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Early bird season could be fruitful

July 17, 2005|by BILL ANDERSON

For as long as I can remember, the dove season has opened at the beginning of September, which used to be long before any of the other bird hunting seasons. This made dove hunting a special event for the diehard bird hunters.

Things have changed over the past few years. September now includes the beginning of the early season for resident or non-migratory Canada geese. This season is designed to allow hunters to take some of the many geese that have nested in our area and stay here on a year-round basis.

If casual observation is correct, this seems to have been a great spring for nesting geese. I have noticed a lot of young-of-the-year geese hanging out at lakes and ponds and rivers. The birds wear out their welcomes quickly with landowners. A good friend calls them pond rats, which gives you some idea of how much he likes them hanging around the ponds of his property.

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The two early bird seasons - dove and resident Canada goose - offer some very good early season hunting opportunities, and it's not too early to start getting ready for the upcoming season. As in all hunting, a little time spent doing preseason scouting usually pays off when the season opens.

Dove hunting is usually a pass shooting opportunity. You try to determine where to set up and wait for doves to fly, or pass by. The very best places are at food sources. Freshly harvested grain fields are great places and you can scout for spots while driving to work or traveling almost anywhere. Doves change from spot to spot quickly, so just before opening day you really have to do the scouting and line up permission from the landowners.

Less obvious places to hunt include roosting areas and watering spots. Doves like to roost in cedar trees and fields of cedar can offer great shooting just before dark. Doves also tend to have favorite watering spots and if you find a farm pond or creek that they regularly visit, this can be a great spot. Doves often go to water just before going to roost.

Hunting for resident geese is very much like dove hunting in that you need to scout your area and try to determine the movements of the birds. The most effective hunting method is to use decoys and calling to make the most of this hunting opportunity.

Many, but not all, of the flocks of geese you will encounter in September are small, family groups as opposed to the very large flocks of late winter. If you set up in an area that the birds want to be in, the hunting can be pretty easy. A few decoys and a little calling can usually give you some great shooting.

Geese are attracted to grain fields like corn, but they also like to graze on grass. A freshly mowed hayfield, even mowed estates will sometimes attract more birds in September than a cornfield. If you set up you decoys in a field which the birds are already visiting, shooting can be very good.

Goose hunting does require more equipment than dove hunting. You will get more action on geese if you have a few decoys. In the early season, the number can be as few as a dozen shell decoys when hunting fields.

You will also take more geese if you can learn to call a little. My experience is that you only need to learn a few basic goose calls. If you don't have access to a mentor to help you learn, the next best place to learn is from one of the many instructional tapes that are on the market. Most of the call manufacturers offer good tapes and DVDs

You will need your general state hunting licenses, state waterfowl stamp, the federal waterfowl stamp and the HIP program sign-up to hunt federally regulated migratory birds, which includes doves and resident Canada geese.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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