White-Front Goose Band #2197-76506

The band was on the right leg of the third bird from the left in the photo above. I reported it to http://www.reportband.gov this morning.

The information provided: This is a greater white-front goose banded on 7/24/2016 near Chevak Alaska in the Wade Hampton census area. It was too young to fly at the time of the banding. The bird is male.

You can see that the third bird from the left’s breast is cream-colored while the other three are speckled.There were the beginnings of specs on the young bird. The other three birds are mature adult coloration.

Chevak is located on the coast at the far western tip of Alaska. 90% of the population is native American. Native Americans have had a large impact upon the recovery of white-front geese. When I first hunting these geese over 25 years ago, their population was so low that the limit was set at one bird.

About that time, employees of the California Department of Fish and Game asked me to join a group of hunters that would accompany visiting native Americans from Alaska on a California refuge waterfowl hunt. The gentleman who joined me could only observe.

We hunted from a blind at Sacramento Wildlife Refuge. I do not recall his name, but we had a good day together. I learned from him that historically the native Americans hunted goose eggs for food. One of the reasons for the population decline of white-front geese was over-harvesting of the eggs.

The purpose of the trip was to provide more information about the life cycle of the white-front geese to these Alaskans and to provide an incentive for conservation of the species. One of the results of that conservation effort was to limit the number of goose eggs that the native Americans would harvest.

Over the years since that trip, white-front goose numbers have risen tremendously. So much so that the limit on these geese in California is now quite liberal.

Solo Goose Hunt

The last weekend of the season was supposed to be a four-man hunt for ducks and geese on Webb Tract. But, sometimes things don’t go the way you expect. A bout with the flu, a leaky roof and dog-sitting (of all things) eliminated my hunting partners.

I was determined to hunt geese on the last weekend. It had been on my schedule for weeks and nothing was about to stop me. We cancelled our last goose hunt when high tides and rain raised the San Joaquin river to within two or three feet of the Webb Tract levee tops. Then Grizzly and Van Sickle Islands flooded. That was enough to stop our hunt, but we planned to be back for the final weekend of the season.

Arriving about 8:45 AM, I was waiting when the ferry arrived at nine. A weekend alone on Webb Island may sound strange, but when the hunting is good, our little hunting spot can be exciting and I really did get excited when I drove along the boundary of our parcel and found hundreds of ducks and geese sunning themselves on the edge of the pond I planned to hunt.

With Lola, spec decoys and enough ammo (always important when hunting geese) I dragged the decoy sled about a quarter-mile to the pond. Because white-front geese (specklebelly) are notorious for avoiding decoys, I placed a dozen shell decoys along the pond edge about one hundred yards north of the blind and a half-dozen about 75 yards west of the blind. A bunch of decoys close to the blind seldom works, but keeping the decoys a ways away with just four near the blind can be effective.

Four duck decoys were added just in case. I put two floating spec decoys about 20 yards south of the blind and attached a jerk string to one of them. Two more spec shells rounded out the spread. I put them on the south edge of the small island where the blind was located.

It must have been between 10 and 11 AM when we settled in and began our wait.Thousands of geese kept me from being bored, but I didn’t take a shot until about 2 PM and that was a questionable attempt at a flock of specklebelly geese that seemed to be coming in, but veered off at the last second.

A while later, a big flock of sprig dived down and passed within forty yards. I pulled up and missed three times. It was clear that I hadn’t led them enough, which happens a lot with fast-flying late-season pintail.

You don’t want to lose your patience when hunting geese over decoys. If you shoot all the long shots, you’ll never get a good shot. At about three, a large flock of geese to the east of me began to break up and spread around the island in smaller flocks. I could see them working in all directions. I’d seen this before and knew that my chance was about to happen.

Finally a flock dived down from overhead and zeroed in on the jerk-string decoy. At the last-minute they flared and I missed. It was a close call.  A few minutes later another flock circled around out of range, but eventually committed to the decoys.

They circled twice and then set their wings. I could see that they were locked in on the jerk string decoy. I waited and waited until they were right over me. Rising up I dropped one on the first shot and tried for a double, but missed.

