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Oak Slough Trail is an outdoor honey

Article and photos by Jesse Bible
12/13/13 -- Oak Slough Trail is a generally overlooked section of the Sacramento River Bend BLM Area located between Cottonwood and Red Bluff California. This is a great place for those who simply want to take a hike or watch for birds and wildlife.

Oak Slough Trail. River Bend Area, Shasta County

If you plan to visit this area, I recommend carrying a variety of accessories, depending upon your objective. A walking stick can be extremely helpful. A backpack along with a camera, GPS, binoculars, snacks and water are also recommended as you might find yourself on a day-long adventure.

Oak Slough Trail, River Bend, Sacramento River

During hunting seasons you might also choose to take a shotgun, rifle or high-powered pistol and shells to match because if you are willing to walk far enough you may encounter legal big game, upland game or even waterfowl.

Oak Slough Trail. River Bend Area, Shasta County

The larger section of the River Bend area south of Oak Slough Trail is known for its duck hunting ponds as well as some quail, dove and pheasant hunting opportunities. An extremely lucky pig hunter might be successful there occasionally, too. These two sections of BLM land are linked together by what is called the Yana Trail.

When waterfowl hunting is in full swing and there is some weather, it can be very hard or impossible to get in on a spot to put out some decoys at the duck ponds on the larger section of the River Bend area generally known as the Paynes Creek duck hunting ponds.

Oak Slough Trail. River Bend Area, Shasta County

At the Oak Slough area there are some opportunities for waterfowling when the space is slim at Paynes Creek. There is a decent sized pond called "Coyote Pond" according to the BLM map that is due east of the parking area off of Gover Road, just past the Barge Hole.

Oak Slough Trail. River Bend Area, Shasta County

There is also access to the Sacramento River itself, maybe three quarters of a mile east. This section of the river is deep and slow and generally holds birds including dabblers and occasionally a diver such as goldeneye, bufflehead or ring-billed duck. Both the pond and the river have good cover, but you will need a method of retrieval, a dog probably being your best option.

Oak Slough Trail. River Bend Area, Shasta County

The upland opportunities are good here at times but sturdy boots and brush pants are recommended if you expect to flush quail from heavy cover including blackberry bushes. Quail are scattered on the higher brushy ridges that slope down toward the river. Doves are here regularly near the river bottom, sometimes in good numbers, along with a few tree squirrel and some turkey. Large patches of blackberry and the densely willowed river bottom also hold quail.

There are acres and acres of flat, grassy river bottom land that holds pheasant and invites dove but the hunter must be persistent and willing to put a fair number of miles on his boots if he is to be successful.

Oak Slough Trail. River Bend Area, Shasta County

I went on a trek there last winter specifically for feral hog. I put many miles on my boots but ended up seeing only a few ruts under oak trees way back in to the east, but that does mean the pigs are there sometimes. It could be just sign the occasional transient herd or single pig has passed through on their quest for acorns, which have been plentiful in recent years.

Oak Slough Trail. River Bend Area, Shasta County

Recently, I took a short trip to the Oak Slough area with my dog, B.B., while there was still a little snow on the ground. I brought lead shot, expecting to do a little upland work. Peeking over the ridge, I watched five mallards and about two dozen bufflehead working the north side of Coyote Pond, staying in the sun and out of the breeze. I let them be and continued east, aiming for the river bottom. Since there was little cover at the pond, I could not have gotten close enough to take a shot even had I been there solely for waterfowl hunting.

There appears to be little feed for waterfowl in this area but birds obviously stop to rest in which case a decoy or two might come in handy. During migrations or stormy conditions waterfowl will either fly over this pond or use it as a place to rest and get out of the wind. There may be some food such as snails in the gooey, deep mud, I could not tell. A well concealed hunter should be able to take a bird or two when these conditions prevail or at least get a pass shot now and then when ducks or geese take a detour from the river and fly overhead.

I saw and heard a few doves flitting around from tree to tree. B.B. did not jump any pheasant because we stayed mainly on the dirt road.

We dove off into a shallow drainage hemmed in by blackberries. No quail were to be found but B.B. managed to tree a pair of grey squirrels. We made it to the river and worked north a little ways to another huge patch of blackberries. Apparently the quail were cold and bundled deep, because we couldn't get anything to flush.

It was a nice walk in the fresh air anyways and good to get out.

Oak Slough Trail. River Bend Area, Shasta County, wild honeycomb

On the way back to the truck we were rewarded for being out in the cold. I spied in a large oak tree and what I took to be an odd looking leafy fungus. Upon closer examination I saw that there were bees in the air and the fungus was actually about five or six curtains of excess honeycomb hanging out of a large hollow branch containing the bulk of the hive. I knocked down a decent section of the comb and was able to retrieve it without getting stung due to the chill in the air. I think there might be a few stocking stuffers of wild raw honey coming up on Christmas Eve.

Oak Slough trail of the Sacramento River Bend area is a great little parcel that has very easy access. And, yes, I almost forgot, you can fish bass in the pond or fish trout and salmon in the river. There is plenty of wildlife there and is open to all forms of hunting, even for honey. Pick your season and go have some fun!

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