Where did it go? Maybe it’s an age thing, but summers sure seem to pass much faster than they used to.

Of course, that can vary by what determines the end of summer for different people.

For some folks, it’s Labor Day. That seems fairly logical, as most kids, at least in the Northeast, are going back to school. Those poor folks down south return in mid-August, cheating them out of two full weeks of summer. I wouldn’t like that.

Others take a more formal approach, declaring summer doesn’t end until the autumnal equinox, which this year falls on Sept. 22. From a summer perspective, I like that. But I realize it’s not practical nor accurate. Besides, while I hold tenaciously onto summer as long as possible, I welcome fall with equal avidity.

Although autumn comes inevitably each year, this one sneaked up and took me quite by surprise. I first noticed its arrival in late July while motoring down the Royal River, in the form of small flocks of shorebirds, and least and semipalmated sandpipers. Then, offshore, I noticed more high Arctic nesting pelagic birds. Fall migration was under way.

It won’t be long now, if it hasn’t already happened, when the first wave of waterfowl will wing our way. Typically it’s blue-winged teal, followed by green wings, though most are still in eclipse plumage, making them difficult to differentiate. You won’t notice them as much unless you happen to be in the right place, but snipe and rails are already massing in the fresh and brackish water marshes. Hunting season for those species opens Sept. 1, though few still ply the ages-old art of poling through head-high wild rice beds and rail jumping.

Sept. 1 also marks the start of early goose season. The sound of honkers passing swiftly overhead of a stiff northwest wind stirs the soul of any wildfowler, or nature lover for that matter. But it does make golfers, lakefront camp owners and public beach goers cringe with the thought of pungent green goo that sticks to your shoes, or between your toes, and covers greens, lawns and beaches, and despoils shoreline shallows. Thinning their numbers also provides a benefit to cleaner public water supplies.

Before all that happens, another hunting season will open. This one, if you’ll pardon the pun, bears more significance – changes are brewing for Maine’s bear management program. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has carefully and conservatively managed this valuable resource – owned by all residents but entrusted into the department’s competent hands – to ensure it isn’t overexploited by hunters. There has been some concern in recent years that traditional hunting methods are unfair and result in an overharvest of animals.

It turns out quite the opposite is true. The bear population is growing faster than current seasons, methods and bag limits can handle. The department is exploring alternatives to increase the annual bear kill while also ensuring the population remains strong enough to appease committed conservationists, as well as those who contribute nothing to conservation but just like the idea of knowing there are bears out there.

We’ve still got a couple weeks to go before we bid goodbye to the tourists and send the kids back to school, but they won’t have quite the same feel. There will be a greater sense of urgency to wring what we can out of summer’s remnants. Fall will soon be upon us, and with it comes another spate of hunting seasons. And I like that.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, Registered Maine Guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

[email protected]