Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Eastern Sierra hunting prospects looking good
|Deer hunters heading up to the High Sierra zones can expect very good hunting conditions. The entire region from Bridgeport clear down to the Bishop Valley was hammered this past week by heavy thunder storms which dumped lots of rain and hail at higher elevations, while the valley floors showed standing water from Bishop all the way south of Olancha. The mountains really needed the rain to sustain vegetation and recharge a little ground water. One problem caused by these lightening, thunder and heavy rains is there were a couple of wild fires ranging in deer country. One fire was started by lightening and was burning southeast of Mono Lake and another new fire was burning somewhere along Hwy. 395, as fire crews were racing up the mountain as Western Outdoor News was driving south.
WON checked in with Jeff Simpson, who works for the Mono County Tourism Commission. Seems the Simpson lives in Bridgeport and makes the daily commute to the main office located Mammoth Lakes.
"Jim, I am seeing lots of deer on my drive back and forth to work each day. There appears to be more deer down lower at this time of the year that I and other hunters have seen in decades.
A VERY DRY MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN —
Habitat conditions in the High Sierra even at higher elevation is
suffering from a lack of significant snow melt. The mountains and valley
floor were hit with thunder showers last week, but likely not enough to
help provide a food source for mule deer and black bears. Recent
reports indicate deer herds in the X zones are holding at lower
elevations, thus far, with the rifle season opening less than a month
away. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC
I would have to believe that the Buckeye Creek drainage to the north of Bridgeport will produce some heavy racks again this season, as will the more rugged mountain country around Twin Lakes. My early season scouting has shown good numbers of deer along Conway Summit and down in the June Lake area too." stated Simpson.
Simpson went to say, "One area that should not be overlooked by hunters holding a zone X 12 tag are the bad lands between Bridgeport and Bodie. This is prime buck country and there are lots of dirt access roads off highways 182 and 167 that can get hunters into buck country. One reason this Bodie area is so good is that the sage brush is low enough allowing hunters to see more game. The bucks are smaller, like lots of forkies and 3x3's and they become very active in the early morning and late evening hours, but do bed down in thick sage during the heat of the day. This area has the forage and plenty of water to support a good huntable population of mule deer."
Simpson went on to warn Western Outdoor News readers about all the black bear activity that has been reported during the last couple of weeks.
"Seems there is lack of native food sources (berries) for the bear population and they are coming down into camps and some of the rural towns to find food. Deer hunters who plan on camping in the high country, or for that matter in any campground, should make sure to bear proof their campsite with a bear proof food container and be aware that there could be bear activity and sittings in most any area hunted along the eastern slopes of the High Sierra.
One of the more knowledgeable places to stop in prior to heading up into eastern High Sierra deer hunting country is Ken's Sporting Goods in Bridgeport and get a first hand report on where the best hunting spots might be. The staff keeps tabs on how archery hunters are doing and get a lot of day-to-day reports from campers, anglers and ranchers in the area. Also Ernie's Tackle and Sports Show is June Lake can point you in the right direction and don't pass up an opportunity to stop by Reagan's Sporting Goods in downtown Bishop to pick up a tip or two about archery or rifle season.
Looking ahead to upland game bird and waterfowl seasons for the High Sierra region and Owens Valley it could be a very good year. There was a pretty good hatch of quail last year along with a carryover of adult birds from the great hatch of two years ago for both the valley floor and along the slopes of the High Sierra just below the water DWP conveyance system.
Unfortunately, hunting might be tough on those upland game bird hunters lucky enough have drawn a sage grouse permit for either Inyo on Mono Counties. While the grouse population is still strong in the northeastern Nevada, helped by a good carry of adult birds, it is not the case for the California population.
Western Outdoor News checked in with Howard Arcularius, who owns a working cattle ranch in Long Valley, which is prime sage grouse habitat, and also rents out his red roofed cabin to "catch and release" fly fishermen on 2.5-miles of the upper Owens River, while operating as "Arcularius On The River."
"I am not seeing that many sage grouse this year. With the lack of water and kind of a downward spiral in the sage grouse population over the years it doesn't look like hunting will be all the favorable come opening day. I just don't think there was a good hatch due to a lack of water in this valley and not much in the way of the right food source and protective cover. While sage and Cotton brush is standing just over knee high, which should provide enough protective cover for chicks, the best I have seen are small coveys numbering less than 6 birds, of which most appear to be adult birds," reported Arcularius.
(Editor's note: While spending three days fly fishing the upper Owens River we only saw two sage hens head to the river for water. On a good year there were coveys of up to 15 birds across the valley floor and you would always flush a covey or two a day. Sage grouse hunters a likely to have to cover a lot of ground to finally flush a covey of these highly secretive birds.)