River Otters of Mayberry Slough

Opening day of duck season was a success, five of us shot 30 mallards, but it was an effort. The cover was thick and it made retrieving birds a workout.

Lola did great and made several great retrieves from the dead cattails. I was very happy with her performance and by the end of the day she was pretty pooped.

I decided not to hunt Sunday and left the club about 7:00 AM. While driving along the levy, I watched for river otters. I’ve been attempting to video them for some time.

Sure enough I came upon a group of six otters and managed to get a video of them. It’s not wonderful, but it’s the best I’ve been able to get so far. So here they are:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6XJBiFTLnY

Once, while fishing for stripers in Mayberry, I hooked a fish and couldn’t get it in. Eventually a otter’s head popped up in front of me with the foot-long striper in his mouth. I’m not sure who was more surprised, but he let go when he saw me.

Back to Nevada – ’09 Mule Deer

Last year’s Nevada buck. We’ll be looking to do better this year.rich-and-buck-cropped-and-resizedNext week it will be back to Nevada. I’ve got my Nevada landowner tag again and this year I’ve saved it all for the last ten days of the season. If you followed my blog last year, you know that I hunted both the archery season and also late season for mule deer in Nevada. You can only do this if you have a landowner tag.

This year I decided to forgo the archery season and focus on the last few days of the rifle season as that seemed to be the most productive. Last year was the first time I ever hunted in Nevada at the end of the rifle season. I bagged my buck at the end of October and observed some serious rutting action during the first few days of November. This year I plan to hang on as long as possible before taking a buck and hopefully it will be worth the wait.

I’ve got my ATV all set up and my 300 WSM tuned. We’re packing starting Thursday and (after opening day of duck season) well be heading east. I’ll be reporting in.

My partners for the hunt did make it to Nevada for the first couple days of the rifle season, and one of them, Dave, shot a real nice buck. I haven’t got a picture yet, but it was a big enough buck to entice him to pull the trigger early. I’m told it was 26 wide and heavy.

Some Good News – SB1423 Signed into Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                Contact: Jason Rhine

October 13, 2009                                                                                                                    (916) 643-4607

Governor Signs Pro-Hunting Bill into Law

 

Sacramento, California – On October 11th, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1423, a measure authored by Assembly Member Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) that significantly reduces existing commercial hunting club license fees; promotes full implementation of California’s “public access to private lands” hunting program (SHARE); and expands and increases penalties for willfully interfering with hunting, fishing, trapping, falconry and recreational shooting activities.  AB 1423 was sponsored by the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA).

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done on AB 1423,” stated Assembly Member Berryhill.  “This is an important bill which will substantially promote hunting opportunities in our state and help protect hunters in the field.  It was a pleasure working with the staff of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA) and, while the bill was met with its share of resistance, this is a victory for Californian’s who share a common affinity for outdoor recreation.”

AB 1423 will help maintain and improve hunting opportunity in our state by keeping hundreds of commercial hunting operations across the state in business. Specifically, AB 1423 will control fees assessed to commercial hunting clubs by prohibiting the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) from charging a separate permit fee for each individual property or parcel used for commercial hunting purposes.  Prior to AB 1423, commercial hunting clubs were charged $376 for each property in their control, putting some larger clubs at risk by subjecting them to several thousands of dollars in annual fees. AB 1423 eliminates DFG’s current fee schedule, instead establishing a much lower sliding scale fee structure ranging from $200 for one property managed by a club to a maximum of $2,000 annually for 11 or more properties per club.

Additionally, AB 1423 will facilitate full implementation of the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Program – a “public access to private lands” hunting program – and greatly facilitate its ability to attract federal funding made available in the 2008 Farm Bill. Under AB 1423, the SHARE Program will now be allowed to expand from what is currently a small, regional pilot program for waterfowl to a statewide hunting access program for all game species.  AB 1423 will help SHARE provide California’s public with relatively low cost, high quality hunting access to the lands of willing private landowners throughout the state.

