The days are growing shorter. We hardly notice, preoccupied with finishing up summer’s long list of chores, getting the kids ready to go back to school and everything else that occupies our busy lives. We won’t stop and take note until the first cool, dry air arrives on northwest breezes and the lawn at dawn glistens with frost instead of dew. It’s still summer to us, but in the natural world autumn is in full swing.

In the dog days of late August, you can sense a change — something’s different. The frantic pace of summer has suddenly slowed, and it’s as if all of nature pauses to take a breath. Both plant and animal alike have stopped growing. Plants now convert the year’s growth to a crop of fruits, nuts and seeds, some of which will ensure new growth next year, others of which sustain creatures on higher trophic levels.

Animals begin shifting their resources as well. Juvenile wild turkeys, nearly full grown from a steady high-protein diet of insects, switch to a more vegetarian diet. Likewise, deer that have been feasting on clover and other high-protein herbs all summer seek out carbs.

And in the air, autumn migrations have begun. Blue-winged teal, tiny fighter jets of the waterfowl world, strafe the flooded rice fields of Merrymeeting Bay. Most will be long gone before the first waterfowl seasons begin, but their green-winged cousins, and many locally born blacks and mallards, will still be in the neighborhood.

Resident Canada geese have yet to reach nuisance levels in many areas of our state — yet. But wait, they most certainly will.

Meanwhile, a small cadre of dedicated wildfowlers will do their best to slow that trend when the resident goose season kicks off early next month. While some hide out in still-green lake- and pond-side reeds, others will employ the more common tactic of laying out amongst a spread of decoys in an upland field of cut corn or green grass — or in some cases even the well manicured greens of the local golf course.

Though they can’t hunt teal yet, a trifling of traditionalists will ply the ages old sport of rail shooting, poling through flooded fields of wild rice on lakes and brackish river margins jump shooting these smallish, narrow-billed marsh birds.

In the big woods, black bears are taking advantage of the ripening bounty and the narrow window in which it’s available to gorge themselves on a glutonous diet of high-carb food, vital to sustaining their long winter’s nap. Meanwhile, hunters hoping to exploit this need have been laying out caches of sweet pastries to lure the bears in for the season that opens tomorrow.

But like their namesakes from Boston, these bruins are no pushovers. Eons of evolution have honed their survival instincts. Their normally wary nature is heightened around unnatural concentrations of food, where they’ve learned two-legged (humans) and four-legged (bigger bears) predators are more frequently encountered. Ultimately, only a fraction of hunters will be successful employing this specific technique.

Over the next couple weeks, whitetails will be shedding velvet in preparation for the rut, which won’t begin for another two months.

Their larger cousins, meanwhile, are on a much more accelerated schedule. They will shed velvet from their larger palmate racks prior to a rut only weeks away.

The early part of the moose season begins while the rut is still ongoing. Guides and independent hunters will try to exploit a bull’s amorous ways by aping the calls of a lovesick cow. Some will use cones of birch bark fashioned by hand, while others may tug on a rawhide shoelace knotted through the bottom of a coffee can. Sometimes the low nasal moaning works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

While they’re not ready for rutting, things are changing in the whitetails’ world. The change in daylight triggers a burst of testosterone. Bucks shed their velvet and rub the boles of trees, betraying their regular travel routes. Apples are ripening, acorns are dropping, sometimes en masse, as the fringes of tropical storms buffet the treetops. Deer, like the bears, suddenly seek out the high-carb diet they’ll need to lay on winter fat.

In the more densely populated parts of the state, known to bowhunters as the expanded zone, camo-clad archers will ascend to their elevated perches in hopes of intercepting a deer on its way to or from feeding — about the only activity that puts a deer on its feet this time of year.

Over the next month, the migration of shorebirds — plovers and sandpipers — will peak, drawing attention more from avid birders than hunters, though the two are not mutually exclusive.

Upland hunters will have to wait another month before the season opens on woodcock, a plump, long-billed member of the sandpiper family that shows an affinity for more mesic miens. The more impatient ones may break in their dogs and trekking muscles traipsing the wet meadows in hopes of flushing snipe — yes, snipe hunting really exists outside of summer camp.

There’s still much to be done. The lawn will need a few more mowings. Screens won’t need to be replaced by storm windows for weeks yet. Stripers are suddenly voracious again as they fatten up before their southward migration. Spawning brook trout, resplendant in their spawning colors run up tributary streams and cooling waters signal smallmouth and largemouth bass into one last feeding frenzy. While summer seems to linger a while yet, autumn is definitely here, and with it comes another hunting season.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]