Bob’s DU Duck Barbecue

My good friend and hunting partner, Bob Smallman taught me a new angle on barbecued duck. He call’s it DU teal as he claims he learned it from a recipe created by Duck Unlimited. However, it is so basic that probably many people have recreated it over time.

Here’s how it goes: Shoot a teal (or other duck) and have your dog retrieve it.

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Admire the bird, take a photo and treat it with respect.

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

Pluck the bird (s) with care, removing as many pin feathers as possible. Remove head, wings and feet. Then slice down the breastbone and filet each side of the bird, keeping only the breast and leg on each side.

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The good news is you don’t have to get messy. The intestines stay inside the bird.

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What you have now is almost 100% meat.  Season with your favorites.

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These are my go-to seasonings. Heat the (gas) barbecue to 400 degrees. Marinate the filets in vinegar, oil and seasonings. Flop them onto the red-hot grill for 2 or 3 minutes. They will flame up nicely. Flip them over for 1 or 2 minutes depending upon how well done you want them. Be careful. They cook very quickly.

Remove them from the grill. They should look something like this.

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Can’t beat this. You will not find any pinfeathers as any that were there are now burned off. I’m hungrey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decoy Day

Many hands make light work. That is no better demonstrated than on decoy day at the Kerry Club, which is located in the North Grasslands adjacent to the Volta State Wildlife Area. With about 20 blinds that need decoys, it is necessary for the members to contribute a day of their time to paint, replace line on about 2500 decoys, kill the black widows, clean the inside of the blinds, add new “brush” to the outside, remove peeling paint, add a coat of new paint and grease the stems on the rotating stools.

Decoy day is also the day when members participate in a random draw for their place in the blind rotation. The rotation assures that each member gets a fair share of the best blinds. On good days all the blinds shoot well, but on slow days a good blind pays off as there are a few blinds that almost always shoot well.

On opening day members shoot at the blind they decoy, after that the rotation is in effect.

Each blind has a traditional pattern for decoy placement based upon location in the blind relative to the prevailing winds and also relative to its position in the pond.

Our blind is located on the southeast corner of a large pond. Because the prevailing winds are out of the northwest, we need to have about half our decoys on the southeast side of the blind to attempt to get the birds to swing around the blind and come back in from the southeast. On days when the wind blows out of the south, the blind usually shoots best, but on opening day their are usually enough ducks no matter where the wind comes from.

Decoy lines must be 1/8 of an inch in diameter and of the proper material. The weights must be at least eight ounces to assure the decoys do not float away (in powerful storms, some do anyway).

Tom and I choose to keep the ducks in groups of like species. About half of our decoys are teal, maybe a third are pintails and the rest are a mix.

We have one shoveler decoy that floated in from another blind and a half-dozen mallard.

You can see from the photos that the Kerry Club is managed for wide-open water. The bag is mostly teal, with pintail, shovelers and a few divers mixed in.

December 29 at the Kerry Club

The barbecue on Friday night was great. Had my son-in-law Brett with me as a guest.

The sunrise was nice.

Not many ducks. Came in with three green-wing teal and a shoveler.

Lots of time to take photos. Here are a few.

IMG_6534 (2) sunrise at blind C cropped

The sun came up bright-hot.

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Lola came in with the first teal.

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There were lots of swallows, but not lots of ducks.

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This swallow was very close.

 

That was about it. Stayed too long. Kept thinking something good would happen.

Brett got a few ZZZZs in the blind.

2018 Duck Opener

Arrival at the Kerry Club was unimpressive. As I passed the Ingomar Packing Company ponds, I was surprised that there were zero ducks. When I reached the Kerry Club, I could see a limited number of ducks on the ponds, but not as many as I would normally expect.

Once in camp, I began to look around and I could see some birds working. It was mid-day, too early to arrive at any conclusions about duck numbers.

Other hunters began to arrive about the same time as me. Enthusiasm was high.

Everybody let their labs loose and it was mayhem. My Airstream was in sad shape after a long off-season, but a quick clean-up put it into acceptable shape.

The traditional dinner was excellent with surf and turf with all the trimmings. Parking was at a premium. Camp was about as crowded as I’ve seen it.

Here are some shots from Friday.

 

Being in the “senior” group, I laid myself to rest at 9:00 PM. The younger group was still going strong.

Not a sound could be heard at 5:00 AM when I turned on the Airstream lights, but it wasn’t long before the camp came to life and several more hunters drove up ready for the hunt.

The walk to blind 4 was pleasant. Most of the other hunters rode ATVs so Lola and I were about the last to settle in. My partner, Tom Billingsley, was working so I had the blind to myself. I took my time.

Just after shooting time I snapped this photo of the horizon. As you can see, Lola was ready. She’ll be 12 in January.

IMG_6298 Lola waits at sunrise reset

As is the norm, the ponds were void of ducks by the time everybody was in place, but it wasn’t long before birds poured in, mostly teal and shovelers, but there also quite a few pintail.

My first shot was at a drake pintail. I missed on the first shot, but hit him on the second. He started down, but I lost track of him in the mix. Lola hadn’t seen him.

Bad start. I unhooked Lola and climbed out of the blind, heading in the right direction. After the water cleared of birds, I had no idea where the drake had disappeared. Rather than search, I opted to head back to the blind. Didn’t want to ruin everybody’s hunt.

After my first screw-up, I proceeded to miss the next eight shots at teal. They were humming, but the problem was me, I knew I was aiming and that never works.

