Over the past few months since I started writing columns, I have mentioned a lot of great places that I was fortunate enough to travel to with good friends and videotape the hunts: Canada quite a few times. Argentina and Mexico for waterfowl, doves and deer. And a number of terrific spots around the U.S.
But for years, I had one place in the back of my mind that I always wanted to visit ... Iceland. I had heard that there were a number of Greylag geese in that country that migrated from Greenland, across the North Atlantic and into northern Europe.
The Greylag is a nice-sized bird not unlike the North American Specklbelly in size and weight.
Finally, a few years ago, I managed to arrange a hunt with my friend John Kerchenski, and, the year following that I went back for a second time with two more friends, including my longtime hunting partner Joe Covello.
We had great times on both outings and saw some beautiful country. Iceland is mostly volcanic, with huge glaciers in the central area. There is one main highway that encircles the island and is 830 miles long.
The coastal areas are very shallow and consist of fields for raising sheep and cattle, and there are also some grain fields available for waterfowl to feed.
Most of you are familiar with the name Ed Jagels. He was the District Attorney for Kern County for many years until his retirement a few years back. I had hunted and filmed with him in Mexico and locally a few times, and when I told him about Iceland he said he would look forward to making a trip there someday, with me if possible.
Well, I set up a hunt for us in the early fall of last year. His son, George, who lives in Washington, D.C., would also be going along.
The first two times I hunted there we had been on the southeast coast of the island. I found a couple of guides in the northern part for this trip and made arrangements for the hunt.
After a non-stop flight from LAX, I met Ed and George in Reykjavik. We rented a car and headed north for a four-hour drive to the city of Akureyri. The terrain along the route was just stunning. There are waterfalls everywhere, as well as streams and rivers. A typical one is shown in the adjacent photo.
After meeting our guides, we were escorted to a motel overlooking a huge bay that must have been at least 150 miles long, extending north to the ocean. Great food and lodging for the whole trip.
The first morning of the hunt, we drove only about three miles up the highway from our room, dropped off the main road, and into a grassy field. The wind was blowing about 20-30 mph steady, so we were excited about the geese working close. We set up in a small island of trees and put out a few dozen decoys. It wasn't long until the birds started eyeing our "phony birds." It was about a mile to the bay where the birds roosted at night, so we could see them coming right after they left the water at first light. The guys got some good shooting, and I got some very nice video.
The second morning we set up in a huge field with an eight-foot-deep ditch running through the middle of it. We used stakes and netting for cover and had a few birds work in really close. But, the majority of the geese were using a field a mile away. Just bad luck.
The third morning we woke to a nice breeze and steady light rain. The guides took us to a field that had a huge pile of humus in the middle. There was a pit dug against it for the hunters to sit, and I got behind them in another large pit. Thankfully, I had brought along two large camouflage umbrellas. I set one behind me to do the best filming of the trip.
In case you are wondering what we did with all the birds that were taken, I can tell you that the guides took them and sold them to a market. They do not have anything like our FDA or Dept. of Agriculture in Iceland, so this is allowed. The markets clean and process them and then sell them to the public.
Overall, it was just an awesome trip. Ed and his son were just a delight to be around. Both very unassuming and down to earth. You could not ask for better hunting companions for a venture. I had hunted with Ed many years ago in Canada and Mexico with some other locals, and his friendliness has not changed one bit over the years. I look forward to a future trip with him and being able to do another film.
Where does the time go? It seems like just a few weeks ago I was picking up my decoys at the end of duck season, and here it is again, almost on us.
The season begins for the Southern San Joaquin Valley Zone on Oct. 21 and runs through Jan. 28. This area includes Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. Daily bag limit for ducks is 7, which may contain seven mallards, of which only two can be female; two canvasback; two redheads; and three scaup.
The pintails are still taking a beating in the breeding grounds, so the limit is now only one per day. It used to be our "bread and butter duck" for many years. Daily bag limit for geese is 30, which may include 20 white geese and up to 10 dark. This is a far cry from when I used to guide for Canada geese back in the the 70s. The limit was only three per day. Wow!!
Also, the scaup season does not begin until Nov. 4. Possession limits are triple the daily bags for both ducks and geese.
To be safe, go online and check regulations for the entire state if you are hunting out of this area. Good luck and good shooting to you all.
One last note
The next Basic Firearm & Hunter Education Course is Oct. 7-8 for a two-day course, with an internet follow-up course Oct. 9.
It's very important to get your children through these so they can become hunters the right way. For information, call Jay Busby at Kern Shooting Sports, (661) 871-9025.