Hunting – the best time of year – is once again upon us

Early morning or late afternoon, the hollow length of the day’s shadows have grown as daylight shrinks and summer’s season begins to ebb into another autumn. Geese rally and pass overhead in preparation of their journey southward and suddenly there are new flocks of ducks gathering in small ponds as they too prepare for their annual migration.

Somehow the mid-day air still breathes of summer’s heat but the nights have taken on a slightly noticeable coolness.

Gulf Coast hurricanes threaten to end our summer-long drought in spectacular fashion and wood piles grow magically closer to back doors. Summer surely is about to bid us all adieu and leave us to question whatever lies in ambush a mere month away.

In the interim, my favorite time of the year is about to descend on all of us here in the Granite State. Hunting season in all it’s vagaries and varieties is upon us once again and I feel the call running through my soul as it has for more years than I care to admit.

Seasons within the season, some of which are here already, beckon those amongst us ready to partake of an evenings fishing after a morning walking a favorite covert with gun in hand. Now tell me, it just doesn’t get much better than that does it?

If you’d like the chance to sharpen your shooting flying skills then I suggest you try your hand at outwitting the local flocks of crows as they pass between feeding and roosting spots. The season on these varmints opened on Aug. 15 and will run through to Nov. 30 with no limit except for your skills with a shotgun.

Crows are nest robbers of the first order and their increasing numbers continue to place a burden on the local songbird populations. Crows are extremely crafty and slick when it comes to knowing the difference between a hunter and a hiker. Walking sticks seem distinguishable from shotguns through the eyes of a crow. The methods employed in pass or decoy shooting crows is extremely similar to the taking of geese. Camo clothing is a must wear item and a good blind or hide is essential as well.

Crow decoys are available just about anywhere sporting goods are sold, and the more decoys displayed, the success rate proportionately increases. Shotgun gauge and pellet size are a personal agenda item but I would suggest No. 6 or No. 4 pellets from the large bore of a 12 gauge just to keep your efforts on a successful pursuit level.

I will readily admit to having no grudge against the ghostly singers of the darkest nights, the coyotes. In ever increasing numbers these escapees from the vast areas out west seem to have taken to the cozy confines of New England. With no closed season the time is always ripe to hunt the coyote locally – be it autumn, winter, spring or summer they present themselves as unique targets of opportunity. Most ranchers, dairymen or farmers are cooperative when it comes to the taking of marauding coyotes that kill off expensive stock of sheep, calves, piglets or poultry. Introducing yourself to the landowner and asking for permission to hunt their land is a must and can make for a lasting impression.

The annual small game survey comes with a chance to win a Ruger firearm for those hunters willing to take the time to fill out the form fully and send it back to the folks at fish and wildlife before April 14, 2017. You can call and ask for a survey form from New Hampshire Fish and Game (271-2461). For the tech savvy hunters you can also download the form available by email at wildlife@wildlife.nh.gov.

This survey helps tremendously with season dates, bag limits and population information for future hunting regulations. Your help is also important to fish and game in its efforts to provide sustainable populations of healthy small game.

Another way to ensure sustainable populations of the number one favorite small game animal is to participate in the annual Ruffed Grouse wing and tail survey. The Ruffed Grouse is a challenge to hunt and even harder to bring to hand by even experienced hunters due to it’s speedy, erratic flight characteristics and a puzzling phenomenon they exhibit when flushed. Uncanny in it’s ability to almost always place an obstruction between the hunter and their departing form they provide a lot of head scratching and creative excuses from even the best of wing shots.

The season on Ruffed Grouse runs from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, and gives upland bird hunters three full months to pursue this fantastic game bird through some of the prettiest country here in New Hampshire.

The Wing and Tail survey gives hunters another chance at winning a very nice shotgun provided by the Ruffed Grouse Society to the fish and game department. Information on the survey can be obtained in detail by calling Karen Bordeau, the NH Fish and Game Small Game Project leader, at Fish and Game’s Region 2 office in New Hampton (744-5470).

As always, respect the rights of landowners, be courteous to those non-hunters you may encounter while in the woods and fields and never shoot at anything without checking it’s identity and ensuring background safety. Enjoy the upcoming seasons safely don’t forget those surveys with two chances to win a very nice prize.

Gordon Lewis can be reached by email at moonglowfarm@gmail.com.