The leaves may be falling and winter fast approaching, but this in-between time of post-autumn-pre-winter is a great time to be in the woods. Need some reasons to bundle up and get out there? Here’s the top three, with some suggested trails to check out on the Mesabi:
1. You can see clearly now. Hunters know that falling leaves means improved visibility in the woods. But you don’t have to be carrying a firearm to get out an enjoy the trails, and any birds you might see along the way! Watch for grouse, whose beating wings and low-flying ways make them easy to distinguish. They’re covey-ing up for winter, feeding on the late season greens, like clover, as much as possible. If you’re walking with a dog, you’re almost certain to kick up a few of these. Other birds to look for: downy and pileated woodpeckers, chickadees, owls of all sorts, and flickers. Fewer leaves also mean more visible shorelines, so watch for otters, muskrat and waterfowl!
2. No bugs. Walk freely through the trails without fear of mosquitoes! It’s awesome. As always, check for ticks when you’re done.
3. A new perspective. Fallen trees, rocks, game trails and land formations are much more visible this time of year. The dying undergrowth and falling tree canopy make exploring off trail easier. You never know what you might find! Don’t stray far from the trail, however. Bring a colorful bandanna and tie it to a tree along the trail; then make sure to keep it in sight while you explore.
Another hiking tip this time of year: wear orange garments. Find an orange hat, scarf or bandanna – for you and your pets. Use red if you can’t find orange. With bird hunters on some trails this time of year, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Most US Forest Service trail systems, such as Big Aspen north of Virginia, and the trails of the Laurentian Divide allow hunting. Others, like Carey Lake in Hibbing and the ski mountain trails at Giants Ridge, are off limits to hunters. Bird season is open well into winter; Minnesota deer archery season is mid-September to December 31; deer firearms season in our neck of the woods is November 5-20.
View and download hiking trail maps here. Find info about Minnesota’s hunting regulations here.
Finally, bring plenty of water, a camera, and binoculars if you have them. Enjoy your time on our trails! Visit ironrange.org for lodging and dining info, plus other attractions and events.