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Thursday, December 08, 2011
A tribute to Timber

IT COULD BE GOOD: All indications we’re headed for a good goose season
White geese have already started piling into the Wister Wildlife Refuge, Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge, the Farm Unit adjacent to Westmoreland, Chino Hills and Cibola Valley. There was a little bit in the way of a southerly migration of both dark and white geese over the full moon last week and that arctic storm also moved a few more geese in this direction. Likely the best hunting will start this coming weekend and continue strong through the remainder of the season, IF, La Niña weather patterns continue and birds are kicked out of the Columbia and Great basins.


"Right now we are looking at perhaps 3,500 to 5,000 white geese split up between the closed zone of the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge and the Farm Unit, but those numbers should jump up considerably as we move closer to the end of the month. The early full moon of November was a little off in timing, but the white geese still started showing up in a timely manner," reported Danny Gomez, Department Project Leader for the refuge.


Gomez went on to tell Western Outdoor News, "We got all the planting and flooding done ahead of the arrival of snow and Ross' geese and there is plenty of rye grass in the fields to hold geese while they winter over on the refuge. Based on information being passed along by biologists we are expecting about the same number of geese to winter here as last season. Our grass is looking quite good and those cooler days of late summer and into early fall really helped in getting the green feed growing. There was no alfalfa planted this year."


When asked about hunting on the Union Tract Gomez stated, "Hunting will the same as it was last season. We try to protect our crop and provide additional feed for the geese. Right now the closed zone at refuge headquarters is not holding a lot of birds, but I expect that to change soon."


Gomez told WON that there are about 1,500 acres planted in the Farm Unit in addition to some loafing ponds that have bull rush, adding that the peak of the season should occur mid to late December.


White geese are still building in numbers on refuge property north of Westmoreland and pretty much sticking to the refuge where new rye grass is at a tender stage, which geese really like. Birds will start moving off the refuge when the population gets to about 12,000 birds and that's when the geese will begin "joy riding" around the valley and become very decoyable for at least a few weeks.


Fortin Outfitters, based out of Westmoreland, offers guided white goose hunts all season long, of which some take place in fields with decoys and later in the season hunters can expect some excellent pass shooting.


"We won't likely start hunting until around Thanksgiving unless the birds really start piling into the refuge. The last storm really saw a lot of new birds arrive on this corner of the sea and more are coming in every day. One of the local farmers believes there are well over 5,000 white geese here already. Normally our best shooting takes place the last week of November and into mid-December for decoy shooting, and then based on the movement of birds across the valley, we'll switch over to pass shooting if the birds become decoy shy. Early in the season we will see a lot of juvenile birds and they decoy well, while the more mature snow geese are a lot smarter, but then we have the smaller Ross' geese that really like to dive into a spread," said Danny Moss, Master guide for Fortin Outfitters (760) 791-8589.


There are some geese currently winging over the San Jacinto Valley but numbers are not significant. Canada, snow and speckled belly geese all use this well established flyway on any given day, if the wind blows or a storm front moves in any of the geese could be harvested either at the refuge or off duck clubs.


There are just a few Canada geese holding up on private property in the Chino Hills area but these numbers will change when geese are kicked out of the Great Basin and head south to spend the winter. Hunters in blinds in Prado Basin will start harvesting honkers by Thanksgiving and even better hunting will occur in December, especially during very windy Santa Ana wind conditions across the Inland Empire.


As mentioned in a previous hunting column, Lake Henshaw will begin its waterfowl hunting program perhaps as early as the end of November. Flocks of Canada geese will finally start arriving early in December the first geese that show up on the lake and adjacent property can be shot over decoys. In addition to good goose hunting the lake and its wetlands can offer up some pretty good duck gunning.


Good word from Cibola Valley was passed along as well. "It's still early in the season for Cibola but right now I would say there are about 100 Canada geese in the valley and perhaps 50 white geese. Freezing temperatures in Utah are likely to kick out the geese more birds should start showing up soon. Last year the valley shot well for our two ranches, the refuge and on sand bars in the Lower Colorado River," said Bob Corbett, owner of the Cibola Sportsman's Club (702) 355-8784.


Corbett went on to state, "We made some changes to the fields and duck pond on the South Ranch and farmed a new field of alfalfa, which should really work to attract Canada geese to our property by pulling them off the river flyway or have them fly directly over our fields as they lift of Hart Mine Marsh. I think the new pond will offer up good duck hunting early in the morning and late in the evening. As far as the North Ranch it will remain the same and should prove to be great for new incoming honkers, as it has produced many a good shoot year after year."


Looking ahead into December most of the geese should already be here and huntable, but most likely the rest of the migration might end on the full moon phase that will occur on Dec.10. If the migration goes like it did last year, with continual freezing in the Great Basin, big Canada geese will continue to fly south on a direct line to Cibola.


cibola honkers

CIBOLA HONKERS — Last year hunters shot a lot of Canada geese while hunting with the Cibola Sportsman's Club. Both the South and North ranches enjoyed good gunning during December and well into January. Club co-owner Tim Corbett shoulders a limit of big Canada geese that were shot during a cold December day that saw a lot of new birds arrive in Cibola Valley. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

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