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.

Pheasant Season

It’s now open. Hunting partner Bob Smallman and I managed to  bring down a couple wild roosters on Wednesday at Mayberry. Lola did well, got birds into the air and found what we knocked down.

Her only flaw was not going far enough into an adjacent field to retrieve one rooster, but she gave it a solid try. She’ll be eleven in January.

Rob’s dog, Pete, finally went far enough out and picked up the bird.

Lola and I hunted blind 2b at the Kerry Club on Saturday. Had a nice sunrise and that was about it. Got home early to work on the Airstream Trailer which is now ready for deployment to Webb Tract for the remainder of duck season.

IMG_3909 Sunrise from Blind 2b

Hunting buddy Jerry Lowery killed a great ram today in Montana.

 

IMG_3920 Jerry with Montana ram

If I’m counting correctly, Jerry  departed Reno for Montana on about the 22nd of October so that makes it about a month on the road, unguided. Congrats Jerry.

 

Looks Good for Ground Nesters

Been seeking some successful nesting signs for turkey, pheasant and quail. Here is some evidence.

Last week I ran into three hen turkeys at the ranch. looks like they had a couple of poults each. That’s pretty good success on our ranch where there are lots of predators.

DSC_0152[1] turkey flock

It’s not always easy to pick out the poults this time of year. Size varies, depending upon when the young hatched.

Driving to work on my trailer at Mayberry Saturday and Sunday, I bumped into a half-dozen pheasant broods. The seemed to have between four and six poults in each. Once again that looks pretty good to me.

DSC_0164[1] pheasant poults

Seems that the number of quail chicks is also very healthy. Maybe there will be some successful upland game bird hunting this fall.

Holiday Hunting

It’s often difficult to make time for hunting during the holidays. And the weather doesn’t always cooperate, but here are a few photos from the last three weeks.

Although the weather was too warm and sunny for geese, our first Webb Tract overnight this year did produce this rooster as Lola made a perfect flush and retrieve.

img_2444-lola-and-pheasant

This pheasant was good for a tray of thinly sliced and delicate meat dipped in cornmeal, salt and pepper, then fried hot and fast. The tray was presented on Christmas eve and it didn’t last long.

Geese eventually packed the island and here are a few photos from the next couple trips to Webb.

Just because the geese were there didn’t make it a slam dunk to bring them home, but last week I finally got a bunch of action and so did Lola. An overnight produced three the first afternoon and five more the next morning in a low fog.

img_2489-lola-and-geese

The three speckled bellies are now fully plucked and are sitting in my fridge, ready for roasting.The Aleutians and snow are breasted out. I’m contemplating how to cook them, but the first was pounded thin and fried for breakfast. Pretty good, but the specs will be better yet. After they are properly anointed with salt, seasoning salt and pepper, I’ll roast them at 400 degrees for about thirty minutes until they are medium rare and nicely browned on the outside.

Hunting geese can produce a real problem. Not the specs, which are easy to prepare and are also so delicious that they easily disappear, but the Aleutians and snows which are inferior.

The catch is that the population of snows and Aleutians is so large that they appear to need thinning. That’s probably why the goose limit is 30 per day, 10 dark and 20 white. Bag limits are three times the daily limit. If you shoot a limit of 30 (or a bag limit of 90), be prepared to make a bunch of jerky, sausage, stew and chili.

Thanksgiving Ducks

Now that my deer season is officially over, it’s time to hunt for something else.

So yesterday I drove down to the Kerry Club which is next to Volta Wildlife Area and scoped out the situation. Almost all the hunters had left by the time I got there and the take was not so good.

The two hunters that were still at the club had killed 14 teal, but they stayed in the blind for nearly six hours and they had one of the blinds that traditionally shoots best.

Other hunters killed a few ducks. Not one sprig in the entire bunch.

I sat and glassed the ponds from camp for about an hour. I never saw a teal and most of the pintails I did see were way high. About a dozen sprig came in and landed. That was it.

Before leaving, I took Lola for a walk. We saw lots of shore birds like curlew and ibis, but almost no ducks. First time I’ve driven all the way to the grasslands and not bothered to try hunting.

