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!

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