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.

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.

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Nice sunset on Tuesday evening.

 

 

 

December 29 at the Kerry Club

The barbecue on Friday night was great. Had my son-in-law Brett with me as a guest.

The sunrise was nice.

Not many ducks. Came in with three green-wing teal and a shoveler.

Lots of time to take photos. Here are a few.

IMG_6534 (2) sunrise at blind C cropped

The sun came up bright-hot.

IMG_6539 Lola with first teal cropped

Lola came in with the first teal.

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There were lots of swallows, but not lots of ducks.

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This swallow was very close.

 

That was about it. Stayed too long. Kept thinking something good would happen.

Brett got a few ZZZZs in the blind.

Kids are Amazing

 

On Christmas morning my grandson Fergus came to me with an acorn.

Referring to the hole in the acorn, he said, “A bird ate it.”

I looked at the acorn and said, “Yes, or a worm ate the acorn and the bird ate the worm.”

He smiled at me.

As I sat in my chair this morning, looking at the acorn, I realized where it had come from. About a year ago, I brought a limb home from the ranch. It was a limb off of an oak tree, but it was a special limb because it was covered with holes stuffed with acorn husks. The acorns had been placed in the holes by acorn woodpeckers.

The reason I brought it home was so kids, like Fergus, could explore my yard.

Mission accomplished.

Afterthoughts about My Inyo Mule Deer

While hunting the Goodale Buck Hunt, I met several people who said that the mule deer in the Inyo National Forest were a distinct subspecies of mule deer, separate from the Rocky Mountain mule deer found further north along the Eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

As I watched deer, it did appear to me that the deer were slightly smaller, on average, than the Rocky Mountain Mule Deer I’d been hunting in Modoc and Lassen Counties, but I didn’t give it a lot of thought until I’d killed my buck and returned home.

Rich with buck IMG_6485

He’s not a big deer. His width is 21 inches, and height just under 18 inches. He has all four points on each side and also nice eye guards. Everybody who hunts Goodale wants a monster buck, but the truth is that they are hard to find. I am very happy with this buck.

That’s when I remembered editing a piece for Mule Deer Magazine 1995. Dr. Valerius Geist was the author and he spoke of four or more distinct subspecies of mule deer in California. One of those is the Inyo mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus inyoensis. The other primary species being the Columbian black-tailed deer, the California mule deer,  and Rocky Mountain mule deer.

Readings within recent issues of MDF magazine reminded me that another mule deer expert, Jim Heffelfinger, has studied and researched this topic. His views appear to be similar to Dr. Geist’s, but also divergent.  A significant issue is whether the variations in  mule deer characteristics within California deer are created by evolution or hybridization.

In their 1999 book, A Sportsman’s Guide to Improving Deer Habitat in California, Kenneth Mayer and Tomas Kucera, recognized six sub-species of deer in California. They expanded the listing to include the southern mule deer and the burro mule deer. Here’s what they said about the Inyo mule deer.

The Inyo mule deer occurs only in California, ranging east of the Sierra Nevada in Mono and Inyo counties. Like the Rocky Mountain subspecies, it is migratory, with low-elevation Great Basin winter ranges and higher-elevation summer ranges, often on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. Although a bit smaller it closely resembles the Rocky Mountain mule deer. Most wildlife biologists believe the Inyo mule deer is simply a southern form of the Rocky Mountain mule deer.

Possibly the most heavily researched issue with regards to differences between blacktailed deer and  mule deer has taken place along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains, primarily in the Shasta Cascade Region. Based upon conversations with Dr. Geist, it is clear to me that when he wrote the article in 1995 he considered the variations in the deer in that area were primarily related to evolution. He labeled the mule deer in the Shasta Cascade region as California mule deer.

Many sportsmen consider deer in that area to be either Columbian blacktail, mule deer or hybrids.

As I reread the article written by Dr. Geist, my take away was that he believed that the primary differences between the deer species living in different regions of California was primarily due to adaptation to differing habitats (evolution).

The fact that these various sub-species of deer live in adjacent habitats supports the concept of hybridization. It is logical that the sub-species variations would be blurred by cross breeding. Jim Heffelfinger’s recent articles in MDF magazine and also Fair Chase magazine, Fall 2005,  discuss DNA sampling done for the Boone and Crockett Club. Addressing species boundaries has been an issue with record-keeping groups for years and the Boone and Crockett Club has made progress entering the arena of DNA sampling. Decisions about the species identity of an individual trophy can be made using DNA sampling technology instead of geographical location.

Since I’m not a scientist, I don’t want to go any deeper into the weeds, but I will say that my observations while hunting mule deer in the Owens Valley support the notion that the deer there are different from Rocky Mountain mule deer of Lassen and Modoc Counties in Northern California.

Here is a photo of a of an interesting illustration taken from the Winter 1995 issue of Mule Deer Magazine. In that article, Dr. Geist explains that a “cline” is a “…geographic line-up of forms that vary directionally in their characteristics… ” The sub-species of deer in the illustration fit that definition.

cline illustration from Mule Deer Magaine

This is a photo of an illustration provided to Mule Deer Magazine in 1995 by Dr. Valerius Geist – a recognized expert on mule deer taxonomy.