Opinion

Duck & Goose Hunting Safety

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Wear protective clothing and watch the weather, he said. Let someone know where you are hunting and an approximate return time. Additional boating safety tips include: Always wear a life vest; Don’t overload the boat, especially with passengers; Keep hunting dogs prone in the center of the boat. In the event of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat. It will provide some flotation and will be the initial focus of a rescue attempt. Waterfowl hunters should handle shotguns in a safe manner. Be aware of muzzle direction at all times. Never shoot while standing in an unsecured boat or move about a boat with a loaded shotgun. This question comes up from time to time from folks floating the French Broad River for ducks and geese: Boats cannot be under power (i.e. gas or electric motor) while shooting waterfowl. You can use them to get you there but the motor must be turned off when shooting.

Hunters and shooters fared well in last week’s election. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reports that with the Republicans now controlling both the House and the Senate there is little likelihood of any gun control measures making it through Congress. There were other significant changes at the state level which bode well for gun owners in those states. Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts all elected Republican governors in traditionally Democrat states. Also, in good news for hunters across the country Mainers voted overwhelmingly to defeat the ballot referendum to ban bear hunting that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) spent millions of dollars campaigning to pass. The only real defeat was in Washington state where they passed a referendum to require enhanced background checks for gun purchases. Overall it was a great election for gun owners and hunters both at the federal and state level.

I’ve not been able to get out grouse hunting but once and that was on one of the hottest days of the week. Temperatures were over 70 degrees and conditions were very dry. We walked through some productive looking cover with no results. I’ve not talked with a lot of grouse hunters, many of whom wait until trees are off the leaves or don’t get serious about hunting until deer season is over. That is also my personal preference and it also helps when it cools off to let the dogs hunt a little longer.

I am hearing from deer hunters that they are seeing grouse when on the stand or going in and coming out. What they are not seeing here in the mountains are a lot of deer. They are also not seeing many bears roaming through the woods, either while on the stand or on trail cams which is highly unusual. I’ve talked with a couple of wildlife biologists and the consensus seems to be that it is a result of the massive acorn and hard mast crop this year. Bears eat a lot but they are also pretty lazy. They only move as much as needed to eat. And with all these acorns on the ground that may not be but 50 to 100 yards. Same for deer although that may change once the rut starts. We just have to stay at it. One thing is for sure: you will never tag that deer or bear, or bring home that Thanksgiving goose, unless you are in the woods or fields, or on the water.

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