A few weeks ago I wrote a column about the Pacific Black Brant, a sea goose that inhabits the coastal range of western America. Since that time I have been thinking about a couple of add-on stories that might interest you.
A few years ago I was invited by some friends in Southern California to accompany them and film a hunt for the black brant down in Baja, Mexico. The site would be where most off the species spend their winter, San Quintin Bay. The city is located just a couple of hours south of Ensenada and is an easy drive from the border. We had a motel room right on the water and an experienced guide for the hunt.
Upwards of 50,000-70,000 brant might be found in the bay at any time during the winter months. It was virtually impossible to not see birds flying during a given moment if you looked around the bay. The guys had no problem bagging their limits on the first morning, shooting from a stake and netting blind next to the water.
Arriving back at the dock, I was surprised when we were met by two young women from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. They had been assigned duty there to check taken birds for sex, weight, maturity and any bands found on the legs. Black brant are one of the most banded waterfowl the government follows.
I was really surprised when one of the girls said she had received a call from Alaska that morning and was told that a huge flock of about 4,000 birds had left Izembek in the Aleutian chain and were headed south. She said the birds would fly non-stop to San Quintin across the Pacific and should arrive the following Monday morning. This was on a Friday, so it meant the birds would migrate 3,000-plus miles with no layover.
At a cruising speed of about 50 miles per hour, that all worked out. I had no idea these birds could do anything like that. She said she was going over to a hilltop on the coast and watch them when they came into the bay, swirling like a tornado. Our trip was over, but I would have given anything if I could have stayed one more day and filmed that event.
Another interesting tale happened when I was guiding for brant at Morro Bay in the 1970s. It was about 4 o’clock in the morning, and I had just docked my boat after moving some decoys during a tidal change for the hunt that morning.
As I was walking across the parking lot, a car pulled up to me from the street, and the driver asked me if there was a cafe open anywhere close at that time. After directing him to a coffee shop on the highway, he asked me why I was walking around in the dark wearing chest waders. I told him I was a licensed waterfowl guide for the brant that inhabited the bay. He said he had heard about these birds being there and wondered if the bay was private property. I told him it was state land, and anyone could hunt there.
He then asked, “Then why would someone pay you?”
Good question, and I replied, “Do you own a boat?” He said no.
“Do you have a motor for a boat rental?” Again, he said no.
“Do you have any brant decoys?” Once again, no.
And finally, “Do you know where you can go in the bay and step out of your boat into two feet of water and not 40?” He just started laughing and said, “OK, I see why!”
Skeet championships coming to town
The annual Ken Barnes Open Skeet Championships are being held this weekend at the Kern County Gun Club. Some of the top shooters in the nation will be on hand, so you might want to come and watch. The club is located on the north side of Buena Vista Lake at the south end of Enos Lane.