Well, it's been two weeks since the opening of waterfowl season here in the lower San Joaquin Valley. Not a whole lot to report as of yet.
I have only been able to bag a few Green Wing Teal on my little pond and have seen hardly any "big" ducks in the air at all. Big ducks being Mallards, Pintail, or Gadwall. These are the prime birds most hunters are after, but they usually do not start showing up locally until late November, or after.
I spoke to Duffy Sill last week and he told me that the members of the El Cinco Gun Club had taken quite a few birds the first two shoot days of the season...just over 200. But again, they were mostly Teal and Shovelers.
That club is probably the most productive in this area year after year. It has been shooting for right at 100 years, I believe. A great bunch of guys who enjoy each others company for dinner the evening before shoot days, and a long standing tradition of fellowship.
One of the biggest problems is the abundance of water that is all over this area. All of the waste water from the Kern River has been flowing all spring and summer into storage ponds and wasteland to the west of the city. There was probably a pretty good local duck hatch as a result of this during the spring, but these birds are scattered all over this area and not concentrated in any one place.
Hopefully, after some rain locally we will see some fog starting to form, and these birds will begin to move around more. There is nothing better for waterfowl hunting than early morning fog that begins to lift around 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Many ducks that have been flying around lost all morning will just barrel into the first water and decoys they see. It can get good in a hurry.
I gave Nick Stanley at the Kern National Wildlife Refuge a call early this week, Nick has been with the refuge for 18 years and has been Project Leader for the past four years. A great guy who is always readily available to speak with about goings on there. At the present, there is 3800 acres flooded on the refuge, and he said that by the end of the year because of good available water they hoped to have the maximum of 5500 acres flooded.
The first two shoot days of the season produced just over a four-bird-per man average, but that dropped to two birds on the third day. Mostly teal and shovelers, with very few mallards or pintails.
Hopefully the "big" ducks will start showing up as we get into December, which is normal for the season. Nick said there are about 8,000 birds on the refuge at the present time. I asked him what was the most birds he had ever seen there, and he replied, "100,000."
Wow! Maybe someday again. Shoot days are Wednesday and Saturday, and 62 shooters are allowed at the present time. That number will increase as the flooded acreage goes up.
One last reminder about the upcoming Morning Star Fresh Food Ministry's annual pheasant hunt that will be held Nov. 11th. It will be limited to only 100 shooters this year due to a lack of available birds. Probably looking at 300 pheasant and 300 chukars.
This is really a great charitable event that feeds thousands of needy people throughout the state each year, and is boundless in their energy. If you, your business, or your company is interested in taking part in this charity event, you need to contact Bret Sill as soon as possible. He can be reached at 661-900-8469, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ken Barnes is a record-setting shooter and longtime outdoorsman from Kern County. Email him at email@example.com with comments or column ideas.