Before Flood-Up

Sunday was decoy day for my blind partner Tom Billingsley and I. Tom stores the decoys each season and for that I am grateful. We arrived at our blind about the same time, about 11:00 AM.

Here’s what we found.

img_2261-blind-4-before-decoys

This duck blind is ideal for grasslands open water shooting.

The duck food is swamp timothy, which grows close to the ground and produces lots of small seeds. It also provides habitat for the tiny invertebrates that waterfowl love to eat. As you can see, this club is very level, which means that every blind enjoys shallow wading, a big benefit. This is a three-man concrete blind which is limited to two people for hunting.

Most of the blinds at the Kerry Club have only one dog box, but this blind and several others have two dog boxes, which can come in handy.

This blind is very low profile. We will place some cover around the blind, but not raise it in elevation as that makes the blind appear larger to ducks. We also stock the blind with palm leaves and such so we can cover ourselves and the dogs up.

Because this is open water hunting, we use primarily teal and sprig decoys. We stocked it with about 100 decoys which will remain in place for the entire season. We painted them a bit to make them a little more appealing to both ducks and hunters – putting most of our effort into the more colorful drake decoys, especially the heads and white parts of the birds.

We left the cover out of the blind until after flood up as there will be a million crickets and other critters in the blind as they escape to dry ground during flood up. We placed the decoys in anticipation of a northwest wind as that is the prevailing direction at the club, but we also took into account that this particular blind is in the southeast corner of a very large pond.

One of the things I had to learn while providing decoys for this open water club is that the large ponds with little emergent vegitation generate large waves – especially at our blind location. The first year we had four ounce weights on our decoys and many floated away. Last year we switched to eight ounce weights and some of the larger decoys still drifted.

Here are a few photos taken during past seasons.

Our blind is not in the top echelon at the club, but does receive moderate use. It will shoot well on opening day – which is where Tom and I will be hunting.

A Dove Hunt

On Friday evening I passed a corral located near a pond at the ranch. Since I was on the way home and Linda was expecting me, I didn’t spend much time looking but I couldn’t help but notice the number of doves. While driving, I couldn’t get the birds off my mind. I’d been wanting to hunt doves, but it hadn’t been working out.

The ranch is not usually a good dove hunting location. The elevation, about two thousand feet, is not ideal and the cool evenings with bay fog generally discourages doves by the time September arrives. Apparently not this year.

Saturday evening couldn’t arrive soon enough. I loaded my shotgun into the Ford and headed to the ranch a little early. I figured that maybe a few of the doves would arrive early and Linda would be happy if I came home before dark – or even sooner. So, at 1:00 PM I was on the road.

I arrived at the hot spot about 2:30 and set up in the shade of the largest post at the corral. Making myself comfortable, I began to bird-watch. Not just for doves, but for anything interesting. I brought along my Nikon in case something interesting came along while I waited for the doves to show. Three-thirty turned to four.

A phoebe arrived at the corral, and without a lot of thought, I watched it fly-catch for a while and decided not to photograph it as I have quite a few good shots of black phoebe’s. But, there was something different about this phoebe.

About the time when the bird decided to move off, I realized that this was a Say’s phoebe, a bird which I seldom see and have not had any luck photographing.

I made some feeble attempts to photograph the bird from far away, without any notable success. Then the bird disappeared.

Now, with camera in hand, I was looking for something to photograph. Turkey vultures began to circle overhead. Their numbers began to increase and before long there were about fifteen of them and they were coming pretty close. Maybe they thought I was dying, but I was only dying for something to photograph so I snapped a few photos. Reviewed them and they looked pretty good.

Now I really wanted that phoebe to come back. The doves were still not flying. When the phoebe did come back, it stayed a little too far off and I kept trying to make something out of nothing as the bird refused to fly into good photography range.

All of a sudden a rock wren landed about ten feet away. Any bird looks good at ten feet in perfect sun and this bird had no fear.

Now I was really feeling it and as soon as the wren left, the phoebe flew up and landed about 20 feet away. It was heavenly.

Beautiful birds.

Then it happened. I saw a dove fly by and turned around to look as another one landed on the corral. I bent over to grab my shotgun and realized there were several others already landed. They had sneaked in while I was in bird nirvana.

I shifted into hunter mode and quickly dropped two doves. In the next 45 minutes I was covered up. There was no reason to keep shooting after I’d knocked down twelve – enough for a couple dinners. As I plucked the birds it was clear that most of them were birds of the year.

What a great hunt, and I made it home before dark.

Tonight Linda watched as I barbecued up half the beautiful doves. They were very good. She was not impressed.

Dolphins in the Surf

On the last morning of our Labor Day weekend stay at The Sea Ranch, a family of dolphins played in the surf. Here are some photos of them surfing. DSC_0304[1] flipping dolphin

DSC_0310[1] surfing dolphin

DSC_0321[1] surfing dolphins

There were five in all.

DSC_0332[1] dophin family

We also saw harbor seals, sea lions, blacktail deer and lots of birds. It was a good time with the family.

Here’s a photo of my son-in-law, Brett, enjoying the ocean view, which is reflected from the windows of our rental home.

IMG_2230 Brett with mirror view of ocean