St. Croix


Jim Niemiec's Blog

Click here for Jim Niemiec's Bio

Wednesday, June 12, 2019
What’s all the cooing about?

Rains helpful… but was there enough?
Mother Nature treated all of California, adjoining states and most all of Baja Norte with ample amounts of rainfall. Late spring rains are very unusual for the southern part of the state and right up almost through the end of May measurable rain and some snow fell at higher elevations. Western Outdoor News just returned from a long trip that carried this hunting editor clear up to the northeastern California and was followed up with a flight over southwestern Arizona and across the high desert region, all of which showed signs of some recent rain.

One of the first contacts made was with master guide Harold Horner, outfitter for High Desert Guide Service, (760) 447-1030, based out of Victorville.

CANADA GEESE OF ALTURAS — Excellent wetlands across northeastern California have contributed to an excellent waterfowl hatch. Puddle ducks and Canada geese have recently hatched out good numbers of chicks and conditions are ideal for these young birds to grow into adults. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

“The high desert did get off and on rain and some snow at higher elevations starting with those winter storms. Unfortunately, most all of the most recent weather patterns didn’t drop much in the way of any significant rain in this region, but the winds did howl across the desert floor. It’s a bit too early to determine whether chukar and quail numbers will be huntable. We normally don’t see chicks on the ground until June, but we are hopeful that chukar have recovered somewhat and that we will be seeing coveys as we start scouting for the upcoming upland game bird season,” stated Horner.

WON also checked in with valued resource Kirby Bristow, Sr. wildlife biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, who has supplied this editor not only with “on-the-spot” information, but also has been a great Arizona quail hunting partner.

“I think there will be good reproduction on Gambel’s quail, as the winter rains were the best we’ve seen in over a decade. I’ve heard reports of broods that have fledged already, so these recent rains shouldn’t reduce chick survival and may enhance it, as the moisture in general improves forage conditions,” said Bristow.

Bristow went on to add, “Arizona is holding judgement on Mearns’ quail until after the summer rains. With adequate moisture we should have good Mearns’ numbers. With luck (and summer rains) it will be a good hunting season for all three species of Arizona quail. Overall, I would guess that it won’t be outstanding (quail hunting),but I would think there will be some areas where the Gambel’s quail numbers could be excellent!”

WON spent three days up in God’s Country (Modoc County) checking out wetlands and duck/goose breeding habitat. Northeastern California and most all of northern Nevada had plenty of rain this winter and storms still continue to pound that region right up to press time. Rivers, streams, creeks and even seasonal streams are all running with many lakes and ponds spilling.

Last year this region enjoyed good rainfall that produced a bumper crop of ducks and geese and this year looks even stronger for reproduction of all waterfowl, upland game birds and big game. Canada geese have hatched most of their goslings along with some puddle duck chicks following hens around at most every bit of open water. Surprisingly, there were more paired up gadwall spotted than mallards, to go along with a few teal and some sprig.

On the upland game bird scene there were lots of Eurasian collared dove winging around Alturas, up through the Madeline Plains and across to Adin. Only a few California valley quail pairs were seen, but this could be due to excellent ground cover that is high enough to hide quail. Based on last year’s production for most all of northeastern California one would expect this year to offer up good quail hunting. Unfortunately, not much can be done about the diminishing numbers of sage grouse that back in the 70’s were found in huntable numbers.

All along the central coast conditions remain ideal for nesting hens, paired up valley quail, deer and hogs. Cold winds and wet weather has pushed back the maturing of wheat and other standing crops, but hog hunting has been off the charts. All outfitters report lots of pigs on ranch properties with the first piglets of the spring now following sows around in foot high foliage. Reports afield indicate that hog hunting will continue to get even better and remain so until crops are harvested. The acorn crop is just now beginning for all species of oaks and there should be plenty of acorns on the ground come late September.

* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Reader Comments
Be the first to comment!
Leave a Comment
* Name:
* Email:
Website (optional):
* Comment:

Advertise with Western Outdoor News