Open Zone Tag Strategy

Drove for a couple hours today and had some time to ponder strategies for using the Open Zone Tag. My first effort took place yesterday and that was to identify specific hunts that I’d really like to do.

Hunts like Anderson Flat, Goodale buck hunt and Doyle muzzle-loader hunt are well known and the statistics show that they are productive.

But it is a bit intimidating to choose a hunt in a location where you have never been. Scouting will be necessary and these places are a few hours away from home.

I finally concluded that maybe I should focus on one unit – and hunt the area on all the seasons. For example, each of these hunts takes place in a specific hunting zone and they are open to hunting during archery, muzzle loader and rifle seasons. Therefore I could start hunting and scouting a unit during the August archery season and then return during the muzzle loader hunt and the rifle hunt.

By doing this, I’ll reduce the amount of time I’ll spend in unproductive locations.

There was a time when everybody could do this,  and it’s still possible to do it in the A, B and D zones to a limited extent. It will be like a trip back in time.

It’s a thrill to have this type of anticipation.

 

Connecting with Donald Trump Jr. at the WHCE and MDF Convention

“Why Donald Trump Jr.?” I thought to myself while preparing to leave for Utah and the 2016 WHCE at the Salt Palace. At the last minute I had learned that he was the keynote speaker on Saturday night.

“He must me a hunter,” was my next thought.

I was surprised, as it just didn’t seem likely that a New York business man and son of a presidential candidate would be a serious hunter or an individual who would fit in with the crowd at the Salt Palace. On the other hand, you can’t find a more conservative audience.

As he walked onto the stage, I was impressed with his appearance and body language. As he addressed the large crowd, I was also impressed with his direct approach, clear speak and well thought-out story.

But it was when he told us of his youth and how he was introduced to the outdoors that I connected. He told us about his grandfather and time spent in the woods during summers in Czechoslovakia. I then realized how much we had in common.

He said that his grandfather would often tell him to go to the woods and be back by dark. Those were the same words my own grandfather told my brother and I during our summers in the Lassen County woods during the nineteen sixties.

We fished for trout in Butt Creek and shot our BB guns at will. We waded through the marsh along the meadows and were in total control of our time.

By the time Donald Trump Jr. was finished with his story, I knew why he was in Utah and it made sense.

 

Today at the Ranch

Here’s a slideshow of today’s trip to the ranch.

Callippe butterfly on buckeye blossom.

Callippe butterfly on buckeye blossom.

Kildeer

Kildeer

Horned lark

Horned lark

Grinding rock and pestal.

Grinding rock and pestal.

Red dragonfly

Red dragonfly

Garter snake

Garter snake

This bobcat walked down the road in front of us.

This bobcat walked down the road in front of us.

Tule elk bull

Tule elk bull

Another bull

Another bull

Great blue heron.

Great blue heron.

Always lots to see going to, hanging out at or returning from the ranch.

Duck Season Half Over

Is the best yet to come? That’s hard to say.

I believe the first half of duck season is more predictable than the last half. On the other hand, the second half always has great potential for banner days, but it generally depends upon the weather.

From my view, the grasslands is some of the most reliable duck hunting in California. It doesn’t produce as many mallards as the Sacramento Valley, but it does have plenty of sprig. This year the sprig have been plentiful during the early season. In seven trips to the grasslands, I’ve bagged 25 ducks and 9 have been pintails. That’s over a three bird average and more than one pintail per hunt. That’s not bad.

On my delta hunts, of which there have been four, I’ve bagged four ducks of which two have been mallards, one a pintail and the other a wood duck. That’s a one bird average and less than one big duck per hunt. The delta has been disappointing, especially the shut out on opening day.

This greenhead came to my mallard call on a delta hunt.

This greenhead came to my mallard call on a delta hunt.

However, the remainder of the season lies ahead with some very good potential. Unfortunately, the stormy weather this year has not been all that helpful. Rain without wind is not necessarily good for duck hunting. On the other hand, ground saturated by rain can generate dense fog and fog can produce some very good hunting, especially if the fog is accompanied by cold temperatures.

We are set up for that to happen. It appears that pintails have abandoned the grasslands in search of new food sources. This could mean an influx of birds to the delta, a common occurrence as the season wears on and the ducks seek out better feed.

We've had pretty good luck on pintails at the grasslands this fall.

We’ve had pretty good luck on pintails at the grasslands this fall.

So the rest of the season lies before us and it could be excellent. Or, it could be a bust if the storms keep coming and produce huge areas of flooded ground where the ducks can avoid us. Time will tell.

I expect to hunt the delta more often during the second half of the season. Mallards, pintail and white-front geese are in the area. Now we need some good fortune in the way of wind, fog or freezing temps.

Here’s Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Came across this jake gobbler on Tuesday’s trip to the ranch. He survived his first Thanksgiving, but he may not make it to Christmas.

As I stopped to open the gate to our property, I spotted movement to my left. Turned out it was a group of  jakes - about five or six in total. This was the best photo.

As I stopped to open the gate to our property, I spotted movement to my left. Turned out it was a group of jakes – about five or six in total. This was the best photo.

Photographed a few other critters. Here they are:

Drake gadwall

Drake gadwall

Drake hooded merganser

Drake hooded merganser

Blacktail doe

Blacktail. I think it’s a young buck.

Ring-neck ducks.

Ringneck ducks.

nervous coyote

nervous coyote

Also came across a pig trap. Guess the critters are around somewhere.

Also came across a pig trap. Guess the critters are around somewhere.

DSC_0156 pig trap

Happy Thanksgiving

Spring Photo Shoot at Mayberry

Looped around the perimeter of Mayberry last Saturday. Because our property is permanent marsh, most of the wildlife is just across the drainage canal on the grazing ground.

White-front geese stage at Sherman Island and it looks like they are about ready to head north.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

DSC_0477 white front geese

Not sure why this single spec didn’t take off with his brethren, but he eventually flew off to join them.

DSC_0465 white-front gooseAs I watched some waterfowl, waiting for a good photo opportunity, I heard a splash in the canal next to me. Figuring it was river otters, I paused before turning to look. When I did, it was just in time to see a coyote dog-shaking to get the water off his back.

DSC_0503 coyoteThe coyote was nearly hidden by the tall growth.

DSC_0504 coyote sneakingLola was very excited to be back in her element.

DSC_0487 Lola arrivingA horned owl, rested in a willow tree until Lola scared him off.

DSC_0511 great horned owlA red-tailed hawk took off from the field across the canal.

DSC_0513 red-tailed hawkLola jumped up a rooster.

DSC_0518 roosterRed-wing blackbirds were displaying.

DSC_0521 red-wing blackbirdDSC_0530 goats of Mayberry

The goats of Mayberry were back, cleaning up the vegetation on the levee. Hope they left enough cover for the pheasants to nest.