SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 1/2/13

Once again SoCalHunt was in attendance at San Jacinto Wildlife Area, but this time for a chance at the sweatline bucket. Due to my work schedule this year I’ve only had one other opportunity at a morning hunt, so even though my usual hunting partners weren’t available, I decided to go for it solo since this might be my last chance for a morning hunt this season.

When I arrived there seemed to be quite a crowd at the check station, although, since it is still winter break for the school kids, this might account for some of the numbers. After Tom’s morning talk the reservation holders lined up to claim their spots and the rest of us waited for the bucket to come out. Once the reservation holders were taken care of Jesse brought out the bucket and my name went in, along with what looked like maybe 40 others.

Jesse began drawing the names and I was pleased to hear my name called in short order. I went inside and picked my blind from what was left and headed out. The wind was blowing hard, which usually bodes well for waterfowl hunting at San Jacinto.

When I got to my blind I set up and then settled in to wait for start time. The sky was totally clear but the wind was whipping at something like 25 to 30 miles per hour, bouncing the decoys all over the place.

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As the predawn light began to grow brighter ducks could be seen flying in all directions, more then I’ve seen the entire season so far in just these first few minutes of light. To their credit today none of the SJ hunters shot early although that may have had a lot to do with the stern warning Tom gave the group about early shooting during his morning talk. Once start time hit though it was time for some long awaited action.

The first couple opportunities I had I missed, which seems like par for the course for me. Also, because of how strong the wind was I passed on several birds I would of normally shot at as I knew there was a good likelihood they would be lost if I managed to hit them because of the wind strength, direction and the low light of the first minutes of shooting. As I’ve often said I’d rather miss a bird, or not even take the shot, then to hit one and then loose it.

Another problem I seemed to have this morning was one of the hazards of hunting alone. There were many times that I was looking left and birds came in from the right and vice versa which resulted in ducks escaping that would have likely been downed had there been two pair of eyes in the blind.

After about a half hour of hunting, with a few teal and shoverlers having successfully escaped my shot string, another drake spoony headed into my decoys making a low pass over them. As he passed my blind I swung at him and hit him, splashing him in the pond behind the blind. I could see he was only winged and I quickly exited the blind to attempt to retrieve him. As soon as I crossed the short expanse of water from my blind to the dike separating my pond from the next, I lost sight of the bird and could not locate him. Very disappointing, as I’ve stated before, I’d rather just miss them then for this to happen.

Anyway, I went back to hunting and noted that I would re-check the area for him as soon as there was a little more daylight. A short time later another shoverler came in to the decoys with the landing gear down and I dropped him about 20 yards from the blind. This bird I at first mistook for a hen but on closer inspection it appeared to be a young drake, not yet in full plumage.

After unsuccessfully sending some steel after a few other birds that passed by, another spoony tried to set down in the decoys and I dropped this hen in about the same spot as the last one.

About 9:30 an unusual event occurred. The wind went from blowing at about 25 miles an hour to almost calm, just like someone had turned the fan off. This had the effect of slowing the flights of ducks way down, although there was still occasional ducks flying in the area. The decoys went from looking like “Victory at Sea” (if any of you remember that old TV show) to becalmed in a matter of minutes.

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Around 10:30 the opposite happened and it was like someone turned the fan back on with the wind picking up to about 20 or so very quickly. Unfortunately this didn’t cause the ducks to fly the way they were in the early morning.

As I mentioned earlier I went back to the dike and checked for the lost shoveler after the sun was up and there was good light but was still unable to find it. Not long after the wind picked back up I noticed something in the duck grass in the pond behind my blind. I used my binos to check and, believe it or not, there sat my wounded spoony, not 40 yards from my blind. I quickly exited my blind and was able to close the range on the bird before he noticed me and was able to finish him with one more shot. So I was able to add bird number three to the strap, although I guess you might be able to argue that this one was actually bird number one since he was the first one I knocked down today.

After a short time I decided to call it a day as I had some family obligations for the late afternoon and I picked up my gear and my birds and headed in.

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(Sorry for the out of focus picture – don’t know what happened there)

So, finally a pretty good hunt after what has seemed like a long “dry spell” this season. And although three birds isn’t a great strap I only have myself to blame that I wasn’t able to collect a limit. They were there today, I just couldn’t close the deal, but, getting a limit isn’t what its all about, it was just nice to see all the birds flying today. Much more interesting then staring at an empty sky.

As the season winds down SoCalHunt will be back for at least a couple more hunts before the season is over (hopefully) but next week is booked so look for the next hunt report in a couple weeks.


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