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Hunter’s Corner: The worst of winter is behind us



For the Monitor
Sunday, March 05, 2017

February is now fading away in the rear-view mirror. With the thaw melting the snow cap the Merrimack River is almost at flood stage and looks angry. The ice jam in the Pemi is causing problems for Plymouth.

Now for the good news.

With the early snow-cap melt, the prospects of good early trout fishing are a serious possibility. The chances of water levels calming down in our rivers and streams is a real possibility. I find the prospects to be exciting. Normally, the snow-cap melt comes later so that it pushes the better fishing water into April at its best. Is the winter weather over? I seriously doubt it, but the worst is behind us. March came in as a lamb. The morning fog continues to eat away at the snow and the warm temperatures continue to attack the snow cap.

The signs of spring are all around us if you take the chance to observe them. On my early morning walks with Nutmeg, we have been serenaded by a young male cardinal searching for a mate. The brilliant red coloration stands out as a stark flash color compared with the dull, colorless background.

Now comes to the fun part of our walk. Nutmeg ignores gray squirrels. Cats are a different matter. What we have encountered during what is the gray squirrel mating season is amazing. We came upon four gray squirrels in furious pursuit of each other. They broke off and two were vigorously chasing each other on separate aging maple trees. The two nearest to us did something I never would have guessed would have happened. When the two squirrels were about 8 feet off the ground one of the squirrels either lost its grip, or was pushed off the tree, and came to a plop on the sidewalk. In a fraction of a second the squirrel resumed chase. Nutmeg didn’t understand what he saw but I did and it gave me a great chuckle to start the day.

There are more problems with the tease of spring we are experiencing. The warm days and warm nights may interfere with the maple sugar season. Already, daffodils and crocuses are popping up and they will be in for a sad surprise when the anticipated March and April snows come. Another problem will be the effect the warm temperatures have on the apple orchards and a similar problem with peach trees.

Another potential problem is our ever-expanding black bear population. They have been known for interrupting their hibernation to seek out food, and finding none, they return to hibernating. I suspect the warmer than normal temperature will result in an early wake-up call for the bears.

A caring friend gave me the Isaak Walton book “The Complete Angler” which was first published in 1654. My copy was published in 1992. Walton was a poet and plagiarized his writings. He was never a purist as if he had been a dry fly angler, he never would have written about taking trout be night-lines and lob-worms. The illustrations by Arthur Rackham are beyond incredible.

For the hunter, March offers a 15-day crow season and is the last month for night hunting of coyotes. A friend of mine has a farm and has killed a dozen coyotes so far this year and continues to be vigilant as he has eight deer yarded up on a portion of his farm.

Another aspect of March this year is the ability to hunt for shed antlers. If you are lucky enough to find a matching set, you might be impressed with the value of such a find. I know of a shed hunter who has trained his Labrador retrievers to hunt for sheds. There are two of them and they are fiercely competitive and are often seen bringing back the same antler.

Fish and Game will be holding a public hearing on the proposed 2017-2018 waterfowl season and bag limits. The hearing will be held on Mar. 22 at 6 p.m. at Fish and Game headquarters. If you cannot attend, please email your comments to comments@wildlife.nh.gov and enter waterfowl season setting in the subject line. Written comments will be accepted and considered up until Mar. 29.

This year waterfowl population levels in New Hampshire and in the Atlantic flyway remain in good shape with the notable exception of the mallard population which continues to decline according to Waterfowl Biologist Jessica Carloni. The proposed waterfowl dates are similar to last year’s. The overall duck season is 60 days with a bag limit of six birds daily. The Canada goose season length and bag limit remains at 70 days with a daily bag limit of three birds.

The proposed Northern Zone season for ducks, merganser and coots would open on Oct. 3 and run through Dec. 1. The Canada goose season would open Oct. 3 and run through Dec. 17.

The proposed Inland and Connecticut River Zone season for ducks, mergansers and coots would open Oct. 3 and run through Nov. 5; and then reopen Nov. 22 through Dec.17. The Canada goose season would open Oct. 3 and run through Nov. 5; then reopen Nov. 22 through Dec. 27.

The proposed Coastal Zone season for ducks, mergansers and coots would open Oct. 4 and run through October; then reopen Nov. 22 and run through Jan. 8, 2018. The Canada goose season would open Oct. 4 and run through Oct. 15; then reopen Nov. 22, and run through Jan. 18, 2018.

The proposed sea duck season would open on Nov. 15 and run through Jan. 13, 2018.

Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.