Birds of a Feather ?

Here's a double banded mallard taken at Mayberry.

Here’s the certificate from a mallard drake killed by one of our Mayberry partners.  Fred’s drake mallard was bagged on Friday December 12th 2009.On that day, I arrived at Mayberry after Fred, Rob and Joe. They were all hunting and Fred had shot several mallards. It wasn’t until later in the day that I was informed that both Fred and Rob has shot banded greenheads. It was unusual that two banded birds had been shot on the same day. But, we kill quite a few banded mallards at Mayberry, so we didn’t think too much of it. The certificates from Fred’s bird (shown above) and Rob’s bird were received at nearly the same time, around Christmas.

Here’s the certificate from Rob’s greenhead.

If you look at these two certificates, you will see that these two greenheads were banded at the same location in British Columbia, by the same bander, on the same day in August of 2007. And, they were both mature drakes when banded, which led the bander to determine that they were both born in 2006 or earlier. And, more than two years later, within a quarter mile of each other in Sacramento County, California, these two greenhead drakes were shot, within hours of each other.

These certificates have the same band number on them. Maybe they shot the same duck.

More likely somebody at the USFWS made an administrative error.

Fate of the Birthday Rooster

If you read the story of the pheasant hunt that took place on my 60th birthday (Nov 25th post), you will recall that I had a rooster dead to rights that day. Lola chased him into a patch of fragmites along the 30 foot wide ditch that runs along the east boundary of our club. Across the ditch is a thick brush patch. The rooster, since named the birthday rooster, rose out of the fragmites and gave me an easy shot at 25 yards, but I let him go for fear that he’d end up on the opposite shore where Lola might not retrieve him.

Since that day I’ve hunted that spot several times in a personal battle to bring home the birthday rooster. Each time he’d flush out in front of me before I could get in range. It was beginning to look like 2009  would pass without bagging BDR. However, Saturday’s duck hunt was so slow that I decided to make another attempt at the bird. Lola and I approached from the opposite direction of our typical hunt.

Lola was on a bird for about 150 yards, working hard, but not coming up with anything. As we approached the ditch, she was in high gear, running nose down, turning, jerking and tail wagging out of control. She passed a fragmite patch and stuck her head in twice. The third time she did more than just sniff. As she rumbled through the patch, BDR burst upward – the thick branches forced the bird upward as he let out a continuous cackle.

This time Lola forced him away from the sancuary. He passed in front of me  at about 10 yards and we were briefly eye to eye. He made a 90 degree turn away from me and I hit him in the butt with steel twos as he began to swing towards safety. The birthday rooster was down and out.

The Birthday Rooster

Pheasant hunting was tough this year, but there are still enough birds at Mayberry to make a comeback if we get better weather next spring. Although I only bagged two wild roosters all year, I muffed quite a few chances and could have had five or six if I’d been shooting well. Rob and his two labs, tule and peatie, bagged 8 or 9 wild roosters this season, so it can be done.

Duck hunting has been very poor. The good news is that when December is poor, January is usually good. We’ll see.

How the Endangered Species Act Affects Wildlife Conservation through Highest and Best Use

The concept of highest and best use is most used by developers and appraisers. A developer will tell you that when a property is economically ready to be improved to a more productive use, it’s time for him to step in. An appraiser will tell you that a property’s highest value is based upon the most productive use allowed.

In wildlife conservation, highest and best use can lead to conversion of habitat to rural uses that eliminate or water down habitat quality. Farming, ranching and timber production can be compatible with wildlife habitat or even beneficial in some cases, but as urbanization occurs these wildlife-compatible rural uses are converted.

Further from town, low intensity ranching and public and private forest lands provide habitat where hunting added to the value of the land. Traditionally, hunting has been a huge contributor to maintaining wildlife habitat through game producing habitat manipulation that benefited other species including those that have become endangered or threatened.

Waterfowl hunting adds significant value to farmland.

 However, hunting, ranching and rural living cannot protect land from development as the rule of highest and best use concept applies, meaning that a higher use creates more value and a pressure on the landowner to convert for capital gain.

Now it’s the 21st Century and in comes the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and new mitigation principles. Through the laws associated with the ESA, Federal Agencies (ACE & USFWS) and some state agencies (CDFG) have set up standards for habitat mitigation where permits are required before major capital projects can proceed. This mitigation commonly related to road construction and water projects.

The California Red-legged frog is a listed species.

When “listed” species (those which have high status in the endangered pecking order) are affected, developments must provide mitigation to offset the negative impact the project will have to the subject species.