Lastly, AB 1423 strengthens the criminal penalties for members of the public interfering with hunting, fishing, trapping, falconry and recreational shooting so that it may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor on the first offense.  Additionally, AB 1423 expands the definition of lawfully protected activities to include hunting dog training and field trials.  The bill also specifically bans such actions as 1) placing gates or barricades to block access to public lands without authorization and 2) placing bait on property so as to prevent lawful hunting.

“AB 1423 clearly demonstrates COHA’s commitment to making positive change on behalf of sportsmen and women in California,” stated Jason Rhine of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance.  “By working together, hunters can help ensure that future generation will have an opportunity to take part in our hunting heritage.

The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance is a 501(c) 4 non-profit political advocacy organization dedicated solely to the promotion of wildlife and the protection of our hunting heritage. COHA professional staff is active at the California State Legislature, Congress, State Fish and Game Commission, State and Federal resource agencies and all other political arenas where decisions are made which may impact wildlife management, habitat conservation, wildlife program funding, hunting access and opportunity, and your ability to purchase and possess sporting arms and munitions.  COHA was created in early 2006 by the California Waterfowl Association.  For more information on COHA and its efforts, visit their website at www.outdoorheritage.org

SB589 (DFG Transparency Bill) – Terminated by Governor

Yesterday was a down day for those who worked hard to put SB589 on the Governor’s desk. That’s where the bill died for the second year in a row. At least this year the Governor gave a reason, however lame. Here’s what Mark Hennelly, Vice President of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance had to say about the Governor’s action, “Hi all.  In case you didn’t see SB 589 was vetoed.  See veto message http://gov.ca.gov/pdf/press/2009bills/SB589_Harman_Veto_Message.pdf 

 Can’t say I agree with the Gov’s reasoning (e.g. bill increases complexity and reduces DFG’s flexibility) as SB 589 would have actually simplified things by saying exactly how the stamp/tag monies would have to be spent, increasing transparency and consolidating existing big game accounts into a single account.  As for the argument that the bill is redundant of DFG’s effort to post budget info on the internet, there is currently no detailed list of completed projects for all big game species that I can find on the Department’s website, only general budget info with no meaningful detail.

In some ways the veto is very surprising, given that is passed the Legislature almost unanimously, DFG and the Resources Agency were OK with it, and the Department of Finance had removed its opposition.  Our author, Senator Harman, was also not notified prior to the veto (which is standard practice with members of the same party). On the other hand, the state would have had to take $3 million (which is the amount our game programs are being ripped off according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee) to backfill DFG’s budget from the General Fund or other sources, which is not good given the State’s ongoing budget deficit.

Regardless, I wanted to thank you all your efforts on this and urge you not to get discouraged.  Sometimes bills are more about timing than anything else and we will definitely run this bill again at the appropriate time in the future.  In the meanwhile, we plan to oppose any effort to raise fees for over the counter license tag/stamps or hunter application fees until it can be definitely shown that the monies are used appropriately.”

It’s sometimes not a great idea to spout off while you’re POed, but I’ll do it anyway, because (after years of restraint) I’m very tired of being diplomatic about this topic.

Due to a lack of accountability for funds raised, some organizations have already stopped supporting the sale of California Big Game Fundraising tags (RMEF). If the state is unable to provide proper over site for these types of dedicated accounts, other conservation groups will probably follow. A lack of support for the sale of these tags would be a shame, but the funds derived from these sources are minor when looked at in the scope of the state budget.

Because the law places user fees (money obtained through the sale of hunting stamps and tags)  in a different category than taxes, and management of these CDFG dedicated accounts (which are mostly derived from the aforementioned  user fees) should be a no-brainer to manage, however as is often the case, government has managed to turn this into a untraceable quagmire – and now the governor has validated what many of the fee payers suspected. What he really said in his veto message was that keeping the public out of the picture makes their job easier and administration of the fund without oversite increases their flexibility to do what they want with the money – even if it’ violates the intent of the law.

