Winged Wisdom: Fall In Love With Hunting

by Kate Ahnstrom

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Hoping and praying that the perfect Valentine’s Day gift pops up in your feed? I seriously doubt a truly meaningful token of your affection, magically appears via social media; however, I did find myself totally enamored with a reel of a duck racing back and forth through a doorway. While that was most entertaining for a few fleeting moments of mindless fun, it’s not exactly worthy of “gifting”.

   February is often seen as an interim month. That time when you’re just trying to get through the dark and cold days to the light of Spring in March. Poor February, so underappreciated and neglected. This month offers a tremendous opportunity to get outdoors and fall in love with our great commonwealth.   

  You aren’t being carried away by skeeters or feasted on by ticks. The briars and thick undergrowth are gone and passage through the woods is far more comfortable. There is plenty of hunt season left and normally by February, most public lands offer peace and solitude. This is a stark difference to the beginning of the hunt season where you must jockey for a parking spot. 

  Some of my friends and I tried to woodcock hunt beginning of January in Cumberland only to find several packs of deer dogs that were “bird curious” and preferred our company tromping through the pines instead of running their intended quarry.

   There are some fantastic hunting opportunities for the shotgun enthusiasts in February. The elusive grouse is still in season until February 10th with 3/day bag limit. I’ve seen a few reports of guys and gals having intermittent success this year although this will be an exercise in patience and cardio. You will definitely get in your steps and may or may not have a flush. Either way, you’re outdoors and moving!

   If you want a more engaging hunt with lots more trigger time, check out resident Canada goose hunting with a bouquet of specklebellies. The season goes out on February 24th giving you a bevy of opportunities to get out and enjoy. Your limit is 5/day and there is no shortage of open farmland or marshy areas in Virginia. Scout out the flocks and make friends with the farmer. They typically hate having the flocks on their fields due to the destructive nature of the birds on the cover crop. Just think of the delicious goose dinner you can prepare for your beloved!

   Looking for a challenging hunt that will certainly test your shooting prowess as well as your stealthy set up? Crow hunting is always great fun. The season runs through March 15th and allows for an unlimited bag with an unplugged shotgun. Even though they are a federally managed bird, you do NOT need a HIP# but remember hunting is only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.    

   These ruffian birds love a good fight and relish the chance to beat up on raptors. Your set up for crows is key as they have incredible eyesight and will pick you out before you even have a chance to touch your gun much less mount it and fire off a shot. Look into raptor decoys and electronic crow calls and do a little research on the sequences to use. It makes a huge difference to the birds and how they come in and react to your set up.

   Finally, and a personal favorite of mine is rabbit season. Another fantastic opportunity to watch dogs do what dogs love to do. The season runs through the end of the month and this year we get an extra day! Thanks to the leap year, we can chase those rascally rabbits through February 29th, taking 6/day. You’ll have a gorgeous rabbit coat in no time. A far better gift than that crazy duck reel I got sucked into. The state is on alert for RHDV2 (rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus) which showed its ugly head in the SW states in 2020. There are no known cases here in the commonwealth, yet.

   Fall in love this February. Take your beloved and make a memorable date day out of hunting and the gorgeous Virginia countryside. Celebrate Galentine’s day with your friends in the woods chasing bunnies or popping crows. Invite a friend or family member to watch your favorite retriever work geese so they can fall in love with our amazing sport. Enjoy the cold while you can, it’ll be July be you know it!

Kate Ahnstrom, owner of Virginia Shooting Sports is a certified, professional instructor of the Paragon School of Sporting, pro staff Syren/Caesar Guerini, resident pro Orapax Hunting Preserve, Artemis ambassador for Va, and field staff member of the Sisterhood of the Outdoors. Her tireless dedication to her students’ success is obvious in each and every lesson.

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