Last week I wrote about jump shooting on ditches and canals. Today, let's talk about building stakes and netting blinds on these same waterways. They are easy, quick, and inexpensive to construct, and a proven method of taking quality ducks, mostly mallards.
But first I need to pass on some very important information that was emailed to me from Dana Munn, who is the Kern River Watermaster.
He wrote, "Most water districts I know don't allow hunting and consider it trespassing. Also in the past I received complaints from farmers adjacent to canals and recharge areas about shooting next to their field."
These comments should be taken seriously. Fifty years ago when I was hunting, I never really thought about liability while driving on a canal. But times have changed. If you are considering a canal run or a blind, you need to look into getting written permission from the water district or landowner, if possible. And be sure to stay away from canals that have no hunting or trespassing signs posted.
Farm ponds and reservoirs on private property are another good source for attracting waterfowl if you know the right parties to ask.
I would like to thank Dana for sending me this information and remind readers that I am always open for suggestions and ideas for columns. My email address is listed at the bottom of the column.
Setting a blind up along side a ditch or canal where you usually see birds resting can be as good as shooting on a private club. You may not see the large numbers of birds in the air at any given time, but if you are well-hidden and patient, what you do see will come in like "pullin' 'em in on a string."
The first thing you look for is natural cover next to or close by the canal. Large bushes or salt cedars are very prominent around the valley area and are a first choice. Next, you need some stakes and netting. Over the years I have used so many 1 inch-by-1 inch-by-6 feet wooden stakes it would amaze you. They are available at most home goods stores and come with a pointed end.
One additional note about the stakes: When you purchase them, take each one with the point on the ground and bend it slightly. Some of them are really flimsy. Buy only ones that are firm.
You also need a good iron "stake pounder" like is used for putting metal fence stakes in the ground. They are about 18 inches long with large handles. Lastly, you have to have some good camouflage netting. This can be found at most sporting goods stores or through mail-order catalogs. I usually get one large 8 feet-by-20 feet piece and cut it in half.
Now, let's build the blind.
First, be sure to park at least 300 or 400 yards away from the blind, and inside or behind some type of vegetation for cover if possible. Walking back to the blind for an extra three or four minutes can make a big difference as to whether spooky birds work you or not. You cannot park too far away.
Try to set the blind with the morning sun at your back. Nothing worse than looking for birds and into the sunlight at the same time. And, if there is a prevailing wind, let it be from the back.
Let's say we want a blind for four hunters. Pound five of your stakes into the ground about 30 inches apart. They only have to be into the ground a few inches to be firm. Do the same thing in back of the blind with five more stakes after deciding the distance you want front to back. Additional stakes can be put across the middle for more support if needed.
Now, drape your netting over the top. Depending on how you cut it, you may have some hanging on the backside. If you are using natural cover for the front, it is best to put more stakes down with a piece of netting hanging over it and stack the bushes against it. It should be almost chest high so incoming birds cannot see the hunter behind and under the netting.
Everyone gets a stool, and you are ready to hunt.
My old pal Steve Merlo and I used a blind like this time after time over the years we hunted together. I was able to video some great flights, and we had some terrific hunts. They were easy to set up, and if you were in a remote area with little traffic, you could leave it if it was covered well and no one could see it from the road.
If you have a spot like this, it is best to use 6-foot angle iron stakes and you will be set for the next hunt.
Dove season approaches
Remember Sept. 1 is the opening of dove season. Make sure your license is renewed, and don't forget to get an upland game stamp.
You might consider a little practice before then at the Kern County Gun Club with a round or two of skeet. Just like target shooting, dove shooting takes very little lead if you are taking birds within a reasonable shooting range. Thirty yards maximum, and I always preferred under 20 yards. Skeet or improved cylinder choke is the best, and at these distances birds shot at usually require no more than two to three feet of lead on a 90-degree shot.
When I was a competitive shooter "way back when," I would invite a lot of my friends from the L.A. area up for opening day. I remember one year I drove more than 2,000 miles just scouting for spots for the hunt during the two weeks before opener. Be sure to check with landowners for permission to hunt in any fields or near orchards you might find, and get it in writing if possible. And only shoot a legal limit and adhere to all Fish & Games laws. Good luck.
Sporting clays shoot
The Gene Thome Memorial Sporting Clays Shoot is Saturday at the Kern County Gun Club. Gene passed away this past spring and was owner of Bear Mountain Sports. He was one of the most giving guys locally in shooting sports and will be remembered.