Sad to say, but poachers and tax cheats probably justify their actions  in a similar manner.

Hunting Quail at Tehema Wildlife Area

In 1988, I spent quite a bit of time exploring. One of my biggest curiosities was turkey, but along the way I ran into quite a few valley quail. I’ve looked through my notes to see if I recorded my quail hunting at Tehema Wildlife Area off highway 36 just east of Red Bluff. I haven’t found my notes.

However, my recollection of one hunt is fairly clear. I remember arriving at TWA about midday and I had Tubbs, my super bird hunting hound dog, with me. I’m sure Tubbs would have preferred to hunt something with fur, but she learned that it was fowl that I wanted. On this day I parked near the top of a not-so-tall ridge with a lot of flat ground at the top.

It looked like a lot of other ridges at Tehema WA, so I believe it’s not important to tell you which one. Somebody (who was probably interested in quail) had created many brush piles on that ridge. As we walked, I didn’t hear or see any quail. Typical of California Quail, these birds there were very secretive and I had no idea what I was in for – until Tubbs’ tail began to wag as she approached one of those brush piles. Out shot a couple quail and I don’t recall if I hit either of them. What I do recall is hunting quail much longer than I had anticipated and bagging at least a few.

This was an idea quail-hunting locatin. The hiking was relatively level and the habitat was just right. I’m not sure if 1988 was a good quail year, but I was certain that this was an ideal quail hunting location.

Since that time I’ve hunted Tehema WA and also  Tehema Refuge 1G for Turkey. I’ve come close to bagging a turkey, but never succeeded. Had a very large black bear walk past me at Tehema 1G while I sat by a tree yelping for turkeys. The refuge has it all – even pigs. It doesn’t look like much, but don’t underestimate your chances here.

Here’s a link http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region1/tehama.htmlthree-rock-house-turkeys

Hunting Quail – Indian Valley Reservoir 1988

A couple months ago, I had a request from one of my readers to post information about places to hunt quail. I’ve been meaning to accomodate him, but haven’t had the time. Here’s one spot where I found quail plentiful in 1988. Maybe there will be some this year. It just depends. Here are my notes from that hunt.

Indian Valley Reservoir is north of highway 20, about half way between Clear Lake and I-5. I haven’t been there lately, but I bet it hasn’t changed all that much. If you know better, let me know.

valley-quail-2-cropped-and-resized

11-28-88 Indian Valley Reservoir.

I arrived about 8 AM in the morning. It was cold and windy. Tubbs (my dog at the time) and I headed over the dam around the lake’s west side. A good trail led us to brush country. Right away I spotted tracks of a large bear and also deer. We went about  a mile and then followed a couple of creeks. We came to patches of oaks surrounded by dense chaparral – mostly chemise. One interesting spot was oak grassland about 60-80 acres in size. I spotted a couple deer. For a while the best that Tubbs could do was a couple towhees, but eventually she found quail. We chased them around in the chemise and I managed to bag three with three shots. They held reasonably well in the chemise and my shots were pretty easy.

My main objective was to find turkey, so we searched for more oak grassland at the top of the ridge, but I only found more chemise. So, I decided to search for more quail.  After a while, I lost interest and decided to head back towards camp. Again I came across the large bear tracks in the muddy trail. I was convinced that these were not here when I passed by earlier. Tubbs jumped more quail, but I was convinced the bear was close and I wanted to get a look at him so I didn’t shoot.

I’d climbed quite high on the mountain and was moving along at a good clip when I heard a rush of wings overhead. The ruckus was coming from flock of about 100 cormorants heading for the reservoir. Bringing up the rear was a single and he had a golden eagle about three feet behind him in hot pursuit. Don’t know if he made it or not. I arrived back at camp about 5 PM and saw five more deer at the dam. Along the way I observed lots of tracks, mostly bob-cat and coyote – one track looked like it could have been made by a mountain lion.