Lola made a reasonable retrieve, but stalled out for some reason and I had to climb out of the blind to get the bird myself. After I picked up the five or six pound goose, I trudged back through the corn field mud. I didn’t blame her for misbehaving. She’d waited a long time for that goose and probably didn’t want to give it up.

It wasn’t long before we had a repeat flock and the results were almost the same, except the bird was alive. Lola was on it but the goose was swimming fast. It reached shore about 75 yards from the blind with Lola and I in pursuit. Lola tracked it down, but for the second time in a row, I was carrying the goose back to the blind. Now I was drenched in sweat.

It wasn’t too long before a third flock came in and it was another repeat. Hit the first bird, but once again failed on the attempt for a double. At least the birds were working the decoys. A while later somebody drove down a road about a half mile away chasing up a huge gaggle of geese.

They flew directly over me. I managed to put the right lead on one and dropped him. Goose number four was in the bag and both Lola and I were done for the day and for the season.

I dragged the heavy decoy sled back to camp sweating profusely all the way. Lola ate and laid down on her bed at about 6 PM. She did not leave the truck until nearly 8 AM in the morning.

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While loading the geese into the sled, I noticed that one of them had a band. It’s always fun to get a banded bird and to find out where it came from. This is the first banded white-front goose I’ve shot.

I cooked up some teal on my small gas barbecue, opened up a bottle of zinfandel and had a party all by myself. It was the most exciting hunt of the year for me.

The geese finally did what they were supposed to do and I had them all to myself. I love the anticipation and the final realization that the birds are committed. It’s one of the most exciting moments in waterfowl hunting and the reason why I much prefer decoy hunting to pass shooting even if I have to go solo.

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Delta Sunrise

Last day of duck season, but there would be no hunt for us. Lola and I were pooped. Knowing that she had expended all her energy on Saturday, I couldn’t drag her out into the cold water again. Plus I had four specs to pluck and decoys to pick up.

As I sat in the front seat of my truck drinking coffee and feeling satisfied, I realized that a spectacular sunrise was happening right in front of me.

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Wednesday at the Kerry Club

1/26/27 It was so calm at blind C that Tom Billingsley and I opted for jerk strings first thing in the morning and they seemed to make a difference. The ducks acted as though they’d been shot at for months, which they had. Enough came into range and we held off shooting until they were clearly in range.

Of the ones we shot at, we didn’t let too many get away. Whenever I missed Tom seemed to back me up. Lola had another good day, chasing down all our birds.

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Snapped this photo from blind C as we waited for some action. It was a windless day, but we were fortunate enough to have the best teal blind on the club so we had thirteen by 10:30 when we turned the blind over to my brother Rob and Joe DiDonato.

They managed to bag another nine teal before departing and were disappointed that they couldn’t hit sprig on the two occasions they flew into range. Despite the nice weather, averages on the club were pretty good.

This was my last grassland hunt for the season as I plan to hunt the Delta on the weekend.

 

 

Largest Boar Ever Killed in the Livermore Hills?

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This boar was killed by my guest, Robert Nelson, in the spring of 2000.

A friend from Alaska came to promote his business at a Sportsman’s Show in Pleasanton. I had been his client on a caribou hunt, in about 1997.

He stayed in town for an extra day and I took him to the hills for a pig hunt. He had never seen a wild pig. About 8 AM, as we sat on top of a ridge overlooking a likely pig hangout, a very large boar appeared about a mile away and he was heading in our direction.

We ran off the ridge and intercepted the boar, which was quite large. He killed the boar, near Williams Gulch, with my Ruger 7mm Mauser (7×57).

To this day it is the largest boar I have ever seen in person – dead or alive.

The Most Beautiful Bird

On a trip to South Africa nearly ten years ago, Linda and I spent two nights at Sun City. On the second day of our stay, I played a round of golf at the Gary Player golf course.

As I stood beside the club house, a lilac breasted roller bird landed in a tree nearby. Grabbing my camera, I moved beneath the tree on which it was perched and attempted to photograph it.

