Categorized | Opinion

Season of Change

By Josh Gowan

Damon Secoy and Terry Shands from East Prairie, Mo., pose with some big, blue catfish from Ohio River near Cairo, Ill.

Damon Secoy and Terry Shands from East Prairie, Mo., pose with some big, blue catfish from Ohio River near Cairo, Ill.

Seasons are subjective. For instance, my 9-year old son has proclaimed Thursday to be the end of summer, because that is when he re-enters public school and we get to attempt to decipher the 4th grade version of every parent’s favorite paradoxical enigma, the Common Core curriculum… (Digression beckons, but I suppose that rant has no business in the outdoor column, so we’ll move on.) For me, September 1 marks the end of summer, or more significantly the beginning of fall, because that is the date when the first legitimate hunting season opens. Officially, the end of summer is on the equinox, occurring on the 22nd or 23rd of Sept., but no one should wait that long to dismiss such a burden.
The seasons which are not subjective, but are instead quite definitive and heavily regulated, are the hunting seasons set forth by our dear Missouri Department of Conservation, and congruently (or perpendicularly, depending on your perspective) the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, for our friends across the creek, so to speak. Here is a rundown of season opening dates.
Dove season opens on September 1st every year, and this year the 1st is on a Monday. Fortunately that Monday is Labor Day, so I’ll wait until next year, when it opens on a Tuesday and those of us with day jobs are unable to hunt, to reiterate my lecture on the lack of common sense when it comes to setting seasons, the Post Office should be the only thing that doesn’t open on Saturdays! The limit in both Missouri and Tennessee is 15 birds, and although the Missouri season opens at daylight and the Tennessee season opens at noon, you may not cross the river and pick up a second limit, as doves are a migratory bird and the maximum federal limit per day is 15.
Here’s a little dove knowledge for you, the mourning dove is the most hunted, and the most harvested migratory game bird in North America. There are about 450 million birds in the continental population. The overall harvest in the U. S. is 45 million birds, and in Tennessee alone, some 100,000 dove hunters harvest an estimated 2 million or more doves annually. The gross sales of toothpicks, bacon, BBQ sauce, and charcoal triple during the first two weeks of dove season. Alright, I made that last part up, but I bet it’s not far off!
Hopefully you shoot enough doves during the first week of September to prepare for what is probably the toughest target on wings… teal! Missouri’s teal season opens September 6 and runs through September 21 (teal season, by the way, always opens on a Saturday) with the daily limit at six teal.
Over in Tennessee, you are allowed six teal as well, but you may also take up to two woodducks, as long as the total remains at six. The extreme southeastern part of Missouri I hunt is a rock’s throw from the Volunteer State, and how I wish we could take a few woodies as well, being that they make up the majority of the ducks we see!
Tennessee’s teal/woodduck season opens on September 13th and runs through the 17th, and then from the 18th to the 21st it is teal only.
If only there were some sort of reciprocal license like there is on the Mississippi River, then maybe a meager outdoors writer could afford to hunt both states!
Fortunately there is no season on catfish, and the anglers whom traverse the big waters of the Mississippi River are having an excellent year.
Drift fishing and bottom bouncing with cut-bait is a technique that’s hard to beat year ‘round, but it is especially effective in late-summer fishing. Big, blue catfish are coming off the spawn and they are hungry, foraging for their next meal. Like most years, the river is lower during the late summer which concentrates the catfish in smaller areas.
With hunting season right around the corner, the next few weeks may prove to be my last chance to get out and drift for a monster blue cat, so I’m going to do my best to get it done!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com

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