Mitigation typically occurs on rural lands where the same listed species dwell. These rural lands can be protected in perpetuity and managed specifically for the listed species. When an agreement is signed deeding certain rights from the landowner to the agencies and it is then recorded against the property. In return for protecting the species so the developer can receive a permit to commence the project, the landowner receives cash.

The point of the discussion is that this process has created a new highest and best use for undeveloped land and an entirely new set of values for rural land in California. Not only that, but this highest and best use principle has created a new type of wildlife conservation – highest and best use conservation.

 Rural landowners can now leave their land in open space, while managing their land for endangered species, and also protecting their property values. (Hunting is often a compatible use as well, but not always.) In many cases, the value of California wildlife habitat as a land use is now competitive with all rural and many suburban uses. In other words the ESA is protecting property values far beyond those properties that are currently participating as mitigation sites.

Six New Tule Elk Zones?

The California Department of Fish and Game will propose six new tule elk zones to the Fish and Game Commission this comming year.

Alameda County tule elk bull

In general they are as follows: Mendocino County – 0-4 bulls, 0-4 cows; Colusa-Lake-Yolo Counties – 0-4 bulls, 0-4 cows; Lake County (Lake Pillsbury area) 0-4 bulls, 0-4 cows; Alameda – San Joaquin Counties – 0-2 bulls, 0-2 cows; Merced-Santa Clara Counties – 0-2 bulls, 0-2 cows; Kern – San Luis Obispo -Santa Clara Counties – 0-2 bulls and 0-2 cows.

This proposal, if approved, will likely have a significant impact upon the ability of California and out-of-state elk hunters to draw a tule elk tag. CDFG has made revision of the elk hunts a priority this year and elk hunters will find several other upgrades to the elk hunting regulations.

In addition several changes to black bear hunting will also be proposed including creation of a new black bear hunt in San Luis Obispo County that was pulled from the F&G Commission docket last year.

Grasslands Hunt 12-09-09

The grasslands is a hugh chunk of natural marsh that is loaded with ducks. Of course, not all marsh is equal, and my friend Jeff has some of best. He manages most of his 300-acre club for open water and keeps it shallow flooded. Most of his club can be waded in hip waders.

Large expanses of open water are very attractive to pintail, widgeon, shoveler and teal. The mallard component is smaller on the open water ponds.

Who knows all the reasons why his club is so good, but some of them are its central location and his comprehensive efforts to manage the habitat. Good duck clubs require a lot of work if you want to achieve maximum productivity.

The amount of shooting around me at first light was amazing and the birds were flying for their lives. I managed to knock down a snow goose right off the bat, but missed five straight ducks before I got on target. I finally realized I was behind the birds.

I told Jeff that the ducks in the grassland fly faster than they do in the delta. He laughed, but with all the shooting, it does seems to me that the grassland ducks are all flying full speed at daylight.

By 10:00 AM I had added a couple pintail and a couple widgeon to the string. In order to finish up, I shot three spoonies which will become jerky meat. You know how it is, sometimes you just have to bag a limit.

With many ducks on the pond, I was compelled to finish out my limit.

Dear Santa

I know that you know I have a lot of stuff, but there are a few things that I need desperately…..

Yes the camp chef barbecue box is expensive, but I already have the stove and the box would be a great addition. Just think, BBQ at the duck club, at the ranch maybe even out of state.

Fly lines – I need two. floating

I got a great buy on two new machined reels (from Albright’s) to replace my ancient Fleuger fly reels, but now I need fly lines.

Style double taper, type floating, color – peach, weight 5 cost $52.00 sinking

444 SL fly line style weight forward, color mint green, type F, line weight WF5F

I can always use one more wool shirt.

Cabela’s whipcord wool shirt, color loden, size XL or

Pendleton wool shirt in brown plad – the brown plad is better for hunting, in fact it’s almost camo.

S.size XL tall I’d prefer the pendleton over the whipcord – the wool is more comfortable and is more versatile.

Filson makinaw wool vest in charcoal – my green vest is fading fast.

I love these wool clothes, but I know they are expensive

Fingerless wool gloves

Now here’s something affordable and I wear them out. I need them in XL – this is a good price

A carrying case for my two burner camp chef stove – won the stove in the raffle at a recent COHA banquet/fundraiser.

A fry griddle for my camp chef stove would be very useful

I’m looking for a couple new harmonicas – specifically a Hohner 532/20 MS in the key of A and also key of G

I need them so I can join in around the campfire.

OK Santa do your thing.

Hunting Modoc Honkers – 1986

Note: This is an except from “Hunting Ducks and Geese,” a book I wrote about hunting the public areas – self published in 1987. I appologize for typos, I was in a hurry to get this done and my fingers were a little loose.

