Sports

FINS, FUR & FEATHERS: Honk! Honk!

Things are now getting into high gear for those of us who love to hunt and fish. If you call, leave a message, because I won’t be home much for the next couple of months. If you haven’t gotten prepared you better do so quickly.

You know we’ve got to be getting close when you can start to load up the steel shot and hunt waterfowl. The early Canada goose season starts Saturday, and from the looks of it, there are plenty of resident honkers around to be had by all.

As we have seen in the news, many areas are having problems with geese not migrating from breeding to wintering grounds. We have made too suitable the habitat and removed many of the natural predators so that populations have exploded. This presents a problem for people and birds alike. The large population of birds makes them more susceptible to disease and if the food supply were to dwindle we’d be faced with a massive die-off of the birds.

Goose droppings tend to make quite a mess in the places that geese frequent. The problem is that these are many of the same places that people tend to frequent, like parks and golf courses. It is expensive for the state to round up geese and send them off to the gas chamber, so biologists hope that hunters will pay for the privilege to hunt geese a little sooner than normal.

Geese are habitual creatures. They will use the same fields over and over — until the food is gone. They tend to feed early in the morning, then head off to the water to rest. They then return to the fields to eat in the early evening. If you can pattern the birds and be between these areas, you stand a great chance at bagging a bird.

Here on the island you opportunities are limited, but many times you can approach a farmer that has been having the birds raid their fields to get permission to hunt them. The public land off Arnold Road does get some geese in there, but once the shooting starts they will vacate to quieter areas. Do some talking and you will be well rewarded. Both of my sons have taken their first geese during this early hunt. Both of them nailed large honkers last year on the opener and they both look forward to this season each year.

Dry hard on archers

The warm weather and dry conditions have made the archery seasons tough on hunters. The state wants hunters to be very careful when venturing out this fall. The fire danger is very high so be sure you check before you go starting a campfire to shoot the bull around. Trying to stalk within range of a big buck or bull is like trying to walk on cornflakes so most archers are resorting to stand hunting. If you can find water during these dry conditions you stand a good shot at seeing animals.

Muleys are still tough to come by in the central part of the state, with best areas being between Winthrop and Yakima. The really big animals will still up in the upper elevations, feasting on the last grasses and shrubs until the big snows push them down. Hunt the meadows near the creek bottoms for deer and if you can find an elk wallow, I would hang a tree-stand nearby. The northeast corner of the state has ample whitetails to go after and blacktails have been taken in the foothills of both Skagit and Whatcom Counties.

Fast gun? Shoot doves

If that is still not enough hunting for you, then pick up the shotgun and pick your quarry. If you want some fast gunning and don’t mind the drive, then head over to the Yakima area for some fast action on doves. Anywhere from that area over to Moses Lake area has good populations of doves. Find an area between feed and water and prepare for some quick shooting. It is not uncommon to go through a couple of boxes of ammo for a few birds. The hunting is in comfortable weather, and there is not a lot of walking involved for those of you that have not been getting into shape.

A good 20-gauge with 7 1/2s is all that is needed for these birds. I take my golden along to get her in tune for the upcoming duck seasons. Grouse is just opening and depending on where you go, determines the amount of birds. My favorite area is in the Finney Creek area of the lower Skagit. Ruffs will be in the lower creek bottoms and blues will be up high. I have also had some great luck in the upper reaches of the Chewuch River north of Winthrop. The breaks of the Kettle River also have good numbers of birds. By far the best place for me to hunt has been in the foothills of Snohomish County. Just east of Oso has been some of the best grouse gunning I have had.

Oh yeah, just a reminder, rabbit is open too and don’t forget to get out there and try for some of the incoming coho. This is truly a great time to be a sportsman.

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