Turning the calendar page to September as we did last week signals the beginning of a host of outdoor opportunities for both hunters and anglers. Sept. 1 has been the opening day of the morning dove season for as long as I can remember. These popular and plentiful game birds will draw thousands of hunters afield in the coming weeks to test their wing-shooting skills.
Sept. 1 is also the opener for the early Canada goose season. As a measure to control excessive populations of resident geese, this September goose season began in 1992 as an experimental measure in seven counties in the northwest section of the state. In 1993, it was expanded to 10 counties, then 26 counties in 1994, and finally became a statewide season in 1995. A continuing abundance of Canada geese and a generous daily limit of eight birds in most areas of the state also make this a popular hunting opportunity as well.
Keep in mind, all dove hunters must have a general Pennsylvania hunting license and a Migratory Game Bird License. All duck and goose hunters also must have a Migratory Game Bird License along with their regular hunting license, and hunters 16 and older are also required to have a Federal Duck Stamp.
Most veteran hunters are aware that the regulations for hunting waterfowl and other migratory birds are a combination of both state and federal laws, making the whole affair just slightly less complicated than the tax code.
To complicate things even more, seasons and bag limits for waterfowl and other migratory birds are not set until well after our hunting digest goes to print, which necessitated the Game Commission printing a supplemental brochure to distribute this important information to hunters. That is not the case this year.
According to an announcement on the Game Commission website, "The agency will not be mass-producing (annual waterfowl and migratory bird season) brochures for its offices or to be distributed by U.S. Post Offices in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce printing and postage costs." That means if you want a copy of the current waterfowl and migratory bird regulations, you will need to view or download and print a copy on the Game Commission website, www.pgc.state.pa.us.
Last, and most decidedly least, a new hunting season also opened on September 1 this year - porcupines. For some idiotic reason known only to our Board of Game Commissioners, those eight pinheads saw fit to establish a porcupine season earlier this year. For some reason, the commissioners are not aware that these lethargic, nearsighted animals are not game animals by any stretch of the imagination nor do they have any sporting value whatsoever. Did anyone actually put on their fluorescent orange (yes, you are required to wear orange while hunting porcupines) and tramp around the woods last week in hopes of bagging a couple of porkies? Somehow, I doubt it.
Porcupines are varmints, plain and simple. Just ask anyone who has had a valuable hunting dog or cherished pet maimed or worse by one of those quill pigs. Or ask any camp owner or landowner who has had buildings or valuable trees damaged by these worthless, destructive rodents. The sensible thing would have been simply to classify the darned things as unprotected in order to allow property owners deal with these pests whenever and however they see fit.
Tomorrow is the final Fish for Free Day here in Pennsylvania for 2001, so a fishing license is not required to fish anywhere in the state. If your Labor Day plans will include some fishing time, why not invite a friend or family member to try the sport?
Another fishing-related reminder is that tomorrow is also the last day of the regular trout season. Starting on Tuesday, September 6, the extended trout season goes into effect on all streams and lakes classified as "Approved Trout Waters," with the major change being the daily limit for trout is reduced from five to three. Keep in mind that the extended season does not apply to most wild trout streams or other waters that are not stocked, so no trout may be killed or in possession while fishing on those waters until the regular season opens again next April.
Fall is a great time to be on a trout stream, of course, and the cooler water temperatures can do wonders to perk up fishing success as well. Most streams in our area are quite low and clear right now, so take your time and employ as much stealth and finesse as possible. Fly fishermen will have a decided advantage during these conditions and will often find some good caddis hatches throughout autumn to bring trout to the surface to feed. And even during periods of little or no insect activity, I always have found a deer-hair caddis to be an excellent searching pattern during the fall.