Opening Day

By Skip Hutchison

Is there anything hunters look forward to more than opening day? Granted, in the overall scheme of life it is rather unimportant, but to this bird hunter it brings the same level of excitement and anticipation that Christmas morning brings to a child. I am not exactly sure when I start looking forward to the opening day of the next season although I am sure I am thinking about it on closing day as I am walking back to my truck after my final hunt.

The last two season have meant a new gun for me on opening day. I didn't buy those guns in October just prior to the November 1st opening date, I bought them both within three weeks of the closing day of the previous season. I figure you can't be ready too soon. Getting the gun shopping out of the way early leaves plenty of time for replacing waders, boots, and everything else that has seen better days. After first counting down the months, then weeks, then days, opening day for the new season finally arrives.

Being at the lake before sunrise isn't necessary but I like it for a couple of reasons. After waiting nearly nine months I am not willing to wait another six hours. If it wasn't for all the reptiles out there I might be tempted to go out to the lake on the eve of the opener and spend it in the marsh. Also, the days warm rapidly early in the season and by mid-morning it is likely to be at least eighty degrees.

The first day of the season always involves some scouting since I never seem to find exceptional conditions and birds right away. I don't do any pre-season scouting out on the flats. I have always believed the less pressure on the birds the better, even if that only involves birds being flushed and not shot at. The vegetation is at its fullest when the season opens and flats that will often be open and attracting some birds in another month or so are still full of thick grass covering everything that isn't under water. This is a time when an area that is a little bit sandy can be good. It isn't the ideal ground for the snipe to forage on but it usually means sparser cover that the birds prefer.

You might not have venomous snakes where you hunt but we have our share of them here. We also have a sizable number of alligators at all of the marshes I hunt. I would not hunt with a dog this time of year but if you do this is the way I believe it should be done. Keeping your dog at heel and using him or her only to find dead or crippled birds will minimize the chances of having something happen that could ruin the experience.

Sometimes it is almost immediately, and other times it only comes after a bit of walking, but eventually we get to the moment when everything culminates at the place where we reach down to pick up our first bird of the season. In a different way this is when the season really begins.

If conditions are good and our shooting straight opening day can mean a hunt enjoyed with a friend and a couple of limits of birds. I'm not sure anything else can sum up why we look forward with so much anticipation to the arrival of opening day. As good as the shooting was, the eating will only be better.

God Bless America!

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