Hunting the San Luis Unit Oct 26, 2011

The San Luis Unit is part of San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. The California Department of Fish and Game is authorized to operate the hunting program. The check station for San Luis is operated out of a trailer at the Salt Slough Unit. It’s about a ten minute drive from Volta.

North Grasslands Hunting Areas

At the check station I asked many questions, and where Nancy had been nothing but helpful, the guys at Salt Slough were contrary. I don’t blame them as they put up with a million questions from novice duck hunters. I took what info I could glean from them, which wasn’t much.

One hunter, on his way to the Gadwall Unit, offered that is was a good spot for teal and an occasional pintail, but not a mallard spot. I was thinking about going to parking Lot 1 at San Luis, but was a little worried about it being crowded. I don’t like too much competition.

Another hunter signed up to wait for an opening at one of the Salt Slough “stake” blinds. He corrected me when I incorrectly called them space blinds. Oh well. While standing around, I put my name on the list.

It was now almost noon and hunters were checking out. When a hunter checked out from Lot 1 at San Luis with six mallards, I decided to make a decision. There were four hunters left in Lot 1. Didn’t sound too bad.

I left the parking lot at noon with backpack, dog stand, tule seat, two decoys and jerk string. The pack seemed heavy. It it was breezy, but hot. Nothing was flying. I set up at a decent looking pond and watched for ducks. A flock of specs came out of the south and looked like they might come over me in range. About a hundred yards out they turned. Maybe I called too much – or maybe they just turned for no particular reason.

About 2:30 I spotted a flock of ducks to the south. They were working.

At 3:00 PM I decided to make a move. I moved close to where the flock had passed and set up again. At 4:00 PM some mallards came in and I blew my chance by getting tangled in the tules. Oh well, at least I’d had a chance at a greenhead.

About 4:30, more mallards and a couple pintails with them. They flared a bit as I rose, but it was a good chance and a clear miss. At least something was happening. Fifteen minutes later another group of mallards. This time I waited for the bird to pass and shot him in the rear. Down he went.

I was worried as he’d come down out of my sight. Lola was all over the swimming drake and I had my first mallard of the day. Back to the tules. There was time for more. A greenhead come over and I missed him three times. I shouldn’t have kept shooting but my blood was getting hotter.

Now ducks were working regularly and another hunt to the east was having a lot of action. Still there were birds for me. Specs passed over regularly and I noticed that mallards seemed to be attracted by my spec calling. Maybe they were foraging together.

A pair of mallards came towards me. They locked on my decoys. Without calling I laid low and waited. As they passed in front of me I drew on the drake and they both came down. I didn’t plan on shooting hens, but sometimes it happens. I sent Lola in to the tule patch where the two ducks had dropped. Out she came chasing the drake. She had it. I took the bird from her and sent her back for the hen.

She rattled around in there for a few minutes and them popped out with the hen in her mouth – giving it up reluctantly.

More ducks. A pair of mallards passed on the wrong side of me – towards the sun. Since they were in range I took the shot and one of them sailed down about 150 yards away. It would prove to be an ugly retrieve. After a bunch of sweat, three more shots and a long chase, I had my second hen and called it a day.

I still don’t know if the hen was the original mallard. I think I shot the drake and the hen landed with it. When it jumped up I thought it was the drake and knocked it down. Afterward I wished that I had gone back to look for the drake, but it was too late.

At 6:00 PM I called it quits. The hike in was long, hot and mosquito covered. I ended up with bites everywhere, but it was all worth it. I felt 25 years younger. And, once again, the marsh seemed unchanged from 1986.

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