Finally I got my sighting figured out and knocked down a teal. Lola made the retrieve.

From that point on, my shooting was better. I passed on a boat-load of teal while trying to get a good shot at pintail. Finally I dropped a drake sprig dead and Lola made the retrieve.

Next I knocked down a green-wing that was a swimmer. I turned Lola loose. She was within inches of the bird, but could not catch up with it. After she turned the corner into some tules, I followed but lost sight of the action. Last year she would have retrieved this bird, but I wasn’t sure where it went and I didn’t want to stay out of the blind, so I called her off and she reluctantly returned to the blind with me, birdless. The fact that she was willing to give up was a sign of her age.

As the morning wore on it was mindful of other Kerry Club openers that went down in a similar way. There was the debate about whether to shoot pintail first or last. There was the amazing difficulty of hitting shot-at teal that never slowed down. There was the worry of shooting a spoony by mistake.

I got my second sprig, my sixth bird. It was getting late as we began the wait for a seventh bird. As sun rose higher, Lola was finished and so was I.

We closed out one shy of a limit. As we neared camp, Bob Smallman drove his ATV out to give us a lift. It was hot and the ride was appreciated.

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The sunrise was complete as I chased after Lola and a swimmer teal that we never found.

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Lola with a drake pintail.

Opening day hunts are a small portion of a duck season. Unlike most other duck hunt  days, they are generally predictable. The emotions, the ducks and the shooting.

 

 

Why a Habitat Committee to Oversee Public Hunting Areas?

IMG_3909 Sunrise from Blind 2bWetland management is a combination of science and art. A habitat committee should be run by an individual with many  years of experience in wetland development and maintenance.  A year or two of experience is nice, but marsh environments are dynamic. Weather is one of the major contributors to how a marsh grows and weather changes are dramatic and inevitable.

The more years one observes and manipulates marshland, the more they realize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for creating and maintaining a marsh. The managers of individual public hunting areas should welcome advise and consultation with experienced marsh managers in the public and private sector. Marsh managers cannot rely on one technique applied over and over again when managing a wetland.

The habitat committee must be made up of individuals who are passionate about habitat and who are able to work with other people for the greater good. The leader of the habitat committee must be able to nurture a teamwork environment with participants in the agency and public sector.

The major marshlands of the California refuge system are located in areas critical to migratory waterfowl. Intertwined with these public wetlands are many private wetlands and related agriculture. Initially, the California wildlife refuges were created expressly to reduce the impact migratory waterfowl were having on farmers crops.

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Ag lands like corn and rice provide short term food for waterfowl, but a seasonal marsh provides longer-term food as well as other habitat values.

The extent to which the initial motivation for public hunting areas has evolved can be argued. However the existence of private waterfowl hunting areas is a given and how the public areas are managed, especially regarding water and irrigation, has a major impact and direct impact on nearby private lands. This is another reason for a habitat committee with members with varied backgrounds.

One thing that is very clear to me, is that management of public hunting areas is a job that requires an understanding of hunters and the hunting culture. The passion of the hunter cannot be emulated or described by somebody who does not hunt.

The habitat committee should make sure that managers of public hunting areas understand that, for the most part, habitat on public hunting areas is there because of hunters and as a result, hunters want opportunity.

It’s always nice to be able to take photos of sunrises and decoys or observe seagulls, snipe, sandpipers, avocet and stilts, but a marsh without ducks and geese has no use for hunting.

We need a habitat committee in California. Tell the California Fish and Game Commission today. Sign the petition.

Here’s the link: http://chn.ge/2BfeLpd

 

 

 

California’s Public Waterfowl Hunting Areas

California is blessed with numerous public hunting areas. Many of those are waterfowl refuges where acquisition and management of the land has been and continues to be funded primarily with money garnered from sales of federal duck stamps or taxes on firearms and ammunition. This means primarily duck hunters.

In California you can break down the refuge system into four distinct areas. Northeastern California, the Northern (Sacramento River) portion of the Central Valley, the Southern (San Joaquin) portion of the Central Valley and the Imperial Valley of southeastern California.

State Wildlife Areas are managed  by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and National Wildlife Refuges are managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). With a couple exceptions, the hunting program on all public hunting areas is managed by the State.

Currently there is a petition being circulated by Jeff Kerry, a very dedicated hunter and developer of duck habitat and also good friend of water-fowlers. He is seeking support for a plan to create more oversight by public hunting interests on the lands managed by CDFW and USFWS. A petition for a show of support is being circulated. I have personally signed on.

A few years ago, the California Waterfowl Association supported legislation requiring the CDFW to accommodate a Habitat Conservation Committee to provide public input into how the habitat on hunting areas is managed.

The effort met with resistance from the CDFW staff and an alternative solution was negotiated. The current system requires CDFW to hold meetings for hunters each year prior to the opening of duck season. Although these meetings may be productive in other ways, and they should not be abandoned,  it is unlikely that they will result in improved habitat conditions.

A habitat committee would review plans for annual planting, manipulation and flooding. The committee would be advised as to water allotments and how they would be applied as irrigation is the most important aspect of wetland management. Water is the difference between a seasonal marsh and just plain upland. Water is important before, during and after duck season.

Based upon the information I’ve gathered, I am now even more convinced that a Habitat Management Committee is needed to review how California hunting areas are managed. The committee needs access to management plans and the areas themselves.

I’m continuing to urge public area hunters to sign the petition. More to come as I continue to investigate.

Go to: http://chn.ge/2BfeLpd