Al Kalin, IVP
Thursday, October 9, 2003 3:06 PM PDT
It's too hot for duck season
It's the same every year. Duck season rolls around and it's just way too hot. You shouldn't have to sweat while hunting ducks.
Ducks are hunted when a cold fog lies on the ground at sunup. Ducks are hunted when a northwest storm is pushing ducks off the open water and into the sloughs and ponds.
You're supposed to be cold, wet and miserable on opening morning of duck season, but not here. I predict it will 72 degrees on opening morning of duck season and you'll be sweating by 8:30 a.m., especially if you're wearing more than a T-shirt.
Yellowjackets, horseflies and mosquitoes are active when duck season opens in the Imperial Valley. I was so drenched in bug repellent on opening day last year that it melted the finish on my gunstock. I'm not sure if heat had anything to do with it or not.
Last year I remember the sun coming up with not a cloud in the sky or a breath of air. The Salton Sea, only 100 yards away, was glassy smooth and thousands of ducks could be seen resting on the surface. The only noise was the hum of a mosquito swarm right over my head, held at bay by the bug repellent. Not even a coot or spoony made an appearance on opening morning. At 10:30 a.m. all the cookies and jerky had been consumed along with the Thermos of coffee and we packed up and left.
Did I learn anything from last year's experience? Probably not ...
Duck season opens at 5:44 a.m. Oct. 18 and runs through Jan. 25. If you plan on shooting pintail or canvasbacks you must wait until Nov. 27, which is really when the majority of ducks begin to build in our valley. The season for these two species also closes Jan. 25.
According to the daily bag limits, you can shoot seven ducks per day this year but your limit can contain no more than two hen mallards, no more than four scaup, no more than two redheads, no more than one pintail and, finally, no more than one canvasback. That means there is nothing keeping you from the shooting the "duck of the future," the coveted spoony. After opening day you can have two limits in possession.
Goose season also opens Oct. 18 and runs through Jan. 25, and the limit is five geese per day. You are allowed up to three white geese or three dark geese but no more than one small Canada goose such as a cackler or Aleutian goose. After opening day you can possess twice the daily bag limit.
A special area hunt season for white geese in Imperial Valley will run from Jan. 26 until Feb. 1 after the regular season ends. This extended week-long season is supposed to help reduce goose depredation on farmers' fields that adjoin the refuges.
This year a hunting license will set you back $31.25 but before you can shoot ducks or geese you must also buy a state duck stamp at $10.50 plus a federal duck stamp at $15. That totals $56.75, which is pretty ridiculous in my mind.
Don't look too hard for the new waterfowl hunting regulations booklet. The state is too broke to print one this year. Instead, there will be a one-page sheet with the basic information. The Imperial Fish and Game Commission also will have a waterfowl flyer explaining all the important rules and regulations.
So what's the situation with ducks this year? Last year was one of the worst seasons in history for ducks as ducks returning to their breeding grounds in our flyway found nothing but dry ponds and potholes. Many of the ducks never did nest.
This year, however, things are looking much better. According to Ducks Unlimited, a North American organization dedicated to the preservation of waterfowl, many species have made a remarkable recovery as prairies of Alberta and British Columbia as well as some of our northwestern states received more rain this past year.
Runoff from April showers replenished many of the seasonal and temporary wetlands in the prairie states, which attracted an increased number of breeding waterfowl. Total duck numbers are up 14 percent this year. Pintail increased a remarkable 245 percent. Wigeon, blue-winged teal, shovelers, canvasbacks and scaup also increased while mallards, gadwalls, green-winged teal and redheads declined. Brood numbers surveyed in July were up 55 percent from last year.
Pacific Flyway geese numbers should be similar to or larger than the numbers from last year.
Maybe the weather on opening day will change this year. Maybe it will be cold and windy, even spitting rain. Maybe the ducks will come flogging into the private clubs and ponds to seek shelter from the stormy conditions on the Salton Sea.
More likely, though, I'll watch an uneventful sunrise, swat at horseflies and mosquitoes, eat all the cookies, drink all the coffee and go home empty-handed.
No trees were harmed in the posting of this nonsense, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.
" Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind." -- Dr. Seuss