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Arctic air quashes hopes for duck hunters

By Frank Galusha
12/06/13 -- Duck hunters in far Northern California have been dealt a raw deal thanks to the perverted handling of our weather by the gods. Arctic air has been shoved down upon our marshes and ponds before much needed rain and wind. As of this time, most all of our open, still water from Yreka to Reno is frozen solid. It's hard to get excited about hunting in cold, snowy weather, too, unless there is also wind. Wind has been with us but not when it's been stormy. I know, I've got to stop whining and think positively but it's not easy, not this year!

This fall has been one of the driest on record but the truth is there is still hope left in those of us who keep our chest waders at the ready. Duck hunters never give up.

Right now, many of us are thinking, "Maybe some ducks that are still hanging out in Canada, Washington and Oregon will not look down upon us as 'fly-over country' later this month or even in January. All we need is for the fickle finger of fate to give us a warm up, some huge wind storms or a 'Pineapple Express.'” Hunting in late December can be fantastic, and in January, too.

Getting back to reality, it may snow in Redding tonight and the forecast highs across much of the far northern part of the state as well as in Oregon will barely reach into the 40’s if that, which means the next storm, due in Wednesday will have to pack a lot of warm air and water to do us much good.

Even before this cold wave the hunting at places such as Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Ash Creek and other wildlife areas was poor with most hunters taking less than a bird per day.

It wasn’t much brighter further south, according to Pat Kittle at Kittles Outdoors in Colusa.

“In the last few days we have had fair to good reports, Kittle said in an email. “Not all areas are shooting but those near where the birds are choosing to be are getting action when the north wind blows. The current cold weather should indeed force the birds to eat earlier and more often and push what birds are left up north down to us. There are plenty of birds in the area even prior to this cold spell but they are very content to loaf all day.”

Kittle described the situation as a “vacation for the birds” since the area around Colusa has been more like Cabo San Lucas or Mazatlan this fall. Plus, as he points out, the low water conditions are causing the birds to concentrate in the few areas that have it. Of course, it's cold now, which is good and a storm is on the way.

Kittle is optimistic for another reason. In the past few days results on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuges have improved. On Wednesday the hunters averaged 3 to 4 birds, mostly gadwall and shoveler. Delevan led the way with a 4.8 bird average; Sutter produced fewer birds but the bag there was dominated by widgeon and mallard. For complete results see

Apparently, it’s time for all N.E. corner duck hunters to look south. There are plenty of opportunities along the Sacramento in the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge as well as in remote ponds and few lakes such as Black Butte. Even the Thermalito Afterbay would be a decent choice this weekend.

Good luck to all. Just make sure you have that wind at your back, if it exists! I know, I know, I have to keep thinking positively.

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Pups & Partridges on the Calapooia Prairie

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It’s Not over Till the Lady Sings

mountain lion on rocky edge, photo courtesy of UDWR and Carrie Wilson, CA DFW
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