Archive for the 'Hunting Reports' Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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