Last Day of the 2017/18 Waterfowl Season

My conflicts and my blind partner’s work prevented either of us from hunting the last Saturday, so we postponed the hunt ’til Sunday.

Started off pretty good when a few teal buzzed us early at blind C. We had three birds in the first hour and were thinking that things might turn out OK.

early retrieve last day IMG_4187

Unfortunately many hunters were eager to finish picking up decoys, so after 8 AM, the hunting completely turned off with ATVs on every levee.

We still had three birds and hadn’t fired a shot for some time when the last of the other hunters pulled out. About that time a gaggle of snow geese broke up and headed our way. We put in some #2 shot and each of us dropped a snow goose.

Last day snow IMG_4189

Tom had quite long chase while Lola retrieved my goose.

We sat it out for another hour and a half  and Tom dropped a teal before giving in and picking up the decoys at blind 4.

Every season is unique as was this one. Had more limits than goose eggs, but a fair number of each.

Lola was rejuvenated this season and I’m hopeful that she’s got a couple more years of hunting left. Could say the same for me.

 

 

Livermore-Pleasanton MDF Banquet Coming March 9

The date set for the 2018 Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) banquet in Livermore is March 9. As usual the event will take place at the Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Avenue. Doors open at 5:30 PM.

The price for a single adult ticket is $80, which entitles the holder to a buffet dinner by Mike’s Branding Iron, a one-year membership in MDF and a gift at the door.

Other ticket prices: $125 Couple, $45 youth, $45 MDF Life member.

Proceeds of the raffle and auction will contribute to the MDF purpose which is, “To ensure the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitats.”

For more information or to purchase tickets call Ryan Heal (925)337-6707 or Randy Morrison (707)829-5904.

Here’s a link to the MDF web site: http://www.muledeer.org/

 

 

Help Stop the Decline of Waterfowl

Jeff and Pluto

Jeff Kerry with Pluto at the Kerry Duck Club.

Jeff Kerry is one of the most ardent waterfowl supporters in California. Recently he contacted me and asked me to support a cause to stop the decline of waterfowl habitat, waterfowl numbers and waterfowl hunting.

Nobody has more credibility to discuss this topic than Jeff. I’m supporting his effort and the first thing I need to do is post his letter here and tell you how to sign a petition that will be used to demonstrate support for this effort.

Here is his letter. Double click and it will appear in PDF format.

Help Stop the Decline by Jeff Kerry

If Jeff sounds excited, it’s because he is. He’s been managing wetlands nearly all his life and he knows what he’s talking about.

That’s why I ask that you sign this petition and offer financial support if you can. We need to make some changes in California before it’s too late. Click on the link below.

http://chn.ge/2BfeLpd

Thanks. Much more on this topic as the issue progresses.

Sunrise at Blind D cropped

 

 

 

Late-Season Waterfowl Hunting

 

Waterfowl hunting is dynamic. Here are some of my thoughts on late- season duck and goose hunting.

1.) Location is always important, but in late season hunting, the locations change and are impacted by the history of local hunting pressure. If you must, get out of the usual blind and build a temporary blind where there has not been one before. When you’re done with the temporary blind, tear it down so others won’t ruin your new spot. You can rebuild it later if you choose. Nooks and crannies can hold waterfowl. 25 feet of hog wire and wooden stakes covered with natural material makes a good two-man blind and takes only an hour to build.

2.) Weather is extra important. Late season ducks and geese are educated. Wind and fog are two of my favorite weather events. Winds in the ten to fifteen miles an hour range are good, stronger can cause the birds to sulk. As for fog, not a ground fog, but a high fog with cloud cover that forces birds to fly beneath it.

3.) Shooting. Keep in mind that these are experienced birds. They will fly faster and flair sooner. Shots will be longer and therefore leads will often be longer. Use the right choke tube and bring a couple types of loads for changing conditions.

4.) Food sources. Look for areas newly flooded, where new food may become inundated. Remember that invertebrates can become a new food supply. Cold weather forces waterfowl to feed more often.

5.) Bring your dog, but also bring an old yard chair or other type of stand if you’re freelancing. A chair is easy to camo up.  And a dog vest is extremely important in cold weather.

