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Thursday, May 24, 2018
Nesting conditions mixed

Nesting conditions mixed
Mother Nature was kind of frugal with the amount of rain that she provided for the lower half of the state this year to date. While it looked like there was going to be some very wet spring storms, they just didn’t materialize leaving most all regions with less than normal rain fall totals.The lack of significant rains is already having an effect on nesting conditions for all upland game birds, but there appears to be a good hatch of waterfowl underway.

Western Outdoor News checked in with Roger Miller, master guide of Miller and Sons Expeditions, (805) 459-5883, based out of Parkfield to find out what conditions afield are like in this popular hunting location.

FALL PARKFIELD GOBBLER — Master guide Roger Miller of Roger Miller & Sons Expeditions guided WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec to a successful fall Rio Grande turkey hunt and is pictured above with that big gobbler. Parkfield valley has a very huntable population of turkeys and this year’s hog hunting is expected to be awesome. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

“Unfortunately, this area only has received about 12 inches of rain thus far and that’s well below our average. Parkfield Valley traditionally hopes to get between 18 and 20 inches of rain to sustain the upland game bird and wild hog population to well above huntable levels. It’s interesting to note that quail are still paired up and don’t seem to be nesting yet, and the same holds true for our population of Rio Grande turkeys. I have seen lot of hens still not on nests and this is pretty late in the season for them to start sitting on eggs now that everything is starting to dry out,” stated Miller.

Miller went on to add, “On the bright side we are coming off a very good spring turkey season with lots of gobblers harvested and there are plenty of jakes around as well. The valley is loaded with pigs thanks to the farming of barley and other crops and I would think that this coming fall should offer up some excellent wild hog shooting for those booking guided hunts on private ranches within the valley.”

That little front that pushed through late last week didn’t do much other than dampen the ground with no significant moisture to soak into an already parched ground after a couple of weeks of very warm spring weather.

WON headed up to fly fish the upper Owens River at Arcularius On The River that offered a opportunity to check conditions in chukar country, the slopes of the Eastern High Sierra and White Mountain ranges and how waterfowl nesting was progressing.

It is not looking very promising for chukar hunting again in the high desert region as this vast desert area appeared to be bone dry all along Hwy. 395 and off into some the nearby arroyos. There was little sign of any wild or cheat grass growth this past spring and the only plants that showed any green were creosote bushes and some blooming sage. Chukar needed more rain in February to get paired up adults into a breeding mode, but that just didn’t come about. Reports from ranchers and locals between Lone Pine and Bishop indicated that there are a few springs still running and there is plenty of water in all along the lower Owens River that should help with nesting of California Valley quail and chukar. There is more water in once dry Owens Lake that this hunting editor has ever seen thanks to the dust abatement program now in place for this parched valley.

A drive by the Lone Pine Pheasant Club, (760) 876-4590, located under the shadows of Mt. Whitney in the Alabama Hills, showed pretty good native cover. The club hunts for upland game birds on almost level terrain with a mix of wild grasses, rose thorn, stands of cotton wood trees and natural springs. This club was started back in 1987, shoots very well for all levels of hunters and is an excellent ranch to work a good gun dog.

Moving on up to the upper Owens River, above Lake Crowley, there were plenty of paired up ducks along the river and flooded meadows. There appears to be lots of runoff still flowing into the main river with a pretty good snow pack that should provide ample water for nesting sites in Long Valley. Paired up mallards, widgeon and cinnamon teal were numerous all along the river and there appeared to be excellent conditions for nesting ducks and other shore birds in some of the meadows just off the main river.

Moving over to our neighboring state of Arizona conditions are extremely dry and prospects for a good Gambel’s quail hunting season are questionable. The following is a report passed on to WON by Arizona wildlife biologist Kirby Bristow.

“Prospects for a good Gambel’s quail hunting season are not looking very promising at all. Very little rain has fallen in Arizona and these quail need timely rainfall to have successful broods. I would have to think that quail hunting across the state will not be good for scalies and Gambel’s. It’s too early to make any predictions on Mearns’ quail as well just have to see how much monsoonal rains arrive in the southwestern corner of the state,” reported Kirby.

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