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….

Lola’s Day to Shine

It was the afternoon of opening day. Fred and I were headed east along an interior berm with water on both sides of us. Lola was hot, but she was all over the place. After leading us in what seemed like hot pursuit, she turned and headed back in the direction we came from. As I stood facing west, towards Lola, a rooster shot upward from ten feet to my right.

I quickly swung and proceeded to unload my Beretta without touching the bird. Fred swung on it and missed his first two shots, but on the last shot, he broke a wing and the bird went down. Neither of us could see exactly where.

Lola ran to a ditch and stopped. We didn’t know if the bird had made it across, but odds were it had. So, I lined Lola up and sent her. She climbed into the 25 foot wide ditch and swam across. When she reached the other side, her nose went into gear. Within 30 seconds she had scent and ran northward along the ditch as full speed. After about 50 yards she turned east and ran smack into the rooster. This is what makes pheasant hunting exciting.

It was a thrill to see her in action. And, this was not her only impressive feat of the day. Earlier she had rooted a rooster out of tall fragmites and I dropped it, but as with the other bird, it landed on the other side of a ditch. She fought her way through the thick tules and found the bird on the opposite side, bringing it back. In all she raised five or six roosters and retrieved four that we downed. As a group, four of us came in with six birds. We did manage to lose a couple, but that’s not unusual in thick cover and wild birds.

Since opening day, Lola and I have only been out once. The birds were much tougher, but we’ll be back out again this weekend to see if we can turn it around. It appears that the Mayberry hatch must have been pretty good last spring. We need a couple more good years of good spring weather to improve brood success and bring the pheasants back.

Lola earned her keep on opening day of pheasant season.

CDFG Reduces Hunting Opportunity for Pheasants

Looks like CDFG’s budget issues have impacted pheasant hunting opportunity. The biggest losers will be those who enjoyed pheasant hunting in the closed zones at Sacramento NWR and Gray Lodge WA on the first Mondays and Tuesdays of the pheasant season. With an improved hatch last spring, there could still be a few roosters to be had, but it will be tough.

California Department of Fish and Game News Release
Nov. 3, 2010


Contacts:

Brad Burkholder, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-1829 
                 Jordan Traverso, DFG Communications, (916) 654-9937

DFG Announces Changes to 2010 Pheasant Season Operations

California pheasant, dove and fall turkey seasons will open November 13. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced today that based on a cost-benefit analysis, the only days open for pheasant hunting on DFG Type A Wildlife Areas will be Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.

Over the past several years, DFG had opened its Wildlife Areas to pheasant hunting on days other than the traditional Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays. In evaluating these opportunities, DFG has concluded it is not cost effective to maintain these non-traditional shoot days for the 2010 season on Type A and Type B Wildlife Areas. 

DFG makes every effort to provide hunter opportunities. This decision is the result of several factors which include budget constraints, cost of department staffing, declining pheasant harvest on public areas, increased length of the pheasant season in recent years and decline in demand for the opportunities on these non-traditional shoot days. As a result, DFG has determined it will be more cost effective to direct these resources to habitat management and improving future opportunities. 

Hunter opportunities on Type C Wildlife Areas will remain open as normal but the Type A and Type B Wildlife Areas will be limited to only the Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays for the 2010 pheasant season. Reports and publications on pheasant can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/uplandgame. A list of Wildlife Areas can be found at DFGs website (www.dfg.ca.gov/lands) or in the current Waterfowl and Upland Game Hunting Regulations booklet. 

For more information on specific hunting opportunities, hunters should contact their regional DFG office (www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/).