SACRAMENTO — The late speck and white goose season opened up Saturday to mixed success, and while the birds were initially surprised by the sudden re-appearance of hunters, the surprise didn't last too long before the geese fell back into their routine of following the big grinds.
This reporter hunted with friends Bill Gaines, President of California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA), friend John Myrick of Galt and guide George Kammerer of On The Fly Guide Service out of his blind near Rio Oso east of Hwy. 70. A huge grind of thousands of birds not 1/2 mile away had been put up before shooting light by other hunters, and by daylight they had begun a new grind a mile to our south, which drew every bird in the area. We shot one speck for the morning.
Yee Vang of Broadway Bait, Rod and Gun, said that about 30 geese were brought in for plucking over the weekend, mostly specks from the Sutter Basin and Pleasant Grove. "It was not red hot," he said.
WON reader Vince Sargentini hunted the NE Corner Ranch northeast of Sacrameto Refuge for the extended goose hunt: "Since we are in the dark goose closure zone, we made do going after snows," Sargentini said. "I am happy to say that the whole club (all who showed up, anyway) had successful hunts. I hunted Saturday morning and picked up 2 Ross and 2 snows. I went back in the afternoon with a friend and he proceeded to get 3 for himself. We went back Sunday morning and I managed to get a split limit of 3 Ross and 3 snows, while my friend had gun problems and only managed a single snow. Not bad for a day and a half of hunting."
He said there were a lot of snow geese holding in the Sacramento Refuge next door to his club, and more moving throughout the morning.
WON reader Andre Fontenot reported in, too: "Saturday I went to my club (north of Sacramento Refuge), but most of the morning the geese that flew over were way too high. With no fog or wind, getting them to drop was next to impossible. A pair flew over me at about 50 yards and I decided to try them. As luck would have it I broke a wing on one and it landed in tules about 20 yard from me and I made an easy retrieve. That was my only shot of the morning. At 9 a.m. I packed up and called it a season. The beauty of this trip was watching all the ducks that were flying around my blind and in the surround area, landing in the decoys. I could have killed 50 pintail and another 50 mallards, wigeon, spoonies and teal. After three weeks of not being shot at the ducks were in their comfort zone. I also could have shot a limit of specks but I’m in the, “no hunt zone” for specks. Made me wish they brought back the split season.
"I talked to my friend, Phil Fee, from Tiburon and he hunted his club near Yuba City," Fontenot said. "He told me three other guys hunted the blinds on his club and nobody shot a goose. Similar to my club, he told me, they were too high."
The best reports, of course, were from the professional goose hunting guides, and Blake Bunnell of Blake's Guide Service said his hunters shot 38 geese on Saturday west of Int. 5 north of Williams, saying "some decoyed real well and others stayed at 35 yards.
"We only shot 13 birds today," Blake said on Sunday. "It seems to be getting worse since the opener yesterday, because of the beautiful weather, the snows and specs are such remarkably smart birds it only took one day of been shot at to remind them the season had not come to end yet." He said that with all the shooting pressure in the valley most of the birds were flying all together and it took a lot of calling to persuade them into committing.
Dennis Currier of Whifflemaster Guide Service reported a great opening day for the late snow/speck season in the Sacramento Valley. "While we putting decoys out on Friday, we had snow geese landing in the field, so we figured we were really going to have a fantastic shoot the next morning. On Saturday, the geese were flooding into the field before shooting time like they were young, uneducated birds. As soon as the first shots were fired, they all remembered what was happening just two weeks ago — the geese immediately returned to their old habit of flying from the refuge to food and back. We still managed to kill 30 specks and 17 snows on opening day. Two of the snows were banded--one of the bands came from Russia.
"On Sunday, the birds had transitioned to their old flight patterns and we only killed 14 snows and 1 speck," Currier said.
The short-lived season ended Feb. 22, but it was a welcome excursion for waterfowlers who experienced the worst waterfowl season in memory due to lack of weather and too many flooded, unhunted areas in the Sacramento Valley.