Remember last year…we did a lot of complaining about the crops not being taken out of the fields very early here in the upper Midwest. In fact, at times the ag community was so far behind with the grain harvest it was severely impacting our hunting outings. Last year by late October reports were still showing that less than 3 percent of the Minnesota corn harvest had been completed. The first few weeks into November didn’t show much progress, either.
Now, fast-forward to this year. Of course, this situation will vary slightly depending on where you go…but for a large section of the upper Midwest, 2010 has been a dream year for crop farmers. No kidding — an early spring, a hot summer, with very timely rain showers has turned this year into what most agronomists would call “ideal.” Just go to small town America and you’ll see the smiles on the farmers, their bankers and anyone associated with the crop production industry.
I’ve been speaking to a few farmers around my area in S.E. Minnesota and things are shaping up to be an exceptional year. Most of my neighbors have corn fields that are within 7 to 10 days of reaching full maturity. A few fields to the north of my location (with notably sandier, drier soil) already shows the corn crop foliage substantially turning a golden brown.
The bottom line is its fairly reasonable to say most crop production activities are at a minimum of two weeks ahead of what you could expect during an average year.
Now, compare this to the fall of 2009 and the contrast between the two seasons is bound to be quite striking. Consider this…in Minnesota we are now less than three weeks away from the opener for archery deer. If things continue at the pace they are on for many farmers you could see corn being combined in the fields BEFORE the opening of the archery season. Let me tell you folks, that would be a highly unusual situation no matter how you look at it.
In fact, several agronomists are reporting that in southern Minnesota the corn is already drying down to a moisture content in the low 20s. That’s only a few points higher than the ideal harvest moisture ranging in the 15 to 20% target range. Once the corn crop hits this point farmers get anxious to start harvesting in hopes to prevent stalk damage (mostly due to wind or excess moisture). When farmers consider there is nothing further to gain (by leaving the crop in the field longer)—and let’s face it that point may be only days away—the harvest officially begins in earnest.
An acquaintance of mine on Twitter, Chad Smith (@AgriCaster), who is the Farm Broadcaster for KLGR Radio out of Redwood Falls, Minnesota told me that several area farmers in his region expect to be harvesting corn BEFORE their soybeans this year. Of course, that is totally backwards compared to the norm for how the harvest season generally flows.
So, what does all this mean for hunters this coming fall? Potentially, some good news I would say. But no matter how you look at it the fall of 2010 is going to be vastly different than last year for those of us in this region. Early season archers might see the corn disappear a bit quicker than usual. Pheasant hunters will surely have far less corn to deal with come opening day. And late season firearms deer hunters will undoubtedly be dealing with a herd more confined to wooded acres as opposed to hiding in remaining standing corn fields.
How odd it is we are talking about the fall crop harvest when Labor Day has yet to arrive on the calendar. I guess, if sportsmen in the upper Midwest are looking for a positive sign as to how the upcoming hunting seasons are likely to go…one only has to look in the agricultural zone to observe all the smiling faces. It’s taking shape to be a good year for everyone!
©2010 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.