Duck Hunting in 2019.   Photo Credit: Brett Kelly

Rich returned home with a chest cold shortly after he wrote his last blog post.   He had been feeling a bit under the weather during his trip to Bishop, and assumed it was the result of of long days four-wheeling around the valley enjoying the scenery and wildlife.

Rich’s condition quickly worsened, and he was soon fighting for his life.  He was intubated and flown to Stanford, where he was placed on even more intensive life-sustaining machines.  His illness was a mystery for a few weeks, until he was diagnosed with Valley Fever, likely contracted by breathing fungus-laden dust on his last hunting trip.

Rich fought valiantly for 6 months, but eventually Valley Fever claimed his life.  He died on May 5th, 2020 at home, surrounded by family who loved him.

A writer at heart, blogging about his adventures was one of the joys of Rich’s life.  He looked forward to the comments of his readers, and was frequently thinking about what he might share on the blog next.

We all miss him terribly, and can’t believe he is gone.

If you’d like to read his obituary, you can find it here.

Thank you for reading.  I know that’s what Rich would want to say to you if he could.

Written by Betsy Kelly, Rich’s daughter

Glassing for Deer, Round Valley

Sat in my chair and glassed the sage brush, rabbit bush, bitter brush, black brush and white-thorn ceanothis for deer.

Saw somewhere between 30 and 50 deer this morning and 23 in the evening. Hard to know which are repeats. Mountain lions in the area. Probably should have seen more.

Actually had six or seven does run past me in two separate groups an hour apart (at full speed.) Mule deer are terrified by lions. Sometimes they will not only run a half mile at full speed, but they’ll also bleat frantically as they run in fear for their life.

I have personally observed this on a hunt at Anderson Flat about twenty years ago. The deer was screaming as it ran towards me and I saw it cross the ridge top while sitting in my tree stand.

Seconds later the lion came into view for a brief period of time. This took place just before sunset.

The next day I came back and could find no evidence that the lion had brought down the deer.

As for the current hunt, I saw only two bucks today. This evening a 3×3 was following a doe. That’s a good sign.

Looking for a big one. Four days left here. Hard hunting.

Posting from my cell phone.

Round Valley

Today I saw Round Valley for the first time. It is a valley inside a round bowl. Here are some pics.

This is a photo of a cottonwood, beehives and Round Valley Peak, which stands west of Round Valley.

Looking at the eastern rim of Round Valley.

This is a panorama with Round Vally Peak to the left ( west) and a rothe next mountain range to the east.

Found deer this morning. They were mostly near the small town named Rovana, which is on Pine Creek Road just south of Round Valley.

Along with about 30 does, there was one buck. I’ll post a photo of him later. Just a forked horn, but he was with the does. The rut is starting.

The weather is beautiful, for rock climbing, not for deer hunting.

I’m probably moving north tomorrow, towards Mammoth Lakes. The deer, especially the bucks, are still high. Probably Seven to eight thousand feet. The valley floor is about five thousand feet in elevation.

May have to put my ankle to the test and climb. We’ll see.

Bob’s DU Duck Barbecue

My good friend and hunting partner, Bob Smallman taught me a new angle on barbecued duck. He call’s it DU teal as he claims he learned it from a recipe created by Duck Unlimited. However, it is so basic that probably many people have recreated it over time.

Here’s how it goes: Shoot a teal (or other duck) and have your dog retrieve it.


Admire the bird, take a photo and treat it with respect.

Brett with mixed blind from blind f, 1-19-19

Pluck the bird (s) with care, removing as many pin feathers as possible. Remove head, wings and feet. Then slice down the breastbone and filet each side of the bird, keeping only the breast and leg on each side.


The good news is you don’t have to get messy. The intestines stay inside the bird.


What you have now is almost 100% meat.  Season with your favorites.


These are my go-to seasonings. Heat the (gas) barbecue to 400 degrees. Marinate the filets in vinegar, oil and seasonings. Flop them onto the red-hot grill for 2 or 3 minutes. They will flame up nicely. Flip them over for 1 or 2 minutes depending upon how well done you want them. Be careful. They cook very quickly.

Remove them from the grill. They should look something like this.


Can’t beat this. You will not find any pinfeathers as any that were there are now burned off. I’m hungrey.









For Devil’s Garden (M9) (A27) Hunters

Having hunted the M9 hunt twice, I have a general feel for this hunt. I’ve not killed a buck on the M9 trips, but I’ve seen and photographed a bunch of deer. Maybe I  should have shot at one or two of them, but I chose not to.

Here’s an update for 2019. Looks like the weather is going to be warm and clear during at least the first half of the season, which closes on November 10. It appears to me that the deer leave the northeastern portion of the X2 zone about this time of the year. However, it is unclear to me if the larger bucks wait and migrate as the heavier winter storms hit.

I’ve not found the largest X2 bucks in the areas with the most does on my two hunts. I know there are larger bucks because I’ve seen them during summer trips to the area northeast of Crowder Flat.

During the 2017 early archery season, I saw numerous bucks larger that I’ve found during the M9 hunt. And, the general rifle hunt pressures those big bucks so they stick to heavy cover.

Therefore, I’d suggest that a trophy hunter (I mean looking for something like a 26+ inch buck with all the goodies), should hunt the area inside the M9 boundary just west of Crowder Flat to intercept the largest bucks if and when they move. That’s just a suggestion and I wouldn’t spend my entire hunt working that angle.

IMG_3106 2016 Doyle buck

This 2016 M3 buck is by far my biggest California buck. I’d call a buck like him a genuine shooter buck. But, some people would pass him up. He’s 28 inches wide and 18 inches tall.

