HUNTERS AND HUNTING – A FEW THOUGHTS (August 20/12)

A few days ago, when I was sweltering in a heat wave, Cabela’s 2012 waterfowl catalogue was delivered by the postman, followed a few days later by Cabela Canada’s general hunting catalogue.

Then while I was still sweltering in the heat wave, a friend dropped by to update me on the progress of his Labrador Retriever puppy. He’d just had the pup out on the marsh, putting up this year’s crop of pheasants, and he was excited about how well it was coming along.

And down on a local marsh, where I’ve been walking early every morning, the mallard broods I’ve been watching since they were ducklings have matured.

Then a noticed arrived through the mail, advising me that Waterfowl Heritage Day is September 15 this year and the farmland restriction has been removed for the special September 4 to September 18 goose season.

I’d guess from all these hints and signs we can start thinking seriously about the waterfowl season. It may seem a bit early, but why not start counting down the days now. I know I am.

Anyway, most of us senior hunters like to get ready for waterfowling earlier than the rest of you anyway. Some of us are long in the tooth and gray under the camou cap so it takes a bit more to get us started motoring than it used to. All those years wandering the marshlands were bound to catch up to us eventually and slow down the getting ready process.

This reminds me that as senior hunters slow down and think about taking it easy – read retire – there are fewer young hunters coming along to take their place. That’s what they’re telling me anyway. They say the stats prove hunter numbers are declining and from experience I’d have to agree.

Take woodcock hunting as one example. Hardly anyone around here hunts woodcock anymore, but at one time it was a much sought after, prized game bird. Hunters here kept bird dogs that specialised in woodcock (and grouse) hunting. I’m thinking of dogs like the English Setter, a breed I haven’t seen in the game bird coverts for decades. Most of the younger hunters I meet have Labrador Retrievers, if they have a dog at all, and wouldn’t waste time hunting them on anything smaller than a mallard or goose.

The same goes for snipe hunting. This precious little game bird, with its erratic flight pattern, was much sought after by previous generations of hunters. Today few if any shotgunners seek out the snipe and woodcock coverts, a sign not so much of changing hunting preferences but of an aging hunting population and fewer hunters.

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