Here’s a link http://www.publiclands.org/explore/site.php?search=YES&back=Search%20Results&id=7075

Purple Heart Tour Blacktail Hunt – a Participant’s View by Kevin Olech

 

Kevin Olech and Dan Hammack with Kevin’s buck

kevin and lt col hammak celebrate his blacktail buck cropped

by Kevin Olech, edited by Rich Fletcher

As long as I can remember, hunting has been a way of life for me and my brothers. We heard hunting stories and tales from as far back as I can remember. In my home town, the first day of deer season was a holiday. There was no school that day and it was something you looked forward to like Christmas. I received my first rifle on my 12th birthday – a Remington model 7600 in 30-06. My dad taught me to shoot and scout for deer at a young age. I enrolled in a hunter safety course and began hunting at the age of 12.

We mostly hunted as a family, my older brother Bob, my younger brother Ryan, Dad and me. We never really had a great deal of luck bagging the big bucks, but we sure had fun as a family getting out and enjoying nature. We would always end up at my Grandfather’s house at the end of the day to tell stories and wait for my uncle to tell us about his day in the woods.

My Grandfather would share stories from when he was a young hunter back in his day. He couldn’t get around the woods anymore, but that didn’t stop him from telling his stories or taking us to the rifle range to practice with our deer rifles. I looked forward to hunting season every year from age twelve until the time I joined the Marine Corps, at twenty-two.

It was April of 2001 when I left home for Marine Corp Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. I had no idea of what to expect and learned quickly that it was important to keep a low profile while doing as I was told. By July of 2001, I graduated boot camp moving on to basic infantry training in Camp Pendleton, California. Camp Pendleton became my home base for the remainder of my tour.

The type of infantry training I underwent gave me two options and eventually I was selected to be an antitank assultman. I received intense training in demolitions and identifying enemy armored vehicles and trained for two years before I tried out for the scout sniper platoon in Okinawa Japan. It consisted of a two-week selection process that gave the participants the opportunity to drop out on demand. In other words, you could quit any time you wanted. We started with about 65 marines and ended up after of two weeks with about 20. The two-week hell session focused on sleep deprivation and physical training. When the two weeks had passed, scout sniper training began.

It was difficult. I was known as what was called a PIG (professionally instructed gunner). A PIG is considered the lowest form of life in the sniper community. We were treated poorly and were constantly learning and practicing our field work, stalking and shooting. We trained about 12 to 13 hours a day in the hopes of being one of the few who would be selected to attend sniper school. I was in the platoon for about 6 months when I got the news that I was one of the three chosen to attend sniper school, which was conducted at Camp Pendleton and lasted about 12 weeks.

 My group at sniper school stared with about 40 students and graduated with 14. Students would be dropped when scores fell below a minimum success rate in stalking, shooting, field testing and book work. Upon graduation from sniper school I was deployed to Ar Ramadi,Iraq in short order and spent almost a year in conducting primarily night operations which included ambushes, recon patrols, and IUD prevention. I was injured by shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade and received wounds to my legs, knees, and upper torso.

 My service time ended shortly after returning to the states. One night, I was talking on the phone with my brother and he was telling me about the Purple Heart Tour deer hunt and I, jokingly, told him to put a word in for me. He called me back a week later saying someone had backed out and they had room for one more participant. I contacted Dan Hammack, the gentleman who runs the Purple Heart Tour, and expressed by interest. Shortly thereafter, he gave me the green light to participate.

The hunt took place in August of 2009, on the Rao and Fields ranches in Northern California. We arrived on a Friday and were met at the San Francisco airport by VFW Post 7265 volunteers,  Denise Sughayar and Rich Fletcher who is also a volunteer for the Mule Deer Foundation.

