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Wednesday, September 18, 2019
A Central Coast hunt that came all together
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Post-duck opener hunting tips

Could be a super waterfowl opener
More ducks arrived this past week at wildlife refuges and duck clubs in the central and southern parts of the state. This was not just an early arrival of lots of puddle duck species, but it was the number of birds that arrived that got the attention of refuge managers, duck club members and those out scouting prior to this coming weekend’s 2019/20 waterfowl season. 

SOUTH RANCH CANADA GOOSE — Darr Colburn of Phoenix killed this huge honker while on a December hunt with master guide Budda Fields. The hunt took place under cloudy conditions at the Cibola Sportsman’s Club South Ranch. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Perhaps the migration might have been kicked off by that first winter blast that dumped up to four feet of snow in parts of Montana, along with below freezing temps in many parts of the Pacific flyway. Another storm system is predicted to arrive this week, but likely won’t be strong enough to push ducks and geese around much.

It was too bad those strong Santa Ana winds didn’t hold off a week, thus not providing windy duck hunting conditions. The forecast calls for a mild Santa Ana come Friday, but likely the winds will be light and hunters will likely face blue bird conditions over the weekend.

The following update was sent into Western Outdoor News by Nick Stanley, Project Manager for the Kern National Wildlife area.

“Kern refuge was holding over 5,000 mixed puddle ducks and some divers as the refuge is now ready to host hunters. For the opener it will be pretty similar to what was hunted last year with hunt unit 18-19, which has 4 blinds and 1 free roam unit. Unit 2 will have 4 blinds ready for opening day, but there might be an increase in this number IF we flood more acres than expected by Oct. 19. The hunting units and blind sites should allow this refuge to fill its quota of 42, along with the 7 reservations issued,” stated Stanly.

Stanly went on to add, “We have added some additional assigned ponds this year and these areas were very successful last season after we evaluated the hunt results. This should occur when we get enough habitat flooded. Some areas will make for better hunting at assigned ponds, as compared to space open space blinds. Our program goal is to continue to flood new areas and open more hunting areas as flooding targets are achieved. Hunters should check the Kern National Wildlife Areas web site or call our hotline at (661) 725-6504 for additional information.”

Prado Basin was loaded with thousands of dabbling ducks and some geese, according to reports coming into WON. Most all the Orange County Water Districts perk ponds have been holding ducks all year long, which produced a pretty good local hatch of mallards, along with some teal, gadwall and a few wood ducks. The three duck clubs located behind the dam receive over flow water from the Santa Ana River, Chino and Mill creeks. This hunting editor scouted Prado basin this past weekend and can attest to newly arrived ducks feeding in newly flooded ponds and then spending the night. It could be a very decent opening weekend for club members.

Western Outdoor News was able to make cell phone contact with Thom Trakes, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor for the San Jacinto Wildlife Area.

“The refuge is all set to for opening day on Saturday. San Jacinto Refuge is looking really good with a mix of mallards, gadwall and cinnamon teal using our vast wetlands. We will have 65 hunting sites available, plus 14 hunting sites at Mystic Lake. Hunters who decide to hunt Mystic Lake will have to allow extra time to reach shore line hunting spots. At draw time, those hunters opting to hunt Mystic will get a map, directions and GPS numbers to help assist them in finding blind locations. Those who draw a spot at Mystic should allow plenty of extra time to make the long haul out to hunt sites,” said Trakes.

Lake Henshaw, part of My Country Club, will not open its waterfowl hunting season until late November, likely the week prior to Thanksgiving. For information, call (760) 782-3501.

This WON hunting editor checked out parts of the high desert flyway this past week, which didn’t show much in the way of new ducks or geese in the areas. There were only coot on Little Lake but the newly constructed ponds in Owens Dry Lake were holding some ducks.

No ducks were spotted on the upper Owens River or along the shoreline of Crowley Lake, but winds were howling with gusts in excess of 35 mph, which likely forced waterfowl to hunker down on wind-protected ponds.

Likely due to the Monday holiday, no updated reports came into WON from Wister refuge but there was a report from the newly flooded Palo Verde Echo Reserve, located south of Blythe on the California side of the lower Colorado River.

Rick Francis, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor 1, for the Department of Fish and Wildlife office located on Lovekin Road in Blythe offered the following information.

“Part of the Palo Verde Echo Reserve was flooded last week and is now ready for the opening of waterfowl season. No (advance) reservations are necessary, no pass is needed, as this is a first come first severed hunting area. There are already ducks migrating down the river so it could be a decent opener there,” according to Francis. Ed note: This new hunting reserve has yet to be checked out by WON and there has not yet been a new website set up for this refuge, nor a current contact phone number. The refuge consists of land adjacent to the Colorado River.

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