Hunting opportunities set for Labor Day

This year, Labor Day marks the beginning of some popular early hunting opportunities. Since 1945, dove hunting has ushered in the first days afield each season for generations of Pennsylvania hunters.

Dove hunting starts tomorrow and runs until November 29. Again this year, legal shooting hours during dove season will be a half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 doves. Bring plenty of ammo, however, if you plan to bag a limit of these fast-flying, elusive gamebirds. Although small, doves are quite tasty but better suited as an appetizer rather than the main course. Try wrapping each dove breast with a bacon slice held in place with some toothpicks and cook them on the grill. Fantastic.

The early Canada goose season also opens tomorrow and runs until September 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. The daily bag limit for Canada geese during the early season hunt is a generous eight birds.

A youth waterfowl day also occurs this month on September 14. Licensed junior hunters 12 to 16 years old who are accompanied by an adult may participate in this special hunt. During the youth hunt, 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 that day may also harvest Canada geese.

Legal shooting hours during the early Canada goose season are a half hour before sunrise until a half hour after sunset, except on the youth waterfowl day, when shooting hours are a half hour before sunrise until sunset.

Keep in mind the special licensing requirements for the dove and waterfowl seasons. In addition to the general hunting license, all dove and waterfowl hunters 12 and older must have a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License. Mentored youth also need a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License to hunt doves.

All duck and goose hunters 16 and older are required to have a federal duck stamp, signed across the face and carried by the hunter. The Electronic Duck Stamp, or E-Stamp, is valid in Pennsylvania, and stamps can be purchased online through Pennsylvania Game Commission’s “The Outdoor Shop.”

I’m not sure why the waterfowl and migratory bird regulations need to be so wickedly complicated, but sometimes sorting through them makes the IRS tax codes seem simple. To avoid getting into trouble, consult the “Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest” or visit the Game Commission website, PGC.pa.gov for the complete regulations for waterfowl and migratory game bird hunting.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is offering a 1-day Labor Day fishing license for just $1. This special license is good for Sept. 2 only and gives folks 16 and older, both residents and nonresidents, the chance to experience a day of fishing either by themselves or with family or friends for a just a buck plus the usual $1.90 in issuing fees for a total of $2.90. The special license is now available for purchase online at www.GoneFishingPA.com, or by visiting one of more than 700 license issuing agents. This Labor Day license, however, does not include a trout permit, so if you intend to keep any trout or fish in any water under special regulations for trout or fish in water designated Class A Wild Trout Water, you will need to purchase a trout permit for $9.90.

I was also hoping to feature some accounts of a three-day fishing outing on the Susquehanna River last week with some friends. Unfortunately, the results of that trip were pretty dismal compared to the many great days I’ve spent catching smallmouths on the big river during late summer and fall for so many years.

The smallmouth bass fishery on the Susquehanna suffered a serious and well-documented decline about 15 years ago. No specific cause or causes for the problem have ever been discovered, and the river has never fully recovered from it.

In a day and a half of fishing, three of us caught less than 30 bass. Those bleak numbers caused us to cancel the last day of the trip and head home early.

I can only hope the bass fishing on the Susquehanna will return to its former glory sometime soon. But for now, I’m even more grateful for the quality of the smallmouth fishery on the upper Juniata River.