column and photo by Josh Boyd:
September is among one of the most exciting months of the year for hunters in Kentucky. As summer begins to slowly loosen its grip on the bluegrass, an abundance of seasons for various game begin to open. After an extended period of time, with few species in season, it is time for many hunters across south central Kentucky to go back afield.
For many hunters, September brings to mind dove fields, deer stands, or squirrel inhabited woodlots. However, for those with a waterfowl hunting itch to scratch, September can easily be just what the doctor ordered. Why wait until the dead of winter to venture to the duck blind when you can do so now?
Kentucky's early goose season runs from September 16th through September 30th. In conjunction with early goose season, early wood duck and teal season runs from September 21st through September 25th. Due to the period of overlap between these seasons, the potential exists to bag both geese and ducks in a single outing.
Geese during the early season tend to be very pattern oriented, relying heavily on green fields and pasture ground for forage. Because of this reliance upon daily patterns, preseason scouting is a worthy endeavor when attempting to fill a daily bag limit of geese. Once areas commonly frequented by geese have been discovered, these geese generally will not vary from their patterns unless major changes of an agricultural nature, such as nearby harvesting, take place.
Observing fields where populations of geese have historically been found, and noting locations of feeding geese while driving rural roads are both excellent ways of establishing early season patterns. It is also advisable to question individuals such as mail carriers and bus drivers about the whereabouts of local geese. Their observations can potentially equate into your opening morning success.
Early season teal hunting in Kentucky can be outstanding as well, but much of this success is dependant upon the weather. Teal are some of the earliest duck species to migrate. It is advisable for a hunter to study weather patterns to anticipate a push of migratory teal. When the weather forecast indicates a cold front pushing through areas due north of the region, it is a good bet that teal will be moving through the area in noteworthy numbers.
In the weeks leading up to teal season, it is vital to scout for any birds that are moving through the area. Let these teal tell you which areas they prefer and where you need to be during opening morning. Shallow slack water and marsh like areas are favored destinations used as stopover points. If your scouting efforts reveal the presence of teal in a particular location, it is probable that those that migrate through during the short season will also frequent these areas.
Early season wood duck hunting also makes for exceptionally enjoyable outings. Much like teal and geese, scouting prior to hunting is key. Wood ducks typically have a designated roost pond or area that they use repeatedly. If you discover the location of such a roost site, hunting can be conducted a short distance away as to catch incoming and outgoing flights of wood ducks. However, care should be taken to avoid disturbing actual roost sites, as this could cause wood ducks to vacate the area.
Areas of shallow water that are found in close relation to wooded or brushy areas are among some of the most highly favored wood duck habitat. Fingers of ponds or small lakes that extend into a neighboring tree line or wooded creeks are excellent locations to focus your scouting efforts. It also can be of benefit to sit quietly in likely areas, and listen for the high pitched squeal of a wood duck in order to pinpoint their whereabouts.
For waterfowl hunters, the presence of Kentucky's early seasons signal a worthwhile opportunity to venture out onto the water, all the while brushing up on their marksmanship for the later season. Geese, teal, and wood ducks all provide a rewarding pursuit and quality table fare. With a little scouting, a pocket full of shells, and a trusty shotgun, hours of fun can be had by all who seek to experience it.