Goose Success

Even with lots of geese, it’s not necessarily a cinch to kill them in Delta corn fields.

While it’s often possible to find Aleutians and snows in range, even on sunny days,  white-front geese tend to shy away from anything that could be a hunter’s blind and they also are decoy shy.

But last Wednesday afternoon, with few other hunters around, my friend Bob and I had some good chances at speckle-bellies and Aleutians – knocking down twelve of the dark geese between us.

IMG_4051 afternoon shoot

Our take was five white-fronts and seven Aleutians, shown here on the back of my utility trailer.

IMG_4053 Mt Diablo sunset

The Wednesday evening sunset was a prelude to the bright sun that Thursday would bring.

On Thursday morning we killed one more of each species before the morning sun broke through. It was a productive hunt.

IMG_4054 December sun burning through fog

We were also able to kill one more spec and also an Aleutian before the morning fog gave way to bright sun and made it almost impossible to decoy the birds within range. The solution at that point might have been to pass shoot, but we’d had enough and wrapped up the hunt early.

We’ll hang these geese for about five days and let them sit in the fridge for a couple more days before making them table fare. The specs are good no matter what but the Aleutians can use a little help from the aging process.

A Comment about Grizzly Island


Great mallard habitat on Sherman Island


Received this comment today. It caused me to spend some time thinking, so here is my response for all to see.

Hey Rich, Sorry to ask a question in this forum but I can’t find a way to send a private message. I read your book about duck hunting recently (I found a used copy on amazon). I have been hunting the bay area for the past few years and noticed that in your book on the section for grizzly island you made a comment about it being a “fair weather” area since it is in a delta/bay. I have not heard much about the difference in hunting near a bay regarding weather and was curious if you had any more insight. On a recent “perfect duck hunting day”, (ie rain, wind fog etc.” in napa, my buddies and I watched the weather do nothing for us to get the birds down.



Mark: Thanks for your question. It brings back memories.
I think that original comment in the book was based upon “reputation.” However, here is some anecdotal evidence based upon hunting experiences.
I’ve hunted the south bay salt ponds where puddle and diving ducks would raft up on sunny days and hunted the western portion of the Delta a lot. I’ve also hunted the Suisun Bay. Mallards are often very happy to land on sunny days where they find pockets of water such as those on Ryer Island where they sit and soak up sun. Boat required.
On mild sunny days, ducks are happy to move west and loaf. This is probably true before they enter the cold months when they typically need to feed more often to maintain their body fat. Sometimes not burning up calories is as important as eating them.
In the late 1970’s, we began hunting Webb Tract and at dusk the pintail would fly by in waves. About the end of shooting time they would start landing. We believed they spent their days rafted up on the salt water of San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun bays.
When we first started hunting Sherman Island around 1995, on the evening before opening day, we stood on the levee and watched the mallards arrive at sunset. They showed up in droves with the sunset at their back. Watching the mallards arrive became an annual event.
I’ve seen days when a big, black, fast-moving storm moved into the bay and observed ducks fleeing east seeking protected areas and more food. One day while hunting on Sherman Island during a storm, it seemed as though the ducks had all departed further inland. We were about ready to give up when, during late morning, the clouds broke up and the sun came out.
On that day, a good friend and I sat in a tall stand of aster and watched flock after flock of mallards arrive out of the east. We were amazed by the event and we had a great shoot.
Ducks can handle cold weather, but they prefer nice weather. Why not?
So I don’t know if Grizzly Island is always a fair weather refuge, but it probably is more often than not. Over the last 21 seasons, the Grizzly Island area has changed – especially related to human intrusion,  water quality and duck food.


Sherman Island is only a half-dozen miles from the Suisun Marsh.
On a year when Grizzly Island flooded, one of the Grizzly Island tule elk bulls swam all the way to Sherman Island where he hung out on our property for several months.

Overnight At Webb Tract


After two months on the sideline, the Airstream is back in action. The overhaul included new tires, new wheels, two new windows, new floor, serious cleaning, replacing many missing pop-rivets, repairing screens, rehanging the door, ripping out all the places where rats and mice could hide, killing several hundred wasps and blocking mouse holes. I even washed the exterior.

Delivered it to Webb Tract on Saturday morning and spent Saturday night on sea trial. It did well.

Here she is as she sat in my driveway on Friday afternoon.

IMG_3923 AirstreamUpon arrival at Webb Tract, I was surprised to find that the corn harvest on our property was complete. After setting up the trailer, Lola and I went after the pheasants.

IMG_3934 Lola and rooster

It wasn’t long before we had our first bird.

After a couple of hours hiking in the thick cover, we jumped quite a few roosters, but couldn’t get another good shot. I missed a rooster that was probably out of range anyway.

Back at camp, we took some time to complete a few chores before heading out to try for geese. There were plenty flying. Before we reached the decoys, a rooster jumped and flew to my right across a large ditch. I couldn’t resist the shot and the bird went down about 100 yards out.

Another bird rattled around in the bushes and soon Lola put it into the air. The second bird headed to my left and I didn’t miss. Unfortunately, the first bird dropped in a unpenetrable patch of cockleburrs. Got lots of scratches, but not the bird.

No luck on geese, not even a close call. Slept well in the Airstream, on a new cot.

The morning sunrise was an indication of the weather to come later in the day.

IMG_3940 sunrise

The morning hunt was once again a hike through thick cover. The birds were hard to find, but I did manage to miss one rooster and jump up a couple other birds out of range.

On the way out, I stopped next to a goose grind and took a few photos.

Lola and I were pretty pooped on the way home.

IMG_3946 sleeping

Lola crashed in the back of the truck on the ride home.

Aleutian Geese Arrive

Spent most of yesterday at Mayberry Farms on Sherman Island. I’m refurbishing my Airstream trailer and the repair job is progressing. During the afternoon heat, I stepped out of the trailer often to cool down.

Overhead geese were calling. It was the sound of Aleutian geese.

Being early in fall, I was taken by surprise. But, after reviewing some material on the internet I now realize they were actually right on time. It is normal for them to arrive in the San Joaquin Valley during early October. Yesterday their migration flight took thousands of them over the top of Sherman Island.

They just kept coming. String after string of geese. It was a sight to see.

Although a few geese flew lower than most, it appeared that they all overflew Sherman Island, but they will be back.

When the Delta corn crop is harvested, they will return to feast on the spillage left by farmers. That will be some time during the months of November and December.

Mayberry Wading Birds

Mayberry Farms is not what it once was. There was a day when we had a duck club with about 150-200 acres of shallow-flooded seasonal marsh. At times we had mud flats covered with dowitchers, stilts and avocets.

When the shallow ponds were converted to deep perenial ponds, the shore birds disappeared from our hunting territory. But occasionally they return to wade the shallow water in the fields adjacent to Mayberry.

Here are a few that were present on Sunday.

There were a few other birds around as well.