Coastal Casts: Bird Hunting
Howdy everyone! I hope you have been enjoying the chilly, frosty mornings, the honking of geese flying to warmer climes and the clear blue sunny skies that we have been having.
We’ve also had a lot of days in mid-50s to low 60s lately as well and while all this weather is more akin to spring or summer and definitely not conducive to steelhead fishing, I would like to state for the record that I’m loving it! Steelhead are being caught here and there, mostly in ones and twos and those willing to spend the time and hop from system to system can be rewarded with fish but we are certainly not having a stellar year.
When the ocean allows, which for the record is not often, we have been seeing limits of rockfish, lingcod, and delicious crab. Even the bay is producing these tasty bits of seafood and the bonus is that there has been minimal fishing pressure out our way.
This is the time of year when people are recovering from the holidays and doing things like looking at their credit card bills and realizing they spent far too much money on stuff that has been played with once, is broken, or can’t currently be found in the mass of gifts and excess that was Christmas. This leads to folks not spending the time or money to go fishing in any great numbers. I say take advantage of these quiet times and have your bay virtually to yourself!
On another front, duck and goose season is winding down in most places but waterfowler extraordinaire Hunter and I got in in some of the action out by Roseburg this past weekend. Our good friends and customers Lance and Armand invited us out to shoot at their ranch and that is exactly what we did!
This past Sunday my alarm was set for 2:30 a.m. and I awoke seven minutes before the appointed time, ready to go. Well, maybe not exactly. Lets more accurately call it dragging and shuffling.
By 3:30 a.m. the truck was warm, the gear was loaded and Hunter and I were strapped in and heading out with adventure straight ahead. A thick fog held fast to the road for the entire trip, all two hours and six minutes of it but that was alright. The weatherman called for sunny clear skies all day and when one is hunting waterfowl one does not want sunny and clear skies so our vote was for the fog to stay.
When we arrived on scene the fog was still holding fast and Dick, our hunting partner for the day, had already set out decoys and had everything ready for us. What a guy! We geared up, loaded up a small flat bottom boat and paddled to a small wooden blind on a little island in the middle of a farm pond where Dick abandoned us.
Keep in mind that neither Hunter or I had ever been out here before, it was pitch black — visibility with spotlights was only 15 yards — and no one knew where we were. Short of “hill folk” making us their brides or a meteor landing on us, we were pretty certain today was going to be a good one. However, until the sun came up we couldn’t be one-hundred percent certain we were not going to meet some sinister demise. Have y’all ever seen the love scene from the movie Deliverance? These things happen.
We set up our gear, readied our weapons and planned strategy. We took up positions in the super comfortable chairs that were provided to us and waited for the darkness to fade. Fortunately no banjos were heard and the deafening silence slowly gave way to the sounds of distant waterfowl as the sun slowly brought the day upon us.
The fog still hung thick and the first few whistling sounds of wingtips terminated in the telltale sounds of water parting as our quarry landed. The legal time to start shooting was 7:14 and we stared intently at our phones for the numbers to change. Nine minutes. Five minutes. Three minutes. Go time.
We were getting ready to pop up and pepper the first ducks of the day but just at that point we heard the tell-tale honk of Canada geese coming our way. Hunter grabbed his goose call and honked away as three good sized Canadas changed course and came to us. Now was our time. Shotguns shouldered, beads drawn, waiting, waiting, now!
Boom boom boom the thunderous roar of two shotguns seamlessly transitioned to three goose dinners falling to the moat that surrounded us. Before the geese had even hit the water, a bald eagle appeared from nowhere and swooped towards our fallen game presumably to attempt to gather itself a free meal. Hunter was yelling out “don’t shoot the eagle, don’t shoot the eagle” as I swung to look for more birds and for some comical reason that became the theme of our day.
We stuffed more shells into our shotguns and readied for the next birds to come into range. The fog helped us but also hindered, there were lots of birds buzzing past but by the time we could see anything flying by they were out of range.
A pair of ring-neck ducks, one of which is now in my refrigerator, came close enough to see well but the rest of the day was a duck here, a duck there, and some of the best fun and laughs I’ve had in a while. Dinner will be ready at five.
Thanks a million to Lance, Armand and Dick for giving us a great day that will not be soon forgotten.
Whether you are getting’ ducks, catching steelhead, or crabbing in the bay I hope to see you out there.