Somewhere Special

Life is all about balance. This statement holds true for most and it certainly resonates with me as well. I try my best to juggle my studies while allowing myself to enjoy the things I love. This became a little harder as I transitioned into a collegiate setting at Whitman College, located amongst the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla, Washington. This small liberal arts college tested my intellectual abilities with it rigorous coursework and intense competition in the classroom. It also allowed me to enjoy some great hunting opportunities in Eastern Washington while still acquiring an education. It was my first year hunting on the east side of the Cascade Mountains and it certainly not what I was expecting. It provided me with a new insight on public hunting as I got to experience it firsthand. After hunting the McNary Wildlife Refuge nestled in the Tri-Cities, I was able to better appreciate the hunting opportunities that I have back home on San Juan Island, a small island off the coast of Northwest Washington..

pic2Toes nestled in a warm sand beach, a lounge chair kicked back, a martini with a neon umbrella on the side, and Bob Marley playing on the radio. That’s what most people think when they envision an island vacation. Well, that’s not San Juan Island. Tourists flock here every summer to witness Orca Whale pods migrating through the small channels of the some 400 islands. Kayaking, fishing, and wine tasting are some other hot trends to keep one busy on a nice summer day. But when the days turn cold and the sun grows tired, for me, I think hunting is right around the corner. On this small 10 mile wide island lies some of the best waterfowl hunting in the Northwest.

Many differences arise when assessing hunting the public land in Eastern Washington and the small private oat fields in Friday Harbor. The island obviously has limited placespic1 to hunt. There are in fact no public land offered and all hunters must rely on family or friends for permission to hunt on their land, unless they operate a farm on their own. It is also not much work involved hunting the “island way”. A normal morning consists waking up to an alarm around 5:00 am, loading the truck and driving no more than ten minutes to our hunting location. We would then put out no more than five-dozen decoys before shooting light approaches us. The variety of species is outstanding considering the restrained area. I remember a few years ago that in one pass, a specklebelly, snow, and a greater fell to the ground after they finished 20 yards from our layout blinds.

pic4Chasing waterfowl usually occurs in the field setting with occasional marsh morning hunts for puddle ducks if one is lucky enough to get permission from the landowner. Competition is scarce on the island and if there are others wanting to hunt the same spot, we usually end up sharing the hunt. Not having much pressure means birds are not as weary and little calling and decoys are needed to coax in these confident birds. Nonetheless, this means that birds find safe-havens where they stay for days and sometimes weeks without any pressure from hunters. Island hunters also face a predicament that is uncommon on the mainland. When it snows, you better head out to go deer hunting because the birds congregate in False Bay where they feed on shellfish and small bait balls.

Transitioning into the Eastern Washington hunting scene was a whole new experience for me. Hearing about the great opportunities to chase waterfowl in the Tri-Cities, I called up Mark Purser, a veteran Pacific Calls Pro Staffer who has hunted Millet Pond before. He suggested that I get to the refuge the day before and camp the night so I packed up the bags and left Whitman after classes. I scouted the area before it closed and made a quick trip to Sportsman’s Warehouse. Then parking my car as first in line at 4:00 pm, I then made “bed” before breaking out the newest issue of “Field and Stream”. I also made sure to call my roommate to inform him where I was and when I would be back in case anything bad happened out “in the middle of nowhere”. I woke up at 4:00 am to about a dozen cars packed in line behind me.pic3

“Knock knock knock…” I was a little startled by a camo-covered figure outside my window. “Where are ‘ya hunting?”… “Blind four,” I responded. His eyes lit up and at that moment, I knew that I made a good decision of where I would be hunting. After some talk and persuasion, I agreed to let him and his friends hunt with me. They seemed both competent and to be veteran hunters. With collaborated efforts, my three new friends and I trekked about a mile with 12 dozen decoys before setting up. Nine dozen floats, a dozen field mallards, and two-dozen new Dakota Decoy floaters were the final product of our endeavor. The sight of a drake mallard dropping in with its bright orange feet was the target of the first shot right at hunting light. . “Looks like the Northerners are in!” The wind was making it very difficult for birds to close in. At 50 mph (no exaggeration), this was going to be a tough day. There were a plethora of migrating ducks in the area and they were working the spread well but the gusts of bone-chilling wind made it hard for them to finish their final descent. We decided to change up the decoy spread to make a larger landing hole and set up on the side for pass shots. Our efforts paid off and we had our limit within the next few hours. My band of friends and I then packed up and hauled our gear back to the rigs where we exchanged phone numbers and said our farewells, promising to be in touch with one another next time we went out.unnamed (1)

I learned a lot from my first experience on public land. The competition is fierce, so aggressive calling is necessary. I made sure to “plead” with the ducks with a whiny and “come over here” kind of tone with my Pacific Call single reed ITF. It is also important to be better than the guy next to you. What I mean, is that you need to make sure there is something unique and different than every other spread and setup. This might include, using motion decoys or maybe adding in some Black Duck decoys to add some contrast to the spread. This also might mean that more work needs to be put in to perfecting your setup but more birds will be the reward in the end. It is also frustrating to note that guides and outfitters have private land locked up and it can be very difficult for weekend hunters to gain access to private farmland. This is quite contrary to the island-way of hunting since close connections lead to great hunting opportunities through just a phone call or encounter in the grocery store.

