September is Big-Time For Outdoorsmen

 By Ken Penrod

Our “Cast & Blast” trips are very popular. Catch smallmouth bass while waiting for Canada geese to fly by.
September is one of those months that just don’t get the respect it deserves. For most it’s the end of summer, the beginning of school and the end of fishing in many regions. I’m not sure why so many pack their fishing rods away at the end of the summer but they do. Dads are busy with kid’s baseball and soccer moms are ferrying the others to and from practice and games. Most see September as the end of good things to happen—but I see September as one of the more exciting months of the year. It may start out summerlike but you will be wearing jackets by the end. You may be wading the upper Potomac in tennis shoes—but you will need waders by the end also.

For openers, most of the vacationers at places like Deep Creek Lake have pulled their boat docks and stored the boats. No more idiocy on the water—it’s fairly abandoned and now fishermen, serious fishermen have the lake to themselves.  The same can be said of places like Lake Anna and Kerr. The days are shorter, temperatures milder and bass and stripers are not so stressed.

The tidal Potomac River is suddenly somewhat peaceful again as those big, wake-making boats and water skiers are talking about next year already and meanwhile, grasses begin to die off a little and bass and stripers gang-up in places a crankbait can reach.

There’s virtually no one on the Pocomoke and Nanticoke Rivers—and this begins the best buzzbait bite of the year. The guys that chase Bay stripers in smaller boats are grinning from ear to ear because the stripers are in massive schools and easily found by playing the bird-game.

While all of this gets my adrenaline pumping, two other occasions simply make me smile with pleasure and quiver a bit with anticipation. Maryland’s resident goose season begins September one and runs all month—and Maryland’s archery season for whitetail begins on the 7th. You see, I make a living from the fishing arts but I live for the hunt.

The neat thing about the early goose season, at least the way we do it, is that we combine smallmouth fishing with goose shooting on certain sections of the upper Potomac River. We call it our “Cast & Blast” adventure. Maryland and surrounding states are bending over backwards to decrease the population of resident geese so they provide incentives such as 10-geese per day bag limit—and the law that requires shotguns to be outfitted with a plug to limit shell  shots is relieved. Take that plug out and jam the gun full of shells—steel  shot, not lead pellets.

As it is with just about any type of hunting, the early hours and late day hours are best simple because game and birds feed during those periods causing substantial movement to and from bedding areas. We like to be on the river ½ hours before dawn and while that requires navigating a very shallow, rocky waterway—we have mastered it. We use our jet boats, camouflage just about everything including our face and take up ambush positions behind tall ledges, downed trees or makeshift blinds on shore or on an island. You still can fish for smallmouth b ass while waiting for geese.

We put out about a dozen decoys, takes pains to hide all shiny objects on the boat and we wait—and we wait. Most often the geese will be on the water for the night. You can hear them cackling in the distance and you can’t help but wonder how many there are—and will they fly our way. Pretty soon the social noise reached a crescendo and the flap of wings is just about all you can stand. The game is on and there is nothing like it when hundreds fly by. You shoot and shoot and shoot sometimes. Ten geese per hunter is a lot of birds so the fear of shooting more than you should isn’t a consideration.

When you shoot a goose or geese—you must go after them immediately lest the current take them to places you can’t reach. As a retrieval aid, I have a big ol’ Zara Spook on a baitcasting rod that I can cast to downed birds. Be sure that you have proper license and waterfowl stamps. We like to have ice in a cooler to keep the goose breasts in. We take spinning rods and Mizmo tubes for the smallmouth action.

The action is not over most days either. You can decoy birds for the next few hours—then go fishing and wait for fly-overs. The evening can be just as exciting.

I love archery season because it is months long, up close and personal and best done alone. I love archery in September because the days are very long. I can get my fishing guide day in and still have “prime-time” for deer hunting. I’m not talking about stumbling into a patch of wood either because I have done a lot of work to assure success way before the first day. My tree stands are in place, shooting lanes cleared, trail cameras working overtime and corn on the ground. I have a shooting range in the yard beside the Ranger’s parking spot and I have been shooting for weeks.

Trail cameras and corn are two of your best friends when you hunt deer with bow and arrow.

A few well places trail cameras are so useful because you will come to know certain deer, especially larger, smarter bucks and that helps you decide which deer that you will allow to walk. We all know that the “rut” will cause unruly behavior by big antlered deer but some of the bigger bucks of the season come to their demise in September, perhaps two months before the peak of the rut. In a few of the counties that I hunt in Maryland, the state allows unlimited doe kills so I’ll get my freezer meat without issue. I prefer to shoot only big bucks in October but I have no problem taking a few smaller bucks in September.

You must know from my writing that I’m excited for September opportunities—and you may want to reconsider your thought process also. See ya out there! September is much better than most realize.

I have corn on the ground and trail cameras on trees. My stands are safe and ready.
September archery is a favorite of mine.