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Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Combo hunts for the Lower Owens River Valley
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Waterfowl opener just ducky!

Waterfowl and upland game bird openers look very promising
Hopefully, all will come together this coming weekend with the dual opening of the waterfowl and upland game bird seasons. Mother Nature was very generous with timely rains for this year and based on all reports coming into Western Outdoor News, it appears as if scatter gunners out chukar and quail hunting will do quite well. IF a few more flocks of ducks and geese arrive in this part of the Pacific flyway there should some hefty game bird straps for those walking out of blinds. There is some talk about a storm front that is positioned to hit most of the southern part of the state by Friday and that’s good news for all bird hunters and gun dogs.

PRADO BASIN DUCK LIMIT — WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec and his young yellow Lab, Sierra enjoyed a limit shoot of puddle ducks while hunting behind Prado dam on a windy day. Prospects for duck hunting are expected to be good for opening morning on Saturday for this part of the Pacific Flyway. JIM NIEMIEC FILE PHOTO

WON checked in with the three major wildlife refuges just prior to print deadline and the following are reports filed by refuge managers.

Rick Francis, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor for Wister, had the following to report for opening weekend, “The refuge is currently holding over 4,000 ducks with more showing up every day. I have been in the field prior to sunrise and have seen birds just arriving with the latest full moon phase. Ducks have been lifting off the Salton Sea and seashore all day and night. There are several hundred pintails on ponds with more showing up daily and there are also plenty of green winged teal, spoonies and mallards.”

Francis went on to add, “The ponds are in excellent shape with lots of native swamp Timothy and bull rush. The green feed fields are in their first phase of having been planted in millet. Wheat is next to be planted in November. Right now there are only a handful of snow geese*** on the refuge but there are about 75 specks. We are on track to have 100 blinds open at Wister. We don’t have a report yet from the Hazard Unit, but they were starting to flood that area last week. There are lots of mosquitoes this fall so make sure hunters bring a lot of bug spray and watch out for rattlesnakes.”

***Editor’s note: The snow goose season for Imperial Valley will not open until Nov. 4.

The following information was passed on by Tom Trakes, assistant wildlife manager for the San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge.

“We are 100 percent flooded up and we should be able to shoot 4 or 5 blinds at Mystic Lake, which is holding some 100 acres of water this opener. Our latest survey showed there to be about 7,000 ducks on the refuge wetlands with the bulk of the ducks being cinnamon teal and spoonies. There are also good numbers of wigeon and mallards on the wetlands and this refuge currently is holding 200 speckled belly geese and at least 6 honkers. It’s going to be a very busy opening morning and hunters need to be at the check in station off Davis Road by 3 a.m.,” stated Trakes.

Trakes also wanted to remind duck hunters to try and show up at the public meeting on Thursday morning, Oct. 18, for the Public Hearing on the proposed development parcel adjacent to the San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge. That project will impact the area with the developer looking to build 11,350 residential units and up to 70.5 acres of commercial uses on a total of 2,883 acres. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. at 4080 Lemon Street, 1st Floor, in Riverside. For more information phone Russell Brady at (951) 955-3025.

Duck hunters who lucked out on getting drawn to hunt opening day at the Kern National Wildlife Refuge should enjoy a very successful hunt. Western Outdoor News contacted Nick Stanley, Project Man­ager for the refuge, who filed the latest waterfowl report.

“There are between 5-7,000 ducks holding on the refuge as of the week prior to opening day. There are multiple species of puddle ducks using the entire wetlands. We will be hunting the following units: in the Free Roam Units, 1a and 2 will be huntable and space blinds in hunt units 1,2,4,5,10,14 and the ADA 1 blind will be shootable. Our hunter capacity is set at 62 hunters for opening day. More area will be flooded later in the season,” said Stanley.

Prado Basin should offer up good puddle duck hunting for the three clubs located in the vast wetlands behind the dam. Currently there are good numbers of all three species of teal, mallards, spoonies and gadwall on ponded water. Small flocks of Canada and speckled belly geese are also winging over this basin. Most all the ponds are full with ample water being available off the Santa Ana River, Mill and Chino creeks.

WON stopped by Reagan’s Sporting Goods (760-872-3000), in Bishop on my way up for some fall fly fishing on the upper Owens River at “Arcularius on the River” which lies right on the river in Long Valley. Attending to a lot of customers, owner Reagan Slee took time to talk about the prospects for upland game bird hunting in that region.

“It should be an excellent California Valley quail opening weekend as there are lots of birds out there. Cover is much higher this year so hunters will have to work hard to get the quail to flush. I would think there are enough quail out there to sustain good hunting for most all of the season. A good gun dog would really help make hunting quail a lot more productive due to the high sage and other native cover. Chukar are hanging out at elevations between 6-7,000 feet. Deer hunters are reporting seeing huntable numbers of chukar on both mountain slopes along the lower Owens River. There are not many chukar up in the Bishop Creek drainage.

Harold Horner, of High Desert Guide service, filed this late report with WON.

“Tell your readers that the western portion of the Mohave desert is bleak. There are no chukar down at lower elevations so hunters need to be in good condition to hike into some very rugged terrain. There are some pretty good coveys of chukar out there, but they are going to be very difficult to hunt,” stated Horner.

While traveling through Red Mountain and Randsburg conditions were extremely dry with very little in green vegetation. Most of the cheat grass is about ankle high, the sage has already turned gray and stands of creosote brush are offering the only shade in the High Desert. 

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