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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
September is the kickoff of the fall hunting seasons, and for the most part the game looks promising. Here's a glance at the various early season hunting opportunities with some personal comments:
Season: Early dates, Sept. 2-Oct. 14
Daily bag limit: 15
Cochran's comments: One of the best places to launch an early season dove hunt is in a freshly harvested agriculture field where there is bare ground for doves to land on and enough food scattered about, such as corn and weed seeds, to keep the birds happy. All the rain this year could make finding such a sweet spot difficult, since crops often are harvested late and the growth of weeds and grasses is overwhelming. For this reason, I have given the hunting outlook a "fair" mark, not because of a scarcity of doves but for the scarcity of places to hunt them. Every year, I say the key to success is preseason scouting, and that goes double this time.
Tip: For many sportsmen, dove hunting is over by the first week of the season, but you may want to give it more time this season because of the later corn harvest.
Season: Sept. 2-25
Daily bag limit: 10
Cochran's comments: You are likely to see the most geese hanging around golf courses, parks and retirement villages, places that are difficult or impossible to hunt. So you have to look elsewhere. That includes finding a freshly harvested cornfield, which might be tough in early September because all the wet weather has kept corn July green and delayed the harvest. If you can locate an agricultural field that is attracting geese, you should be in for a great hunt. Lacking that, I suggest a float hunt on a major stream. The James and New rivers are good choices. Rains have kept streams running higher than their normal and that should make it easier for paddlers to sneak up on geese.
Tip: If you have access to a pond that is used by geese, it can be a great spot for a hunt.
Season: Sept. 7-Feb 28, except fox squirrels hunting ends Jan. 31
Daily bag limit: Six
Cochran's comments: A decent mast crop last year followed by a mild winter has resulted in impressive numbers of squirrels. For the most part, you can have the woods to yourself, because few people bother to hunt squirrels anymore, which is their loss. Where I live, more squirrels will be killed by vehicles on the road than by hunters in the woods. Locate a grove of mast-bearing hickory trees and you are set for a productive outing. If you can't find hickories, try beechnut or white oaks. Enjoy the fact that the season has been lengthened by one month.
Tip: The most challenging part of squirrel hunting this fall could be locating a source of .22 rounds. Don't wait too late to buy yours. They are scarce.
Season: Early season Sept. 16-30 east of I-95; Sept. 23-30 west of I-95
Daily bag limit: Six
Cochran's comments: Success with teal comes to sportsmen who know the daily flights of this early migrating bird. Blinds, decoys and calls will increase a hunter's odds. Teal are suckers for decoys that have lifelike, moving wings. This year's abundant rain has benefited teal, and just in time the bag limit has been boosted to six.
Tip: Teal will be the only duck legal during this special season, so be certain of your target. Don't pull down on wood ducks that often travel the same routes.
DEER, URBAN ARCHERY
Season: Sept. 7-Oct. 4; Jan. 6-March 29
Daily bag limit: Check www.HuntFishVa.com/hunting/urban-archery
Cochran's comments: The deer herd in Virginia is growing faster in suburban areas than on remote national forest land. In order to get a handle on nuisance animals, 36 towns and cities and five counties have signed onto the urban archery season. Localities get to establish many of their own regulations, so check the website above for details. People skills are as important here as hunting skill. Look for property owners with extra-large lots where marauding deer are causing problems. Have in mind a hunting plan that is suitable to everyone. Again, you don't wait for opening day to accomplish all this.
Tip: If you haven't already scouted out a place to hunt, you are way behind schedule.
Season: Sept. 28
Daily bag limit: Deer of either sex
Cochran's comments: Move over, kids. In the past, young people 15 and under accompanied by an adult, have had this day of deer hunting all to themselves, before the big boys hit the woods and fields. This year, the holders of an apprentice license also will be able to hunt. An apprentice license is available to first-time hunting license buyers. Like the youth, they will be required to have a mentor. Last year youth day take of 1,979 should increase significantly.
Tip: The apprentice license is designed to make it easier for people to take up hunting by waiving the hunter-education requirement. The license is valid for two years.
Season: Early dates, Oct. 5-Nov. 15
Daily bag limit: One-to-two daily depending on area
Outlook: Very good
Cochran's comments: Hunters have been getting images of outstanding trophy deer on their trail cameras, which is a great way to start the season. It is too early for an accurate read on the mast crop, but white oak mast looks poor while red oak is fair to good. Record rainfall has resulted in an abundance of green grass and weeds taller than a man. Just how that will influences the movement of deer will be interesting to see. Deer should be in excellent shape, the result of a good mast crop last year, a mild winter and abundance of herbaceous growth this summer. Scouting always is important, but more so than ever this season.
Tip: Need to polish your skills? Many archery clubs host public education days. Check for the one nearest you on www.huntfishva.com and access hunting-education
Season: Early dates, Oct. 5-Nov. 15
Daily bag limit: One
Cochran's comments: What is your best chance of killing a bear? Behind a hound? With a high-powered rifle? Try a bow or crossbow. Archers have been accounting for about one-quarter of the bear kill, which is significant when you figure the total take has been around the 2,000 mark. With all the bear sightings reported this summer, the early bow season should offer excellent opportunities.
Tip: Bear can be found across the state, but the top kill counties in order are Rockingham, Bath, Nelson, Highland, Shenandoah, Augusta, Botetourt, Craig, Allegheny, Madison, Rockbridge, Page and Albemarle.
Season: Early dates, Oct. 10-14
Bag limit: Three
Cochran's comments: This brief, early season is open to all huntable species of ducks, with the exception of black ducks, but its purpose is to give sportsmen a crack at homegrown wood ducks before they migrate south. Wildlife officials say breeding pairs of wood ducks the past couple of years have been below the long-term average, but let's hope there were good hatches this year, thanks to all the rain which enhanced wetland habitats. With that in mind, I am going to give the season a "good" rating. The heavy flow of water in streams should benefit float hunters by improving their chances of getting into range.
Tip: There still should be some woodies around for youth waterfowl day October 26
Weather JournalRain is here; no snow