6.) Choosing your shotgun. If longer shots are necessary, bring your long-barreled gun. On the other hand if shooting ducks over decoys, you will probably prefer a short-barreled gun, like an over/under as the birds will probably not slow down over the decoys like they may do earlier in the season.

7.) Decoys. You need only a few decoys during the late season. Make them as realistic as possible and place them I spots where you have seen ducks or geese feeding or resting recently.  A jerk string may be effective during still weather, but don’t overdue it.

8.) Calling. Use specific tactics. Don’t call any more than is necessary. If a bird is heading your way, let him come. If he turns away, give him one short toot. On the whistle, test different sounds and see what works. The sounds that waterfowl make during the late season may be different than what you’ve grown to expect. Listen to them.

9.) Make a game plan before the hunt. Consider all of the above and be prepared with the right gear when you arrive at your hunting destination. Have a back-up plan in case other hunters mess up your primary plan.

10.) As the season passes, waterfowl shift patterns continuously. They will probably stay in a pattern until hunting pressure or habitat changes force them to change. Think back to previous seasons to recall patterns you observed in past seasons and be prepared to exploit your knowledge when you see them occurring again. Once hunting pressure forces the birds to shift, they may not be in that pattern again until next year.

 

 

 

Green-wing Teal and the Curse of Seven

DSC_0034 teal and other ducks in a closed area near the KDC

Teal have always been a contributor to my duck harvest. However, until the last three years, they have been a minor contributor. Things changed when I decided to join the Kerry Duck Club, located near Volta in the North Grasslands.

Teal are about 90 percent of the take at KDC. You can try as hard as you like, but you’ll never shoot a limit of ducks at KDC that doesn’t have a majority of green-wing teal. They are dominant.

Because of the order of the draw, I didn’t have a chance to start out with one of the better blinds so I decided to hang around until the first wave of hunters was done and then fill in. It was probably ten and eleven o’clock before I made it to the blind and I was by myself.

I chose the same blind that I hunted last Saturday and my reasoning was that I might have a chance to shoot a goose (hopefully a white-front) as the geese have been present.

As I should have expected, The birds that were present were mostly green-wings. For almost an hour I watched them as they flew by, dive bombed my decoys and sometimes even landed in them. I waited and watched without shooting.

As long as I didn’t intend to shoot them, they looked like easy meat. Then, I finally decided to shoot teal as there didn’t seem to be any other options. On the first shot, the drake I was trying to shoot bobbed just as I pulled the trigger and I missed him, but surprisingly I hit the hen teal that was with him.

I was one for one – sort of.

The next teal came in about regular speed and he should have been a dead duck. Bang. bang – he flew off. At least I was still one duck for three shots – sort of.

And so it went. I wanted to hit them all and prove to myself that I could hit teal. After sixteen shots I had six teal. I was feeling OK about myself. Then the lull struck. The teal either wouldn’t fly at all, or they flew around the blind just out of range.

Every hunter on the club had killed seven ducks in the morning. I couldn’t quit until I had seven – I’d be shamed.

Every time I reached for a sip of water or a bite to eat, two teal would buzz by before I could get a shot off. Then two teal flew directly into me and I wiffed on two shots. I felt weary. I couldn’t leave.

Then came the shell count. Two in my gun, two in the box and four more in my pocket. Certainly I would get the last teal before they were gone.

I drake green-wing flew by along the edge of the decoys. I could hit him. Boom, miss – boom, miss.

Now six shells were left. The pattern repeated. Confidently I pulled up on the next bird. Boom – no joy.

More time passed and once again I wished that I could just quit with six teal and be happy. If I did, I’d never live it down.

A teal came in low on the water, I swung on it and missed. Then it turned skyward, presenting a unmissable shot. I held slightly in front of the bird’s beak and fired.

Down he went. I sent Lola and watched her retrieve the bird.

image2 Lola with teal

Lola with green-wing teal. Photo by Brett Kelly

I would not be the hunter responsible for lowering the KDC average for the day to below seven. That’s right, everybody got a limit of ducks. Without counting, I’d guess that to be about 25 hunters. When I reached camp I marked ’em down in the book. Rich Fletcher, blind BB –  7 green-wing teal.

 

 

 

Brett’s Day at the KDC

Thanks to our Kerry Duck Club partners we had a great “pot luck” style barbecue on Friday evening where we drank excellent wine and feasted on barbecued duck and goose.

The traditional Friday night duck stories got Brett in the right frame of mind for his hunt, but we weren’t sure about our chances of drawing one of the better blinds as my draw number was down the line a bit.

Turned out the draw went our way and we were able to hunt an excellent blind that shot very well and there was no shortage of ducks.

Since he had not hunted ducks for over two years, Brett and I anticipated it would take a while for him to get on target with the ducks. We expected that we would need more than one box of shells apiece if we were to fill our limits – so we carried 90 shells to the blind.

We didn’t expect that Brett would have just one duck when his first box was empty. He did kill his second teal on the first shell of the second box – from a new shotgun.

Brett's duck IMG_4150

Lola had a great day retrieving all thirteen teal and a goose. Here she is with Brett’s first duck of 2018.

That was a significant change to the program. It seemed as though something wasn’t right, so after the first box was gone, we agreed that maybe we should trade shotguns. The barrel on his Weatherby  pump shotgun was a bit long for shooting teal at close range and the stock seemed to be a bit long for him, especially given the rather heavy coat he was wearing.

We had nothing to lose, so I handed Brett my Browning over-under and after swinging on a few imaginary ducks,  he loaded it with some 2 3/4 inch #4 shot Kent shot shells.

first duck IMG_4152

The masked duck slayer with his first duck of the 2017/18 duck season.

When the next teal arrived, Brett shood and shouldered the gun. The bird turned to Brett’s right and flew low over the decoys. He proceeded to shoot it dead. New gun, first shot, one dead green-wing. We were learning again that when shooting quick shots at fast, close ducks, a fast swinging, short-barreled gun is an advantage. Neither Brett nor I shot teal well with the Weatherby and its 28 inch barrel.

The only bird I hit while shooting the Weatherby was an Aleutian goose and it came by on a straight line at about 45 yards, a target better fitted to the longer barreled pump.

But Brett wasn’t the only one struggling. Took me a box and a half of shells to kill my seven teal. In the end, it got down to one shell to fill Brett’s limit. Out of the 90 shells we had carried to the blind, only one was left.

A drake green-wing teal came at the blind from the south. It was low and coming fast. As Brett stood, the bird reacted by swinging to Brett’s left. Brett swung smoothly with purpose and fired.

final take IMG_4158

The bird continued on its way, so we ended the day with thirteen teal and the Aleutian goose that must have been lost.

We had a great time and will retell the story of our 2018 KDC hunt many times.

 

 

 

The Greatest Chase

I’d been standing next to a cattail patch 30 yards long and ten yards wide for more than 10 minutes when I thought I might have seen a glimpse of the duck Lola was after. I moved to improve my view.

Lola was in a frenzy. She’d been running ever since the green-wing teal I’d sailed had hit the water. When my eleven-year-old retriever first caught up with it, the bird made it into the air with feet dragging.

After a 50 yard chase, Lola and the bird disappeared behind a large cattail patch. I knew I’d have to shoot the bird again if Lola was to retrieve it, so I waded the 150 yards from the blind to the patch as fast as I could.

Now I was trying to confirm the presence of the bird that Lola knew was there. Getting a glimpse of the little duck was important. Because once I saw it, I would be as determined as Lola.

That’s when the bird swam out of the cattail about 25 yards from me. I raised my gun, but Lola was in the way. And, she hadn’t seen it with anything but her nose.

I moved quickly to the other end of the cattail with renewed belief that the bird would soon be dead.

Another ten minutes passed before Lola circled my end of the cattail. With Lola thrashing cattail with her body and tail, the duck was forced from its hiding spot and popped into an opening.

“Pow,” the chase was over.

Lola picked up the bird and began to slow-walk towards the blind – her best home run trot. For a moment I considered taking the duck from her, but she needed to carry it back herself.

The entire retrieve had taken about 20 minutes and Lola was running almost the entire time. My reaction was over the top. Funny how the energy of a dog can transfer so easily to a human.