Amazingly the bird flew down from the tree and landed on the lawn about five feet from me. There it stood just long enough for to take two photos.

Here is the result.

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Lilac breasted roller bird at Gary Player golf course in Sun City, South Africa.

This photo was posted on my blog for some time, but I took it down and don’t remember why.

Now it’s back.

First Draw

Actually I was second draw on Saturday for the North pond at the Kerry Club, but hunter number one didn’t show. Therefore my partner, Joe DiDonato, and I had the first pick for a blind. Sometimes that’s good news. Other times it just points out that you can’t always figure out what the ducks are going to do.

We reached our choice,  blind 2, a bit before shooting time and settled in as the first shots were fired – a bit surprised that we couldn’t see any working birds, especially teal.

The guys in the blind to the south of us were covered up and Joe and I could see a line of teal that seemed to be bearing down upon them. I later heard that they limited in 20 minutes and we witnessed it.

Meanwhile Joe and I were off to a slow start, so I took a picture of the sunrise, which was spectacular.

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Then we got our first duck, a fast flying teal that went over the top of us at full speed. Amazingly it came down with one shot. That was not a harbinger of things to come. After that, it seemed like the harder we tried, the worse our shooting became. We did pick off a bird periodically and eventually filled our bag. Lucky for us we each brought plenty of ammo.

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Snapped this photo of Joe with one bird to go. Ended up with 13 teal and a drake wigeon, recovered across the pond after a long chase by Joe and Lola.

Skulls

In my opinion, most skulls are very interesting and nice to look at.

Does that make me weird? I don’t think so. Up on the ranch we have a cow skull sitting on a bank next to one of our roads and it’s been there for a few years. I admire it every time I drive down that road.

Our old camp is an open lean-to with several mountain lion kills hanging on the walls. Three deer skulls and the skull of a boar are prominently displayed. As with the cow skull, I can hardly drive by that camp without checking out those skulls even though I’ve seen them a thousand times.

European-mount skulls with antlers or horns, are proudly displayed in many homes and trophy rooms. It’s not just the protrusions that are attractive, a bleached skull is a thing of beauty and the symmetry has a special feel about it.

This wildebeest is my mini water-buffalo.

wildebeast

A smallish pronghorn I killed with my bow a few years ago is a trophy to me, but not worthy of full shoulder mount treatment, so I had it done European.

pronghorn

Bow-killed boar and warthogs are trophies I also display as European mounts. They are nice to my eye.

One of my favorite trophies is a whitetail skull collected by my guide on a South Dakota hunt that took place about 15 years ago. It died during an outbreak of disease that killed most of the whitetail in the region.

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I purchased the skull from my 19-year-old guide when he decided he needed $50 more than the skull. It was a good deal for each of us.

This skull also tells a story. The buck died along a river and the winter flood buried the skull beneath the gravel of the riverbed. When the water receded, only the right antler was protruding.

My guide spotted the antler while scouting for deer. He was surprised and elated when he pulled the antler from the ground to find that it was attached to the entire skull. You can see that the right antler is bleached white, while the left antler and skull are brown from being underground for a while.

A more recent addition to my skull collection is the skull  of a bird.

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The size and black tip of its bill give away that it is the skull of a scrub jay. I was very happy when I spotted it on the ground while deer hunting. Bird skulls are very fragile.

Simple Goose Jerky

Goose meat makes very good jerky. The meat is very consistent and easy to chew. Here’s the simplest way to make it.

Shoot some geese.

Pick out the preferred geese and save them for the oven.

Breast out the remaining geese.

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Slice the breasts into strips and put them into a marinade of 50% soy sauce and 50%  Worcestershire sauce.

Marinate for 12 to 24 hours depending upon your preference. 24 hours will produce a strong salty flavor.

Dehydrate until dry but still chewy.

After a couple batches you can adjust the marination and drying to make the jerky come out the way you like it best.

Jerky meat is great for carrying with you on future hunts.Be aware of the high salt content. You may not want to eat more than a few pieces in a day.