The invitation came from a shooting friend and customer of mine. He has been asking me to join him for a couple of years and I chose to hunt local. This year I just couldn’t turn him down. The Saturday before the opener he and his wife (who also hunts and shoots) travelled to the field to meet the organizer and see how many birds were there. He called me excitedly from the field and said even in late morning there were hundreds of birds sitting in the field and on power lines cutting through the field. That got my blood flowing! My plans to get organized moved from Sunday evening to Saturday in eager anticipation.
We met at his house before 5 a.m. for the 75 mile drive to the field in order to arrive and set up before legal shooting time. Arriving at the field there was a flurry of activity in the parking area as shooting positions were assigned and we groped in the dark for our gear. We walked into the field and found our shooting posts. This was my first indication this might not be a great shoot. My position was in the corner of a small field that abutted up to the larger field.
We heard the first reports of birds coming into the large field with the boom of shotguns. An occasional bird would cut through our field. I’ll spare you the play-by-play at the point and just tell you I only fired ten times and harvested four birds. When it was all said and done I’d say only a handful of hunters got the limit. I only saw one hunter I know for sure got a limit. The guy did not miss a bird he shot at. My friend and his wife, who had excellent positions on either side of the power line, brought home eight birds each; half the limit of 15. We talked with the man who organized it after the shoot and he said there were not as many birds in the field as had been there Saturday.
As stated earlier, a couple of hunters who drew permits for Sandy Mush have been in the store last week and said there were just no birds flying. One of them had been out twice (Monday and Wednesday) and didn’t fire a shot either day. This same thing happened several years ago at Sandy Mush. I talked with another hunter who went out opening day in South Carolina who also did not get a limit of birds at a usually productive shoot. The only explanation I can come up with, and will confirm with a biologist, is that something changed in the weather like a weak cold front that caused birds to move further south. We’ll just have to keep going out there and trying!
A couple of reminders about upcoming events. The first is the Hunting Mentor Seminar Scheduled for September 25th , 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah Forest. Participants attending the hunting mentor seminars will: Understand why hunter recruitment and retention is important; Hear personal accounts from experienced mentors including mentoring tips and suggestions, and learn about social networking and opportunities to connect with other hunters.
The second will be two days later, September 27th, National Hunting and Fishing Day at the same location. Activities start at 10 a.m. and run until 3 p.m. including: fishing, field cooking, archery, pellet rifle range, and more. Many conservation groups will be represented including Ducks Unlimited and N.C. Bowhunters Association. Contact is Lee Sherrill at 828-877-4423.
The next available Hunter Education class in our area is September 15 – 16, 6 – 9 p.m. at Skyland Fire Department. This year the course has been reduced from ten to six hours. I do encourage ALL hunters to take this course even if you are grandfathered in N.C. Don’t be surprised when you go hunting out of state and can’t buy a license because you don’t have it.