September is an important month for hunters. Few of us lament the end of winter. Most of us await summer. But for sportsmen and women, fall seems to come and go all too quickly, and September provides an ideal and needed buffer between the seasons.

It’s too early to quit fishing. Ocean waters are at or near their warmest. Offshore the shark bite is just past its peak. The tuna bite is getting hot and may last into November. Closer to shore, stripers are fattening up for their southward migration. On lakes and ponds, cooler surface water begins descending and the turnover awakens predatory pike, bass and trout from their summer torpor, and back into feeding mode. Meanwhile, trout and salmon are beginning to make their way up feeder streams to spawn.

September makes the transition from fishing to hunting much more easy. Initial forays to the flooded rice may yield an occasional flush but the first cold snap will usher down flocks of rails and blue-winged teal. The former provide some quick jump-shooting for the few who practice this ages-old sport while the latter will come and go before the season for most web-footed waterfowl begins. Still, they serve as harbingers of things to come.

One notable exception is the early season for resident Canada geese. Banding studies have shown these despoilers of lawns, golf courses and public water supplies are very faithful to their natal range, and hunting them early has little if any negative impact on their more migratory Arctic nesting cousins. It also provides waterfowlers an opportunity to get their gear and their wingshooting skills in order before the regular waterfowl season begins.

September gives bear hunters what might be their best chance at bagging a bruin, and our biologists’ best opportunity to manage the population. October belongs to the houndsmen, who account for only a small fraction of the annual take. November hunters may take a few bears incidental to their deer hunting, but if there is ample natural food and winter’s cold comes early, many bruins will be denned up by then.

The ninth month also provides bowhunters with a chance to ease into fall. The first few days, and sometimes weeks of the expanded archery season are usually warm and not particularly productive, save for the first and last hour or so of daylight. That, coupled with long days, makes it easier to slip into the nearby woodlot before and after work. There’s far less urgency than in October and November, when the temperatures cool and the real deer hunting action heats up.

All too soon the leaves will turn and then fall, providing more open shooting for the upland hunters. Frost will be replaced, first by a dusting of snow and later with real accumulation. The whitetail rut will begin, woodcock will pile into the alder bottoms and waterfowl will fill the marshes, albeit briefly on their way south. And thanks to September, we’ll be ready to take maximum advantage of an all too brief autumn.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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