Heard from my brother who hunted Friday and yesterday in the Delta. Four of them killed two pheasants, one greenhead and one honker. At least they had something to shoot at.

Time of a change. The one thing about duck hunting is that it seldom stays lousy for the entire season. It’s not even December yet.

Last Chance Roosters

11_19_05_11val-with-pheasants-cropped1

Not too many years ago, photos like the one above were common. However, good pheasant hunting has been a thing of the past for about ten years now.

In the early 1980’s I hunted with a mixed breed hound dog that was deadly on pheasants. One year I personally killed 16 wild roosters on or very near to our 140 acre parcel on Webb Tract.

In about 1995, on our Mayberry property, our group bagged 107 roosters on 300 acres. Those were the days. The photo above was taken about five years ago and since about that time, I’ve only bagged a hand full of pheasants. However things definitely took a turn for the better this season.

Our little patch on Webb was not planted this past summer and the pheasant population expanded. In fact it expanded enough to where we have had some really good hunts. On my first two trips, I failed to kill a rooster, but I missed four. Lots of close calls. I felt like I was due.

On Saturday, Rob and I worked hard to put ourselves in position, but the roosters managed to escape over and over again. Bushed, I retreated to camp to eat a sandwich while Rob continued on.

After a rest, Lola and I headed to a sand hill that we’d not yet hunted. As we approached the down wind end of the five acre patch, Lola got hot and took to pursuit of the unseen birds. Her animation told me that they were not far away and I also pursued at my best rate. Lola disappeared into a thick patch of smartweed, fat-hen and aster.

When two roosters and a hen shot out of the far end of the patch, I knew where I needed to be and took off at a run (well sort of a run). Half way to the likely spot, another rooster fought his way out of the weeds – in range, but I was on the run. With only one foot on the ground, I took the only shot I had. Luckily the bird dropped. Calling to Lola, I headed to the downed bird. She arrived at the same time as me.

The rooster lay spread-eagle on a patch of Bermuda grass. When Lola nosed the tail of the bird it jumped skyward about five feet into the air where Lola snatched it – a great ending to the chase. As best I can recall, this was my first rooster in about three years.

Amazingly, between Rob and I, we raised over 25 pheasants on Saturday and more than half of them were roosters. We only got off two shots and bagged one bird.

That would have been enough for me, but with an hour left to hunt on Sunday I switched from ducks to pheasants and Lola raised several more roosters. One of them joined the Saturday bird. Now I’m looking forward to some fried pheasant.

My favorite way to cook them is to slice the breast meat thin, pound it and then dip it in four before frying. May have to do that tonight.

The long pheasant drought is over. If the trend continues, Lola will be spending more time chasing roosters next fall. Goes to show you that one of  the biggest problems with pheasants is farming practice. Left with significant habitat, they can make a comeback.

It was a direct hit with good light and he was cackling all the way.

Almost as Good as Hunting, but not quite.

Indulged in a little fantasy this afternoon. Received the “Waterfowl Hunting Newsletter” from DFG today and it spurred me into applying for waterfowl reservations on many of the public hunting areas. https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=54614&inline=true

Large expanses of open water are very attractive to pintail, widgeon, shoveler and teal. For mallards, hunt ponds less open water where they can hide from view.

With a good draw and a full day of hunting, most refuges can produce a mixed bag like the one shown.

You might ask, “With two private clubs available every day of the season, friends who invite me to their clubs and additional hunting opportunity available, why would I spend about $300 to apply for waterfowl and pheasant hunting on California’s public areas?”

First reason: When the public areas are good, there’s nothing better.

Most of the public areas have excellent habitat. Most clubs cannot afford to create natural habitat. I enjoy hunting in natural shallow ponds, rimmed by alkali bullrush. To me this is the best type of habitat for duck hunting.

Second reason: I have many fond memories of trips taken over the years. Many stand out and I enjoy returning to the scene of previous hunts and finding out how my favorite locations hunt today. Most of the time, ponds hunted in previous years tend to be pretty much the same. It’s like visiting an old friend.

Third reason: If you want to make the most of your waterfowl hunting, you need options. The more the better.

There are plenty of others….