Archive for the 'Hunting Reports' Category

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 10/30/19

If you’ve been following SoCalHunt for a while you know it has been just over a year since I’ve been able to get out on San Jacinto Wildlife Area and pursue the wily waterfowl.  This was due to a variety of reasons, which I won’t bore you with, but suffice to say today I was FINALLY back at it.

My 2019/20 Waterfowl Season started with a solo afternoon refill hunt. Wind was predicted along with temperatures in the mid-60s which translated into good conditions for pursuing the web-footed critters so I figured I would give it a try.  Coupled with the fact that Mystic Lake is still very much in existence it looked to be good chances for a few ducks, at least.

When I drove up Davis Road towards the Check Station, I was kind of expecting to see a lot of hunters’ trucks in the check station lot as their owners waited for refill spots.  I figured the poor counts at Wister and the windy conditions would attract some of the Wister hunters to SJ. To my surprise, there were only about 7 or 8 trucks in the lot as I pulled in, so chances looked good for a spot already.  When I walked into the Check Station to put my name on the refill list, I first deposited my toy donation for the Bryant Park Head Start Preschool in the donation box.  This is a great cause and gives hunters a chance to show they have a heart.  (details for the Bryant Park Preschool Toy Drive can be found here… ).  Once that was done I signed in on the refill list on the number 6 spot, and two hunting parties had already refilled so I was, in essence, in the fourth position.  There were already a few blinds available, so I figured I’d wait a bit and see what came in.  As I waited, the wind, which was whipping at about 30 miles an hour at least, stirred up dust in the check station lot.

About noon I was ready to pick a spot and get started when the hunters from one of the blinds I was hoping for came in.  I hadn’t hunted this blind for several years and I figured I’d give it a shot as the last time Mystic Lake was around it was a pretty good spot to be as the birds traded back and forth between the Wildlife Area and Mystic Lake.

When I reached the blind, I was kind of disappointed to see that the pond was fairly overgrown with tules and there was very little opened water.  I would have to be careful picking my shots so as not to lose any birds I might drop in the reeds.

It wasn’t long until I had my first opportunity, a hen Shoveler passed right over the blind well within range and I fired three shots at her.  She climbed and kept going, untouched.  The strong wind, while stirring up the birds and keeping them moving, was also throwing a big complication into lead estimates.

As I waited it was a big contrast to the afternoons the last couple of seasons.  I don’t think more than 15 or 20 minutes went by that I didn’t see some ducks flying in the immediate area.  I could also hear shooting from various parts of the Wildlife Area off and on all afternoon.  Another interesting thing was the variety of other things flying around SJ today.  Due to the Southern California fire situation lately several (but not all) of the non-waterfowl flying things were firefighting aircraft.

Unfortunately, due to the overgrowth of the pond, there were several ducks I had to let pass that I probably could have harvested (if I could have hit them, LOL) because they would have fallen into the tules and would have been unrecoverable.  I’m not going to kill a bird if I know I can’t retrieve it.

I did have a few other chances but blew those also, a couple just plain missing them and one by tripping over something in the blind as I stood up to shoot at a beautiful trio of Mallards, well within range.

So, today I considered a success.  Not because of the birds I shot, because I failed at that pretty bad, but because I actually got to do a little shooting today and got to enjoy watching quite a few ducks flying in the area all day long.  It beat the hell out of staring at the empty sky like I did most of the times I went the last couple of seasons.  I also considered it a success because I was able to get out there and actually hunt, unlike last season.

As quitting time rang on the cell phone alarm, I started picking up my gear for the walk back to the truck.  Once again, San Jacinto displayed a beautiful sunset.

So, there’s my start to the 2019/20 season.  A success in a couple respects but no so much in the bird department, but I can’t blame that on lack of waterfowl this time.  I’ll be back soon to give it another try, maybe I’ll see you out there.



SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 10/24/18

Today SoCalHunt kicked off the 2018/19 Waterfowl Season with a solo afternoon refill hunt. With the good bird counts for the opener on Saturday, I figured I would give it a shot hoping for at least a few birds in the air for the afternoon.

I got a later start than I wanted and as I drove up Davis Road towards the Check Station I saw several hunting parties driving in the opposite direction, leaving San Jacinto after their morning hunts.  I figured this was probably a good thing as it meant a lot of hunters were finishing up early.  When I walked up to the Check Station to check in and get my name on the refill list, I ended up about halfway down on the refill list page.  However, it wasn’t as bad as it sounded as many of the hunters ahead of me on the list had already refilled.  This left me 4th on the refill list so I already knew I was going out hunting today, without a doubt.  There were a few blinds available, but I figured I’d wait a little while and see if one of my favorites would check in.  It was only about 10 minutes later that one of them did become available, so I was off to the Wildlife Area to start my 2018/19 season.

As I unloaded my gear from my truck, I looked up to see a group of about 15 White Fronted Geese flying above, although they were way up there, like 500 yards high, but I figured that was a good sign to see them in the air.  When I arrived at my blind I set up and threw out my decoys and settled in to see what would transpire.  It was about 11:30 and I was already set up and hunting.  I scanned the sky hoping to see at least a few birds flying in the area.

The day was hot. I checked the weather app on my phone and it indicated it was in the mid-80s already.  There was just about no breeze, maybe an occasional puff of air was all, and the sun shone brightly in the cloudless skies.  Another typical early season “Blue Bird” day.

Unfortunately, the sky was devoid of waterfowl, although I did hear an occasional shot from a couple of areas way across the Wildlife Area, just not anything near me. While I waited and scanned the skies the usual complement of Coots and other non-targeted marsh critters kept things interesting.  One unusual visitor was a white Praying Mantis climbing up the side of my blind, searching for a meal.  I’d never seen a white one before but I’m not familiar enough with insects to know if that’s a rare thing.

As it turned out the Praying Mantis turned out to be the highlight of the day as not only didn’t I have a duck come into range, I didn’t even see any flying today.  So, as it was last season, it appears that SJ is again going to be a morning hunt only…at least for now.  Maybe if we get some weather things will get better for the refill hunters.  As the sun set, I picked up the decoys and the rest of my gear, including all 25 of my unfired shells, and headed for home.

(These birds in this photo aren’t ducks, just a flock of blackbirds)

I’m going to have to see if I can make a few mornings this season, hopefully the sweatline and/or the reservation draws will be kind to me.  But I’ll still try some afternoons as the season progresses and see if things improve.  Maybe I’ll see you out there some time.


SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 12/13/17

After finally…finally…getting on the scoreboard on the last hunt at San Jacinto, coupled with the very good bird count numbers turned in this past Saturday I figured maybe it was going to be worth it to try another afternoon refill hunt. If you’ve been following my reports here on SoCalHunt you know that I’ve had probably the slowest start to a duck season that I’ve ever experienced.

When I arrived at SJ, I went up to the check station and donated a couple toys for San Jacinto’s Bryant Park Preschool Toy Drive and checked in on the refill list.  It didn’t look like it would be a long wait, in fact, there were some blinds available already, as there have been most of the other times I’ve refilled this season, just not one I really wanted, so I figured I wait a while and see what came in.

After about an hour a blind came in that I liked and I was off to the “races” again.  I was optimistic because as I waited, the morning hunters that were checking in their birds were coming up to the check station with some really nice straps, some even with full limits.

I got out to my blind and after setting up I had just a minute more than 4 hours of hunting time to go.  The day was dead calm with clear skies and zero wind.  It was warming up fast and was already pushing into the 80’s.

So, there I sat, staring at a clear sky…a clear, empty sky.  Well, not really empty but empty of ducks anyway.  As always, there were other critters in the marsh to watch so things are never boring in the blind anyway.  There were, of course, numerous Coots and Ruddy Ducks and a few different varieties of Songbirds.  A Greater Egret even flew by within yards of the blind.

Just before 2 pm a refill hunter was walking out to his blind and passed by the pond I was in.  This spooked up a quartet of Teal from behind some nearby tules.  Three of the little rockets turned away from my blind but the 4th one turned towards my blind but then did a 180 and headed back over the tules.  He was within range, but I only had one quick snap shot at him before he would be over the tules again and then be unrecoverable if I dropped him after that, but the rushed shot missed the mark.  So, as the sun set lower in the sky I settled back in the blind and waited for another opportunity.

