Minnesota morning this past Sunday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

I might be the only person who lives in the Alexandria lakes area who wishes I could snap my fingers and make summer disappear.

It's nothing personal against 80 degree days on the water, but give me temperatures in the 40s and the changing colors of fall every time. There's something special about this time of year in Minnesota for anyone who loves the outdoors, and I was reminded of that again this past weekend.

I set out with a bow in my hand before sunrise on Saturday morning hoping to catch a nice buck coming back to bed late. This spot in particular was a small slough surrounded by corn. Most years, the land is dry here in October, but this is not like most years. Frequent rains in southwestern Minnesota has filled the cattails with water. I did not see any deer that morning, but I sat on the ground and watched as ducks—a mix of wood ducks and mallards—cupped their wings into the water less than 50 yards away from me. Flock after flock, in groups of 5-10.

It has been almost 20 years since I shot a greenhead, and I knew these birds wouldn't be around much longer. The next morning, Keith Mueller of Wood Lake and his son, Zach, and I were set up over some decoys on the south end of that slough.

Legal shooting light started at 7:15 a.m. A little before 7, the mallards started pouring in. We could only watch the silhouettes of their fluttering wings lowering their bodies into the water between the cattails 20 yards in front of us. The minutes passed slowly until 7:15 finally hit and another flock set into the decoys. All three of us raised our shotguns and took aim. I knew it would be a quick shoot, and it was. A couple more small flocks came in before I released Ole, my yellow lab, to gather the birds. We finished with four drake mallards.

Having so many options for hunters, anglers, or anyone who loves being outside is the beauty of fall in Minnesota. A morning in the deer blind can turn into a scouting trip for waterfowl. Anyone can duck hunt at sunrise, fish in the afternoon and bow hunt the evening in a single day.

Not quite ready to dive into my best trees yet for whitetails, I decided to use Sunday afternoon as an opportunity to scout my way along before setting up on the ground.

I hadn't been to this area in months, and was happy to see that there was still standing corn in a field that was up top of a steep ridge. There had to be deer here. The beaten-down trail that ran parallel between the corn and the trees verified that.

I was coming to a corner where an east-west running ridge met the ridge that ran north and south. It was an absolute hub of activity—trails coming up from three different spots and corn knocked down to the ground in an area the size of a house. A huge oak tree provided the perfect cover for a ground set up. After cutting a few lanes, I tucked back in there and waited.

I was surrounded by deer for two hours that night. One doe slowly made her way directly behind the tree I was leaning against. I watched her shadow creep closer and closer. My wind was perfect and the oak was big enough that it covered my body, so she had no idea I was there. Another doe and two fawns bit off cobs of corn 20 feet in front of me without a care in the world.

A spike buck and fork buck playfully sparred with each other to my left.

I kept thinking a bigger buck might come up the ridge to check things out at last light. It never happened, and that's OK. I walked back to the truck that night reminded again why I love this so much. Fall in the midwest—it can't be beat.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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