Washburn: October a red-letter month in hunting community

For the Monitor
Published: 9/23/2018 7:50:50 PM

Much has been written about the about the excess gray squirrel population this year. There are lots of theories about how this came about – I don’t have one – but I do know that fruit trees have been damaged by this over population.

There is another anomaly that has yet to be brought to light. Where are the crows? Crows have no natural enemies. They are the ultimate road-kill specialists, yet the gray squirrel carnage continues and the crows should be having a field day but they aren’t.

Since they have no natural enemies, I can’t help but wonder if the West Nile or Triple E virus is having an impact on the crow population. I remain concerned about the missing crows. Yes, they can be a nuisance at times, but they are still part of our wildlife.

September ends with an important mentoring period with Youth Waterfowl Weekend. Hunters age 15 and younger have a special waterfowl hunt on Saturday and Sunday to hunt ahead in advance of the regular season. They must be accompanied by an adult over 18 years of age who possesses a current hunting license. The adult may not take waterfowl. Youth hunters may take waterfowl in accordance with the 2018-19 New Hampshire migratory bird hunting regulations.

As for October, it’s a red-letter day and month in the hunting community. Oct. 1 marks the opening day for cottontail rabbit, pheasant, ruffed grouse (partridge) snowshoe hare and other birds. Cottontail rabbit hunting has been spotty in the past due to declining habitat. Around 12,200 pheasants will be stocked at 70-plus sites. Pheasant hunting is closed on Thursdays and Fridays until noon on the in-season (Oct. 4-5, 11-12, and 18-19).

All pheasant hunters 16 years of age or older must have a valid N.H. hunting license in addition to a pheasant license.

The most popular game bird is the ruffed grouse (partridge). Several factors come into play on how good a partridge season will be. First of all, it is habitat and it has been said that if you want better partridge habitat, buy a chainsaw. New growth forests are the best of all habitat worlds. The second and nearly almost as important to habitat is weather. A wet spring can be detrimental to a chick crop. We experienced a relatively dry spring, good news. The final factor is predation. Foxes and coyotes present the greatest threat to chicks and mature partridge.

There is good and bad news from the small game hunter survey. The North region grouse observation rates were 136 grouse per 100 hunting hours: this is an increase from the reported 83 grouse seen per 100 hunting hours in 2016. The observation rates were down in all regions except the North Region.

The final Oct. 1 opening is the woodcock season. A HIP permit is required. The daily limit is three and the possession limit is nine. There are two types of woodcock, those who nest in the greater Concord area and migratory woodcock who nest much further north. What is going to trigger the migration is cold weather snaps. When it happens, the flight birds as I call them, start their trek south. This part of the season is always short lived.

The expectation is that this year’s woodcock season will be similar to last. The number of heard per stop increased slightly in the Central and Southwest regions, but decreased in the North, White Mountain and Southwest regions Long term and regional population trends for grouse and woodcock can be found in the 2017-2018 Small Game Summary Report, which provides detailed graphs by region and statewide.

The latest report from ‘Ducks Unlimited’ suggest that the 2018 will be just about the same as 2017 in the Atlantic Flyway. That is the good news. The bad news is that mating pairs of mallards is down by a significant percentage.

The final October season is the fall shotgun turkey season. This is an either sex one-week season that runs from Oct. 15-21. Check the hunting digest for the WMU’s that are in play and those that are closed for hunting for this one-week period. Beginning the spring of 2019, the spring turkey season will run May 1- 31 and turkey hunters may take one bearded turkey in the spring season and one either sex in the fall, or two bearded turkeys in the spring; however, the second bird must be taken in WMU’s H 1, H 2, J 2, K, L or M.

Also new for 2018-19 crossbows will become a legal method of take beginning in 2018 for moose, for participants in the Youth Weekend for deer and fall shotgun season for turkey. Beginning in 2019 they will also be legal during the Youth Weekend for turkey and spring turkey season.

I was slightly off in my description of how the WMU L bonus permits would be issued. The permits were drawn on Sept. 3 and then the winners notified by e-mail. I checked in with the licensing office seeking to see the list and was told if I was drawn I would be notified by e-mail. As luck would have it I got the permit. My list of excuses for this up and coming deer season is just got significantly shorter.

We are entering into the moose carnage season. This is because it is the moose mating season and with the mating season there is moose movement. Both bulls and cows are actively moving. The Granite State has cut back the tree lines abutting interstate highways. This is to give drivers a better chance of seeing moose and deer. Dusk and dawn are the danger zones. My best advice is to not over-drive your headlights and in general slow it down. Moose are taller than deer and as such their coat will absorb your headlights. Deer on the other hand will reflect your headlights. The other difference is that when you see one deer there may be several more in the group. Moose on the other with the exception of a cow with calves will be a single. You need to be more alert in your driving in October and November.

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