Well, I’ll just make a long story short here.  I had my one shot for the day and that was all there would be.  I believe I saw a total of maybe 20 ducks flying during my 4 hours in the blind, none within range except for that one Teal.  Apparently, until something changes, SJ is going to be a totally morning hunt for the foreseeable future.  If you saw the bird counts I posted earlier the average harvest was very good today which would probably actually be excellent if there was a way to average out the afternoon refills that didn’t get much of anything.  As the sun dipped behind the hills again I made plans to try and get out for a morning hunt soon.  Although, if I can’t make that I’ll still give the afternoons a shot too.

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 12/6/17

Well, if you’ve read my last few hunting reports, and have been keeping track of the hunt results here on SoCalHunt you know it’s been s-l-o-w.  However today there was a new aspect in the mix…wind!  Usually when there’s wind at San Jacinto hunting improves, a little at least.  So, with that in mind, I decided that it was worth it to hit San Jacinto for an afternoon refill hunt.

When I arrived, I was a little disappointed to see that the wind was pretty calm.  I walked up to the check station and donated a toy for the Annual San Jacinto Wildlife Area Bryant Park Preschool Toy Drive and signed in on the refill list.  There were about 10 groups of hunters signed up on the refill list ahead of me but, for some reason, there was only one pair of hunters waiting at the check station to refill and there were already several blinds available.  A couple of those available blinds are usually pretty good ones but I thought I’d wait a little while to see what came in.  Maybe I could do better.

It wasn’t 5 minutes later that the hunter from the exact blind I was hoping to get checked in.  He’d done okay, checking in three birds.  The two hunters that were there that were ahead of me on the refill list didn’t want that blind so I got my yellow card and headed out onto the refuge.

I got out to the blind, set up my decoys and other gear and settled into the blind and was hunting by about 11:45.  Disappointingly the air was calm and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the predicted “extreme” Santa Ana winds conspicuous by their absence.

As I sat in the blind the wildlife area was silent, in terms of gunfire at least, and although there were birds flying here and there they weren’t the right kind of birds (ducks).  About a half hour after I set up a lone hen gadwall came in low over the tules, saw my decoys and, without hesitation, pitched into the decoys and landed.  The gaddy was about 20 yards out from the blind sitting on the water.  I told myself if I missed this one I might have to give up duck hunting this year.  I stood up and the bird jumped and, I’m glad to report, I’ll still be hunting this season.  Finally, a bird for the strap and a nice one too.

I put my just harvested bird on the strap and settled back in the blind hoping to she had some friends in the area that would also come to visit.  While I waited, as is always the case at SJ, there was plenty of other wildlife to observe.  There was, of course, the ever-present coots along with what seemed like quite a few more hawks then usual today.  Several small songbirds visited, as did a shrike, which is a very interesting little bird.  This little predator is about the size of a large songbird.  He usually eats insects and small animals, like small lizards, and impales them on thorns, or barbed-wire fences which helps the bird tear them apart to eat.

There were also quite a few other “birds” in the air today.  A couple of KC-135 Stratotankers and a C-17 Globemaster and even a CH-54A Firefighting Helicopter probably headed to one of the big brushfires going on north of Los Angeles or further.

Well, the wind was off and on but it never rose to a level that would get the birds moving.  Maybe it was windier earlier in the day because I did find out later that the morning shoot was pretty good.  While I was there it never got over about 10 or 12 miles an hour.  Just about everybody in the part of the wildlife area I was hunting left by about 1:30 or 2:00 and when I left there was only one other truck in the parking lot for that area.  After I got my gadwall I saw a total of 4 other ducks before quitting time, none within range. So, as the sun set and legal shooting time expired I collected my decoys, gear, and lone duck and headed out.  I’ll be back soon to try it again.  At least I was 100% on my shots today, killed a bird with every shot took…one for one in other words.

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 11/22/17

With reservation in hand, SoCalHunt was found, at 0300, in the reservation line at San Jacinto Wildlife Area.  Yes, it was almost at the end of the reservation line with a very high reservation number, but any reservation is better than even number one in the sweatline.   One of my usual hunting buddies met me there to tag along, although he was going to have to bail at about 7 am to make it to work, but that’s still better than not giving it a shot.  One of the advantages he has working near SJ.

Once we were at the check station we picked out spot and we were off to get things set up before legal shooting time.  The blind we picked wasn’t too far a walk and we were set up with about a half hour to spare before start time.

As the sunlight appeared and began to backlight San Jacinto Mountain we awaited the horn which would signal start time.

The horn sounded and so did the shooting throughout the wildlife area.  For us, for the first few minutes, no opportunities presented themselves but shortly some teal rocketed by and both of us executed our perfect catch and release hunting technique blowing holes in the sky and watching the diminutive ducks continue on their way.  The sun continued to brighten the sky and it was becoming easier to see potential targets.

About a half hour after start time two Ring Necks came in high over the blind, but still in range and we each picked the bird on our respective side and opened up on them.  My bird kept going, apparently not impressed with my shooting this morning, however my partner’s duck folded and splashed down about 40 yards out in the pond.  My partner waded out and came back with a nice hen Ring Neck.

We each had a couple more chances and we also let a couple ducks fly by as we just weren’t looking in the right direction as they approached and they got by us before we had a shot.  Finally, as the sun fully cleared the mountains and lit the Bernasconi Hills in morning light it was time for my partner to bug out and head for work.  He collected his gear and his Ring Neck and headed out to work.

I was going to stick it out for a while as I didn’t have to be anywhere today so I was hoping to finally get my season started.  There was still some shooting going on around the area but it had slowed down quite a bit.  As I waited for a duck or two to fly by an unusual little butterfly, no more than about a half inch long, visited the blind.  I’ve never seen a butterfly that small.

I stuck it out until noon but it was not to be today…again…as the only birds that came in range after my partner left was a group of three teal that swung in low over the tules at about 10 feet off the water and right over the blind, almost knocking my hat off.  There were there and gone before I could even pick up the shotgun.

I packed up and headed in to the check station to check out.  While I was there a couple of groups of hunters came in with some pretty good straps, I guess they just didn’t want to be where we were today, although, if I could have hit anything I should have had at least two birds for sure.

Today, although I got skunked, at least my partner was able to collect a bird before he had to leave for work and I did see more birds flying today than I have seen so far this season and I did fire the gun a few times.  I guess you could call that an improvement over not even picking up the shotgun.  The ducks, apparently, just didn’t want to be where I was today.  But, of course, I’ll be back soon to try it again.  Maybe I should bring those shells that actually have shot in them next time.


SoCalHunt SJ Hunting Report 11/1/17

Today SoCalHunt returned, once again, to San Jacinto Wildlife Area for another try at a solo afternoon refill hunt.  The bird counts for the last two hunt days weren’t very good but the weather had been unusually hot and calm on those days so today, with temperatures predicted to be nearly 30 degrees lower than last Wednesday, there was hope that more ducks would be flying today.

When I made my way up to the Check Station to check in and get my name on the refill list I was again very surprised to see the extremely short refill list.  Today’s refill last had only 5 hunting parties ahead of me 3 of them had already refilled by the time I signed up.  Although there were some blind available I opted to wait a while to see if one of my old favorites would become available and in pretty short order one of them did check in and I was on my way to my blind.

I should note that as I waited for my blind to come in several hunting parties checked in and it didn’t look good.  Most were bringing in maybe 1 Teal or a couple Coots or a big goose…. egg (aka zero), so it didn’t look good if the morning shoot was that slow but I was already here so I was going out to give it a try, no matter what.

I arrived at my blind and set up and was hunting by about 11:45 am.  The conditions were much better than last week, with the temperature being in the mid to high 60’s, but there was no wind and the clouds covering most of the sky earlier this morning were quickly burning off, resulting in a completely clear and calm sky not long after I arrived.

About a half hour after I arrived I heard shooting from a couple ponds over, then the next pond over, then from the blind at the far end of the pond my blind was in. Seconds later I observed the cause of all the commotion, a lone Shoveler drake trying to get outta Dodge, and he passed by my blind probably about 75+ yards out, just a little too far for a shot.

Just under an hour later the neighboring blind opened up again and seconds later a hen Spoony, following just about the same exact route as the previous duck, flew by out of range.  Again, just too far to even try a shot.

