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.

August Coming to a Close

IMG_7060 sunrise at Almanor cropped

Spent last week at Lake Almanor. The fishing was rough, but there was some promise.

My friend Bob Smallman and I searched for fish at Almanor without success. We did find some fish on our fishfinder, but only one hit during the entire effort and we didn’t hook him.

IMG_7001 New P-Boat

Here’s Rob with the new boat at it sat behind the Bass Pro store in San Jose.

I’ve recently invested in a pair of downriggers, so now I need to learn how to operate them. Looks like YouTube time. Linda and I cruised the lake in our new boat – quite fun, but it is definitely a lot of work managing it and getting it ready for action.

IMG_7071 Linda cruising Almanor

Linda enjoyed the comfort of the boat which can seat eight people.

While at Almanor, Rob was in Alaska fishing for Coho salmon. I’m sure he’ll have some photos that he’ll share.

My neighbor at Almanor drew a X6A archery deer tag and came home with a whopper.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with my doctor and I hope I’ll come home with a good  understanding of what to expect with my ankle as it continues to heal. Right now I’m walking fine, but not setting any land speed records. His input will help me plan my deer hunting. The Open-Zone tag will play a big role in my hunt as the extra weeks before the seasons close should allow me to hunt in a near-normal fashion.

If all goes as planned, on Tuesday we’ll be heading back to Almanor. I know where some fish live. Now I need to find out how to get to them.

In the meantime I spent a couple hours today messing with decoys as duck season is approaching. Here are a few of the birds in the project.

Yesterday I cleaned out the freezer and smoked the salmon remaining from last season.

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These were Silvers from last September’s trip to AK. Still in very good shape.

That’s about it for August, unless I get into some fish this week. Most of the Labor Day Weekend will be occupied by watching the grandkids as they explore the outdoors around the lake.

Nice to be on my feet again.

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.

 

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.

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.

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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.

 

Prime Time for Ducks

 

 

Take the day off and go duck hunting tomorrow.

If you can’t go early, go late.

Tomorrow will likely be one of the best days for duck hunting during this California season.

If you like quick limits, you may set a record tomorrow morning. If you like wigeon, you should be in good shape. If you haven’t killed many pintail this year, you should be able to get two tomorrow.

Go for good eaters – no shovelers, cinnamon teal or gadwall. Don’t shoot hens!

If you’ve got a mallard hole, sit still and wait for close shots at greenheads.

If you bring your own decoys, you won’t need to carry many tomorrow.

Lola with ducks 12-11-13

If you’re a poor shot, relax and bring lots of ammo.