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Outdoor Recreation

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Time in the Woods

There is no better month than October to immerse ourselves into the pleasures of our leaf-laden forests.

If allowed to tinker with the calendar, who wouldn’t add another October, our most colorful and comfortable month? October is when everyone opens their windows to let fresh air in, but it’s also the best time to head out to Missouri’s forests, where much of that fresh air is manufactured.

Our impressive woodlands become impressionistic when shortening days daub reds, yellows and golds through the treetops and shrubbery. Peak fall color lasts nearly until the end of the month, tiptoeing its way from north to south. If you’re afoot, trek the trails at conservation areas and nature centers. During peak color, every turn in your path will provide another gorgeous painting to admire.

There is no better time than October to plop yourself down into the leaf litter and just observe. Get there early and watch the forest critters wake up. Although squirrels, birds, skunks, raccoons, deer and other animals seem busier in October, insect activity wanes. You may still encounter chiggers or an occasional tick, especially on warmish days, but for the most part you’ll have itch-free pass. Most snakes have gone into hibernation, too.

Scouting for the upcoming fall firearms deer season is a good excuse to head to the woods. Look for trails, crossings, rubs, scrapes, pellets and bedding and feeding areas. October is also a good time for fur seekers to scout for sign and to contact property owners for permission to trap.

It’s hard not to think about October without considering harvest. Not only is the archery deer season in full swing, but the month spans the fall turkey season. One of the best strategies for fall turkeys is to walk through the woods until you scatter a bunch of birds, then sit quietly as the flock regathers.

Squirrel hunting also peaks in October. If you can find a grove of hickories, sit and wait them out. Otherwise, walk quietly through the woods. Watch the weather for a special opportunity to collect squirrels. Strong late October winds often strip leaves from the trees all at once. Squirrels don’t immediately notice the lack of cover and behave as if still camouflaged by lush foliage.

A host of other hunting opportunities present themselves in October. Both rabbit season, which opens on the 1st, and ruffed grouse season, which opens on the 15th offer great reasons to spend days walking the woods. In fact, there are so many fun things to do outdoors in October that, come the end of the month, you may be ready for a little vacation time indoors.

—Tom Cwynar, photo by David Stonner

For More Information

Visit the link listed below and you will find color updates, events around the state designed to help you enjoy the fall color, a link explaining why leaves change color and a PDF to download of suggested fall color road routes.

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