There are certainly some things that just don’t change no matter how far you are away from home. Sharing the passion for the outdoors with family and friends are always something every hunter should enjoy no matter where. You also should utilize the same general tactics when chasing waterfowl. Birds are birds, and no matter where you go, waterfowl will usually react to the same stimulus (sometimes not in all cases). This includes good concealment, sufficient scouting, and smart calling. But most importantly, with birds or no birds, us hunters are the ambassadors for the outdoors, the stewards of the land, and are responsible for passing on the hunting tradition to others.

pic6Each marsh, field, or pond offers a unique twist. To be honest, I don’t care where I am as long as I get away to enjoy the outdoors. It is honoring to be able to witness the world wake up, attend to every whistling wing, and find peace in tranquil silence. However, it is a special experience to be able to hunt this island. Its accessibility, bewildering geography, and exclusiveness are sure-tell signs that I live somewhere special. Take a moment to reflect where your somewhere special is.

 

Written by: Gavin Guard

Pacific Calls Pro Staff

Sitka Gear Pro Staff

Rain, Great for Nesting Ducks

pic_newsWell-Timed Spring Rains Great for Nesting Ducks

The off-season if full of activity, including the filling of many different bodies of water within the Prairie Pothole Region.

Delta Waterfowl’s Associate Editor, Tyler Shoberg published a news article shedding more light on the benefit of this rainy Spring season up North.

 

 

 

Click here for Delta Waterfowl’s article: http://www.deltawaterfowl.org/news/article/2014/05/12/well-timed-spring-rains-great-for-nesting-ducks

A Reliable & Versitale Dog Blind

Waterfowl Junkie, who released the famous Bird Hitch has launched another innovative product.  However this time, they had dog owners in mind.

The all-new Switchback Dog Kennel Blind is a great and more durable alternative to those slip-on, pop-up or cheaply made blinds.  The Switchback is constructed of an all-aluminum frame and a stubble-strap body cover.  The Switchback features the following:

  • rugged screen mesh windows to allow dog 360 degree vision
  • quick release heavy duty steel-gate door
  • lots of room, yet a low profile structure – 40″X26.5″X18″
  • zip-on curtain if your dog doesn’t need the gate while hunting
  • collapsible and sets up in seconds.  Great for Transport, Home or Hotels. – 40″X26.5″X3″
  • a 1200D polyester flooring for extreme durability

Click here for more photos and video: http://waterfowljunkie.com/collections/all/products/switchback-dog-kennel-blinds

switch

Drake Max4 – Discontinued?

One of the most favorite waterfowl patterns, MAX4 and one of the best clothing manufactures are saying goodbye to each other for good.

With Realtree releasing their new Max5 camo pattern, Drake Waterfowl will be clearing out their remaining stock of Max4 gear, including EST, MST and LST bibs, coats, pullovers, boots, etc.

The bad news is not only for those who love and prefer the pattern, but those who use it strategically in their specific hunting areas.  However, if purchasing Drake gear hasn’t been in your budget you will start to find yourself making purchases

So where might you find these Max4 discontinued closeouts, well for us it will be Wing Supply.  They will be offering some deals in their emails here really soon.

Federal Duck Stamp 80th Anniversary

via: Wide Open Spaces

3/16/14

Today is the 80th Anniversary of the first Federal Duck Stamp.
Sunday, March 16, 2014 represents the anniversary of a unique and beneficial fundraiser for the conservation and rehabilitation of waterfowl habitat in the US.
Since its enactment by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (as the duck stamp was originally known) sales have conserved more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat across the country.

Read more here: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/federal-duck-stamp-turns-80-today/

Brant Decoy Carving Contest

The 2014 Puget Sound Open Decoy Contest in Burlington, WA is being held by the Washington Brant Foundation.  The WBF supports the history along with the art form of waterfowl decoy carving.  Each year the foundation sponsors a festival and decoy carving contest with cash prizes from $200 to the grand prize of $500.

Click here for more information and available divisions: http://www.wabrant.org/decoy-carving-competition/

A Brief History of Waterfowl Decoys

Waterfowl Hunting is a sport steeped in history and rich tradition, and men have been hunting for waterfowl for centuries, as the sport dates back 2,000 years ago. Hunters and gatherers from centuries back would shoot at geese, ducks, and waterfowl with bows and arrows, but soon discovered that they couldn’t hit the target. These people soon discovered that it made more sense to build some sort of decoy to attract fowl within shooting range. So, someone came up with the ingenious idea to create an ancient version of a duck decoy.

Envision a hunter crouched amidst the tule marsh (a type of grass) of centuries ago. As a flock of geese goes by, he discovers that his arrows don’t fly high enough to hit its prey. After several attempts, the hunter sets his handmade duck decoy, made of wood, cork, into the water, and then a few ducks fly within shooting range.

