I can’t say it sounded like a war zone. Those who have been in a real war would laugh at such a statement, but there was a helluva lot of hunters, a lot of lead ammo being shot and damned if those crazy birds didn’t just keep coming back for more on opening day last week.
Our group of five were hunkered down in various spots in tone of the DFG fields near Wister, and although Tim Baker of Fred Hall & Associates made me swear I wouldn’t divulge the exact field, the reality is that everyone knew where that field was. It had water, it had feed, it was free and accessible and a ton of birds.
“There weren’t this many people here a few days ago when I scouted it,” deadpanned Tim.
Enthusiasm and a good crowd makes a party, and might say, it was a good ol’ party with the guests of honor a mix of mostly mourning dove, with sprinkling of whitewing and collared Eurasian. The opener, as wild in the west as it was, was a beautiful thing to see when the smoke cleared from the skies and the dust cleared from the vehicles.
At pre-dawn, as our group of Tim, his hunting buddy Dale Hightower, and my buddy Bob Aaronson and his 13-year-old grandson Jake waited for some light. I was beginning to think I was looking at a scene from Field of Dreams. Headlights were lined up by the hundreds in the distance along Highway 111, and on the dirt roads coming from the highway, a line of cars, a beaded string of glowing balls shrouded by road dust, were making their way up.
“Who says people in California don’t hunt,” said Bob. Well a lot of people don’t, and a lot do, and I just wondered why they all had to be in our spot.
Ah what the heck, I had a great morning. I think that after all these years I am no longer an embarrassment to shotgun shooting. One and a half boxs of shells and I had my limit by taking good shots, although I counted the two birds I lost in some nasty brush, andone bird I dropped on the road back to the parking lot was flattened by a car driving by. A limit is a limit, I always say.
There were some great people in the fields. I shot near a fellow in his 60s. His sons and friends were shooting by their cars, but the dad was old school, sitting in the field near a young salt cedar on his folding chair, and whacking the hell out of the birds. I thought so anyway. “I thought I’d be done by now,” he said at 9:30. “I got a bird on my first shot and thought, “Damn, I’m going to have a great day.”
He did anyway. It just took a little longer with all the competition and with no chance for a low shot since the fields were ringed with hunters. Yeah, we all got peppered a little. There’s a few more nicks in the car paint for many, but for the crowd we had, there were few real incidents. Just a good time.
Pat McDonell is Editor of Western Outdoor News.
BOB AARONSON of Vista and his 13-year-old grandson Jake hunted with WON Editor Pat McDonell near Niland and Wister in one of the DFG fields. The hunting was solid with ponds, ditches and crops.