SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report – 10/25/17

Looking at the weather report for today I debated…for a few seconds…but I had to go.  It’s been since January that I’ve been privileged to sit in a duck blind at San Jacinto.  The weather report said it was going to be hotter than blazes but they also said there might be some wind, which is usually a good thing to move the birds at SJ.

So, Today SoCalHunt traveled out to San Jacinto Wildlife Area for solo afternoon refill hunt.  The bird counts for the opener this past Saturday were pretty good and I was hoping, despite the predicted hot weather, that at least a few birds would be flying in the afternoon.

I actually got out a little earlier than usual and as I drove up Davis Road towards the SJ Check Station I was passed by at least 8 truck leaving SJ after completing their morning hunts.  I thought that might be a good sign if a lot of hunters were finishing up early.  When I arrived, I walked up to the Check Station to check in and get my name on the refill list. I was totally surprised to see that I was 5th on the refill list and 3 of the 4 hunting parties ahead of me on the list had already refilled, meaning, in effect, I was now 2nd on the list.  There were already several good blinds available so, for the first time I can recall, there was no waiting for a good blind to check in, I picked my spot and was on the way out to the Wildlife Area almost immediately.

I walked out to my blind and set up and was hunting by about 11 am.  The conditions were already hot, with the temperature rising fast, and the sky was completely clear and calm.  The very definition of a “bluebird” day.  Ducks don’t really like “bluebird” days…actually, they probably like them fine, it’s us duck hunters that don’t like them.

So, I settled in to wait for the first duck of the 2017/18 season to make an appearance for me.  Things were slow and the thermometer was quickly creeping upward as the sun beat down on the Wildlife Area.  The wind that I had heard was predicted didn’t materialize and the pond took on the appearance of a mirror.

While I waited, I enjoyed the non-duck residents of the marsh…except for one (I’ll explain in a minute).  Of course, the ever-present coots splashed around in the pond and some other “critters” made appearances.  A couple groups of ibises flew by and several dragonflies and damselflies made visits to the blind.  The visitor, actually visitors, that I didn’t really enjoy, were a group of yellow jackets that insisted I was in their blind.  They kept buzzing me all day and climbed in and out of the palm fronds that made up the blind walls.  Not a fun blind partner if you get my drift.

About 1:00 pm a group of 4 Teal snuck in over my left shoulder and were at the far side of the pond before I could do anything.  I hit the pintail whistle a couple times and they turned and came back towards my pond.  They passed over high, out of range and just as they did that another pair of Teal slipped in from over my right shoulder.  These two were well within range but, as they surprised me slipping in over my shoulder, I wasn’t prepared and missed the rushed shot.

About 20 minutes later I noticed a couple ducks swimming around at the far side of my pond.  They looked like they might be Scaup but they also might have been Ring Necks.  It was hard to tell at that distance, even with the binos.  It was important to ID these birds in case they would come in range as Scaup aren’t legal the first two weeks of the season but Ring Necks are.  The point was rendered moot anyway as they never even came close to where I could have even attempted a shot.

So, after that little flurry of activity things slowed again.  I looked at the weather app on my phone and it was right at 99 degrees.  I believe, for me at least, this was probably the warmest temperature I’ve ever duck hunted in.  I wondered if I might break the 100-degree mark today.

At about 2:30, as I sat in the blind, over my left shoulder a hawk flew over so low he almost knocked my hat off.  He appeared just as surprised as me as he sort of “jumped” (for lack of a better description) when he saw me and quickly gained some altitude.

After that, except for an occasional shorebird or songbird, there wasn’t much flying.  I checked the weather app a few more times but the temperature never broke the 100 mark.  As the sun was just going down behind the hills a flock of about 20 Geese passed behind me about 200 or so yards away headed towards Mystic Lake.  As the approached Mystic, some hunters in one of the new Mystic blinds opened up on them.  I couldn’t see if they managed to down any of them but this caused them to reverse course and head straight for my blind.  This would have been great, except for one thing.  They were probably at least 120 yards high by the time they made it over me so I had no shot.  It was tempting the throw a shot their way but it would have been a total fluke to down one at that range and wasn’t worth the possibility of wounding one to fly off and die later.  Although it was nice to see them right overhead.  If I’d been thinking I should have grabbed the camera instead of the shotgun.

So, that was it for the day.  The sun dropped behind the hills and another day of duck hunting at SJ was in the books.  I’ll be back soon to try it again.  Hopefully, it’ll be about 25 or 30 degrees cooler next time…whew!

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