In the early days of hunting and gathering, natives were able to mock up an antique decoy made of feathers that were woven into the decoy. The decoys of yester-year were carved from either wood or cork, and the waterfowl’s feathers were woven onto the decoy with hemp strings. The hunters were able to paint the decoy’s head and neck for a closer resemblance of a duck or goose.

With a lot of effort and craftsmanship, these hunters were able to fabricate a simplistic, yet realistic decoy, and various types of waterfowl would fly into shallow marsh areas and land within shooting range. At any rate, the replica was good enough to “fool” ducks and geese into believing it was part of the flock.

Today, Native hunters still use tule duck decoys, especially in the Stillwater Marsh area of western Nevada. Located within Nevada’s wetlands, the marshy areas of Stillwater provide excellent grounds for hunting.

Of course the tools of hunting are more sophisticated today, but the concept is basically the same. Hunters use rifles and shotguns to kill their prey instead of bows and arrows, and modern decoys consist of canvas, plastic and paint. Decoys are able to create very good replicas of waterfowl using elaborate painting techniques.

Man’s passion for hunting wildfowl has never changed, but the tools and weapons used to hunt game has evolved, and the art of making decoys has been passed down from generation to generation. New techniques are being used and duck skins from earlier kills are often stretched over the decoys to make them more lifelike.

The Indians in North America are given most of the credit for being the pioneers of duck decoys. The Cree Indians from the Great Lakes area make standing goose decoys from flexible tamarack sticks, while the Chippewa Indians make floating toy decoys, only a few inches in length, from single cattail leaves for their children.

As you can imagine, the world of duck decoys has evolved rapidly, and today’s decoys are ultra-realistic, and include a variety of different types of waterfowl, including, ducks, geese, turkeys, owls, and pheasants.

DOA Decoys has taken full advantage of the waterfowl decoy market by employing some of the best wood decoy carvers in the world, and creating a beautiful line of gunning decoys. They’ve taken on the challenge to create a great line of decoys, and are proud to work with the best artists in the business.

Justin Sieverding has spent most of his life hunting waterfowl in South Dakota and throughout North America. Justin has a true passion and vast experience in everything related to waterfowl hunting including decoy spreads, bird patterns, scouting, and calling.

Light Goose Conservation Order – D.U.

Light goose conservation order is a well anticipated season for waterfowl hunters as it is the time to have an absolute blast.  Besides the fact that the birds are everywhere, the regulations are relaxed allowing for optimal harvesting.  Ducks Unlimited put together the basics about this fun and important season below.

In the late 1990s, then-DU-Chief-Biologist Dr. Bruce Batt served as chairman of a committee anxious to address a very serious conservation problem: overabundant mid-continent snow geese causing damage to arctic and sub-arctic nesting grounds critical to a variety of other waterfowl and wildlife. With the light goose population increasing by five percent each year, Batt and his fellow committee members performed population modeling and made a recommendation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service that pleased many waterfowl hunters.

“We were concerned about the degradation of this habitat in the arctic and sub-arctic regions, and we found the best way to control adult survival was to relax hunting restrictions on snow, blue and Ross’s geese,” Batt said. “This option made the most sense. Hunting is a socially acceptable pastime, hunters are educated in the proper methods and they could help our cause at basically no cost to the government or private conservation organizations.”

The eased-up restrictions this act has provided for hunters include:

  • The ability to use electronic callers

  • The ability to use unplugged shotguns

  • Shooting hours extended to a half-hour past sunset

  • No bag limit

  • Hunters must possess a valid hunting license from any state.

  • Shooting hours during the Snow, Blue and Ross’ Goose Conservation Order are one-half (½) hour before sunrise (local time) until one-half (½) hour after sunset (local time).

Continue Reading Here: http://www.ducks.org/hunting/goose-hunting/light-goose-conservation-order?poe=homepage

Best Waterfowl Videos

Best Waterfowl Videos was launched on Facebook July 2013.  Now reaching over 19,000 Likes, they have become extremely popular.  Sharing great video footage from fans have submitted and shared their own videos have assisted in their popularity.  Job well done Best Waterfowl Videos!

Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/WaterfowlerForLife

Read their “About” below:

It’s simple. We love Duck Hunting. Goose Hunting. Birds Over Fields, Muddy Waders and a Wet Retriever. We love being able to shake hands with a perfect stranger and talk for hours sharing stories and continuing this great tradition. We’re the type that doesn’t blink at a 3:00 wake up on your only day off, followed by a half mile hike through the mud…We’re waterfowl hunters.

The internet today is full of film-it-yourself duck hunters living our favorite moments. This page is dedicated to creating a place for you to safely share your hunts, as well as provide you with daily updates of the very best videos, conservation initiatives and articles to your news feed.

A Pike and A Coot

With more and more hunters, fisherman and outdoor enthusiasts carrying a camera on them, odd events become a little less rare.

This video recently shared on Facebook shows a few baby Coots strolling around some shade grass and a pike directly below and precisely strikes one of the coots.  The person behind the camera follows as the pike devours the baby Coot.

Now it won’t be unusual if you have not heard of a fish snapping up a bird for supper, but there have been many occurrences caught on video and photo.  View below!