Just after 2 pm, I saw birds heading right for my blind, and, if they kept their present altitude, they’d be well within range in a few seconds.  But, unfortunately, they weren’t ducks but a small flock of Ibis that flew nearly right over my blind.  At least I got a couple good pictures of those birds.

As always, there were other activities going on around the blind to keep my interest.  A Black Phoebe spent a great deal of time flitting around the reeds and bushes across from my blind, chasing insects.  Of course, the ever-present Coots were in attendance (legal game if you want to take them but I don’t) splashing around, diving for food and fighting with each other.  A Sora Rail was also busily pecking about the adjacent shoreline trying to come up with lunch.

There were also other things in the air today.  The Riverside Sheriff’s helicopter flew over the Wildlife Area a couple times, likely going out and coming back from some type of call.

Well, unfortunately, the two Spoonies were the only ducks I even saw today.  Except for them, the ski was pretty much devoid of waterfowl.  Perhaps it’s too early in the season and not much migration has taken place yet to bring some new birds into San Jacinto. However, as the sun set, I was still thankful for another day in the marsh but it would be nice to bag a couple birds occasionally. Hopefully next time.

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!

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 1/28/17

Well…I almost didn’t want to do it…almost.  But, since it was the last regular hunt day of the 2016/17 season I couldn’t resist.  So, for the final time this season SoCalHunt headed to San Jacinto for another afternoon refill hunt.  The reason I almost didn’t want to do it was because of the last trip down Davis Road, on the 18th, I almost lost the fillings in my teeth!  But, like I said, it was the last opportunity to duck hunt until late October so, like I said, I couldn’t resist.

I figured how much worse could it be…right?  After this last series of storms, which really dumped on Southern California, there was one advantage that I was hoping to exploit.  Mystic Lake was starting to fill again!  It’s not a lot, but it’s something and in the past, when Mystic is there, the afternoon hunts were usually at least fair and some were great.  But, I was soon to find out how bad it could be.  If you got the impression from my last report that Davis Road was in bad shape, well, it was a freeway the last time compared to this time.  I put the truck in 4 low and crawled up Davis Road.  It took probably a full 15 minutes to make the approximately 2 miles from Ramona Expressway to the SJ check station.  The ruts, and the water filling them, was so deep that the truck ended up covered with mud top to bottom.  Once at the check station Tom told me that 5 trucks had got stuck on their way in that morning.  Apparently, the tow truck(s) had just finished clearing the road just before I got there.  I snapped a picture of one of the trucks in the parking lot just to give you an idea of how bad Davis Road really is.


When I went into the check station I found that I was 5th on the refill list and 3 of the 4 hunters ahead of me on the list had already refilled, and the other one had left to eat an early lunch and was coming back later.  So, I was effectively first on the list!  There were already a few blinds available but I decided, since I had first choice again, to hold out for a while and see if I could get one of the better blinds.

It wasn’t long before one of the blinds I wanted came in and off I went for the last hunt this season.

The skies today were completely clear today and there was some wind kicking up.  I was hoping the wind would increase and get the ducks moving but as the day progressed the wind would come and go but it never really got up over about 12 MPH or so, not really enough to get um moving.  The surrounding mountains had a good covering of snow from the last series of storms.



Not long after I set up a Green Wing Teal drake slipped by me coming from behind me and gone before I could pick up the shotgun.  Unfortunately, the ducks weren’t moving much again and the skies remained pretty much devoid of ducks.  As always there were other wildlife area residents in attendance.  There must have been some extra mosquitos in the air today, although they weren’t bothering me, as there seemed to be more swallows flying around than usual.  Several Common Yellowthroats were flitting around the bushes surrounding the blind, picking at unseen insects in the bushes.  Several Hawks were also patrolling the marsh looking for an easy meal.




A short while later I noticed a pair of Shovelers swimming in my pond, but out of range.  If I had seen them sooner I might have had a shot but by the time I saw them they were out of range.  If I had tried to jump them at this point I’d have only sent them away from me so I hunkered down for a while hoping something would spook them back in my direction.  That never happened and I lost sight of them when they swam around a stand of tules.

After a while, an adjacent blind started firing and I saw another Shoveler, maybe one of the ones I saw swimming earlier, flying towards my blind.  Since he’d already had his wings singed (so to speak) he was climbing as he came towards me.  When he got over my blind he was at probably at maximum range but I knew he wasn’t going to stick around to work the decoys and he was headed out of the pond towards the next pond, which I knew was hunterless, as I had seen them leave earlier, so I gave it a shot.  It was a low percentage and I got the expected results as he disappeared over the trees behind my pond, untouched and still climbing.

The only other action that came along was a beautiful drake Canvasback that rocketed through my pond at about 20 feet high.  I, of course, was looking the wrong direction and didn’t even have time to pick up the shotgun before he was by me and gone.

So, that was it for my day, and my season.  I saw one more flight of 4 ducks probably about 300 yards away headed out towards another pond but they didn’t have any interest at all in my pond.  Quitting time rolled around and I picked up as the sun dipped behind the Bernasconi Hills.


The next thing up for San Jacinto Wildlife Area is the 23rd Annual Junior Hunt and Raffle next Saturday, February 4th.  Tom tells me he’s working on some alternate access, due to Davis Road’s problems, so the Juniors can get in for the hunt.  If this works out and as soon as Tom knows anything about this, I’ll post the info on the SoCalHunt blog and Facebook page.  Look for the info probably early this coming week.

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 1/18/17

SoCalHunt ventured out again to brave Davis Road and try for an afternoon refill hunt at San Jacinto.  After the recent rains, and with the incoming series of storms predicted I figured this might be the last chance to get out this season as Davis Road may not be able to take much more.  Also, I was hoping at least, that the last series of storms had brought more ducks down, although, with all the standing water in the area there was a possibility they might be distributed far and wide.  I also figured with the access problems on Davis Road it would probably keep some away, allowing a better choice of blind to refill.  So off I went because, as I always say, you can’t shoot um sitting on the couch.

My last time out Davis Road was in really bad shape and this time was even worse than last time.  There was even more standing water on the road and the ruts and bumps hidden below were deeper and rougher.  Tom Trakes, the boss at San Jacinto, had previously recommended four-wheel drive vehicles only on Davis Road and to be sure and stay in the middle of the road.  Tom and his crew, as usual, went above and beyond and had gone to the trouble of marking off the very worst places so they could be avoided.  After another slower and bumpier ride up Davis Road, I arrived at the check station to find, surprisingly, only one truck in the parking lot.

I walked up to the check station to put my name on the refill list I was totally surprised to see only one other name on the refill list above me, and that hunter had already refilled a blind and gone out. There were already several blinds available but I decided, since I had the first choice, even if someone came in behind me, to wait a while and see if I could get the exact blind I wanted.

As luck would have it the blind I wanted was available at about 1:00 o’clock and I grabbed it and headed out and set up.  Once everything was in place I was hunting by about 1:45.  As I drove out I could see that there were only three other trucks parked in the area, meaning that most of the blinds in the area were probably vacant.

Although there had been mostly clear skies during the time I was waiting to refill, once I was out there it started to cloud up in advance of the storm predicted for tonight.  The clouds were, at first, light but would thicken up as the day progressed.


About 3:15 pm a couple of Teal flew into the pond, just out of range.  They went to the far end of the pond and turned, looking like they might be coming back to the decoys, but then turned quickly and dropped into the far end of the pond.

As I waited for more ducks I observed the usual residents of the marsh.  The ever-present Ruddy Ducks swam by and the numerous Coots were especially feisty today and put on a couple of long energetic fights.  The usual Red Wing Blackbirds filled several of the trees in the area.




A short time later I was taking care of something that required me to be outside the blind when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was two ducks jetting down the pond and passing the blind well within range.  I had, fortunately, taken the shotgun out of the blind with me and I quickly picked it up and swung at the birds.  I fired at the trailing bird and it folded and dropped behind a stand of tules in the pond.  I had no shot at the other bird as a tree blocked me from swinging the shotgun further.  I quickly went after the downed bird, as I didn’t know if it was down for the count or not, and fortunately found it pretty fast, right about where I figured it would be.  Good thing I had hit it hard as if it had been a cripple I’d probably never of found it.  The bird turned out to be a Hooded Merganser hen, a bird I’ve never taken before.

The clouds over San Jacinto continued to thicken as the approaching storm got closer but the birds didn’t seem to be cooperating again.



Things were exceeding slow again and there didn’t seem to be many ducks in the area.  One drake Shoveler had snuck by me, flying over my shoulder and out, before I could even pick up the shotgun.  A short time after that an adjacent blind opened up on something and another Spoony, apparently spooked by the shots, came into the pond, flying by at just about maximum range.  I knew this bird was on the way for the hills (so to speak) because of the gunfire and there was no way it would work the decoys so I tried for him but didn’t connect.

Well, that was the last action for the day.  Once again pretty slow.  But, at least I got one today.  Although I’ll have to admit I have a little trepidation about this “fish duck” but I guess I’ll finally find out how a merganser tastes.


So, another hunt in the books.  As I picked up the clouds thickened and darkened and it looked like it would rain pretty soon.  Once I was packed up I got out of there ASAP so I could leave before the rain started.  As I was walking out towards the truck I wondered if I’d have the opportunity to get back out before the season ends on the 28th.  With the access problems on Davis Road right now it could be a problem, especially with the predicted series of storms coming in tonight.  It looks like about 5 days of rain from what I’ve see of the weather predictions so we can only hope it doesn’t cause too many problems.  Hopefully, I’ll see you out there.  If it turns out that this is it for me this season maybe I’ll have to say I’ll see you out there next season.


SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 1/4/17

After last Wednesday’s good hunt SoCalHunt had an opportunity to try another afternoon refill hunt at San Jacinto.  Last Wednesday we had at least a few birds flying well into the afternoon, and with the weather lately here, and up north, I figured there was a good chance that more ducks had migrated.  Also, with more weather coming in, I was hoping that would be an extra push to get the ducks down to our area.

Davis Road was even worse than it was last week.  There was more water on the road and there were more ruts and bumps hidden below most of the standing water.  Tom Trakes, the boss at San Jacinto, had recommended that anyone coming in only try it if they have a four-wheel drive vehicle and it was plain to see why he recommended that.  After a slow bumpy ride up Davis Road I arrived at the check station to find only four trucks in the parking lot.  I’m guessing Tom’s reports on the condition of Davis Road had kept some away today.

When I entered the check station to put my name on the refill list I was pleased to see that not only was it the smallest refill list I’d ever seen, but there were several blinds already available.  I decided to wait a little while and see what came in since none of the available blinds were on my “favorites” list.  It wasn’t long until the very same blind my hunting partners and I had hunted last Wednesday checked in and I figured I’d give it a shot again.

I headed out and set up and was hunting by 12:30. Although the birds were flying in the area it wasn’t wide opened, with just a duck or two or three every 10 or 15 minutes, but at least I wasn’t looking at a barren sky, like the last few afternoon hunts.  A couple of the adjacent blinds were getting shots but the birds weren’t coming my way yet.

It was fairly cloudy today and the surrounding mountains, which were snow covered last week, and I’m sure still were, were hiding behind a layer of clouds today.


About 1:00 pm I noticed a Cinnamon Teal drake swimming in my pond about 85 yards across the water from my blind.  I watched him for a short time and then lost sight of him as he swam down the dike.

About 1:45 pm a pair of Shovelers swung over the blind well within range and I executed a near perfect “catch and release”, missing them with the two shots I fired.  I say “near perfect” because to do a prefect “catch and release” requires firing all three shots…

Not long after that fiasco I was looking to my left when a drake Shoveler flew directly over my blind about 10 feet high from the right.  I, of course, didn’t see him until he almost knocked my hat off and he rocketed through the pond before I could even pick up the shotgun.

Just after 2:00 pm a Cinnamon Teal drake, likely the one I saw swimming across the pond earlier, swam around the corner of the tules right in front of the blind, saw me and jumped to fly.  I fired at the little drake knocking him down on the other side of a line of tules near the blind.  I quickly waded out to locate the bird but was unable to find him.  Apparently, he was still swimming when he hit the water and went into the tules to hide.  I searched for a good 15 minutes to try and find him but couldn’t locate him.  Damn, I hate to lose any bird like that but it happens.

As the day progressed the cloud cover started to break up, but, it didn’t last long and began to cloud up again.


As always there were other “critters” to look at while waiting for the ducks to come in.  There were the usual plethora of coots and their almost as numerous buddies, the ruddy ducks.  Several times fellow hunters buzzed the blind, hawks looking for an unsuspecting marsh creature to snack on.  Black-necked Stilts also waded through the pond probing for a meal.




Well, as luck would have it, that was it for my action today.  Several ducks flew in the area but not close enough for a shot.  I did see more ducks flying today than any afternoon so far this season, which was encouraging.  Hopefully more ducks will show up soon and hunting will get better.  Cross your fingers for that to happen before the season ends.

So, when the alarm on my cell phone announced the end of legal shooting time I packed up my equipment, gun and decoys and headed in under a quickly darkening sky that looked like it would rain soon.


San Jacinto, due to the weather, is an iffy thing as far as access goes now.  We need the rain, and hopefully the weather will bring more birds down, but much more rain might close off access San Jacinto as Davis Road can’t take much more damage.  Cross your fingers that whatever rain we get brings the ducks in but doesn’t close off our access and maybe I’ll see you out at good old SJ.


SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 12/28/16

Today SoCalHunt finally had a shot at a morning hunt at San Jacinto Wildlife Area.  One of my usual hunting partners had drawn a reservation so he, our other hunting partner and myself set up to meet at 0300 to claim our spot. We were hopeful for at least a few chances at some birds today as SJ, so far this season, has been pretty much a morning shoot.

With the recent rainstorm this past Friday night/Saturday morning Davis Rd. was a flooded mess.  Tom Trakes, Boss-man at San Jacinto, recommended earlier the evening before, on a Facebook post, that anyone coming out this morning keep to the center of Davis Rd. and use 4-wheel drive.  Fortunately, my truck is a 4X4.

Tom was entirely correct and we slogged through some muddy conditions driving up Davis Rd., some of the puddles (or lakes, depending on your point of view) were probably 8 to 10 inches deep!  There were a several non-4X4 trucks and other vehicles that made the trek to the check station and, as far as I know, there were no problems, but I’m not sure I would have tried it without 4X4.  It’s up to you if you want to try it.  As they say, pay your money, take your chances.  And it’s supposed to rain pretty good this coming Friday night so conditions will be even worse if you’re thinking about going this weekend. (check the picture I took exiting out Davis Rd. in the afternoon at the end of this report).

Our reservation was a pretty high number but at least it pretty much guarantees a spot for the morning hunt.  We were hoping, somehow, some of the better blinds might still be available when our turn came and when our number was called we decided on a blind that we figured was one of the better out of what was left.  We jumped in the truck and headed out to get set up.  Fortunately, the internal roads on San Jacinto are very well maintained by the SJ staff and are pretty hard packed so there was no trouble driving out on the Wildlife Area’s roads.  (This could change with additional rain though and could require hunters to walk-out to their blinds.  We’ve had to do it at times in the past).

We arrived at our blind and set up and then settled in to wait for start time.  An occasion duck could be seen flying by in the pre-dawn light as we waited for start time, a few even landing in our pond but leaving before the start time horn sounded.

When the start time horn sounded the shooting on the Wildlife Area seemed to slowly start but quickly picked up as the duck began to scatter.  About 6 minutes after start time a hen Green Wing landed in our decoys and my #1 hunting partner nailed her as she took off again.  Our first bird in the bag.

(I’ll call my partners #1 and #2 for clarity)

A short while later a flight of Bufflehead swung low over the pond and we all fired at the little flock.  Two of the little divers tumbled but landed just behind a thin row of tules near the blind.  My #1 partner quickly went to see if he could retrieve the birds, as we didn’t know if they were both down for the count, because they were behind those tules.  As he walked out into the pond, carrying his shotgun in case he had to finish a swimming cripple, two more Bufflehead came in from the opposite direction and partner #1 was the only one in position for a shot.  He fired at the quickly passing birds and hit both with one shot.  One crashed into the water stone dead but the other wasn’t hit hard and sailed a ways before dropping into the pond.  She started swimming and then tried to take off again and went around the end of a row of tules out further in the pond.  Partner #1 went after her but she was nowhere to be seen when he rounded the corner of the tules.  He searched a short time but no luck and then came back to retrieve the one that was confirmed down and then look for the original two we had downed.

When he got to the other side of the tules he was able to find one but the other was missing.  Those Bufflehead are tough little birds and are hard to retrieve if they’re just winged as they go in to diving mode and swim a long way under water.  Hate to lose any bird we’ve dropped but it happens.

The sun was rising higher and we enjoyed the sunrise as we scanned the sky for more ducks.  The recent storm had left a coating of snow on the surrounding mountains with the promise of more with the storm that is predicted for Friday night.




Not long after this we noticed a DFW Warden driving the roads around the Wildlife Area, obviously checking for any violations he (or she) might observe.  The Warden turned down a dike of a nearby pond and spooked up a pair of Gadwall that had, apparently, been hiding there.  They flew straight towards our blind, right into the rising sun and we all opened up on them when they were in range.  I managed to center the drake in the pattern of my third shot and he crashed into the pond only about 15 yards out.  I collected the nice big bird and added him to the strap thanking the Warden for an assist on this one.

Just after this flurry of shots a Bufflehead popped out of the tules not far from where we had lost one of the earlier cripples.  This bird was obviously winged and my #1 partner was able to quickly hit her with a finishing shot, (although we didn’t know that at the time).  She ducked back into the tules and both my partners went out to look for her, one on each side of the row of tules, in case she popped out on either side again.  As it turned out they found her finished just inside the tules and added her to the strap.  Great that we found one of our earlier cripples.

We set back to wait for more opportunities to present themselves and it wasn’t long before a drake Shoveler landed in the decoys on my #1 partners side.  He had the only shot and was able to make it good, adding a Shoveler to the strap.


A while later I noticed a beautiful drake Pintail landing in the pond adjacent to ours.  He was well away from any blind and I guess he figured it was a safe spot. Maybe 20 minutes or so later something spooked the Sprig and he flew towards our blind.  When he was in range we all fired and my #2 partner nailed him and he crashed into the pond.  My #1 partner, who was nearest the blind doorway, graciously went out and retrieved the Pintail for him.  The bird was a beautiful mature Pintail with a very long “pin” and was in prime condition.


After a short while we heard an adjacent blind firing and looked in that direction to observe a pair of Shovelers flying low and coming right at our pond.  When they were in range both my partners fired and the drake folded and splashed into the pond.  The hen appeared to be hit but, sort of, landed at the edge of the pond and tucked into the brush on the side of the dike.  Both of my partners went to retrieve the birds and, of course the drake was no trouble but the hen required a search that lasted nearly 10 minutes but they didn’t give up and found her to include her in the bag.  I don’t know for sure who hit which bird but we credited my #1 partner with the hen and #2 partner with the drake.

Things finally started to slow down some more and about 1 PM we decided to pack it up for the day.  A great hunt, finally, and 9 birds on the strap for the three of us.  Pretty good considering how slow thing have been for us so far this year.  We found out later that the average bag for SJ today was 1.49 ducks per person (which you probably already know if you read today’s hunt results report on the SoCalHunt blog) so we doubled that with a 3.0 average for the three of us.  Apparently, we got lucky and found the “spot” today and, also, between the three of us, we didn’t miss too many, which always helps.


We checked out and headed for home, very satisfied with the results today.  Hopefully we’ll be back soon for more of the same.  Maybe we’ll see you out there.  Oh, and as promised, below is a picture of Davis Rd. as we left the area today.  Remember it’s supposed to rain Friday night and assuming it does things will be worse than the picture below.  If you’re going this weekend please use your judgement and use caution, it seems even worse in the dark and the road is pretty rough below the surface of the “ponds” on the road.


SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 12/14/16

Today SoCalHunt was back again at San Jacinto Wildlife Area for another refill hunt.  I was hoping the incoming storm, predicted for Thursday, coupled with the freeze up north the last week or so and the full moon, which would allow the birds to migrate during the night, as well as the daylight hours, would push some new birds towards SJ.

Once again the weather report I read was wrong.  They had predicted a mostly cloudy day and it was again obvious when I arrived it would be another day of bright calm skies.

I arrived about 10 am and the refill crowd seemed about usual size for a Wednesday.  I signed onto the list and set back to wait for the morning hunters to check back in.

As usual for this time of year on each visit to SJ, I deposited a toy in the Bryant Park Preschool Toy Drive box.  As I’ve mentioned before this is a great cause and a great community service the SJ Staff takes on every year.  I encourage all San Jacinto hunters to bring a toy to donate every time they come out.  There’s only two more hunt days to donate, this coming Saturday and next Wednesday.  Details of the toy drive can be found here…

Just like Saturday the hunters that were coming in either had a nice strap of birds or nothing with an occasional single bird checked in also.  Apparently, you were either on the “X” or you weren’t.   I stuck it out a little longer today hoping for one of the better blind but being a little further down the list today it took until noon for an “okay” blind to check in.  I took it and headed out.

I set up and was hunting about 12:45, which gave me just about exactly 4 hours until quitting time.  There was an occasional shot or two in the area but it seemed to be a slower pace than when I was here Saturday.  As I already mentioned it was another calm “bluebird” day with just high wispy clouds instead of the predicted “mostly cloudy”.


Once again the ducks weren’t flying today and my hoped for new migrants didn’t materialize.  Hopefully they’re still on the way.  About 2:30 I suddenly saw a drake Shoveler swimming in the pond about 80 yards out from the blind.  I didn’t see him drop in so he may have just swam in from the far east end of the pond.  I was hoping he’d continue his westerly route and I could jump him when he came into range but he decided to mill around in the area and stayed about 80 to 100 yards from the blind for nearly two hours.  He finally swam back toward the east end of the pond and never presented a shot.

Other than the Shoveler the only ducks I saw were a small group of what looked to be Teal headed north at about 1000 feet.  Maybe the first of some new migrating bird coming in?  Hopefully, with many more to come in the next few days.  Keep your fingers crossed.

As usual, there were more than ducks to look for at SJ.    There, of course are the ever-present Coots and Redwing Blackbirds and a few Black-necked stilts were feeding in the area.




Sorry to report again that I didn’t even pick up the shotgun other than to load it when I started and unload it at quitting time.  Hopefully the birds will get to migrating and I’ll have something more to report the next time.  At this point, at least, San Jacinto is a morning game if you’re lucky enough to get a reservation or a low sweat line draw.

But, then there’s the signature San Jacinto’s sunset, which, once again, was worth the price of admission.




So, until next time, hope to see you out there some time.

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 12/10/16

After a month “off” of hunting due to some unforeseen circumstances (seems to always happen during hunting season) SoCalHunt was back at San Jacinto Wildlife Area to try another refill hunt.  Bird counts have been going up, not astronomically but some, but still headed in the right direction and the weather report was calling for cloudy conditions with even a small chance of rain in the morning. Also, I’d heard there had been a big freeze up north so I was hoping it had driven some bird down to us, finally.  I figured why not, beats not going any time.

Since it was Saturday I left a little earlier then I usually do when going for a refill because I figured the refill list would be a little longer today and I’d better get my name on there ASAP if I was going to get a spot.  While drving to SJ I encountered some fog but it wasn’t long before the fog lifted and before I even arrived it was clear the weather report I read was mistaken and it would be a day of bright calm skies.

When I pulled up to the check station parking lot I was surprised to see only about 10 trucks in the parking lot. When I checked the refill list at the check station I discovered I would be only a short way down from the top.  I signed on and sat down to wait for the waterfowlers out on the wildlife area to start trickling in.

Of course, as I always do this time of year on each visit to SJ, I deposited a toy in the Bryant Park Preschool Toy Drive box.  This is a great cause and a great community service the SJ Staff takes on every year.  I encourage all San Jacinto hunters to bring a toy to donate every time they come out.  Details of the toy drive can be found here…

For some reason, today it seemed like most of the hunters were sticking it out and the ones coming in to give up their blinds did so at a slower rate than usual.  A few came in with some decent straps but it seems like a lot of the ones coming in early had goose…eggs (zero).  After a while one of my “old favorite” blinds checked in, with nothing, but I decided to give it a shot anyway as I have done well in this blind in the past.  So, at 10:30 I headed out to my hunting spot.

I set up the blind set the decoys out and was hunting about 11:30. As I was setting up I could hear occasional shots coming from some of the adjacent ponds so I was optimistic I’d get a crack at a few birds at least.  I settled back and waited…and waited…and…well, you get the idea.  I could still hear a shot or two around the area about ever 15 or 20 minutes but whatever they were shooting at didn’t want to come over to the area I was in.  The skies were a little hazy today, maybe because of the earlier fog, and the only clouds were high wispy cirrus clouds.  The recent colder weather had turned the leaves on some of the trees on the wildlife area to fall colors.




About 1:20 a lone Green Wing Teal flew by way out in my pond, spotted my decoys, and made a wide turn, coming back right down the middle of my decoy spread about 10 feet off the water.  It was a perfect set up, I couldn’t miss this one…I shouldn’t have missed this one…I missed this one.  I couldn’t believe it!  I don’t know how I messed that one up but I did.  I must have picked up that box of shells that the factory forgot to put shot in.  Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Well, at least I got to fire the shotgun this time.  Better than the last hunt anyway.

So, after that poor performance, I set back to (hopefully) wait for more birds to show. As always there were other visitors to my pond.  Several fellow hunters flew by, hawks, looking for a duck or coot dinner.  A brightly colored Common Yellowthroat was flitting around the tules next to the blind, catching insects, and a large flock that I initially hoped might be a migration of snow geese arriving flew by at probably a thousand feet altitude, but it soon became clear that they were White Pelicans.





Well, as it turned out the Teal was the only chance I got today at bagging a bird, but it was still a nice day to get out in the marsh and enjoy the scenery.  As the sun slowly set I bid goodbye to another day at SJ vowing to myself to come back out soon and redeem my poor shooting performance.




SoCalHunt SJ Hunting Report 11/9/16

Today SoCalHunt headed back to San Jacinto Wildlife Area for solo afternoon refill hunt.  If you’ve read the recent SoCalHunt hunt results for San Jacinto, as well as their sister refuge to the south, Wister, you know things have been slow but I decided it’s always worth going because, being an optimist, well ya never know.

As I approached the check station just after 10 am there were several trucks in the parking lot so I was wondering how long the refill list would be. When I walked up to the check station I discovered the refill list was the shortest I’ve ever seen and there were already several decent blinds available for refill.  So, no waiting today, I picked one of my old favorites and headed out to hunt.  While I was at the check station I deposited a toy in the Bryant Park Preschool Toy Drive box.  This is a great cause and a great community service the SJ Staff takes on every year.  I encourage all San Jacinto hunters to bring a toy to donate every time they come out.  Details of the toy drive can be found here…

I got to my blind, which was an island blind and as I waded out to it five Canada Geese took flight from a field right next to the pond, about 100 yards from me.  Since I was just wading out to the blind I still had the shotgun in the case, which really didn’t matter as they never got close enough for a shot, but I also didn’t have the camera out.  Too bad I probably could have gotten a pretty good picture at least.  I thought maybe that was a good sign for things to come.

Once I got out to the blind I set up and placed a few decoys and settled in to wait for a duck to show.  The wind was blowing about 20 plus and I was optimistic as windy conditions usually bodes good for hunting as SJ.


And there I sat.  There were a few birds flying but they didn’t have webbed feet.  Egrets, hawks, red wing blackbirds, ibis and several others flew by at various distances but no waterfowl were to be seen amongst them.


The wind had cleared the sky and I could clearly see details on Mount San Gorgonio between the trees surrounding the pond.  Later in the afternoon the moon rose from the east and was prominent in the sky.



There was an occasional shot from some of the surrounding ponds but probably not more than you could count on both hands the entire time I was there.  After one shot from the adjacent pond I caught a glimpse of a duck, just over the tree tops, but it didn’t venture into my pond and exited to the south.

So that was the highlight of the hunt, as far as ducks were concerned.  As the clock counted down to quitting time the sun set behind the hills and I picked up and headed home.



Well, no birds today and no shots fired.  I only touched the shotgun twice today, once to take it out of the case and once to put it back in the case.  Oh well, thats how it goes sometimes, especially early in the season.  It was still nice to get out in the marsh and I had a much greater chance to harvest a duck at SJ then sitting at home on the couch.

Hopefully the ducks will migrate soon and we’ll have some ducks available to us to fill our straps.  Hope to see you out at San Jacinto soon.

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 10/26/16

SoCalHunt was back at San Jacinto Wildlife Area for the second day of hunting from the 2016/17 season.  Once again we’d had some luck and one of my hunting partners had a pretty fair reservation drawing for the first Wednesday of the season!  (For clarification below I’ll call this hunting partner “A” and my other hunting partner “B” today).

Once again my other hunting partner “B” couldn’t get out of work but, since he works close to SJ, he decided to join us anyway and see if he could get a crack at the ducks before he had to leave at 7 am.

Once we got up to the check station desk we picked our blind and then headed out to get ready for the morning flight of ducks.  We set up our blind and set our decoys and then set back to wait for another great day of duck hunting.

There was a light ground fog this morning and it seemed to thicken and then thin off and on as the glow of the sun began to show the sky behind Mount San Jacinto.  As the sunlight grew it revealed to us one of the more spectacular sunrises we have had then privilege to experience at San Jacinto.  The sunrise was truly magnificent today.











As 6:33 rolled around the start time horn blew indicating to all hunters on the wildlife that it was legal shoot time.  Again the assembled hunters immediately began targeting their winged prey.  Once again we had a few duck come within range almost right away and again missed a couple of the first few.  There were less coots in this area and it was easier to pick out the ducks then on opening day when the coots were thick as fleas.

Not long after start time a cinnamon teal rocketed by and partner “A” folded the little rocket which dropped right at the end of the walkway to our blind.  The little drake was placed on the duck strap to start our day.

A couple more birds passed by with our shot strings passing them to the right, left or rear (in other words we missed them).  Shortly a nice drake shoveler came in right above our blind.  Myself and partner “B” fired at the bird yet it kept going.  Partner “A” then took a final shot at the bird and it dropped way out into the pond.  As it hit the water it started to swim but, as luck would have it, it decided to swim right towards our blind and partner “A” finished it with a shot on the water when it got close enough.

At this point partner “B”s time was up and he packed his gear and headed off to work.  No ducks for him this time but the season is young, he’ll have more chances.

Birds continued to fly in our area, however many of them flew by out of range.  A shoveler hen then appeared over our blind and, as I had made a habit of today, I missed and partner “A” nailed it.  In short succession we duplicated this event with a little hen cinnamon teal.  The bird count was now 4 for partner “A” and zippo for me.


Things began to slow as the sun rose higher in the sky and about 10 am the flights of ducks almost completely stopped and we decided to call it a day.




So we picked up our decoys, packed our gear, cleaned up around the blind and walked out towards our truck.  4 ducks in the bag for partner “A” and a goose…egg for me.  Oh well, the sunrise was well worth the price of admission today.  There will be more days this season for me to improve my shooting and (hopefully) collect a few tasty waterfowl.

Today, as far as hunting went, it just wasn’t my day, at least for collecting any ducks for the table.  It’s always nice to bring some home though and that will be my goal for the next trip.  Hope to see you out at San Jacinto some time.


SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 10/22/16

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.

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 12/9/15

Earlier this season SoCalHunt posted a hunting report where we had a plan. The plan was for my hunting partner to come out to San Jacinto for the sweatline drawing and get us a spot and then I would join him later when I arrived. If you follow SoCalHunt you know that, unfortunately, plan “A” didn’t work that time and we ended up doing plan “B”, an afternoon refill hunt.

Well, being the eternal optimists, we decided to try plan “A” again. My regular hunting partner was available to attend the sweatline drawing so he was present when the sweatline printout was posted on the check station window about 3:30 am. This time (drumroll please) the draw was kind and we were 2nd on the sweatline list!

My partner picked our spot and he headed out to set up our blind. He told me later that he wasn’t quite ready when the starting horn sounded and as the wildlife area came alive, with many simultaneous shots, the ducks began to fly with abandon. My partner told me that he had a couple of early opportunities, probably teal rocketing by, but was unable to connect right away in the poor early morning light.

After a short time, things slowed down somewhat and he said that the birds also seemed to calm down a little also. My partner had put out a trio of Bufflehead decoys, amongst the other decoys, and this apparently interested the local Bufflehead population. My partner told me that he had several groups of Buffleheads buzz these decoys and in short order he had four of the little divers on his strap.

Meanwhile, back at my place, when I woke up I discovered that my partner had texted me that he had a spot and already had birds in the bag. Due to my work the night before I couldn’t be there for the morning shoot but, in short order, I was on the way to good old SJ to join him.

Before I got there however, my partner was busy with the “task” at hand. Not too long after he put the quartet of Bufflehead on his strap a Green Wing drake came zipping down the pond and pulled up sharply when he stood to fire. He clipped the bird and it came down near the walkway to our blind, swimming for the reeds immediately after splashdown. He was able to finish it on the water before it could escape and add it to his bag.

Shortly after that, in pretty quick succession, two Shovelers were attracted to the decoys and he was able to harvest them for his strap also. I wasn’t even there yet and my partner had limited out!

When I arrived at the blind, finally, I found my partner whiling away the time by inspecting his eyelids for holes. I was pleased to see he had his limit and was also glad that he didn’t mind staying in the blind with me while I began to work on filling my strap.

When I arrived it was already getting warm and the air was dead calm with some high clouds to accent the scenery. The hills reflected in the still water of our pond like a mirror.


I set up my gear in the blind and settled back to wait for some ducks to come in. Not long after settling in a lone Spoony hen came in, well within range and I executed a beautiful “catch and release” blowing three holes in the sky as she flew away.

A few more Shovelers came near, but not in range, and several Bufflehead skirted the pond out of range also. As the clock ticked away the remains of the morning the flights started to become fewer and fewer. Finally a young drake Shoveler decoyed beautifully into the spread and I was able to drop that bird with my second shot. Finally, one in the bag.

As noon rolled around the sky became more devoid of ducks, as is pretty much the norm for SJ when it’s calm and warm. As the sun started its downward arch the wildlife area grew quieter and the flights fewer.


Finally we decided that it was probably over for the day and decided to start picking up a little early as my partner had put out quite a few decoys. Not bad for a sweatline draw for my partner, a limit before I even got there, and one additional bird added by me before noon.


By the time we got to our trucks the sun was setting and we enjoyed another beautiful and unique San Jacinto sunset. No two of them ever seem to be alike.


So a pretty good hunt today, for my partner at least, but, of course, I had fun too, especially with a great friend to share the blind. Today was probably a good illustration of how different morning and afternoon shoots can be at SJ. Although, if circumstances dictate that I have to hunt afternoons I’m still going. You can’t bag any sitting on the couch.


SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 12/2/15

Today SoCalHunt was lucky enough to get, what I believe was best described by another hunter as, a Wonka Golden Ticket. That’s right, a hunting reservation at San Jacinto Wildlife Area. And not just a reservation, but a very, very low number reservation, ensuring we could get almost any blind we wanted on the entire Wildlife Area.

It’s been a while since either myself or my hunting partners have drawn a reservation. So, both of them made arrangements to join me on the hunt today, which would make it that much better!

We arrived at SJ early, as we had to be sure to be there on time for a reservation number that low. Due to the ongoing construction on the 91 Freeway we were a little concerned we might run in to a detour so we gave ourselves plenty of time. As it turned out there was no detour this morning and it was smooth sailing all the way and we arrived well before time for the SJ staff to open the gate.

Once inside and parked we walked up to the check station to deposit our toy donation for SJ’s annual toy drive for the Bryant Park Head Start Preschool (which is a cause I strongly encourage everyone hunting at San Jacinto to contribute to) and gathered around for Tom’s morning speech. We listened as Tom outlined the rules and regulations for San Jacinto and Tom even had to remind people that there are no boats allowed at SJ as, apparently, they actually had someone rowing a kayak around one of the ponds a couple weeks ago. Now that’s something that never even would have occurred to me to place on the rules sheet. I guess they’ll have to include it on next season’s rules.

Once Tom’s morning speech was done we went inside the check station to get our spot. If you’ve never been to San Jacinto Tom will give you great info on what blind you might want to pick, he won’t steer you wrong. In our case, since we’ve been going there for quite a while, we knew the spot we wanted and, with that great reservation number, we got it.

We headed out onto the wildlife area towards our spot with plenty of time to set up for our day of hunting. Once at our blind we went about setting decoys and setting up our blind. It wasn’t long before we were ready to go and we settled back in our chairs to wait for start time, which was still more then an hour away. While we waited I marveled at the clear night sky. San Jacinto isn’t way out away from city “light pollution”, but is far enough away from it that you can see many more stars then you could around my neighborhood. The Big Dipper was easy to pick out and Orion also brightly graced the sky. Also interesting to see was the waning Moon, Jupiter, Mars and Venus in a nearly straight line from top to bottom in the western sky. As the clock ticked down to start time the sky brightened and the stars and planets faded from sight.


We enjoyed a great treat for breakfast as one of my hunting buddies had bagged an Elk in Utah a month or so before. We were treated to some great elk jerky for our blind breakfast to go along with the coffee.

Just before start time we could see ducks flying around our pond. One landed in our pond near the blind, only a couple minutes before start time, and began to swim around in the decoys.   At 6:06 Shane blew the start time horn and my buddy on my right stood, as the bird was on his side of the blind, and it flew, but not very far. One bird in the bag, seconds after start time.

We had several ducks come by our blind and we burnt up a few shells before my partner on my right connected again on a Shoveler that splashed down far out into the pond. As the birds were flying, and our ducks we’re going anywhere, we opted to leave them floating for a while until the action slowed a bit.

In short order a flight came swooping in low and I dropped one of the birds and its momentum caused it to skip across the water and pile up in the short vegetation not far from the blind. This was followed shortly by another flight wrapping the blind from which I managed to scratch down another bird. This one wasn’t hit hard and sailed a ways to the north/west section of the pond.

At this point things slowed a bit and we decided, especially since my last bird may be swimming in the low vegetation it would be a good idea to retrieve our birds. My hunting partner on the left held down the fort, so to speak, while my other buddy and I headed out to get the ducks. I grabbed the bird that I had splashed near the blind, which was a nice hen Ring Neck, and then headed to the duck my partner had dropped at start time. This one turned out to be a nice drake Widgeon.

My partner went out and grabbed the Shoveler he had dropped and then over towards where my other bird had sailed. When he got in the area the duck I had clipped jumped and tried to fly again but he foiled that escape with one shot. Upon his return to the blind he added the Spoony and a beautiful hen Gadwall to the strap.

As the morning progressed we had a few more opportunities that we blew, again practicing what I like to call “catch and release” hunting. My partner on the right managed another Shoveler in short order and then things began to slow down a little more. My other hunting buddy had yet to score but this was remedied in short order as a group of Green Wing Teal rocketed in and as one of the drakes pulled up into a climb he nailed it good, the bird helicoptering down into the pond just a few feet away from our blind.


Things began to slow even more as the sun rose in the sky. We again had a couple more chances at ducks and, of course, the inevitable looking right when the birds came in from the left and vice-versa scenarios. The sky remained clear with just a few wispy cirrus clouds.


At one point we were debating on calling it a day and the wind started to come up so we decided to wait a while as, if it blows hard enough, that will usually get the birds moving. We saw a few flying but none were coming in range. We could see, from where our blind was, that many of the hunters on the wildlife area were already heading for home, leaving many ponds open for occupation by the ducks with no incentive for them to leave. The wind kept blowing but, apparently, not quite hard enough to get things moving, so we finally called it a day. Six ducks on the strap, and it should have been more, but bottom line is we had a great time with great friends that I really don’t get to hunt with enough so it was a “10” in my book!


After we picked up and we were heading in one of my partners realized that it was about 1:30 pm. This meant that we’d never make it back to the check station by the 2 pm cutoff time for refills, if someone wanted to refill our blind. He quickly called the check station and told them we were checking out if anyone wanted the blind. As it turned out, just as we got back to the truck, another truck pulled up and a couple hunters got out to prep their gear for a walk out to the blind we’d just vacated. I would encourage any hunter leaving a blind near the cutoff time to call the SJ check station and let them know, as a courtesy to your fellow hunters. Sometimes it’s hard to get a good refill blind and a little cooperation and consideration might just make someone’s hunt day.