I arrived at Modoc National Wildlife Refuge on Monday, December sixteenth, 1986. Modoc is open on different days from other refuges – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

A merchant at a local store suggested the north parking lot was probably the best spot to start. I stopped there, but decided to go for a walk around the southern portion of the reuge first, before making a final decision where to hunt. As I walked the levees, I passed up a couple shots at teal and goldeneye as I knew my dog Tubbs, probably wouldn’t retrieve them on the thick ice and I didn’t like to see her test the ice anyway as it might be life threatening.

Tubbs ran and had a great time chasing pheasants which were numerous – no pheasant hunting allowed. Two nearby hunters made a stalk on a huge flock of honkers rafted up on a frozen pond, but the birds managed to escape without a shot.

Satisfied with my knowledge of the southern portion of the refuge, I decided to scout the northern portion of the refuge after breakfast in town. As I drove past the northern fields I could see large spreads of 747 honker decoys and hunters hiding in strips of tall grass on the edge.

After breakfast, I walked the grass fields of the northern portion of the refuge and found a good place to set up my decoys and hide by laying on the ground. As two hunters passed me on their way in from  hunting, they stated that they had hunted that very spot a few nights back and had been successful. They recommended that I stay away from any hay stacks as the birds would avoid them.

An open area with a small patch of grass provided a spot large enough to hide in, but small enough so the geese might not shy away from it. It would be best to place the decoys to the east, so I wouldn’t be looking into the setting sun. A few duck decoys fit in nicely on a small patch of frozen irrigation water. When called, Tubbs came over and lay quietly at my feet. Covered almost entirely with hay, we became almost invivisle about thirty yards from the goose decoys. It was 2:30.

A couple of other hunters came out and set up nearby. While laying there almost perfectly still, I pulled the Olt honker call from my jacket and the goose impersonation began. Oonk. Oonk. Oonk…Oonk…Off to the east geese could be vaguely heard and this was encouraging. The trick now would be to lays still and stay relaxed. Acutually sounds that honkers make when taking to the air could be heard to the east, probably from the closed zone. Oonk. Oonk. Oonk…onka, onka, onka, onka.

It seemed increadible to me, but honkers in a large flock were making an enormous racket to the west and it sounded as if they were coming in towards the decoys. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stiffening. Oonk. Oonk. Oonk…Oonk…onka onka onka. This as the time to stay motionless and calm. They were definitely bearing down on my decoys. Tubbs snored. Straining to watch for them, I knew that they would pass over any minute. Sure enough, there they were, sixty yars off to the right. There were about twenty of them…no more than ten yards off the gound. I felt a hot flash, but didn’t move. They were about to land, maybe in range. They glided, almost without motion, turned left about 100 yards out and passed across my toes. Then they turned to the east and landed. Wow, they were 75 yards away.

I figured that if I could just lie still, certainly another group of geese would follow them in. What better decoys thatn twenty live honkers! Not more than thirty seconds went by before a straggler appeared. He was sounding single honks in a monotonous pattern. Onk, onk, onk. He passed to the right of the decoys just as the others had. This must be it. I strained to hold back my excitement. He turned left as the others had done. My eye-balls strained. He passed over the other birds. Without slowing, he turned towards the decoys. At full speed he reached the thirty yard range as I saw double. While trying to leap up to shoot, hay went everywhere. The parka hood covered my eyes. A sane man would have calmly brushed it out of the way, but in my panic, it became a major obstacle. Hood out of the way, I realized that he was way too close, but didn’t hold my fire. At ten years the shot would rip large holes through his breast, but that was not to be, as no damage was done with the two point-blank misses. In the panic the second shell case had jammed in my model 12. By the time I chambered the third shell, the shot became no more than a parting gesture at long range.

Shell shocked I stood in disgrace. I’d heard about hunters missing honkers that were unmissable, but I never thought it would happen to me.

I tried to be optimisic. A few shots could be heard in nearby fields as more geese made their afternoon feeding flights. Laying back down, it seemed as if there was still an excellent chance. It was early and geese could be heard calling in several directions. Several groups of geese came in and started to work, but shooting nearby spooked them before the came into my range. Off to the right I could hear a hunting blowing on a mallard call. Suddenly a drake sprig appeared out of the corner of my eye, twenty yards off to the right,  he turned over the duck decoys abou ten feet off the gournd. My first inclination was to wait for him to make an second pass. The second thought was the it would be a mistake to wait as he was close, coming halfway to my feet, I realized that it was now a marginal shot, and I lay back down. I had blown another opportunity, but it was better to miss an opportunity than to fire an ill-advised shot which would probably scare other birds that might be heading into the area. A single shot form the direction that he’d departed was probably a signal of his demise.

