Northampton Press

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Press photo by Nick Hromiak The early dove hunting season opens Sept. 1 statewide. Press photo by Nick Hromiak The early dove hunting season opens Sept. 1 statewide.

Dove-hunting season is just around corner

Thursday, August 14, 2014 by NICK HROMIAK Special to the Press in Sports

It's hard to believe that summer is almost over and the first part of the small game season is about to get underway.

Sept. 1 is the customary start of the dove-hunting season in Pennsylvania, and this year hunters are getting some extra time to hunt them.

Along with the approval of the early migratory bird seasons established by U.S. Fish & Wildlife frameworks, the total season length has increased from 70 to 90 days.

The first part of the season now runs until Saturday Nov. 15, when prior to this, it would start in Sept. and end in Sept., and much of October was closed to dove hunting.

According to Ian Gregg, PGC's game bird manager, "Pennsylvania dove hunters who responded to a recently completed survey indicated hunters generally prefer as many dove hunting days in early autumn as possible. As a result, the additional days have been routed to the early season segment to create two-and-a-half months of continuous dove hunting."

Hunting hours during the longer first segment are from noon until sunset from Sept. 1 through Sept. 25. Then on Sept. 26 through Nov. 15, hunting hours begin one-half hour before sunrise and end at sunset.

The later season runs from Nov. 22 to Nov. 29 and from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, with hunting hours during that portion set at one-half hour before sunrise and sunset.

Hunters should keep in mind the daily bag limit is 15 birds with a possession limit of 45, and resident hunters need a game bird license ($3.70) as well as a general hunting license.

Along with dove, the early Sept. statewide season for resident Canada geese will also open Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 25. The Sept. bag limit is eight with a possession limit of 24.

This early goose season is always a tough one since few crop fields have been harvested. It leaves hunters few choices from which to hunt, as there's still standing corn, unharvested soybean and wheat fields. An alternative is to stake out farm ponds where small flocks often take residence.

Surprisingly, the controlled hunting areas at the PGC's Middle Creek Wildlife Management area in Lebanon and Lancaster counties, as well as SGL #46, will remain closed to Sept. goose hunting to address a decline in resident goose numbers.

Middle Creek was always the crème de la crème for goose hunting as the water and surrounding acreage was always loaded with geese.

Some years back a joined my friend the late Tom Fegely, award winning outdoor writer and his wife, where Tom drew a goose hunting blind for a specific day. The action that day was heavy, however each hunter is limited to three shotshells in a three-plugged shotgun. If your three shots miss, you're finished for the day.

In addressing the decline, Kevin Jacobs, PGC waterfowl biologist, noted that recent liberalizations in Canada goose hunting opportunities, along with programs being implemented by many municipalities and public and private landowners, appear to be stabilizing the growth of the state's resident goose population. The 2014 Pennsylvania spring resident goose population was estimated at 241,732, which is statistically similar to the recent 10-year average of 233,306 geese. Despite this, populations, says Jacobs, is significantly above the management goal of 150,000. It goes without saying that hunting is the most effective, efficient and less costly way to manage resident Canada goose populations.

In addition to the early waterfowl season, the first youth waterfall hunting day will be held statewide Sept. 20. The second day will be announced when the late migratory game bird seasons are approved later this month.

Youth waterfall days are open to licensed junior hunters who are 12-15 years old. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult who may assist the youth in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt.