Duck Wind Down

The last weekend of duck season was a workout.

Guess I’m getting a bit old. Can’t burn the candle at both ends and get away with it.

The Livermore Native Sons Big Buck Contest took place on Saturday and I didn’t want to miss it. That left Friday for a goose hunt and Sunday to pick up decoys at the Kerry Club.

Got to Webb Tract about 10:30 AM and checked the single blind I wanted to hunt. It was not flooded, which made me happy. But, the area around the blind was dense smart weed which made for tough paddling for Lola. We made it work.

The blind had not been hunted all season, so I figured the ducks wouldn’t be too shy of it. Although there we’re many ducks around, I did get chances at ring-necks twice and pintail once. Missed the first couple chances, but knocked down a ring-neck later on.

Specs were pretty active. After the first couple hours of hot sun, the birds began to work. Seemed like everything was going wrong. Hit the first ring-neck, but he sailed out of sight. Then I hit one of the sprig and it sailed away. I went after it almost certain that Lola would find it, but she did not. Could be that it never actually went down.

Lola was struggling to make it through the thick smart weed, so I actually assisted her by holding her up by her dog vest.

Specs kept coming around and finally I shot at a small group thinking there were well within range. Again a bird was hit and it sailed out of sight. I decided to calm down and wait for a shot I couldn’t miss – if there was such a thing.

Finally  a spec came over at about 45 yards and my shot brought it down. Lola swam right past the goose and I had to make the retrieve. She was not having a good day.

At least she turned around and made it back to the blind – with my assistance.

As the afternoon was coming to an end, I checked the time. There was about ten minutes left before the end of shooting time when another spec came over in range and I dumped it. After four misses, I had killed birds on my last three attempts.

After picking up my decoys, cousin Wes appeared in the Yamaha Rhino and gave Lola and I a ride. I felt better after finally connecting. We barbecued specklebellies from my previous hunt for dinner. They were fantastic.

The Big Buck Contest at Basso’s Barn was a lot of fun. The out-of-state bucks were amazing with Jeff  Zuniga winning with an Arizona Strip buck that was humongous. Clayton Koopmann won the A-Zone contest and my Inyo buck nipped Rick Escover’s nice blacktail in the “All-Cal” category.

Met my Kerry Club hunting partner, Tom Billingsley, at the K-Club about nine on Sunday and we hunted for about two hours. Knocked down a couple teal and then hauled decoys.

I won the half-mile race from our blind back to the truck. Tom did have a slight handicap. He was dragging all the decoys in my decoy sled.

Guess that’s story for 2018/19 hunting.

Now it’s time to start thinking about the plan for next season and doing some fundraising for MDF.

 

Jeff Kerry

Jeff and Pluto

Jeff Kerry with Pluto at the Kerry Duck Club.

Today, DU’s Fritz Reid sent this notice to the members of the Kerry Duck club.

Gentlemen of KDC

On 14 Feb Jeff Kerry will be inducted into California Waterfowl Hall of Fame
I encourage you to join the fun
Event is sponsored by CWA 
Cost  $150
Great Napa wine and great lunch
Fine event and great salute to Jeff
Fritz
I’ve known and admired Jeff Kerry for many years. He is a man of great passion and knowledge. He’s a man’s man.
He’s been the man in the silhouette in my blog header since my first post. That was over ten years ago.
Congratulations Jeff, you lived it and earned it.

Revisiting “A Sand County Almanac”

Read A Sand County Almanac for the first time about 32 years ago.

At that time I read it as a hunter, looking specifically for information that would be of value to me as a hunter. I shared the hunter’s lifestyle with Aldo Leopold and wanted to learn more about his philosophy.

I gleaned from the book what I wanted to find and that was it. For years I’ve considered re-reading the book and kept it on my book shelf. It is in very good condition, except for my recent dog ears.

img_6607 a sand county almanac

This time, I read this book as a conservationist and it had much more meaning. Now I have more in common with Aldo Leopold (especially at his age at the time he wrote the book) than I did 32 years ago.

Now I understand why his book was so full of meaning and why it is appropriately called a “classic of conservation” by many people.

Leopold’s views on wilderness, land use and recreation are expressed in great detail in the book. He was spot on.

I’m sure I’ll be reading it again, and again.

Highly recommended.

Beautiful Day on Saturday

Son-in-law, Brett, and I stopped to shoot some clays on the way to the Kerry Club Friday afternoon. Got warmed up with hits and misses.

The barbecued teal and beef filet was great Friday evening. Good selection of wine and nice appetizers. Lots of birds around camp.

The weather was beautiful on Saturday, but we had a late draw and knew that we’d be lucky to get good action.

No wind to slight breeze. The sunrise was amazing.

sunrise at blind f 1-19-19

The first duck of the day was a drake green-wing that disappeared into a tule patch about 200 yards from the blind. Lola made an amazing find and I polished it off with a few follow-up shots. Yes, this was a five-shot (expensive) bird.

lola's long retrieve from blind f

We decided to go with the take-no-prisoners approach and passed nothing up. Finished with a mixed bag. Here’s Brett with our seven birds. He killed at least four of them, maybe more.

brett with mixed blind from blind f, 1-19-19

Made it back to camp in time to have a burger cooked by master chef, John Staats. Thanks John.

Wednesday at Kerry Club

Wasn’t sure what to expect on Wednesday, but dinner at Woolgrowers on Tuesday night was good and the company was even better. Whenever you get a half-dozen duck hunters together you know what to expect.

Sailor talk and duck talk. That’s what we had. Didn’t drink too much. Got bed by 9:30.

bob at sunrise blind bb 1-16-19 img_6590

Bob with the obligatory sunrise pose. It was a beauty.

The wind was brisk and the early teal worked the blind nicely. Hit the first teal I shot at. Got a little cocky as Lola went out to retrieve. As she approached, the bird got up and flew away. Hmmmm…what next.

We had a five or six ducks in the first hour. Then things slowed down.

Finally I knocked down another teal. Hit the water in the same spot where the flyaway duck had hit. He was alive so this time I climbed from the blind to back up Lola. I’m not so agile any more so I struggled to remove myself from the pit and reached for a shell to reload as I straightened.

Before I could put the shell in the barrel of my double, the bird sprang into the air and caught the wind. A marsh hawk gave chase, but the little duck was gone.

Two in one day.

Anyway, we had a good time. Lola got a workout. We finished up about 11:00. Had eleven ducks, uh, I mean ten. Buffleheads don’t count. I won’t say who shot it except that it wasn’t me. Made a nice shot though.

rich and lola chasing a lively teal blind bb 1-16-19 img_6591

Bob snapped this shot of Lola and I on a retrieve that lasted about 20 minutes. She’s still recovering.

Delta Goose Hunt

Last weekend found me back in my old haunts. Webb Tract.

img_6579 1-13-19 at ferry

Forgot to take any photos while hunting so Rob snapped one at the Ferry. The three specs I shot were old birds and large.

Brother, Rob, and I returned to the site of our first duck club where we still find very good hunting for ducks, geese and pheasant.

It was approximately 40 years ago that we saw an advertisement in the Sportsman’s Corner of the SF Chronicle Sporting Green. Saturday was not unlike many trips to Webb. In Byron there was a sense that fog could be forming.

On Cyprus Road, just shy of Bethel Island, fog was visible. On Jersey Island Road, the fog thickened and by False River, visibility was down to about 100 yards.

But, it didn’t last long. By the time I’d driven across the island, watched geese, unloaded my gear, changed clothes and had a bite to eat, the fog was on its way out. Didn’t matter. I was happy to be surrounded by thousands of geese and ducks knowing that something good was about to happen.

Rob showed up shortly after me and we took turns hauling decoys out to our respective blinds. He chose a water blind with the idea of hunting sprig and I chose a semi-dry field in search of specs.

The goose hunt was good with some minor exceptions. Once ready in the blind, with my decoys exactly the way I like them, it wasn’t 15 minutes before I heard specs calling from my left. They came into sight about 150 yards out in the dwindling fog. Right away they spotted the white-front goose shell decoys I’d placed along the edge of the field.

I called softly, they were close and turned away towards the decoys. Slowing, they put their feet down and helicoptered downward. This was too good.

When about 10 feet over the decoys, they came to their senses and flared off the plastic birds. I called again and they turned towards me flying low, about 30 feet in the air. They were about to pass less than 30 yards from me when I stood and fired….whoops….I mean almost fired. My semi-auto clicked. Yes, a mechanical malfunction.

There were better moments to follow and despite more malfunctions, I did manage to bring down a spec before the afternoon was over and also bagged a couple in the morning. Both hunts were exciting and three specs is enough to motivate me to go back again before the season is out.

On Sunday, three more small groups of specs worked the decoys and call – passing by in range. I managed to bring two more birds. Lola made great recoveries on all three birds. By recovery I mean she chased them down and held them at bay. She might have retrieved them, but at 12 I’m giving her a break from heavy loads.

Without her I might have lost any of the three birds that went down as they were all very lively.

I’ve got an appointment to get my shotgun professionally cleaned on Friday.

dsc_0749 1-12-19 gbh on false river cropped

This adventurous great blue heron was floating False River towards the ocean on a boat made of water hyacinth. Photographed him from the Ferry on the way home.

Hunt Lived up to the Hype

At the Kerry Club, the Wednesday (1-9-19) duck hunting lived up to my  hype. The wind blew. The sky was full of clouds and ducks.

The wind speed was about 10 knots with strong gusts. The shooting was loud and continuous for the first half hour.

My hunting partner, Tom Billingsley and I didn’t rush. It took us about 15 minutes to  adjust the decoys that surrounded blind 5, open the blind, ready the dog, put in our ear plugs and load up.

By the time we glanced skyward, the birds were wired. My first shot was a miss at a pintail drake. It didn’t take long to figure out that we needed to pick our shots and not waste our shells. On days like this one, misses are common and shells sometimes a premium.

We missed a couple teal. Then a diver came in humming along from my right side. He was on the deck. I put a big lead on him and he hit the water. I wasn’t sure what type of diver he was until Lola returned to the blind. It was a beautiful drake redhead.

img_6575, 1-9-19 redhead

Tom showing off his face mask and my redhead, the first duck of the day.

We finally got going and hit some teal. Lola (she turned 12 last week)  did a good job on the retrieves.

By nine o’clock we could see some of the hunters closing up their blinds and heading home. We weren’t in a hurry. We had a long way to go, but it appeared that there was no need to rush.

About mid-day, a pair of drake sprig appeared from the north and we called steadily as they approached. As they passed to the west of us, we stood and dropped both of them. Twelve down and two to go.

img_6574, 1-9-19

We each knocked down a pintail about mid-day.

We waited around for two more sprig, but after an hour and a half we gave in to the temptation to  end the hunt by shooting two more teal. The wind had died. It was so calm that put out our jerk strings. They helped a little as a few teal landed near the blind.

Around 2 PM we dropped two more green-wings. It was a very good duck day.

Hopefully the ducks will be around for the remainder of the season. We’ll see. Heading to the Delta for the weekend. That could be special.