Wanna step outside? The early hunter gets the bird

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

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By Dan Kibler
I am still getting used to walking out to my seat around a dove field before daylight.
But I think I like it.
For most of my formative years, dove season didn’t open until noon on the first Saturday in September — or on Labor Day, whichever came first. You got to your spot a few minutes before 20, and in 90-degree heat, you cooked like a fine steak until the birds started flying. Sometimes, you finish in a relatively short period of time, and sometimes — depending on the field — the birds might not start pouring in for a couple of hours.
But for the last 15 or 20 years, North Carolina has allowed hunters to set up on their dove stools and 5-gallon buckets and start making ammunition companies a lot of money 30 minutes before dawn.
I will gladly take the trade-off of getting up for doves at the same time I get up for turkey season for missing out on the midday heat.
Opening day of dove season, this past Saturday was a fine example. I was at a fast-food place, getting a box of biscuits to feed my hosts, at 5:30 a.m., met my son at 6 a.m. so we could go the last few miles in one vehicle, and was taking my shotgun out of the truck by 6:10. When legal shooting time arrived at around 6:25 a.m., I was sitting up against a makeshift fence, looking over a 30-yards wide disked field that had been top-dressed with wheat.
The doves didn’t take long to arrive, looking for breakfast. The guys on the neighboring piece of property — with a dirt road and power line splitting their property, got going a lot sooner than we did, but we caught up just fine.
By 7 a.m., I was mentally smacking myself in the face for not bringing sunglasses; all of the doves seemed to be coming in right out of the sun, rising above the pines to the east. That took some getting used to, but it didn’t take much for muscle memory to take over and to christen a new shotgun, a retirement present. I had nine birds with the first box of shells and finished off my 15-bird limit around 8:45 a.m. before the second box was empty — awfully good shooting for a senior citizen with bifocals. My son finished his limit about 20 minutes later, and we were in his truck, with the dog hosed down and watered, with plenty of time for him to get home, clean up and travel to Boone for some pre-App football tailgating.
That left me the rest of the day to pick string beans and carrots from the garden and enjoy the air conditioning.
I could get used to this.
Archery season opens for deer on Saturday
North Carolina deer hunters get to take to the state’s woods and wild areas on Saturday, Sept. 9, as the statewide archery season for whitetails opens up.
Hunters took 168,831 deer in the Tarheel State last season, about 42 percent of them does. The season bag limit is six deer, no more than two of them antlered bucks. There is no daily bag limit; hunters can take their entire limit in a single day.
All deer harvested must be reported to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, through the 1800-I-GOT-ONE toll-free number or the commission’s Go Outdoors North Carolina online program.
Bow seasons last between 3 weeks and almost three months, depending on the part of the state you’re hunting. In the eastern third — the Northeastern and Southeastern hunt units — archery season ends Sept. 29. In the Central hunt unit, archery season ends Oct. 27.
More flounder confusion
Just when you thought the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries couldn’t mess up flounder fishing any more than it already has; it proves you wrong.
In late June, the Division set by proclamation a Sept. 15-29 season in the coastal waters it manages, with a 1-fish daily creel limit and 15-inch size minimum.
Typically, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission follows suit and adjusts the season and creel limit in the Joint and Inland waters it manages.
Not this year, however.
 In February 2022, the commission set its Joint and Inland waters seasons at Sept. 1-14, matching the 2022 season that the Division set that month. The commission also matched the division’s 4-fish daily creel limit and 15-inch size minimum for the 2022 season.
Those season dates, creel and size limits remain in effect until until the commission votes to change them, and that is a process set by the legislature that takes several months to implement, including advance notice for being added to a monthly commission meeting agenda, a required public hearing, then another meeting to vote on rule changes. A news release from the commission said that it received no notice from the division about 2023 seasons until it received a press release on June 28, so it could not start its rules-making process in time to match the division’s season before the Sept. 1 start of its own season.
That leaves anglers able to catch flounder in Inland and Joint waters — mostly upstream sections of coastal rivers and creeks — through Sept. 14 and to keep four fish per day.
Now, a complicating factor. The division’s announcement of its Sept. 15-29 season declared that its seasons included Joint waters. The commission’s release in late August specified that, by statute, the legislature had given it control of joint waters, so its Sept. 1-14 season and limits took precedence.
So, don’t dare keep a flounder in coastal waters until Sept. 15. Before Sept. 15, make sure you’re in Joint or Inland waters and tell the Marine Patrol guy to stay in his territory.