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Modoc hunting seasons: Always on our minds

By Lorissa Soriano
Big Game: From bucks to ducks, and more, hunting season in Modoc is a big deal. Antelope, elk and archery deer kicked off the hunting season during the latter part of the summer. Unfortunately, in recent years, due to extreme hot and dry weather conditions as well as recent fires in the Modoc National Forest, hunters had a difficult time locating and pursuing game. Many hunters went home disappointed and unsuccessful, but there’s always next year and we are always hoping our great seasons will be even better!

Big Game, Upland Game, Northeast Corner of California, Lorissa Soriano,
Dan Ryan of Alturas with a nice 3 x 3 Modoc buck. Photo by Dan Ryan

About this time in the Warner Mountains, Devils Garden and other X-Zone areas, the deer begin to move down from the higher elevations. Many big and/or respectable bucks are usually seen throughout the area as autumn gets cold. Hunting conditions are usually not the best until we get rain. It can be very noisy if all the twigs and leaves are dry. A little rain quiets things down a bit so hunters should always keep an eye on the forecast and try to be here at the right time.

Beware: Hunters coming into the area should check with the Forest Service to see what the current fire restrictions are and if there are any road closures due to the fires experienced in the summer, especially in 2012.

Note: If you’re planning to hunt out of state remember to follow the regulations for bringing your game back into California. The game wardens will have check points set up and you will be cited if you don’t follow these regulations: (see California hunting regulation booklet)

No hunter harvested deer or elk carcass or parts of cervid carcass shall be imported into the state, except for the following body parts:

Boned out meat or commercially processed cuts of meat

Portions of meat with no spinal column or head attached

Hides with no heads attached

Clean skull plates (no meat or tissue attached) with antlers attached

Antlers with no meat or tissue attached

Finished taxidermy heads

Upper canine teeth (buglers, whistlers, or ivories)

Upland Game, Northeast Corner of California, Lorissa Soriano,
The author with two blue grouse

Upland Game: Upland Game Birds are plentiful in this region. Modoc hasn't had a really harsh winter in a few years which has resulted in a good hatch of ruffed/blue grouse, mountain/valley quail and chukar. In fact people have seen chukar running around the downtown area of Alturas, this is unusual considering this isn't the type of area you usually find chukar. Dove season hasn't been bad in most years there are lots of mourning doves in the area at least until the weather changes and it freezes, then they head south. However the Eurasian doves are all over place.

Ducks & Geese; Before deer (bow and rifle) seasons are over waterfowl hunters are always looking forward to the opener that usually falls on the first Saturday in October. Most are optimistic that their season will be a productive one and with good reason.

Our duck and goose populations are legendary if we have good water conditions and plenty of grain fields which is nearly always the case.

Openers are especially good if a weather front moves in; of course, hunting before, during and just after a front moves in is something we all practice. Autumn in Modoc is by far, my most favorite time of year, especially when it comes to hunting. All the hunters here in Modoc, including yours truly, look forward to this time of year. To Modoc hunters, it’s not only about the thrill of the hunt; it’s about getting outdoors, exploring our wilderness and enjoying nature. Above all we want everyone to have a safe and successful hunt.

Excuse Me for Boasting about Our Blue Grouse Hunting!
Not to brag or anything but it’s not every day you get two limits of Blue Grouse just like that! Shotgun season for Blue Grouse opened last weekend [2014] in the Warner Mountain area of Modoc County. Blue Grouse are one of the most fun of the upland game bird species to hunt and the most delicious, in my opinion.

During the late summer and fall, Blue Grouse can be found in the higher elevations throughout the Warner Mountains and the California Pines area, in high alpine meadows near springs and at the edges of fir thickets, aspens and other mixed conifer forests. These birds like to hide under shrubs or logs and can be very difficult to spot.

Lorissa Soriano, with blue grouse limits for her and her hunting partner, photo by Alex Ross
The author with limits for her and her hunting partner, photo by Alex Ross

These crazy birds are fairly large, between 12 to 15 inches in length or about the same size of a medium weight chicken. In fact we call them mountain chickens.

Adult birds have a long tale that is gray at the end. Males will be dark in color and will have a yellow throat sac and wattle. Females will be mottled brown.

Opening day of Blue Grouse season, my hunting partner and I headed up to the North Warner Mountain area in search of this elusive bird. Masters of camouflage, the Blue Grouse are very difficult to spot and can be easily passed by. So hunting for this bird can be very challenging. The best time to spot them is in the latter part of the morning while they are foraging.

We arrived at our usual spot fairly early and made a few hunts. We were very careful not to make too much noise, these birds spook easily. Once they are flushed out they fly in a zigzag pattern through the trees and disappear into nearby branches, they remain very still, blending in to its surroundings making it nearly impossible to find them.

We hunted the area for a little while, but never saw or heard any birds. So we decided to drive around and look for tracks or try to find any other sign of these crazy birds.

It just so happened while driving around we ran into some friends who had a cabin in the nearby area. We stopped and asked them if they had seen any birds on the way up. They told us they hadn’t seen any in this particular area. Just then, while we were talking about trying to locate birds, a whole flock of grouse started to cross the road right in front of us, needless to say “it was game on (no pun intended)!” You can only guess what happened next.

The timing was perfect and we ended up getting our limit of birds just like that!

What a wonderful day. Besides hunting for birds, there’s nothing more beautiful than driving around the Warner Mountains in the fall. The autumn colors are so stunningly vibrant and picturesque. You can really feel the changing of the seasons here. It’s awesome!


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Website Design Photo Credits: thanks the following individuals for contributing photographs for use on our Home and Section pages: Anders Tomlinson of, Casey Allen of Bayside, CA; Jason Haley of Medford, OR; Steve Breth of Burney, CA; Tracy McCormack of Eureka, CA; Grant Thompson of Grand Junction, CO; Richard Bott of Shingletown, CA; Ron Loftus of Yreka, CA; Scott Caldwell of Montague, CA; Lorissa Soriano of Alturas, CA and the late Dave Menke, formerly with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

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