As we begin the final week of August, the annual transition from summer to fall begins for many of us.
This year, the upcoming Labor Day weekend sets the stage for several of our early hunting seasons for doves and Canada geese as well as two Saturdays later in the month set aside for youth waterfowl hunting.
Since 1945, dove hunting has been the opening act for generations of Pennsylvania hunters each year. Dove hunting in Pennsylvania is currently divided into three seasons. The first of those starts on Monday, Sept. 2 and runs until Sept. 28. During the September dove season, hunting begins at noon and ends at sunset. The second and third dove seasons run from Oct. 26 to Nov. 30 and Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Hunting hours during the later dove seasons is a half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 doves during all three seasons.
The early Canada goose season also opens on Sept. 2 and runs until Sept. 25. This September goose hunt began in 1992 as an experimental measure in seven counties in the northwest section of the state as an effort to control excessive populations of resident geese. In 1993, it was expanded to 10 counties, then 26 counties in 1994, and finally became a statewide season in 1995. The resident Canada goose population in Pennsylvania expanded significantly from 1990 to 2004, and increased hunting opportunity has been one of the most effective management tools for controlling these birds.
Overall numbers of resident geese have declined somewhat over the past nine years, but our Canada goose population was estimated at 279,000 birds last spring, which is still well above the management goal of 150,000 spring birds.
This continuing abundance of Canada geese allows a generous daily limit of eight birds during the early season in most areas of the state.
Two youth waterfowl days also occur this month on Sept. 14-21. Licensed junior hunters 12 to 15 years old who are accompanied by an adult may participate in this special hunt. During these youth hunts, junior hunters may take Canada geese, ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens, and daily bag limits for each of those species are the same as those for the regular season in the area being hunted. Licensed adult hunters accompanying youth hunters on those days may also harvest Canada geese themselves.
Keep in mind that all dove and waterfowl hunters must have a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License in addition to a general Pennsylvania hunting license. All duck and goose hunters 16 and older are also required to have a federal duck stamp. The numerous other regulations for waterfowl and other migratory birds tend to be just slightly less complicated than the IRS tax code, not to mention even season dates and bag limits can vary quite a bit in different areas of the state. And on top of that, most of those seasons and bag limits are set too late to appear in the rulebook that comes with your general hunting license. To make sure you know rules, it's always a good idea to consult the waterfowl and migratory bird season brochure, which is available for viewing or download on the Game Commission website www.pgc.state.pa.us.
As usual, I'm planning to spend at least one day of the Labor Day weekend attending the annual ox roast at the Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association. This year, will mark the 75th installment of the event, which will be on Sunday and Monday, Sept. 1 and 2 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and the public is cordially invited to attend all the festivities.
Whether you enjoy shooting a rifle, shotgun, handgun, or bow, there are certainly plenty of shooting opportunities at the club, including 3-D archery - starting at 8 a.m. - trapshooting, running deer, bowling pin and novelty shoot, bottle cap shoot, a .22-caliber shooting gallery and more. The popular field day shoot will be held on Labor Day.
Other activities throughout the weekend will include hayrides, kid's games, arts and crafts vendors, a sportsman's flea market andlive music from the Back Yard Rockers.
Of course, plenty of great food will be available all weekend, featuring the club's signature ox roast sandwiches. The club is located about three miles north of Altoona on 301 Riggles Gap Sportsmen Road with plenty of free parking available.
Visit the club website at www.blaircountygame.com for a map and directions or call their lodge at 942-8522 for more information.