By Chris Benson
TIME TO START PLANNING!
The dog days of summer seem like they stretch on and on, the unrelenting heat and humidity extend even into the nights making sleep uncomfortable. The cool days of the spring hunting seasons and the opening of the fishing season are a distant memory. Finally, in the middle of August one begins to notice that the tops of poplars have turned an ever so slight shade of gold, Canada Geese, which up to this point have been a nuisance to city dwellers as they meander across major roadways, have now taken wing and dusk and dawn temperatures no longer seem so oppressive.
FALL IS ON THE WAY
The summer season is finally waning and for hunters this can only mean one thing, the fall hunting seasons will be here in short order! For this hunter, this time of year comes with an urgent sense of restlessness, a stirring that can’t quite be explained. But if all you think of is a cold November morning when it comes to whitetail hunting, or a late October afternoon over a spread of mallard decoys in a grain field you are missing out on one of the most productive parts of the season, the early season!
In Manitoba we are lucky enough to have two seasons for bear hunting, a spring and fall season. Hunters who aren’t able to fill their tag in the spring season can use their tag for the fall season. The fall season starts the last Monday in August and closes November 1st. While the fall season is similar to spring season there are some subtle changes bear hunters need to take note of.
First with the early fall season it is normally very hot and tree stands should be located near a water source for the bears to drink and cool off in. Stands and baits should be located in thick cover, the thicker the better, this provides shaded relief from the early fall heat.
In the fall bears are packing on the carbs and fat in preparation for hibernation, make sure your baits reflect this. Nuts, granola, oatmeal with candy mixed in seems to work wonders.
The archery season also starts the last Monday in August and is the perfect time to hunt unpressured deer. They are just starting to get into their fall routines and like bears they begin to switch from high-protein plants to a high carb diet.
OAK TREES A KEY
In the early season many oak trees start to drop their acorns, this is a prime time to concentrate on these areas. Late season fruits like apples also attract deer and should not be overlooked. Stand placement is also critical, some might think the higher up the better, but this also reduces the size of the vitals that are exposed makes the angle you need to shoot from difficult.
TRAIL CAMS A MUST
Putting out game cameras before the season open is great way to pattern deer; since they are unpressured you will be able to find what time of day they are moving. Place your stand with this in mind, keeping in mind prevailing winds, travel patterns, sun position and cover both in front and behind you.
BLUE WINGED TEAL
For many waterfowlers, the thought of limiting out on Mallards shortly after the September 1st opener might be tempting. These skinny pin feathered birds are better left for a few weeks to fatten up while you focus instead on the ducks that are in their prime, Blue-winged Teal. These amazing little speedsters with their twisting erratic flight can make a challenging hunt for even the most experienced wing shooter. Blue-winged Teal migrate early, so by mid-August they are already packing on the fat for their long migration south. Thus when the season opens they normally are quite fat and have very few pin feathers.
When scouting, look for Blue-winged Teal in shallow wetlands with lots of aquatic vegetation. There is no need to go out and purchase teal decoys, your mallard hen decoys will work just fine, since this early in the season all ducks are still in eclipse plumage. As for loads, leave the 3” #2 shot at home, I have found an IC choke paired with Kent Cartridge’s TealSteel 3” #6 or #5 shot to be a fantastic load and choke combination.
The loud rattling bugle of migrating flocks of Sandhill Cranes will undoubtedly catch the attention of anyone within earshot. They will search in vain, expecting to see the flock breaking any moment over the tree line, but they are in fact much further and nothing more than specks in the sky. These ancient bird species are as much as a thrill to watch as they are to hunt.
The season for these wary birds starts Sept 1st, and lasts until December 6th, however truthfully hunters need to pursue them first couple weeks of the season as they tend to migrate fairly early. Also called “Rib-eye of the Sky” the table fare of these birds is second to none. However for the new hunter, they can be intimidating.
Scouting is absolutely the key. A good pair of binoculars and a full tank of gas will be your greatest assets. Sandhill Cranes, much like Canada Geese can be found feeding in agricultural field during the day and roosting in small wetlands at night. Scouting at dawn and dusk will indicate the evening roost.
Watch for the fly path they take in and out of their roost, and then set up directly on that flight line will provide the best opportunity. With Sandhills passing shooting is quite productive as is using Sandhill Crane decoys.
There are a ton of other opportunities for hunters in the early season with different species that can be hunted, this is just a sampling of what Manitoba has to offer! As always be sure to check the Manitoba Hunting Guide for any changes.