Early Hunting Seasons Open

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

It’s suddenly September and the Labor Day weekend, and my memory tells me I just finished writing about Memorial Day and the end of May. Time flies for everyone, but it picks up speed the older one gets. Since there isn’t much that can be done to slow things down, except maybe sit in a duck blind on a really cold day with no birds in the air, it’s best to enjoy what’s available at the moment. The early hunting seasons are a good way to do that. Hunters are now permitted to hunt dove, geese, and teal, along with squirrel, rail, snipe, and gallinule.

The dove season opened statewide on September 1 and will run through Sunday, November 5. Hunting hours are from sunrise to sunset except on areas where it’s posted otherwise. Hunters need a valid license and a HIP certification to hunt dove and must use a shotgun capable of holding no more than three shells. Hunters can use lead shot to hunt dove.

Most serious dove hunters have a few places lined up to hunt well before the season. They know what cornfields will probably be cut for silage or have been watching wheat stubble fields for dove activity. At the very least, they know what routes the dove will take for watering or roosting. However, if you’re not one of them and need a good spot for a dove hunt or two, there are some other options. For example, the St. Marys Fish Hatchery will be holding one more controlled hunt on September 9. Hunters for the remaining controlled hunt will be picked at a noon lottery held on site.

Waterfowl hunters will also have a limited season on geese and teal that started on September 2. The nine-day goose season will run from September 2 through September 10. Unlike other years, hunters are not required to quit hunting on Lake St. Marys at 10:00 over the holiday weekend. Less boat traffic and people being used to the quirks of a multiple-use lake have made the practice a non-issue. Likewise, the waterfowl blinds located on the three piers along the East Bank of GLSM will be closed to hunting during the early season. The daily limit for Canada geese is 5.

Teal hunters will have a 16-day season running through September 17. This season is set to allow waterfowl hunters a chance at the early-migrating blue-winged teal. Some experience is required to hunt early-season teal. Mainly, hunters must be able to identify these smaller waterfowl on the wing. If you shoot another species and get caught, expect to get a ticket. Ignorance doesn’t and shouldn’t get you off the hook. If you’re not sure of your target, don’t shoot at it. Also keep in mind that other ducks will sometimes fly with teal. They can usually be spotted by a size difference or not being able to make as tight of a turn. Some hunters have been known to allow the birds to land, identify them, and then jump them for a shot. I never did care for that tactic. Regardless, the blue-wing population is up 18% over last year. Maybe some of them will make it through the area. The daily bag limit is 6.

The squirrel season also opened September 1, but around here there is little hunting pressure, and most of the hunters I know are from the older crowd. Besides, the weather in early September, along with the bugs, usually makes sitting in the woods for any length a bit uncomfortable. That, of course, is the price a hunter pays to bag a squirrel or two. I guess there really isn’t much difference when it comes to dealing with the elements. All hunters pay a price whether it be sweating in a bug-infested woods or freezing one’s posterior sitting in a duck blind on a cold, windy, rainy day. It’s part of the game.

There is also an early season on rail, snipe, and gallinule. If there are any area hunters who go after these birds, I’ve never met one. After having said that, hunters will probably pop up all over the place telling me how much they enjoy hunting these marsh birds. Regardless, if you are a non-hunter and hear shooting to start off your morning for the next few days, you now know what’s going on. Just consider it a way some people celebrate Labor Day. Those of us who avoid the early hunting seasons just go fishing.