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West Coast Gamble

After a slow couple weeks of chasing waterfowl in the valleys of California, a couple of friends and I decided to take a little road trip four hours north to the Lower Klamath Refuge. We set out on a mission to find some birds that hadn’t moved down to the valley due to the warm weather we’d been having. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t get off to a smooth start.

While pulling out of the driveway, the leaf spring on the boat trailer snapped in half forcing us to leave the boat behind. This completely disrupted our game plan because not only had we planned to hunt out of the boat, but we now had no clue as to where we were going to hunt. When we arrived to Lower Klamath the next morning, we decided our best move would be to spend a day driving around and scouting for birds in walk-in areas.

During the first hour of scouting I spotted a pond where the birds were working nicely. The only problem was that there was hardly any cover to hide or make a blind, so I knew right away that this spot wasn’t going to work. Later that evening, we found another spot that looked promising. As we watched the birds work we knew that if the north wind was blowing just right we’d have a good thing going for us. Although this spot looked promising, there was indeed a down fall; we estimated it to be about a two mile hike across the marsh. If you’re a duck hunter you already know the struggle of packing decoys, swamp seats, the blind cover, your shell bag, and your gun out to your spot. Regardless of this inconvenience, at 3:30 a.m. in mid-twenty-degree weather, we trekked the two miles across the marsh. We were eager to finally have a chance to get after some birds. About half way out in the swampy marsh we saw a couple of other hunters about three hundred yards out, and they were heading in the same direction we were. Scared of losing the spot, I high tailed it out there, leaving my buddies in the dust.

As we were setting up blind cover and throwing out decoys our confidence started to diminish. Usually, birds swarm the valley right before shooting hours, but it was almost shooting time and we hadn’t seen a duck in the sky yet. I started to question whether I had been wrong about this whole trip. Maybe it wasn’t going to be worth it after all or maybe our scouting hadn’t paid off. I didn’t know what to think, in fact, none of us did. Ten, fifteen, and then twenty minutes passed with nothing but a bufflehead in the sky.

Despite our disappointment, we decided to wait it out because we owed ourselves that. The first three hours we didn't fire a single shot, then all of the sudden we had a few wigeon working the pond about one hundred yards out. I start blowing my mallard call followed by my whistle, the wigeon turned and came in feet down into the decoy spread just like every water fowler wants. My buddy took the first shot, and we finally had the first bird out of the way. It was only up from there. We started having flocks of wigeon and sprig come in; it almost felt overwhelming considering how calm it had been beforehand. The north wind had picked up and the birds were working just like we hoped. Within twenty minutes we each had our sprig limit. The wigeon seemed to keep appearing on the lanyard along with a couple redheads.

One o’clock, the end of shooting hours, came all too fast and unfortunately we had to pack up. We ended our hunt with sixteen birds between the three of us and finished the day pheasant hunting, killing one wild rooster. After this wild day of hunting, I can say with absolute certainty that we will be back to do it again and see if our gamble comes up sevens once again!


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