Fall in Western New York is a magical time and truly is a sportsmen's paradise. From hunting from the trees for whitetail to chasing fall turkeys to waterfowl hunting to hitting the tribs off Lake Erie to hunting monster muskies on Chautauqua Lake, for sportsman it doesn't get any better than fall in Chautauqua County.
For those of us that live in the Western Zone, we are fortunate enough to have a great duck and goose season during the regular season. To not take advantage of it would almost be a crime against nature.
Fall waterfowl hunting is exciting and a great break from hanging out in the trees. The thoughts of sitting in a blind at dawn and watching the world come alive is hard to explain, but is something all sportsmen need to experience. That is why I have learned in the past few years to split my time from the woods to the water.
With liberal seasons and bag limits for Chautauqua County hunters, this year should be another great waterfowl season.
During the regular season (yes we have four goose seasons in Chautauqua County - early, regular, late and spring) goose hunters will enjoy a five-bird-per-day limit starting Oct. 26 run through Dec. 18 and a late regular season Dec 28 through Jan. 12. The liberal bag limits, five per day, means hunting geese is more than worth the effort.
For duck hunters, the season starts Oct. 26 and runs through Dec. 8 for the regular season and Dec. 28-Jan.12 for the late season.
The best part about it all is you don't need a lot to get started. That is not to say once you have been bitten by the waterfowl bug you wouldn't be spending a month's salary on guns, decoys, calls and a boat. But to get started most any gun that is chambered for 3 inches, a small-game license, a federal waterfowl stamp, a HIPP number, a box of shells, a knowledge of bag limits, basic knowledge of the different species of ducks, a few decoys, duck call and season dates is all that is needed.
Also, I strongly suggest getting together with a hunter that has hunted ducks before. Hanging out and hunting with folks that are seasoned waterfowl hunters will help with your learning curve.
Chokes are another question new waterfowlers are sometimes baffled about. I have found the best choke for steel is modified and improved modified. This is not to say that skeet or cylinder chokes wouldn't work, but for the majority of the shooting we do around here, modified and improved work best.
Steel shot is a federal law and don't get caught in the field with anything but. It's a federal crime if you have lead shot with you while waterfowling. There are other types of non-toxic shot that have been legalized for waterfowl. Bismuth and the new tungsten shot are catching on, but is also very pricey for new waterfowlers. That's why I would strongly suggest that new waterfowlers stick with steel for cost reasons only.
A new shot called heavy steel has made a major impact in the duck and goose blinds across the country. The new heavy-steel shot is made by the same company that makes the heavy shot for major national ammunition manufactures.
Heavy steel is made directly by the original company and is offered in a couple popular sizes B and coyote. The B size is perfect for ducks and geese. Coyote, while designed for coyote shot, is perfect for high-flying geese.
If you plan on jump shooting ponds then you will want a shot size that will allow you the advantage of fast-paced shooting, such as number 3s or 4s in steel.
On the other hand, working waterfowl over a decoy spread, gives us the opportunity to take more time for that prefect shot. That's why I prefer steel 2s and 3s for blind hunting over decoy spreads.
The use of duck calls is an art form that takes years and often a lifetime to perfect. Don't let this statement discourage you. When you watch a duck caller work a group of birds into range, remember it takes patience and time to do it right.
For the majority of fall waterfowl hunting we will be doing here in the Southern Tier, basic feeding, welcome and comeback call work the majority of the time.
Waterfowl identification is another vital fact we need to learn before heading the water. Knowing the difference between a male mallard and female wood duck is important, for bag limit reasons.
That is where a good pair of binoculars come in handy. Hawke Sport Optics offer several good chooses, but I swear by my Frontier ED model and they are prefect either on the water or in the woods. The Frontier ED offers a traditional magnesium lightweight, waterproof body design and extra-low dispersion glass for super performance, clear high-resolution viewing. From the padded strap to fog-proof optics, the Frontier ED is a must need for any serious hunter.
Decoying is an art form in itself. When working small bodies of water I use small spreads. Most of the ducks we hunt here are local birds fly in small flocks made-up of six to 10 birds. These smaller flocks often shy away from larger spreads.
Waterfowling is a lot of fun and is life-long passion for those that really get into. To be good at it is a art form.