For a hunter, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, almost. After months of anticipation, hunting seasons are progressively opening across the North Country. That includes small game seasons, including waterfowl and the early black bear season in the Adirondacks. By the month’s end we’ll be out there hunting whitetails with our archery tackle before things really get busy in October.
My non-hunting friends ask me all the time when hunting season begins. And when I do encounter hikers and other non-hunters in the woods during the early hunting seasons they act surprised. That’s because they mostly associate hunting season with rifle season for deer. But that’s a ways off. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of other hunting going on out there.
Starting with small game and waterfowl, the first Canada goose season began September 1, as did squirrel season on the small game front. Grouse season opens annually in the Northern Zone on September 20.
Then there is the youth hunting seasons. They include two youth waterfowl hunting weekends; one in the Northeast Zone September 21-22 and in the Lake Champlain Zone the following weekend, September 28-29. Youths under the age of 16 do not have to have a Federal Duck Stamp. That last weekend in September is also the youth pheasant hunting weekend while the youth big game (deer and bear) hunt is Columbus Day weekend, which is October 12-14.
Local big game hunters are gearing up for early bear season in the Adirondacks, which begins next Saturday, September 14, while the early archery season for deer begins in the Northern Zone on Sept. 27 and then on Oct. 1 in the Southern Zone.
Getting back to bear hunting, it could be a tough early season this year mainly because of scattered food sources. Unlike last year, when black bear/human encounters were a regular occurrence, this year there is plenty of wild food available for black bears in the woods.
I’ve spent my share of time in the woods this summer and I can tell you that unlike last year there is a solid acorn crop. Beechnuts are a different story, at least from my own observations. I have not found any, yet, but I know other hunters who have. Guess where they’ll be on opening day?
Bears also like black cherry, and where I’ve done some hunting in the Northern Adirondacks, I’ve seen plenty of bear sign and even bears themselves in years of a good crop production.
Getting back to the archery season for deer, which opens on Sept. 27. This is a perennial favorite for bowhunters out there and for many is the official start of the fall hunting seasons. I haven’t missed the bow opener since I took up archery hunting nearly 30 years ago now.
If you can catch a white-tailed buck in his summer habits you have a good chance of getting close enough for shot. But it’s not that simple. In one of my areas, deer gorge themselves on wild apples during the late summer. I see them at all hours of the daylight.
But usually in late September, the apples are gone and the acorns are coming on so the whitetails gravitate to that food source. And while I do have oak trees to focus on, there are just so many around that it can be difficult to time a buck’s appearance. But if it does happen, it’s usually in those first few days.
Those early days of autumn are just some of the most pleasurable to be in the woods. Especially if the weather is seasonal. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Two years ago we were experiencing a late-September heat wave that had everyone’s air conditioners still running. That is not good hunting weather, at least in my own humble opinion.
I hunted that opening morning in a guile suit over shorts, a t-shirt and sneakers. So much for a crisp, fall morning and a textbook hunt. We’ll see what happens this year.
Good luck out there, and hunt.
Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at www.ADKhunter.com.