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.

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.

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.

First Wednesday at the Kerry Club – 2019

Hunting turned around yesterday.

Why? Maybe the cold weather made the ducks hungry. Maybe the lack of moonlight made them more active during the day. Maybe winter is wearing the ducks down. Maybe freezing in the north forced more ducks to move south.

Whatever. There were more ducks available. My guest, Dominic, and I managed to come home with ten teal and a greenhead. First mallard of the season.

Many hunters went home with limits. Here are a few photos.

img_6561 sunset cropped and resized

Nice sunset on Tuesday evening.

 

 

 

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.

IMG_6302 sunrise complete

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

IMG_6307 first pintail of '18 cropped

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.

 

 

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.