A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that it was going to be an early fall with the cooler than normal temperatures that we have had for most of the summer. There was a stretch a few weeks back where we had normal temperatures or above normal temperatures for only three days in a month long period. Last summer, we had 40 days with temperatures of 90 degrees or higher and so far this year we have had only 3 days above 90 degrees! But, this week may slightly change those numbers with a few more hot days coming up. Many of the people that I talk to say, “Where did the summer go?” That’s my feeling too because it seems like June, July, and August just flew by and now its Labor Day weekend and the children are going back to school.
The Wisconsin River was packed this weekend with the warm weather and one of summers last weekends. The fishing has continued to be good for walleye, sauger, and smallmouth bass. There were many canoes, kayaks, and tubes floating by my backyard all weekend enjoying the Wisconsin River and it’s natural beauty. There were not that many fishermen and by the time I went out Sunday afternoon there wasn’t a boat in sight! Don’t give up on the Wisconsin River because there is still very good fishing through October and into November. What happens now is that outdoors men and women have many chances and opportunities to hunt waterfowl, upland game birds, and bow hunt for deer plus some excellent fall fishing. Starting September 1st, there are many more outdoor activities for the hunter and angler with the opening of the dove season and the Early Canada goose season. Plus, living in such a great location with endless outdoor activities allows one to fish and hunt the same day without driving for hours. We’re lucky to have very good hunting and fishing minutes away from our homes.
September 1st is the beginning of the first fall hunting seasons. The early Canada goose season has a very liberal daily bag limit of 5 geese a day because of the growth of the local Canada goose population. Many geese don’t even migrate any more because of the river’s open water and the milder winters of the last decade. In the spring waterfowl survey, the Wisconsin resident goose population was estimated at 138,925 geese. Last fall, the early season harvest was slightly over 21,000 birds which is about a third of the annual goose harvest in the state. The early goose season keeps the local population in check and is intended to direct hunting pressure at the locally nesting geese according to Kent Van Horn, a DNR migratory game bird ecologist.
There are no zones or subzones during the early Canada goose season. The goose hunt is statewide regardless of what area a hunter may hold a permit for during the regular season. The area where you’ll find geese in September is very different than later in the season. Geese change their feeding habits and movement patterns after the initial season opener and as hunting pressure increases. Continual scouting is important to stay on top of the geese and their location which will constantly be changing. The harvesting of crops can also affect the movement of geese from day to day.
To hunt geese, a hunter must have a small game license, a state and federal waterfowl stamp, and a $3.00 early goose permit fee. You must also be HIP certified which is free and can be done at any licensing center.
The mourning dove season also opens statewide on September 1st. Most people don’t know that the mourning dove is the most abundant game bird in North America with a growing population. Being one of the earliest game bird seasons to open, it is a great time to be in the field with good weather, access to hunting locations is much easier to obtain, you don’t have to be out at the crack of dawn, and it is a wonderful time to introduce new hunters to the sport of bird hunting.
Wisconsin has about 10,000 to 15,000 hunters who harvest 100,000 to 200,000 doves annually. Like goose hunters, dove hunters should do some scouting because doves will change their routes from their roosts, watering areas, and feeding locations. Like goose hunters, dove hunters must be HIP certified under state and federal laws which allows biologists to select hunters for mail surveys in order to collect information about harvest numbers and participation.
This year, the DNR often in partnership with local farmers planted sunflower fields on numerous state and leased lands. The purpose of this planting is to increase dove hunting opportunities for the average public land hunter. This year fields were successfully planted in 11 counties which should provide excellent dove hunting opportunities. The dove hunting fields have been managed and should give beginning bird hunters a great chance at harvesting some of these tasty birds.
Ducks Unlimited again worked with Dow AgroSciences to donate 85 bags of sunflower seeds to the DNR, at a cost of over $18,000.00. According to bird ecologist Van Horn, “This generous donation really highlights the importance of a variety of partners to Wisconsin sportsmen and women. This generous donation will help to provide increased bird hunting opportunities in much of Wisconsin.” Other locations to scout for hunting also include weed fields and shallow water areas.
A few other dove hunting tips are; doves are migratory birds so you must have a plugged shotgun which can hold only 3 shells. I suggest using a 20 gauge shotgun or a 12 gauge gun using 7 ½ shot. Hunters must use non-toxic shot to hunt doves on all DNR managed lands. Check any harvested doves for bands that the DNR has put on birds for population monitoring and harvest management. The small silver band will be on the dove’s leg and follow the reporting instructions on the band. As always, be safe and be aware of their target and what’s beyond the dove, especially when hunting in smaller fields. Be particularly careful when shooting at low-flying birds.
I hope that everyone has done some shooting and had their shotguns oiled and greased. Even better is to take your gun into a good gunsmith for a good once over before the season starts. There won’t be many other hunters out for the opener and I’ve driven around the local counties and seen fields of sunflowers that have been planted to give you some increased hunting opportunities. This is also a great time to introduce a friend or young hunter to the upland bird hunting. Be safe and have fun!
Wilderness Fish and Game, Sauk City, WI. (608)-643-5229 for all your hunting needs and their gunsmith, Gary Brock, is one of the best there is in the area.