Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Very Early Season Hunts
By Bob Humphrey
Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. The kids head back to school and it’s time to turn your attention to autumn endeavors.
For many, fall hunting seasons are still a few weeks or months away, but more serious sportsmen know there’s a season open for something soon, if not already. Here’s a few of the top early season hunts you might consider.
Winter comes early above the tree line and most hunts are fly-in, making early season the most practical, and in many cases the only option for hunting these big nomads of the north. The spectacle of thousands of large ungulates migrating across the open tundra rivals an African safari, and most hunts allow two animals of either sex.
Early bow and muzzleloader seasons offer a chance to bugle in a bull during the rut. Options range from trekking steep, rugged mountains to hunting the fringes and foothills above alfalfa fields. Many hunts are through a draw so you may be too late for this year; but it’s never too soon to start planning for next year.
Speed goats rut early and most western states open their seasons in time to take advantage of the action. Decoys are a great way to pull in rutting bucks, and warm temperatures drive animals to the water holes.
Bear seasons typically begin in the early fall across much of the U.S. and Canada.
Hunting over baiting is the most effective method in densely forested areas where chance encounters are rare and these black ghosts of the forest are difficult to spot. Spot-and-stalk hunts are more popular in open habitat of the west, or heavily logged areas of the west coast.
Several states have very early whitetail seasons for bowhunters, a handful have early muzzleloader hunts and at least one - South Carolina - opens for all hunters in mid August! Temperatures range from mild to oppressive so most of the action will be very early and late in the day. However, both bucks and does are often in regular feeding patterns and bucks are still in bachelor groups.
West coast blacktail seasons open early, in some cases offering a rare opportunity for bowhunters to take a velvet buck. Spot-and-stalk is a popular method in open country.
The range of resident Canada geese - often considered a nuisance - continues to expand, along with early season hunting opportunities for them. Bag limits are usually quite liberal and the mild conditions make for a more pleasant hunt.
Once among the most popular small game species, squirrel hunting seems to be something of a lost art. But an early season foray for limb bacon is a great excuse to hit the woods and scout your deer haunts for later in the fall.
Dove shoots are often as much a social activity as a hunt. Both the temperatures and the action can be hot, and you’d be well advised to hit the skeet range a few times before heading to the dove fields.
In states that have them, seasons for exotic species and feral hogs often run year-round, providing a great opportunity to get you and your equipment ready for native game. Liberal bag limits and restrictions take a lot of the pressure off and make for a more relaxed hunt.