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Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Could be a super waterfowl opener
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Modoc mule deer herd numbers of concern

Post-duck opener hunting tips
Opening weekend of the waterfowl season produced mixed results on for those hunting a refuge, at a duck club or public hunting area. Most of the birds harvested were likely locally hatch mallard, teal and gadwall with few spoonbills and pintail added to game straps. As traditionally is the case, Sunday hunting (the day after opener) saw less ducks harvested, although some winds did help in the weekend harvest.

The hatch of local puddle ducks was very strong this past summer due to ample winter and late-season rains which created ideal nesting conditions across the state. Local birds pretty much stick around until numbers are reduced or these birds have found safe refuge in non-shooting waters like: Lake Matthews, the Santa Ana River, stock ponds, some flood drainage lakes that had enough standing water and of course, golf courses.

MIXED PUDDLE DUCK HARVEST — The early part of duck season can produce some pretty good gunning, especially on windy or rainy days when ducks fly within shootable range. Mike Palmer of Newport Beach shot a limit of dabbling ducks while hunting Prado Basin during a past season’s hunt.

Refuge managers did report that prior to opening weekend there were early arrivals of pintail, cinnamon teal and gadwall, but these birds don’t stick around much after lift-off and seem to know that it is time to continue their migration south down into Mexico.

Western Outdoor News caught up with waterfowl guide Gregg Johnson, who guides small groups (1-3 shooters) on public land, stock ponds and small lakes where hunting access has been established, working with other guides who have waterfowl hunting spots, the Lower Owens Valley (Owens River), where he jump shoots ducks off the river and some of the newly created ox-bow lakes.

This veteran guide passed on to WON some helpful hints that might contribute to more ducks on the game strap. After opening day, Johnson said that many of the ducks were pressured off established hunting ponds and likely would only be coming back after shoot time to feed and rest. Before sunrise many of these ducks are likely to lift off in the dark before shoot time and not be around for lift off. If possible, Johnson says to try not to push ducks off where they spent the night and move in at or just after legal shooting time. This will allow time for the sky to get lighter, making for better identification of species, which this season has some added harvest regulations.

No motorized/electronically operated decoys (spinning wings or blades) are allowed to be set up in a spread until Dec. 1. It was suggested that hand operated motion decoys could add life to a decoy especially on a blue bird hunt day. Speaking about blue bird hunting conditions, during the first few weeks of the season duck hunters will see better weather, fewer ducks and only under Santa Ana wind conditions will there be much of a harvest.

Local birds, along those few new flocks that might arrive through the end of the month, are going to be pretty decoy shy and become very aware of a flashing shotgun barrel or faces not covered in a mask or camo make-up. While early season birds might look at decoys, it becomes a lot harder to draw them to within shotgun range, which could necessitate moving up to heavier steel loads with higher muzzle velocities.

Refuge comp counts are also likely to see a significant drop after opening day, which opens up a whole lot of problems for those competing with other waterfowl hunters out in blinds. IF, ducks are not decoying or hunting pressure is heavy, there is a lot of high shooting at passing ducks that makes for a tougher hunt. Johnson suggestion to hunters with a high number draw, that they should check with the local refuge staff to find out what optional shooting sites could be productive after all the good sites are taken. It’s unfortunate that refuge hunters cannot get out onto ponds to see where birds are resting or at least find out if there are feathers on the water or not, which is a good indictor that ducks are using a particular hunting site.

Another suggestion made by Johnson was to attend a local waterfowl fundraiser, CWA or DU and any shotgun shooting event being held in the Southland. If duck hunting has been non-productive in spot a hunter normally hunts, talking with other shooting sports enthusiasts might offer up new duck or goose hunting spots to check out.

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Reader Comments
Hey Jim: Do you have a phone number or website that we could contact Gregg Johnson about booking his guide service? Thanks Jim
Jim Busuttil
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