If you’re an avid small game and/or Canada goose hunter, this Saturday, you should be up and out of the house well before sunup to begin what could be a feather and fur day.
Three hunting seasons will open at sunup — Canada geese, squirrels and crows. These three are the most popular, but the snipe, rail and Gallinule also open Saturday, none of which I’ve hunted. These are all hunting activities that can also be enjoyed by our young hunters going afield with their licensed parents. If you’re ambitious, all three of these hunting opportunities could be done in the same day. Let’s take a look at what these hunts require and what the regulations are this year.
As usual, at the time of this column, the final goose hunting regulations for dates and bag limits were not yet available, so right now, these are all tentative. Migratory game regulations are set by the federal government in late summer. Hopefully, these final regulations will be announced shortly.
Canada goose hunters are required to have a current small game license, which, until Sept. 30, will be last year’s license. You’ll also need a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number, which you must get each year. HIP is based on a voluntary survey of selected migratory bird hunters in the U.S. The states’ wildlife agencies collect the names and addresses and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service randomly selects hunters and asks them for information on the birds they have harvested. These numbers are used to develop reliable estimates of the total harvest during that season. To register for HIP go to www.NY-HIP.com, or call (888) 427-5447. This free number is valid from July 1-June 30.
There are some other standard regulations that must be adhered to. You must use only a shotgun (no larger than a 10-gauge), and it may hold not hold more than three shots. If your shotgun is designed to hold more, you must have a plug that cannot be removed without taking the gun apart. Also, the shot that you use must be non-toxic — no lead. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
If you use a blind placed near the water, it must be labeled with your name and address and be removed no later than March 15. Sink boxes, those that float and conceal your body below the water surface, cannot be used, and hunting from a car or other motor vehicle on land isn’t allowed. For the complete list of all the regulations, click here. To simplify the nine goose hunting areas’ opening/closing dates and bag limits, check the DEC graphic. Be sure to periodically check with the state license issuing agent, or the DEC website periodically for the final regulations.
This season includes gray, black and fox squirrels. There’s a daily bag limit of six (which will make a good, bacon-wrapped squirrel lunch). I had one at hunting camp last year for the first time, and it was delicious. Google “bacon-wrapped squirrel” for the easy recipe. Red squirrels are unprotected and can be hunted at any time without limit. Remember, you need last year’s small-game license to hunt this September.
I can’t think of a better place to start off a young hunter’s career than in the squirrel woods. This game is plentiful and definitely easy to find, however not necessarily easy to shoot. These wild squirrels are a lot more cautious than those at your bird feeder. They don’t sit up and look at you, they quickly head for cover. Pick a sunny afternoon and head into the hardwoods, pick a tree to lean against and wait quietly. Chances are good that when you wake up from your nap, there may be a few scampering around on the ground. If the action slows, move off a few hundred yards and sit down again.
With regards to method of taking squirrels, you can use an airgun that uses compressed air to propel a single projectile that is .17-caliber or larger and has a velocity of at least 600 feet per second, a .22-caliber rifle or a shotgun. And if you’re really looking for a challenge, you can try bow and arrow.
This is the only migratory game bird that you do not need to have a HIP number to hunt or use non-toxic shot, but you do need a small game license (last year for this September). Crows can be hunted with all firearms, an electronic caller, and they have no daily bag limit. Shooting hours are from sunup to sundown, however the only days crows can be hunted are Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I would really like to know why just these four days. I’ve been told that eating crow is very tasty, but I have yet to actually eat them.
SEPT. 1 ITINERARY
This year, I plan on “trying” to hunt all three — geese, squirrel and crow. My Canada Goose hunt will begin long before sunup, dragging my decoys and backpacking my new RedHead Deluxe layout blind out in a hopefully cut cornfield in Saratoga County. If the field hasn’t been cut, I’ll go to a large green grass field in Warren County. This will be the first time I won’t have to lie on the hard ground, covered up with a camo blanket near my super magnum decoys.
This blind is constructed with a 86x36x15 inch rustproof aluminum frame covered with 900 denier Realtree Max-4 camo, non-glare polyester fabric that repels water and wind and has straps for holding grass or stubble. Other features include an insulated and padded back and headrest, fully waterproof, welded tarp that provides a six-inch heat impenetrable barrier, interior pockets for ammo, etc. and a fast opening lid system for quick and safe shooting. The hard part will be staying awake in all this comfort (www.basspro.com).
With the geese I’ve seen on Saratoga Lake, Round Lake and the upper Hudson River, I think I should have plenty of opportunities to fill the eight-goose limit by 9-10 a.m.
This will give me time to go home, have lunch, then head out to the hardwoods that surrounds one of these cornfields in Saratoga County. It’s a big woodlot with a lot of squirrels that I know eat the nuts in the woods and also visit the cornfields for food. My usual setup is to sit where I can see both the woods and the fields.
Normally, I use a .22 or .410 shotgun, but this year, I’m going to try out something new — the Gamo Varmint Hunter HP .177-caliber air rifle. It’s an all-weather rifle with a very comfortable synthetic stock, fluted barrel and their 4-12x40AO scope I upgraded from their 4×32 scope that comes with a laser light and flashlight.
The reason for the bigger scope was because I intend to use this for evening raccoon, fox and perhaps even coyote hunts, and the bigger objective lens will pull in more light. In case you’re wondering why these bigger animals, it’s because this single-cock air rifle has a velocity of 1,400 feet per second with their PBA non-lead hunting pellet that retains 100 percent of its weight.
At the range at 20 yards, I was able to shoot nickel-sized, four- to five-shot groups and before I left, I actually shot the push-pin that was holding up the paper target. If you want to add a little more fun to your small-game hunting, try it with this airgun (www.gamousa.com).
Lastly, if I have enough time, I would like to try a little crow shooting which I can do in the far end of the goose field. I don’t have an electronic caller, but I do have a crow mouth caller and two very life-like crow decoys that will get their attention. Normally, I’d use a shotgun for this hunt, but I thought I’d try the Gamo Varmint Hunter. It’ll make an interesting and challenging hunt that will require a few changes. I’ll set up a chair blind in a heavy thicket on the edge of my goose field and set the decoys out in the field, one at 10 yards and the other 15. Hopefully, the landing zone between the decoys will be their landing zone where I can get a ground shot.
Get out there this weekend and enjoy a little warm weather hunting, and don’t forget those young hunters.
If you’re looking forward to the pheasant season (Oct. 20) and would like to get a jump on it, there are a number of preserves around that offer some very good hunts. All DEC-licensed preserves open their pheasant hunts Sept. 1. It’s a great place to work a new bird dog and/or to take a young wing shooter and be away from the crowd. I’ll be doing a little wing shooting at Easton View Outfitter in Washington County when I return from my Canada bear hunt.
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