The season for Canada geese opens on Sept. 1. Carl D. Walsh/ Staff Photographer

While October traditionally marked the official start of hunting season, for most, September has been – and increases to be – sort of the unofficial start, offering a month of opportunities before mainstream hunting kicks in. The menu ranges from very large to very small and includes both iconic and esoteric species.

Strictly speaking, things actually begin in late August with the start of bear season. It may not feel like hunting season with soaring temperatures, hoards of hungry mosquitoes and summer barbecues still in full swing, but it’s fall for the bears. Even before the first frost, they’re already laying on winter fat, taking advantage of ripening soft mast like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, to name a few. Maine’s bear population is booming and managers continue considering ways to increase the harvest. Meanwhile, hunters do their best.

Sept. 1 brings opening day for several species. The early Canada goose season is intended to thin resident or local populations. While the species is still considered migratory, increasingly families are setting up housekeeping in and around the trappings of man. They’ve become a nuisance and in some cases a health hazard as they foul golf courses, lawns and parks and pollute public water supplies. Liberal limits of 10 birds per hunter per day help, but the resident goose population continues to grow in number and range.

Snipe season begins on the same day. Unlike the mythical creature of nocturnal summer camp outings, real snipe are most active during the day. Like their cousin, the woodcock, snipe are members of the shorebird family but have abandoned coastal salt marshes and mud flats in favor of inland lowlands. Not many hunters pursue them, but a few still trod soggy pastures and the unmowed field patches trying to coax one into its characteristic zigzag flight.

Fewer still pursue rails, the season for which also opens Sept. 1. Chasing this small marsh wader is somewhat a vestige of the old market gunning days. The typical technique involves poling a narrow boat through patches of flooded (often tidal) reeds and wild rice and flushing the birds into short flights so that a miss or a missed opportunity can often be followed up by watching where the bird lands. The action won’t last long as these migrants will be winging south with the first cold north winds.

October used to bring the first chance at deer, but Maine’s expanded archery season now gives bowhunters an early opportunity to chase wily whitetails in the woodlots close to home. Like the early goose season, this one was implemented to thin the herd in areas of denser human population in order to reduce crop and property depredation, car-deer collisions and the spread of Lyme disease. Liberal limits allow for one buck and unlimited does, and though they’re more accustomed to human presence, these suburban deer are every bit as wary as their big woods cousins.

The 10th month also used to mark the start of upland game season, but that’s no longer the case, either. That season now opens a week earlier, this year on Sept. 24. This gives not only hunters, but guides, outfitters and hunting lodges an extra week, and provides a little value-added opportunity for those participating in the early moose season, which starts Sept. 26. Temperatures are often warm, but it gives moose hunters a chance to challenge rutting bulls.

Traditionalists will be happy to hear that regular waterfowl seasons open on Oct. 1, as does the regular, statewide archery season. Then things will be in full swing, with only the statewide firearms deer season to wait for. There’s plenty to do in September, so get out there while the weather is nice and enjoy some early fall hunting.

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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