Outdoor Journal: This time of year perfect for 3 F's
September has always been one of the best months for outdoor sports. It’s truly a “feather, fur and fish” time of the year.
For quite a few years, I’ve been doing all of them. Doing it will require forgeting all about those fall chores and taking a weekend or perhaps arranging for a three-day weekend. It’s easy. Let me explain.
Start Saturday morning in the goose field at sunup, and you should have action at least until 10 a.m.
Go home, have lunch, take a nap and head for the hardwoods with a .410 or .22 looking for the main ingredients for a little squirrel stew. If there’s a licensed junior hunter in the house, be sure to take them along.
As for the fishing, that, too, gets better with the decrease in boating traffic. The cooler water temperatures caused by chilly nights bring larger fish that have been hiding in the deeper waters closer to the surface. There’s no better time to be on the water or in the woods than the fall. Here’s how the holiday weekend went for me.
Some have probably already taken advantage of the early Canada goose season which opened Sunday in our area. The 15-goose daily limit makes hunting a lot more interesting. I know my first day was. I was overanxious and all set up at least an hour before the legal shooting time. As I always do, I set out my dozen super magnum decoys in a three-family spread with three groups of four decoys and an open landing zone in the middle of the families. This year, I no longer laid on hard ground, covered up with burlap camo and/or corn stalks. I was in a comfortable backrest layout blind about 30 yards from the decoys.
The reason for the super magnum shell decoys, and I’m sure there’ll be disagreement with this, is I believe that they can be seen from long distances better than smaller ones. I’ve proven this on many occasions when I watched geese flying way off in the distance turn in and head my way, and they turned “before” I made any calls. Those big shell decoys are also a good place to hide the geese you shoot.
Last Sunday, shortly after 6 a.m., the first honking I heard was from the south, which I believe was a flock that spent the night on Round Lake. There’s something about that first flight that gets the adrenaline going, and I know I started calling too soon, but once they cleared the tree line, I saw them adjust their course in my direction. I’d like to say it was my calling, but they didn’t hesitate and came right in and three shots put three geese on the ground. I wonder what would have happened if I had a shotgun that held seven rounds — legal this year.
I’d just finished hiding my downed geese under the decoy shells when I heard distant honks, this time coming from the west, which I assumed were some of the many I saw while fishing the Stillwater stretch of the Hudson River.
This group of five didn’t need much calling to coax them in. One circle surveying my decoys, and they set their wings and came in. I was only able to get two of them, giving me a total of five in less than a half-hour. This was my first time hunting from this RedHead Layout Blind, and I thoroughly enjoyed its comfort and my ability to move within the blind’s see-through camo without being seen.
There were several times I heard shots down on Saratoga Lake, but the flocks they scared off did not come my way. I did get two to come in, but was only able to take one of them, because I’d forgotten to reload after my previous shots. Unfortunately, I still had the plug in my Benelli, allowing me only three rounds. Luck was with me, though, because within a few minutes, what I believe was the other goose came back and when it came within range, I was able to bring it down. It was then I remember thinking, “No misses yet.” That would change on the next incoming group.
As an excuse for my 0-for-3 shots at this group, I have to say I became a bit too anxious and shot much too early. But when there’s a flock of at least 20 Canada geese honking very loudly overhead, I have a tendency to get excited. We all know that you should pick one goose to aim at, but I didn’t do that, I took three group shots, and never saw a feather drop. Stupid, yes, but still fun.
I’d regained my composure by the time the next group, which came from the direction of Round Lake, arrived and three out of this flock locked their wings for the last time.
It was 9:30 a.m. and decision time. I had 10 geese and I needed five more to complete my daily limit. Should I stay, or should I go? Considering I was at least 400 yards from my truck, had a
23.5-pound layout blind, 12 magnum decoys, shotgun, blind bag and 10 geese, with an average weight of at least 6-7 pounds after cleaning to take out, I decided it was enough to carry/drag out — definitely a great day, and there were 23 hunting days left in this early season.
After an early lunch and nap, I went to the hardwoods that borders the cornfield I had hunted that morning. Although I probably don’t need to, I wear camouflage when I squirrel hunt and even have a head net, which comes in handy if it’s a warm day and the bugs are out. Also in my pack on these hunts is my TheraCell. They can’t be beat for repelling bugs.
My choice of gun, for this time of the year, is my Spanish-made American Arms 28-gauge, side-by-side shotgun. With the leaves still on the trees, the 200-plus pellets of No. 6 shot of the Winchester Super X are the ideal choice. When those bushy tails start zigzagging around in and out of their many hiding places, No. 6 pellets will find them.
The first area I chose to set up in was where I saw squirrels running in/out of the cornfield from the woods. I wasn’t sitting there long before I saw two working their way down the woodline toward me and at about 20 yards, they moved out into the field. Then, two big males went into my hunting vest game pouch. I had two other non-shootable visitors, a rabbit and a grouse, before I moved to another spot. Their hunting seasons do not begin in this unit until Oct. 1. But the crow that decided to feed on some of the corn found out that its hunting season had already opened.
After moving back into the woods about 40-50 yards where I could make my way to the back of the field without being seen, I hadn’t gone too far before I saw a pair of squirrels foraging for nuts along the ground. They didn’t see me, so I sat down immediately and within 30 minutes, one of them was in range and I added it to my game pouch. Then I was halfway to my limit.
I made it to the end of the field and moved up to the edge of the woods and sat down. Looking around, I saw several corn cobs which I assumed were carried into the woods by squirrels. What happened next was quite unexpected — three geese landed in the field about 60-70 yards away. Out of range, but I wouldn’t have been able to legally shoot them because I only had lead shot, and you can only shoot waterfowl with non-toxic shot.
When I awoke from my 20-30 minute nap, there were two squirrels within range of the 28-gauge and each of them received a greeting from the double barrel. I never did get number six for my limit.
The next morning, I launched my boat at Saratoga Lake and spent five hours wacky-worming for bass. I caught at least 30 legal bass, mostly largemouth. I caught them in the weeds in front of South Shore
Marine, Stony Point, China Town, the north and south sides of Snake Hill, Manning’s Cove and even a few down by Stafford’s Bridge. Only two weighed in at three pounds. The rest measured 14-15 inches.
Cold weather will be here soon enough, so get out and have a feather, fur and fish weekend.