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Sam Cook column: Daylight savoring plan: Doing the September Hustle

Sam Cook

The September Hustle is on.

You can almost feel it building late in the afternoon each day. A sense of urgency. A need to wrap things up and get ready to move on.

We all know what's driving the September Hustle. It's the ever-shrinking span of daylight hours that we denizens of the Northern Hemisphere witness each fall. The fall equinox has already slipped by. The sun is setting just short of 7 p.m. at our latitude now.

We were spoiled in the heart of summer by daylight that lingered until 10 p.m. We felt no sense of hurry. We could get home from work and still have almost five hours to lollygag away catching walleyes, water-skiing or having picnics on the beach.

Now, though, we must increase our efficiency if we're to savor what's left of our evenings. So, we keep an eye on the clock as our workdays slide toward quitting time. We get things in order. And when the time is right, we do not tarry.

We bolt.

We have prepared for this moment. The bowhunter slips into her camouflage, grabs her bow and eases silently into the woods. Hunters in Duluth's city bowhunt will tell you this is one of the best things about their effort to trim the city's deer population: You can be hunting in about 20 minutes after you log off.

But they are not the only ones.

Crappie anglers know the September Hustle, and stream anglers looking for fall steelhead. Mountain bikers can't wait to get home, climb onto their two-wheeled steeds and roll. New moms and dads waste no time getting home, then plop babes in strollers and hit the sidewalks.

Dog walkers collect their canines and head for the trails and dog parks. Late-season picnickers grab smoked fish and crackers and find a spot on the shore of Lake Superior. Trail runners lace up and disappear on paths beneath old pines.

Grouse hunters have their vests and shells ready. They load up Ace or Millie or Jetta and walk wide paths that snake through the popples.

It's worth all the planning and organizing and focus the September Hustle requires just to be there, if even for a short time. It's worth the initial hurry to see the way the weak September sunlight comes angling through the trees. Worth it to see the way the water beads up on a fallen maple leaf. Worth it to get out where the world is silent and slow and soft.

It's worth it to breathe deeply in air that smells like Septembers have always smelled — damp and earthy and sweet and rotten all at once. Worth it to glimpse a woodcock twisting skyward or a waxwing working on a cluster of mountain ash berries. Worth it to sit high in a tree and survey your temporary woodland domain, knowing that at any moment a whitetail might simply materialize before your eyes. Worth it to hear a barred owl tuning up for the night's hunting.

That's why we do the September Hustle. That's why we rise early and lay our plans. That's why we try to stay ahead of the game all day at work.

We do it because what's out there is just too good to pass up, even for a fleeting couple of hours, on a September evening in the North.

SAM COOK is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or Find his Facebook page at or his blog at