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Hunting Season Ramps Up

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Resident goose season ended last week on September 30th. That is the bad news. The good news is, the regular waterfowl season kicked off this week, opening October 7th. Now you can hunt ducks as well as geese. The first split of the duck season is only three days until the 10th, but the goose continues until the 17th. Both pick back up on November 14th. Just remember, with the regular waterfowl season normal restrictions apply for goose which includes plugged shotguns and no electronic calls are allowed. I saw a flock of about twenty geese fly over the store today headed out to feed. First time I’ve seen them which is a good sign. High water on the French Broad may have pushed them on to smaller ponds and calm water.

This coming Monday is a big day for several other species seasons opening. Bear hunters will be hitting the woods on October 12th and have until November 21st for the first split of the season. Remember, this is the second year where a $10 bear harvest tag is required. On that same day as bear, grouse season also kicks off. The daily bag limit is three birds (good luck with that!) with the season running until February 29th. We are getting varying reports from folks about seeing grouse out there. I guess we won’t know how successful the hatch was until folks start hitting the woods and get some reports in.

Also opening on October 12th is squirrel season with a daily limit of eight and it also continues through February 29th. That same day also brings us raccoon, opossum and bobcat seasons. Hey, 2016 is a leap year so we get one extra day for small game hunting! The air is turning crisp and the leaves are starting to change. This is the time of year that stirs the hunter’s heart. Let’s hit the woods and fields.

We reported last week that Delayed Harvest trout waters opened October 1st. The heavy rains the past couple of weeks have negatively impacted that. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has suspended all Delayed Harvest trout stockings effective October 1, until further notice, due to forecasted heavy rains and expected flood conditions over the October 2-4 weekend. Commission staff already has conducted stockings in the following systems: Helton Creek, Trout Lake, West Fork Pigeon River, Big Laurel Creek, Mitchell River, East Fork French Broad River, Coffee Lake, Watauga River, East Prong Roaring River and Stone Mountain Creek. WRC staff will evaluate water levels on Oct. 5 to develop a revised October stocking schedule.  The updated stocking schedule will be posted on the agency’s website, www.ncwildlife.org/fishing, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

As you read this, I am either preparing my guns and gear for a grouse hunt to New Hampshire or already there hunting. We leave October 10th for the long drive up. This is our annual Grouse Safari which I missed last year due to some family health issues. Why go all the way to New Hampshire for grouse? Because of the birds. The area we hunt is in the northern part of the state and most of the land is in use by timber companies. That means young forest growth and that means great grouse habitat. We recently had our local Ruffed Grouse Society banquet in Asheville and our President, John Eichinger, was here and told us that one of the goals of RGS is to make our National Forests so well managed for wildlife that someday hunters from the north will travel here to hunt grouse. We hope we see that day. But it will require hunter involvement and a concerted effort by the USFS to make it happen. We just have to keep the pressure on. We would like to stay here and hunt, were it not for the birds. For now, we will have to continue to take our dollars north.

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