We were taken from San Francisco airport to our hotel where we were soon greeted by a local VFW motorcycle club called the Warriors Watch Riders, led by Fred “Spiker” Schau. This group of vets shows their support for VETS by greeting local servicemen returning from deployment and other ceremonial events. They escorted us to the Rao Ranch where we were greeted by hosts, Robert and Linda Rao, along with many other supporters and local landowners. We were very impressed by the show of support.

 Following the ceremony and dinner, we made our plans for the next day. I would be hunting the Fields ranch with my guide and owner Russ Fields, Dan Hammack (Founder of the Purple Heart Tour), Sparky (cameraman and owner of M2D Camo Company – an awesome camo pattern) and Ed Shield of Deer Valley Ranch located in Canada.

We headed out at first light and drove the countryside glassing for bucks. We spotted a few bucks early, but they were sketchy and didn’t stick around for us to get a shot or even a good look. We saw numerous deer, a lot of small bucks and doe’s and a few shooter bucks that didn’t present a shot. It was about 7:30 AM on the first day when Russ decided we should head out on foot over a large hill and glass for deer on the other side. We headed over the ridge and Russ spotted a buck heading into a draw about a mile away.

As we headed towards the draw, Russ came up with a plan. Sparky and I would head to the right of the bottom and Russ and Dan would head to the left and try to spook the deer up and out of the draw and onto the open hillside for me to take a shot. Sparky and I set up and waited for about 15 minutes before we heard some leaves crunching and saw a shooter buck heading up the hillside in front of us.

The deer was standing broadside about 100 yards in front of us when I heard Sparky say, “Don’t shoot, the camera’s not ready.”

 I couldn’t believe it 100 yards and broadside. Now the deer was behind a large tree and Sparky said, “When he clears the tree, take him.”

 The deer came out probably about 175 yards away moving at a slow trot up the hill when I squeezed off. The bullet hit the deer hard and he dropped right in his tracks. For me, this was the best and most rewarding hunt I have ever been on. I had more help then I could have imagined.

 Russ knew exactly where the deer would come out and Sparky knew where to set up for filming. Everything went as planned except I would have preferred the 100- yard broadside shot instead of the 175-yard running shot, but I guess it worked out better this way.

The highlight of the hunt for me had to be the footage of my brother’s hunt that Sparky also filmed. Ryan had a nice 130-class blacktail at 40 yards. BOOM all you see is dirt fly up and the deer running, BOOM the shot’s no where near the deer and the deer continues to run, BOOM the bullet impacts a large rock and in slow motion you can see birds leaving their perches and flying away. BOOM and you could only see antlers disappearing over the hill top. I know we’ve all missed over the years, but honestly how many of us have missed on film. The footage is priceless and we all had a good laugh sitting around camp giving him a hard time as only a group of hunters can.

I can’t even begin to thank everyone enough for this hunt. This is by far the highlight of my hunting career. I met some really great people on this hunt, and had a rare opportunity to hunt with my brother again. I treasure this experience and will remember it always.

I’d like to thank all those who contributed, but especially the key organizers and sponsors: Robert and Linda Rao, Russ Fields, Dan Hammack, Sparky Sparks of M2D Camo, the Warrior Watch Riders, VFW Post 7265, the Livermore-Pleasanton Rod and Gun, Tom Dermody, California Deer Association, Rich Fletcher and the Mule Deer Foundation.

img_5507Warrior Warch Escort cropped

The Warrior Watch Riders escort made the arrival special.img_0416_00 Ryan Olech took this buck Sunday morning croppedAfter a Saturday afternoon miss, Kevin’s brother, Ryan, took this nice buck on Sunday morning.

img_5531 Austin and his buck cropped and resizedAustin Schultz took his buck at the Fields Ranch on Saturday morning.

Rich’s note: Not long after the hunt, Austin and Ryan returned to the war in Afganistan. Both have been involved heavy action.

Kevin’s story will be published in MDF magazine in an upcoming issue.