SoCalHunt hit some luck for the waterfowl opener this season. A pretty fair reservation drawing for opening day! So, today, both my usual hunting partners and I were to be found at 0300 waiting, with baited breath, in the reservation line with a DFW reservation letter in hand.
One of my partners couldn’t get out of work, but fortunately works not far from San Jacinto, so he was there to give it a shot (hopefully a few more then “a” shot) at the ducks before he had to leave at 7 am.
When our turn came at the check station we picked a blind that we though would be “the spot” and then headed out to set up and get ready to start another great waterfowl season at SJ. Because the change to standard time hasn’t happen yet there was plenty of time to get out to the blind and set things up for what we hoped would be a great day of waterfowling.
After we finished setting up the blind and placing the decoys we had about an hour to set back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the marsh waking up for the day. As the sun began to lighten the sky in the east, just behind Mount San Jacinto, the few light wispy clouds behind the Bernasconi Hills to the west were tinged in a light pink color.
At precisely 6:26 am the start time horn blew signaling the assembled hunters on the wildlife area that the 2016/17 waterfowl season had begun! Immediately the sound of multiple shotguns firing at their webfooted targets echoed across the marsh. We had a few duck come within range almost right away and missed a couple of the first few but then my hunting partner who had to get to work scored on a nice cinnamon teal.
There were many birds flying but the majority, at least in our area, seemed to be coots and we had to use caution to pick them out before we fired on them instead of the ducks. Not long after the teal splashed down my other partner nailed a nice mallard drake swinging in towards the decoys. The bird appeared to be a yearling as he didn’t have the full bright green head of that fully feathered adult drake mallards.
Not long after this a hen shoveler came in range directly above the blind. I was able to start my season’s harvest by dropping her as she pulled up to attempt to gain altitude.
A hen mallard came swinging into the decoys soon after and I believe all three of us fired at this bird. She went down but was swimming away from us as soon as the splash from her fall subsided. My other partner quickly headed her off as she was attempting to climb out of the pond and she was added to our strap.
Of course, since none of us are perfect shots these successes were interspaced with occasional misses on ducks as they buzzed the pond we occupied and several “false alarms” as coots continued to buzz our blind from many directions. Time was running out for my partner that had to get to work and just before he had to call it a day a hen cinnamon teal rocketed by and he was able to connect with speedy little bird. Unfortunately he was now out of time and he collected his brace of teal, wished us good luck and headed out to begin his work day. (sorry I didn’t get any pictures of his birds. I didn’t think about it at the time)
Not long after he left a low flying duck came straight in towards the blind. I was able to connect and the duck crashed to the ground just a few feet in front of our blind. The best kind of retrieve! No wading involved and a hen ring neck was added to the strap.
As the sun rose higher in the sky things started to slow somewhat and the dead still sky reflected brightly in the mirror like surface of the pond.
After a few minutes of inactivity I caught sight of a little teal headed in towards the blind. As she passed I folded her and she splashed down several yards out in the pond. After collecting the little green wing hen it was almost as if someone had flipped a switch and the wildlife area grew quiet. As is always the case at San Jacinto there were other visitors near our blind and we enjoyed seeing them as well as the ducks we’d see earlier. A pair of black Phoebes seemed to take a special liking to our blind and hung around pretty close for a while.
We stuck it out for a while longer but we saw very few ducks flying after that and none of those came within range of our shotguns. An occasional shot or two were heard around the wildlife area but nothing as consistent as the first hour or so of the day. About 10 am it was getting fairly hot and we decided to call it a day. We picked up our decoys and gear and headed out to our truck to make our way home.
So the 2016/17 waterfowl season opener is in the books. We ended up with 7 birds between the three of us, which isn’t fantastic but it’s pretty good.
No matter how many ducks come home on the strap its always great to get out on the wildlife area and enjoy a morning of duck hunting and take in the sights and sounds of the marsh. I know there were many hunters that did well today and the coming hunt days will, hopefully, be productive for the hunters trying their luck and duck hunting skills at San Jacinto. Hope to see you out there some time this season.