9/16/2020 9:36:00 AM September: bass fishing, goose and dove hunting
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
These toward the end of the year months only get better if you're an outdoor person in general, hunter and fisher in particular. If chilly rains, cold breezes and an occasional white frost stymie your outdoor activity. Then maybe not so much. I hope to get in some September bass fishing as that is a favorite time. Good success and bigger fish await you. Why? It is because bigger fish get hungrier and they move into more shallow water. Why? They like frog legs just as much as you and I do. Also, summer rec crowds diminish a bit as schools open, wave jumpers who usually don't like cold water as much, disappear and the pontoon crowd switches from cold beer to hot brandy. Big bass become less fearful of the shoreline and a quiet fisherman (think trout fishing) can mimic a frog jumping into the lake for the winter. I personally love top water lures at this time because they work and it is so much fun to see a big bass take the bait on an evening when the water surface is like the proverbial mirror. My favorite bass catch of that scenario is a four-pounder I caught just a few hundred yards north of our west central cabin near Villard. It was early morning, even before sunup, in mid-September. I overcast where I wanted my top water lure to land. It landed on shore. It could have been a serious snag on the shoreline. A quick jerk from the shoreline, up in the air, into the water seemed the best approach. It was successful and the lure landed, free of sticks and leaves, into the waiting jaws of a big mouth bass. It happened in a matter of seconds so the big guy had to be in that particular spot waiting for frogs or the shoreline was filled with similar fish. His attack was quick, vicious and he caught his prey. Or, at least what he thought was a frog. The hooks were set and there was no escaping the double set of treble hooks. The fight was good, no hurry to this landing as seen on TV by fisherman wanting only to put the fish into the live well and getting back into the water to catch another. Weigh in would be in an hour or so for that type of fisherman. Well, the 4-pounder came in slowly and was led into the landing net. The hooks were removed from the tough, cartilaginous lips and it was returned to the water. I guess to resume looking for a real frog. Dove hunting diminishes The take of the Minnesota dove hunt, at least so far, over the last few years, has not been good. As usual lack of good habitat is the main reason, although, I more than many others, do think hunting may be a small factor. As doves build their fragile nests on tree branches, strong winds destroy them. If they do hatch their two eggs in 14 days they still have a critical two week period 'til flight. Cold, wet, strong winds can devastate the young that live on crop milk during that time. The mourning dove produces a milky substance from the lining of the crop and feeds them by regurgitating into their open mouths. I have not seen it in mourning doves, but have seen it in pigeons, "back on the farm." Then doves turn to weed seeds and in early fall they love wheat left in the field behind combines that leave very little behind them nowadays. Their favorite weed seed is yellow foxtail, commonly known as "pigeon grass." Named, of course, because of the dove families that commonly pick up the seeds. Well, here's the problem, in our current land management, and its not favorable for mourning doves. We are seeing far fewer acres of wheat planted in our area because of falling profit margins. Some wildlife agencies vigorously oppose tree plantings on their prairie-favored landscape. Tall grass prairie plantings such as big bluestem are definitely not conducive to dove reproduction. Prairie burns and removal of trees, are two more practices that deter dove recruitment. All weeds are understandably a deterrent to profitability even the lowly pigeon grass. They are moisture and nutrient robbers to all crops so they are controlled rigorously. Doves need help Bottom line/ we have turned our backs on dove management. We take down their nesting trees and don't replace them. An example of that is destruction of long shelter belts over extensive areas of South Dakota. I have also seen it in the irrigated areas near the small town of Sedan. It is called the Bonanza Valley because of its underlying aquifer that allows for huge irrigation systems. They take out trees so they can operate. Dove populations have declined 15% over the years from 1966 to 2015. Let's quit talking about their "massive" numbers, and start doing something to help them.