September is a sportsman’s smorgasbord

Sportsmen who have lived much of their life in Aroostook will remember back 25 years ago or more when September had little to offer in the way of outdoor endeavors. Most fishing seasons were closed, and there were no bird or big game hunting options to enjoy. Most folks used the month to store angling equipment, dig out and prepare their gunning gear and do year-end gardening chores and prepare for harvest season. Boy, have things changed. There are so many September sports seasons it’s difficult to know which fishing rod or firearm to have at hand. 

Black bear hunting over bait ended Sept. 21, and despite there being a lot of natural food available, a fair number of bruin were tagged. A number of area gunners took full advantage of local grain fields being visited regularly by hungry bear. One local sport watched seven different bear visit one field he was set up on, and he tagged a good-sized bear. Other hunters who don’t have the time or desire to maintain a regular bait site are using ground blinds or tree stands to observed wild apple orchards, raspberry patches and chokecherry thickets.  

October will bring trapping and dog seasons with general firearm and archery options through the end of November. Cooler nights, ongoing grain harvest and diminished natural food options should work in favor of the bait hunters. There are plenty of bear everywhere throughout The County as the population continues to grow, so it’s just a matter of right place, right time for dedicated hunters.

Native goose season is also underway this month and local waterfowlers are enjoying some great wing shooting. Flocks of honkers are smaller and spread out more during this early hunt, but many are young birds that readily respond to decoys and calling. The key to success this month is scouting fields to see where birds are feeding regularly, then setting up as few as a dozen dekes and layout blinds before dawn or a couple of hours before dusk.

It’s best to avoid shooting birds on roost ponds and concentrate on nearby grain fields, too much pressure on safe haven waters can cause the entire flock to relocate. A 12-gauge with at least number-2 pellets is the best medicine for these heavily feathered Canada geese, and don’t forget that non-toxic shot is required by law. No lead pellets are allowed for waterfowl. Also, an annual federal duck stamp must be purchased at the post office and a state stamp from the town office or city hall to legally hunt geese.

Early goose season is the perfect time to introduce young shooters and neophyte adults to the exciting, challenging endeavor of waterfowling. A 16- or 20-gauge will work well with the right loads and are well suited for smaller framed juveniles and women. The September weather is more comfortable, hunting pressure is lighter and the geese aren’t as wary as the late season migratory birds. Now’s the time to hunt honkers.

Of course, the most exciting season of the month takes place the last week of September, as lucky moose lottery winners head afield. Each zone in Aroostook has a limited number of hunters so overcrowding is seldom an issue, and generally this month offers the most comfortable weather conditions of all the hunts. In addition, with mating season in full swing, the exciting tactic of calling a trophy bull into rifle or even handgun or archery range is very likely.

For those hunters assigned to zone 6, there are options for everyone; drive and spot, sit and wait on broccoli or second growth fields where moose graze regularly or visit rural woodlots and back country ponds for calling opportunities. Sportsmen with zones in the heavily forested North Maine woods will also have the chance to utilize a call, but for the most part it’s a drive and spot venture. With so many logging roads, skidder trails, and selective cutting plots, it really is unusual to drive for a day and not spot a moose.

Last, but certainly not least of September’s sportsmen options is fishing.  With all the shooting options, some folks forget that lakes, rivers and streams offer casting with artificial bait. It’s a fact that as the days shorten and the nights cool , many waterways offer fly rod action similar to spring ice out. The fact that spawning is getting underway spurs the salmon and trout to be even more aggressive to colorful streamers and wet flies.

Limits are notably reduced, but with spawning in progress it’s best to release the fish anyway; after all, it’s a prolonged season we never used to even have and the fun is in the strike and the fight. With the vivid autumn colors and the special aroma that only harvest season in The Crown of Maine offers, a couple hours afield or afloat is truly heaven on earth. 

There are a lot of outdoor options this month, so get out early and often but be careful, be safe and be a true sportsman.

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