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Jim Niemiec's Blog

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Thursday, December 13, 2018
Canada geese pour in Cibola Valley
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Late season waterfowling tips

Hunt reports coming into WON from afield
Many bird hunting seasons will come to a close in little over a month, so it’s best upland game bird hunters and waterfowlers make plans on getting afield soon. Western Outdoor News contacted a number of outfitters, guides and wildlife biologists to come up with a kind of update on what are good options out there, and maybe those hunts that should perhaps be put off until next fall. Those heavy rains that hammered the southern and central parts of the state were good for next spring’s nesting, but they made a pretty gooey mess and washouts on access roads in wildfire damaged areas all over the state.

There was a pretty good quail report filed by licensed upland game bird guide Kevin Johnson (

“Overall it has been a pretty spotty season for us, but conditions do look good for birds on the ground right now, and if it continues, it should foster a better hatch next year. Scenting conditions have improved and the dogs are picking up birds much better than earlier in the season. We did particularly good in the San Bernardino National Forest last weekend. My young pointer found 4 coveys of quail, of which 2 were mountain quail. Should have had nearly a limit, all over points,” said Johnson.

The following report came in from Arizona wildlife biologist Kirby Bristow.

“After multiple years of dry winters, this year has been perhaps the worst I’ve seen for Gambel’s quail in over 40 years. There may be some pockets of Gambel’s quail in some areas with decent hunting, but brood numbers were likely low statewide so populations will be small and consist primarily of adults and consequently difficult to hunt. I have not been out looking for scaled quail and they may have fared a little better, but their numbers will probably be poor as well. Summer rains started late this year, but Mearns’ quail should have done better as we had good summers for the past several years. However, I was somewhat disappointed with the first weekend of Mearns’ quail season. In two days of hunting I found about 0.75 coveys/hour and the average covey size was only 5 birds. In a good year those numbers would have been double. Still, I am holding out hope, as I’d heard some encouraging reports from others who’d had better luck. I plan to continue after Mearns’ quail as their numbers can be more inconsistent from one area to the next,” said Bristow.

On the short list of hunting options is the second half of dove season, which will close on Dec. 24. WON has not received any good reports on dove hunting with the exception of those booking hunts with outfitters in mainland Mexico. Dove that are still sticking around are pretty well scattered and finding a good flyway has been difficult. The few dove hunters that this hunting editor has contacted this past week also reported that there are not as many Eurasian collard dove to hunt anywhere… not even down in the Imperial Valley.

Pheasant will also face an earlier closure on Dec. 23. There haven’t too many reports coming in on how pheasant hunting has been down in Imperial Valley, but Mendel Woodland’s has been shooting pretty good for a mix of released and native ringnecks. Another area that has been offering up excellent native pheasant hunt has been Arturo Malo’s BajaHunting on mainland Mexico south of Mexicali.

Western Outdoor News also contacted Thomas Trakes, project leader at the San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge, to find out the status of Mystic Lake after last week’s heavy rains.

“We just didn’t get enough rain to fill this seasonal lake high enough to allow any hunting to occur. We are hopeful that more storms will move through this portion of Riverside County and dump enough rain to raise the lake level and allow for shoreline blind hunting,” reported Trakes.

Moving on to big game, the following update was provided to WON by Ryan Piltz, operations manager for Oak Stone Outfitters (805-472-2200).

“This time of the year hog hunting can be a little difficult. With such an available source of acorns and a bit of rains the pigs don’t have to travel too far from their bedding areas. We’ve received about four inches of rain in the past few weeks, which is a great sign for the production and sustainability of all wildlife species. New growth on the grasslands has provided plenty of green vegetation for the pigs to eat and with cooler temperatures they have reduced their need to travel to water. However, with the cooler temperature comes more daylight activity for the pigs, which has given us opportunities at finding them later in the morning”, stated Piltz.

Piltz went on to add, “Our most recent hunts have provided a lot of shot opportunities due to the number of hogs found in the groups we have located. Averaging about 10 mature pigs in a group, we have capitalized on taking more than one pig at a time. This is crucial for this time of the year because the number of groups we locate may be smaller, but the number of individual pigs is still significant. For the month of December, we have had 5 hunters and killed 5 hogs. We are still going strong with a 100-percent shot opportunity for the 2018 hunting season and are pretty excited about our upcoming wild pig hunts.”

ONE MEAT HOG DOWN — Master guide Clayton Grant, owner of Bitterwater Outfitters, guided WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec on a successful wild pig hunt. This tusker weighed 125 pounds and offered up good eating for Niemiec’s fellow duck club members. It was shot at a distance of 125 yards with a Weatherby Mark V 7mmMag and a single round of a Barnes copper bullet put the hog on the ground. PHOTO COURTESY OF BITTERWATER OUTFITTERS

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