Covering up again, I began calling. Once again geese were heard to the west, from my blind side. They were coming in. Passing on the right as the others had done, they were close and low. They swung across my toes and turned to their left, giving me the same shot that I had practiced earlier. This time I would not fail. Their honking shifted to a differnt sound that they sometimes make while landing. When they were at thirty-five yards, I calmly rose to my feet. They flared away and at thrity yards, I fired: boom…..feathers, boom…he began to sink, boom…he went down. He’d been hit on all three shots, but it wouldn’t have been a good idea to take a chance and try for a second bird. I’d had enough experience with geese to know that they can fly off after appearing to be down for good. The bird was not a giant Canada goose, but he was big enough to make me happy.

My efforts to continue the hunt ended when a hunter in the next field crippled a big honker which led Tubbs and I on a chase. It ended when I finished the bird off with a ground shot. Tubbs had chased the bird away from the pursuing hunter and I felt obligated to give him a hand. One honker made the hunt a success as far as I was concerned, so there was no need to continue hunting this day.  As the sun set, the refuge was turned back over to it’s rightful owners.

COHA and Members Celebrate Alliance in Sacramento

This just in from the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA).
Linda and I attended and had a great time.

On Saturday, December 5th, the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA) hosted its member conservation organizations, outdoor industry and individuals at the first annual “COHA Alliance Celebration” in Sacramento.  The event offered a full day program which focused on the need for those in the hunting and wildlife conservation community to better unite and coordinate efforts to more effectively protect our wildlife resources and promote our outdoor heritage for generations to come.  Topics included enhanced coordination on youth education programs, political action, firearm rights and other issues of importance to the hunting community.  The evening’s dinner banquet offered an opportunity to highlight the integral political role COHA plays in helping conservation organizations accomplish their mission, keeping outdoor industry in business and passionate individuals in the field.  The event’s auction and raffle helped to raise critical funds for COHA to continue its essential work on behalf of California’s hunting community. For additional information see

Mule Deer Foundation puts $1.5 Million on the Ground

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Mule Deer Foundation President and CEO Miles
Moretti announced today that MDF has once again put over $1.5 million
dollars on the ground in 2009 to enhance and conserve mule deer and
black-tailed deer habitat throughout the western United States. The
money was raised through the sale of state wildlife auction and
raffle tags, local fundraising banquets, along with corporate and
private donations. Despite the economic downturn, MDF has been able
to exceed project funding goals for 2009.

Projects funded vary from water developments and habitat improvement
projects to the purchase of land to be conserved for mule deer and
other wildlife. Moretti said, “The number one goal I had for MDF when
I took over the reins in 2006 was to increase MDF’s presence in
funding habitat projects for mule deer. We have worked with State and
Federal agencies, other conservation groups and private landowners to
make that happen.”

In 2009, several projects highlight the organization’s commitment to
funding projects that make a difference. MDF, in partnership with the
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, purchased the Allan Smith
Property in Eastern Utah. The purchase of these 5,700 acres protects
a critical migration corridor between summer and winter range for
mule deer and elk. The property also contributes critical winter
habitat for mule deer, elk and sage grouse. MDF also partnered with
Pheasants Forever to purchase 1,000 acres adjacent to the Beckman
Wildlife Management Area in Central Montana. This piece of property
is a key component that connects land owned by Montana FWP, Block
Management land and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
land. Together, these properties total over 15,000 contiguous acres
of incredible wildlife habitat, and they also provide ample
opportunity for outdoor recreation and hunting.

MDF’s Chapter Rewards Program has also contributed to funding of
on-the-ground projects. This program enables chapters to keep a
percentage of money raised at the local level for projects in their
area. In 2009, MDF chapters funded 72 projects utilizing over
$200,000 from the Chapter Rewards Program. The Central Wyoming
Chapter in Casper, Wyo., contributed over $42,000 to the Bates Creek
Watershed Restoration Project in Central Wyoming. The project
involves prescribed burns and mechanical treatment of Aspen to
restore a viable aspen community and improve the watershed. The
multi-year endeavor has treated over 6,000 acres of aspen to date.

Other projects funded by MDF will be highlighted at the 10th Annual
Mule Deer Foundation Convention which will be part of the Western
Hunting and Conservation Expo (WHCE) in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb.
11-14, 2010. Over the past three years, the WHCE has raised over $20
million dollars for wildlife. For details about the Fourth Annual
WHCE, go to

Visit MDF’s Web site ( to learn more about projects
funded in your state.