|Habitat conditions at refuges looking prime
HATCH STRONG — There were lots of baby mallards hatched this late spring
and they are just about ready to start flying. Refuges, wetlands, local
lakes and ponded water in Prado Basin had a good hatch of ducks which
should mix well with the first flights of northern birds that will begin
arriving in August. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC
All reports coming in from wildlife biologists, refuge managers and waterfowl volunteers are pointing to a very optimistic outlook for the upcoming duck season. Despite the fact that there wasn't a lot of rain for this part of the state the carryover from those two wet winters kept water in lots of ponds. Locally it was a very strong hatch of mallards along with some gadwall and teal.
Western Outdoor News checked in with Kern National Wildlife Refuge to get an update on habitat and the prospects for this coming season. One change of note for this very popular duck hunting refuge is the appointment of a new manager for the refuge after the retirement of David Hardt. The new refuge manager is Shannon Ledwig and he brings a lot of years of experience in managing wetlands habitat during his time working in the Columbia Basin of Washington state.
"Right now the staff is in the middle of disking all the ponds, working on water control boxes, clearing ditches and general habitat work. This refuge will not be getting as much water allocated as last year but it will be more than during an average year. There likely will be less total hunting sites as there were this past season due to this reduction in water. Our project plans include starting to flood up by mid-August and be ready to hold birds when they start arriving in the southern part of this flyway," said Ledwig.
Another good hunting refuge that is in the middle of getting ponds and fields ready for this season is San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge.
"The crew is disking, planting, working on dikes and making sure that water is flowing through all the ponds. Ponds were seeded with swamp Timothy and millet and this should provide lots of food when the ducks do start coming into the San Jacinto Valley. Our hopes are to have enough food available so that the birds will stick to the refuge and offer up good wing shooting all season long. I would have to say that this refuge is in excellent shape habitat wise and that with a carryover of some of the ponded water there was a very good hatch of mallards along with some teal and gadwall," reported refuge manager Scott Sewell.
Sewell went on to tell WON, "We are getting our goose fields ready to plant with wheat right now and I think that they will attract and hold geese when they begin arriving in the valley come November. Last year this refuge shot pretty good for a mixed bag of dark and white geese and it should shoot well again with all the habitat work and farming being done."
Prado Basin also produced an excellent hatch of ducklings this summer. Even though the basin was drained early there were a number of duck ponds that held water allowing mallards to pair up and enjoy a very strong hatch.
"Many of our duck ponds are already full and holding young ducks. The program is to have as many ponds as possible flooded to provide prime wetlands. Right now there are lots of local mallards using the ponds and along the Santa Ana River. I would have to expect this year to offer up excellent waterfowling. The club is offering day shooting to the public on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday with advance reservations required. The club is full for opening weekend but there are open blinds available for many shoot days during the season," said Mike Raahauge of Raahauge's Duck Club.
Western Outdoor News also checked in with Gordon Outhier to find out how wood ducks fared this breeding season.
"There wasn't as much water in Prado Basin this past nesting season but there were lots of adult wood ducks that successfully nested. I would think that we are down about 15 percent in the count from the last two great production years, but we are still ahead of the average. In addition to those nests that produced broods this summer there was also excellent results all along the Santa Ana River wetlands system," reported Outhier.
Outhier is asking for some assistance in building wood duck boxes for next season. Some of the old boxes are no longer usable and So Cal Wood Ducks could use another 100 boxes for next breeding season. According to Outhier building wood duck boxes is an excellent way for a scout to earn an Eagle award for helping build boxes. Anyone interested in assisting with this project should call Outhier at (714) 996-9879.
Monsoonal rain is expected for parts of the lower Colorado River and this is good news for duck and goose hunters who book hunts with the Cibola Sportsman's Club. The ponds of the South Ranch are being replanted and levies adjusted to hold more fresh water in hopes of enticing birds to veer off their traditional route of flying the river.