Indiana, PA - Indiana County

ZEKE WILSON: Waterfowl seasons coming

by on August 20, 2013 10:30 AM

With the leaves beginning to show the first signs of reds and yellows, many in the outdoors are beginning to gear up.

From my windshield I do the best I can to monitor the wildlife movements, and lately it has been hard to not look up. Waterfowl flights are picking up in regularity, and the county’s populations of ducks and geese show all indications of being similar to that of years past.

Duck season will not open until Oct. 19, but already it excites me to see a flock on the wing.

Young hunters will have two special days of waterfowl hunting this season on Saturday, Sept. 14, and Saturday, Sept. 21. The Junior Waterfowl Days will be open to those 12 to 15 years old who hold a junior hunting license. To participate, youngsters must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the juniors in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt.

During these two special hunts, juniors can harvest Canada geese, ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens. The daily bag limit for juniors participating in the Junior Waterfowl Days is the same as for the regular season daily limit in the area being hunted. The only exception is when September Canada goose daily bag limits exceed the regular season limit for the area being hunted; juniors then can take the September daily limit.

Hunting waterfowl allows young hunters the chance at a sport that revolves more around the hunt and less about the kill. While most that head to the marshes or fields hope to harvest, often the sights and sounds of the day are just as rewarding as a mature drake.

Not many veteran hunters in this area are quick to show off or brag about the mallard they bagged — unlike how last season’s buck often is revered. Although I, too, typically have a picture or two of big-game animals on my phone, young hunters must understand that what they see on television is not entirely the truth. Realistically, if hunting was how it is portrayed in the modern-day media, many would soon lose interest because it seems the quarry is always obtained in just 30 minutes. I can remember a number of unsuccessful hunts just as fondly as ones that ended with preparing game for the table.

Waterfowling allows young hunters to understand that wind, weather and other variables can quickly impact the hunt’s success. These variables are beyond our control, and no matter how good the outfitters are depicted on TV, they, too, get the skunk on occasion.

Hunting over water in most instances offers good visibility, meaning that there always to be something in the distance to keep the attention of younger hunters.

Understanding migratory birds also allows youth to begin to learn that much of our wildlife goes beyond state lines. Much of the current wildlife management media focuses on keeping wildlife, particularly big game, on your hunting ground rather than the neighbor’s. However, in duck hunting, with one good northern wind, all the corn and rice in the world can’t keep them from leaving and heading south. Luckily, for much of the season when the ducks and geese in the area leave, new birds move in from the north.

Learning about a multitude of species at a young age allows for a better hunter now and a hopefully an educated conservationist for life.

Unlike big-game hunts, waterfowling can allow for a dog to be part of the hunt, which provides its own unique dynamic to the hunt. Watching a dog do what it was bred to do and serve the master the best it can is a far cry from the relationship that many youths have with the family pet.

Zeke Wilson is an outdoors writer for The Indiana Gazette. His columns appear Tuesday on the Outdoors page and in the Indiana County Area Sports section on The Indiana Gazette Online.
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