The past several days have been perfect for masquerading as a carbuncle in a mighty white oak. Oak trees don’t move much, other than sending acorns on their way to ensure the future of their species on down the ridge.

Far as we know, oak trees don’t have the capacity for higher thought processes. They have no fear. Those that grow to girth beyond that of a man have an excellent chance of surviving beyond the three score and 10 years the Bible allocates for the lifespan of a human perched high in its mighty limbs trying to blend in.

If oaks had emotion, they might feel relief at not being cedars, which are more prone to having bark stripped by bucks establishing their presence in the grand scheme of the woods, asserting their dominance—satisfied with the oak’s tithe of acorns before moving on down the trail.

Seasonal temperatures the past couple days are a chilling reminder that Indian Summer weather we’ve enjoyed for a glorious week is behind us now, just like peak whitetail rut. Human angst over choosing between morphing into an oakey carbuncle all day or cashing in on incredible fall fishing ignited by warming water temperatures has blown away on the cirrus coattails of a northwest wind.

With no room left on walls of the man cave for deer horns, I chose to fish. Water temperatures warmed from below 40 degrees to tickle 50 for several days, prompting bass into a feeding rampage on shallow muddy flats adjacent to deeper water.

A colony of crawdad holes on one such muddy bank prompted me to tie on a crawdad pattern Rat-L-Trap, my favorite “search” lure when seasonal change pushes surface water temperature into the 45- to 50-degree range.

Five casts later, a fat largemouth and scrappy smallmouth bass confirmed they were in a feeding mood. Over the next several hours, at least 30 more stretched the string on that windless afternoon under a warm and sunny November sky.

This experience provided so much laughter from the soul that being on the water the next morning at first light instead of crawling into the arms of that mighty oak was the obvious choice for outdoors activity the day—especially with the forecast of rain bringing a serious cold front that evening.

Back at “the well,” a nice largemouth and a legal walleye came out to dance with that crawdad pattern Rat-L-Trap in the first five minutes.

I noticed commotion tight against the muddy bank—the dorsal fins and churning tails of bass pinning dinner against the mud. A couple of three-inch long sheepshead chose to avoid bass lips by launching themselves up on the muddy shore.

It was an “aha” moment.

The Rat-L-Trap was quickly switched out to a Northland Impulse shad plastic on a Z-Man “schroom” jighead. It was one of those rare days when so many fish obliged that you finally had enough fishin’ .

The weatherman got it right for once, with steady rain the next day ushering in sub-freezing temperatures overnight. The luxury of T-shirt weather during the past several days made pancakes a more desirable option than shivering in the arms of my oak that morning.

With peak rut behind us, there was no point in getting to the stand before 3 p.m. Just a week ago, deer hunting would have meant an all-day sit.

Today’s 3 p.m. was an hour later on the clock last week. Wisconsin was yet to experience an essentially dead-even split in our quadrennial national election, and the spectacle of everybody wearing a face mask on that rare trip to town are not major components in the thought matrix when seriously trying to morph into a carbuncle 20 feet up in a sleepy tree.

Eyes are constantly scanning the woods below for movement of warm-blooded life. Ears attuned to chattering squirrels and squalling jaybirds. Higher thought processes are on hold, waiting for stimulus from these senses.

Life is moving far too fast these days to act on deep pragmatic thought processes.

Ah, to be a mighty oak without fear or trepidation, outdoors all the time. Just a natural component in a natural world.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for the Gazette. Email him at