To: Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Dear Commissioner Woodcock,

I am writing to request that you consider adjusting the current hunting season framework, as it has me in a bit of a quandary. You see, hunting season opens the same day – on or about Oct. 1 – for at least 10 species. (This year it’s Oct. 2 because the 1st is a Sunday, another issue we need to talk about sometime.)

And that doesn’t include waterfowl, a couple dozen more species if considered separately.

My problem is deciding which game to pursue.

I realize the seasons for many of these species are long, with many lasting until year’s end and some extending well into the following year. But one cannot underemphasize the importance of opening day. It’s a rite, a ritual.

The opening eve will be fraught with sleepless anxiety, filled with dreams of success and nightmares of oversleeping the alarm clock. Then, waterfowlers heading to more popular areas like Merrymeeting Bay will rise at a ridiculously early hour – if they sleep at all – trying to beat the crowd to the best spots, knowing they’ll have only one shot at those naive ducks.

After the first few hours the waterfowl wise up and everything changes.

Fall turkey hunters who have been following flocks to their feeding areas also know those routines will be all but abandoned after the first encounter with hunters. And it won’t take more than a few flushes to wise up the grouse and woodcock, at least in more crowded southern areas. In all those instances the first day is the best day.

Granted, it is possible to encounter several species in the same outing. Pheasants, grouse, rabbits and squirrels are all lumped under the upland game category. But the serious grouse hunters will be up north, where you won’t find pheasants, or too many gray squirrels, and the hardcore hare hunters will wait until the snow flies to bust out their beagles.

Grouse and woodcock go together like bacon and eggs and often represent the mixed bag of a successful upland hunt. But you’re more likely to find grouse among the aspens that grow in dry soil while the woodcock, a wayward shorebird, prefers to get its feet wet, or at least moist.

And while ambling through a streamside alder swale you just might bump a few wood ducks from the water’s edge. That presents yet another dilemma. Unless you happen to be loaded with steel shot, which few if any upland hunters use, you cannot fire upon the ducks.

Speaking of ducks, even if I were to pursue them while setting aside all other species whose seasons open on Oct. 2, I would still be faced with a tough choice. Do I pursue teal and black ducks on the coastal marshes or paddle the backwaters jump-shooting wood ducks? Should I set up in a field for geese or hunt the big water for divers?

The choice used to be even tougher when sea ducks opened on the same day. Now that season has been delayed until mid-November, by which time most of the white-winged, black and surf scoters will have passed through. I realize that’s under federal jurisdiction but maybe, Mr. Commissioner, you could put in a good word for us Mainers and get us a couple weeks back in October.

I suppose there is some good to opening everything at once. Forcing hunters to choose helps to spread out the hunting pressure a bit, something probably more appreciated by the specialists. But for generalists like myself it means making a tough choice. Then again, there are certainly worse problems to have and I’ve got all day to ponder my decision.

But let’s discuss that Sunday hunting thing some day, shall we?

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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