Hunting Season Almost Here

Flicka and a blue grouse from opening of 2009 hunting season.

So, what happened to summer? By the calendar, of course, it’s still summer and will be for almost another month.

By the calendar, however, September 1 is a week from today and by my standards that means fall, because that is when the hunting seasons begin.

Yes, one week from today the upland bird hunting seasons begin, and time to get the shotgun out of the cabinet and make those long walks across the prairies, sagebrush meadows and mountainsides of Montana in search of mountain grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse and Hungarian partridge. The pheasant season will open October 9, and while some seasons close a bit earlier, it means we can go chase birds of one kind or another until New Year’s Day, and then, presumably, we’ll still have a couple weeks of late waterfowling before the 2010 general hunting seasons finally close.

The archery seasons for deer and elk open a week from Saturday, on September 4. The archery seasons, in general, run through October 17, and then the rifle season, which for many Montanans is hunting season, opens October 23, running through November 28. A newer wrinkle in the hunting season calendar is a youth deer season, which will be on October 21, and 22.

Of course, don’t rely on me when making your hunting plans for the coming months. Pick up a copy of the various hunting regulations at license vendors, sporting goods stores, or online at http://fwp.mt.gov.

This has always been a special time of the year for me and most people for whom hunting is ingrained as an important part of life, and it is especially true for those of us who keep a hunting dog twelve months out of the year in order to have a canine partner during the hunting season.

At our house, Flicka, our black Labrador retriever, is definitely getting anxious for those first hunting outings of the fall season. She demands and gets daily retrieving sessions, and she wades and swims the trout streams when we’re fishing, but that’s just fun and games and the things she does just to be with her people. Finding bird scent, pointing, flushing, and when things work right, retrieving is what she lives for. For that matter, the fun of following a dog across a mountain meadow and watching it do what it was born to do has come to be almost more important than the shooting and occasionally bringing home a bag of birds.

Flicka, for those of you who have followed her adventures since she was a pup, just celebrated her fifth birthday earlier this month. She’s in this all too short prime of life, the fleeting period between obnoxious puppyhood and the inevitable geriatric period of life. She’s the seasoned veteran of many hunts since her initiation to hunting in early winter of 2005. Yet, she has lots of energy and stamina for as many days of hunting as we can fit in during the season. The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that she likely has more reason to worry about my keeping up with her as we start another season.

While we make that mental adjustment to hunting season, we shouldn’t forget that there is still a lot of fishing to do. In fact many people would suggest that the best flyfishing of the year is in the fall. The best thing is that it’s perfectly feasible to have it all. We can hunt in the morning and fish in the afternoon and evening. Cast and blast, as it’s called.

Chokecherries are now just about ripe. The tourist season is about over, so campgrounds will be all but deserted much of the time—at least after we get past the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Hunting seasons are about to start and fishing is good. The weather is great—at least some of the time at least. Yup, early fall is great. Get out there and enjoy it while it lasts.

The best time of the year is here.

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