If you’re willing to go home empty handed because you didn’t find that trophy, I’d not hunt where the does are because that’s where most of the hunters will be. There’s plenty of habitat in the northern half of the M9 zone where the big bucks can stay safe and if you hunt them you won’t be seeing a lot of deer, but you may find a loner buck that fulfills your dream.

If you’re not a trophy hunter or you’ve never killed a 4×4 mule deer, but you’d like to be successful on a nice buck (something like a 20-22 inch 4×4), I’d hunt the area with the most does. That would be the southern end of the M9 zone in timbered areas between Mowitz Road and Deer Hill. And, that doesn’t mean you can’t kill a monster in that area.

That southern area is where I’ve seen the largest concentration of deer, including many medium sized bucks. Here are some of them:

Just my opinion, but it is based upon experience

Duck Openers

IMG_7454 Sunrise 10-19-19 blind four

2019 opened with a glorious sunrise.

October is a great month for hunters. Coastal deer season is over, but late season and out-of- state hunts are looming. The weather is changing and the days are growing short, but the highlight of October for me so far this year was yesterday and  the opening day of the 2019 duck season.

Back in the glory days of Mayberry Farms, opening day was always full straps of mallards.


Brother Rob, myself and Fred Hilke on opening day 2006.

Those days ended when the seasonal marsh was replaced by permanent marsh.

In 2009, I was concerned about river otters: 2009 https://hunterlandowner.wordpress.com/2009/10/

In 2010 the Giants were in the World Series: 2010 https://hunterlandowner.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/opening-day-ducks-and-baseball/

Opening day 2011 was a winner and brought back memories of the “good old days” : 2011 https://hunterlandowner.wordpress.com/2011/10/

In 2014 I joined the Kerry Duck Club in the Grasslands to fill the void. My disappointment with Mayberry was mitigated by grasslands teal.

2014 https://hunterlandowner.wordpress.com/2014/10/

Last year provided good action as I covered the hunt in detail.

2018 https://hunterlandowner.wordpress.com/2018/10/

2019 was a success in many ways. The Friday night dinner was perfect and the mood of the club members was optimistic and lively.

On Saturday morning we were greeted with more ducks than I can recall for a grasslands opener. I was lucky to have my son-in-law Brett with me. Lola made it to another year of duck hunting, a little slower, but able.

Brett and I both had our hits and misses. We each had six ducks by about 9 o’clock – mostly green-wing teal. Then we decided to wait for a shot at pintail. Brett connected right away and got to watch me miss.

I missed three drake pintails in a row, each time emptying my shotgun. Finally I figured that I needed a bigger lead. The “teal” lead did not work for the faster-flying pintails. On the next bird I “aimed to miss” and the bird dropped with one shot. I was disappointed to see that I’d shot a hen – something I try hard not to do. You would think that it was be just about impossible to shoot a hen.

However, I did. And, we were done.

When we signed out, we found that everybody to that point had reported limits.

Planning Your California Muzzleloader Deer Hunt

On October 26th, many California muzzleloader hunts open. Make sure you are properly prepared.

One of the main issues with muzzleloader hunting is the amount of paraphernalia it takes to operate. The best way to get past this obstacle is to practice several times before going afield.

However, California laws regarding toxic shot are throwing a new wrinkle into the program. For several years, muzzleloader bullets have had the appearance of being made of copper. In fact, I was one who thought I was shooting lead-free bullets until recently.

Now I’ve found out that the so-called “Copper” bullets I’ve been shooting for over two years are actually only copper coated. To complicate things, I’ve not found any bullets that call themselves “lead free.” However, Barnes does make an all-copper 45 Cal. bullet that fits into a 50 Cal. sabot and it meets the California standards as far as I can tell.

Check them out. Here’s a photo of the POWERBELT so-called “Copper” bullets on the left and the BARNES bullets with sabots on the right.

IMG_7421 bullets

The POWERBELT “Copper” Bullets on the left call themselves “copper” bullets, but as near as I can tell they have lead in them. The BARNES bullets on the right are described as pure copper. They are 45 caliber with a 50 caliber sabot.

I shot the Barnes bullets and they were accurate in my Bonecrusher model 50 caliber muzzleloader. The sabots are a very tight fit and it takes a bit or work to get the bullet down the barrel. Make your first shot count and carry a bullet starter. If you have only a long ramrod, you may never get your firearm loaded.

Round Valley – Returning to a Place I’ve Never Been Before

How do you return to a place where you’ve never been?

No. If you’ve never been there, you can’t return. But you can go to a place which you’ve interacted with many times over a long period of time. It’s possible to feel like you’ve been there even though you haven’t even been close.

That’s the way it is with me and Round Valley, located just a few miles west of Bishop, California. That’s south of Crowley Reservoir and in the northwest corner of the Owen’s Valley.

Here’s a link to a map of the hunting area:  https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=83619&inline

The reason I feel like I’ve been there is  based upon my activities of more than 20 years ago while I was editor of the Mule Deer Foundation magazine, Mule Deer – more recently known as MDF Magazine.

We published an article about deer management in Round Valley and another about monitoring mountain lions. The author of those stories was Becky Pierce who still works for California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

So, now, for the first time ever I’m going to Round Valley. The next step will be figuring out the best way to hunt. Looks like the weather is going to be pretty mild between now and November 10th, which means it may be hard to locate the biggest bucks. But I’ll be trying.

I’ve been doing some research and it looks like my best chance will be to catch a buck heading south out of the Mammoth Lakes area. The deer tend to come out of the west and follow the edge of the mountains down towards Bishop.

We’ll find out soon if they’re going to cooperate and if I’m going to find the right one.