Hopefully our replacements had a great hunt, we know we did. As we drove towards the check station we were already thinking about when we’d return. We’ll have to see how everybody’s calendar works and hopefully get a few more hunts in together this season. Hopefully the reservation gods will be kind and at least one of us will pull another reservation before the season ends. At any rate we’ll be back soon, reservation or not.




SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 11/18/15

Once again SoCalHunt traveled to San Jacinto Wildlife Area for another refill hunt. The usual hunting partners weren’t available so I was on my own again. I was hoping to snag a particular blind, which usually hasn’t been too popular in the past, due to some info I had that it might actually be a sleeper this year.

As I approached the check station parking lot there were only 4 trucks in the lot indicating that I would be getting out somewhere for sure! I dropped my toy donation in the Bryant Park Preschool Toy Drive box and signed in on the refill list. I was only a few down on the refill list when I signed in but my original plan was already dashed as when I looked on the board in the check station my intended blind had checked in and had already refilled. Tom told me that the morning hunters came out of that blind with limits so it looks like my info was good but my timing wasn’t.

I checked the board for another spot and there were several available but I opted to wait a short time to see what came in. A couple of blinds came in but after considering options I decided to try a blind that was already available which I’d never been in before. This blind was sort of in the middle of the area but it looked like several blinds nearby were already empty so there would be several flyways into it where the birds wouldn’t be shot at before they got to my pond.

I walked out to the check station lot and got into my truck, then decided I’d use the facilities at the check station lot before I headed out to the blind. When I got back to my truck, what did I see? My keys dangling from the ignition and the doors locked…wonderful… Luckily, due to my doing this just a few (really just a few) times in the past, I have a plastic “credit card” key in my wallet from the Auto Club. This comes in real handy for opening the truck’s door when I pull a bonehead move like this. Its one of the advantages of an Auto Club membership, they give them to members free. So, what could have been a major hassle turned out to be a minor inconvenience that only delayed me a couple minutes.

With that potential disaster averted I ventured out to my blind. Once in the blind and set up it was just a little before noon, meaning I had about 5 hours of hunting ahead of me. It wasn’t too long before the first bird flew by…


…however I don’t believe these are in season and it was a little out of range…

Anyway, just a couple minutes after getting everything set I was, as seems to be my habit, looking right when I should have looked left and a widgeon flew right over the blind well within range but was gone before I could even think about grabbing the shotgun. I seem to actually be getting pretty good at identifying birds from the rear as they are flying away.

It wasn’t long before the weather started to warm to the point of almost being uncomfortable. Things were dead still and thin, wispy cirrus clouds gave a little definition to the sky with their brush stroke like appearance.


Probably due to the dead calm and hot conditions not much was moving and I could see quite a few hunters vacating their blinds and calling it a day, leaving many areas where the ducks could sit undisturbed for the rest of the day. As usual when things are slow, duck wise, there is still lots to look at in the marsh. The usual complement of ruddy ducks and coots were cruising the pond, occasionally diving for a bite to eat. A black phoebe flitted around the blind, chasing insects and a bushtit landed in the adjacent brush for a quick rest before flying off towards the next pond.


About 2:30 a flight of about 8 ducks skirted the pond and headed towards the Walker ponds. They were way out of range for me but low enough if they passed over an occupied blind. By the lack of any shots being fired, I presumed they made it safely to wherever they were going without doing so.

After that the sky remained devoid of ducks and about an hour before quitting time I decided to pull the decoys so I’d at least have that part of the pick up out of the way when quitting time rolled around. Since I was on a solo hunt this time I’d only put out about 10 decoys so it didn’t take too long to pull them in.

I settled back into the blind, figuring that it was probably all over except for the quitting time alarm on my cell phone. About 20 minutes before quitting time a hen shoveler wrapped in over the pond, past the blind and then turned and came back with wings cupped and landing gear down, just like she was coming into the decoys that were no longer there. I swung through the spoony and she folded with one shot and crashed into the pond. Finally, a bird down and, unusual for me lately, with one shot.


After wading out to pick up my duck it was only a few minutes and the quitting time alarm went off so I set about picking up my gear. No other ducks had come anywhere near my blind in the last few minutes so I ended the day with a single shoveler on the strap. Still, considering conditions and the few birds I did see, I was extremely happy to get the one. As I conducted my pick up and then headed for the truck I was again treated to another signature SJ sunset.



So, due to family obligations around Thanksgiving the next hunt will probably be in a couple weeks. I’m already looking forward to it and hopefully conditions will be more “ducky” by the time SoCalHunt heads out again. Maybe we’ll see you out there.

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 11/4/15

Today SoCalHunt had a plan. There was a part A and a part B. My usual hunting partner headed out to sign up for the sweatline drawing at San Jacinto. I was working a late shift Tuesday night and plan A was for my partner to get on via the sweatline draw and then I would head out as early as I could and join him in the blind. As we all know, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Plan A didn’t work. My partner made it down for the drawing, despite being held over at his work on Tuesday night and getting virtually no sleep (what a trooper), but, unfortunately the sweatline draw wasn’t kind and he didn’t make it out for the morning shoot.

So, it was plan B. He got us an excellent spot on the refill list and then went out to his truck to sack out and get a little well deserved sleep. He sent me a text letting me know, so I didn’t have to leave as early, since we’d just be waiting for a good blind to check in.

I arrived at San Jacinto about 10 am and my buddy was up at the check station seeing what blinds might be available. The weather was a little chilly and it was partly cloudy with a light breeze building.  Conditions looked much more “ducky” then the clear and hot weather we’ve had at SJ lately.

I deposited my toy donation for the Bryant Park Head Start Preschool and joined my partner at the check station. He related that he had powwowed with Tom at the check station and was holding out for a blind that Tom suggested as a good one for an afternoon hunt. After about an hour and a few minutes that very blind checked in with full limits, consisting mostly of teal. We put our permits down for the refill and headed out to the blind.

When we arrived at the parking area for the blind I rolled out my Ducks & Bucks (newer models are now labeled Cartblind) decoy cart. Today was the first use of a new removable third wheel for the cart that my son had welded up to, hopefully, make it easier to roll the cart out to the pond by eliminating the necessity of supporting some of the cart’s weight on my shoulders. Basically it made the cart sort of a large, very free rolling wheelbarrow. Once at the side of the pond the third wheel is designed to be easily removed so that the cart could, as it was originally designed to, float out to our island blind. It worked like a charm and it was as easy to transport our approximate 100+ pounds of gear from the truck to the pond edge as walking out there with no cargo at all!

Once at our island blind we went to work setting up. My partner went out and set decoys while I set up and arranged our blind. As we did this we saw several birds moving around the area and head a shot or two here and there, already an improvement from my trip last Wednesday.


Once set up was got down in our blind and waited for the ducks to present themselves. It wasn’t long before a flight of Cinnamon Teal zoomed in and we both opened up on them. One of the diminutive waterfowl tumbled from the sky and hit the water nearby with a large splash. We weren’t sure which one of us had scored the hit on the bird but it really didn’t matter, we called it a team effort. It was clear today was going to be different then my last afternoon trip as ducks were flying all over as we once again hunkered down in the blind.


We repeated the above team effort, after a couple misses and a couple of looking left when we should have been looking right incidents, and soon had a second Cinnamon in the bag. The little rocket powered Teal had the disconcerting habit of coming in low and fast most of the time and making it very difficult to be ready for a shot before they were by us and on the way out of the pond. The sky, which started out partly cloudy, was now almost solid clouds and we were wondering if we might not get rained on today.






As the afternoon progressed I began to practice “catch and release” hunting, shooting three holes in the sky and watching the birds fly away. While my partner was able to score on three more birds, two Cinnamons, one a beautiful drake, and a Shoveler hen.

As it got closer to quitting time the clouds seemed to break a little, not much but enough that it looked like we wouldn’t be getting drenched at least.


As quitting time rolled around we picked up the gear and decoys and headed back to the trucks. A very satisfying hunt in the books, five birds total in the bag, and enough shooting to keep it very interesting today. Potentially we could have probably doubled our take of ducks but, well, you know how that goes some times.


So, hopefully, SoCalHunt will be back next week for another try, although plans aren’t set in stone yet. Hopefully the birds will fly as good, or better then this hunt and we’ll have another report to share with you on SoCalHunt.

(P.S. – Sorry we don’t have our usual duck strap picture showing our hunt results today. For some unknown reason that picture didn’t come out).


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