Grassland Road Trip Opener

sdbrewer

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[SIZE=medium]My son drew #20 for a grassland refuge for opening day. I’d hunted there once before on a Sunday about 10 years ago or so. Nice refuge with about 30 blinds, half 2 man and half 3 man, mixture of pits and stand up blinds. We were glued to the news to see if the feds would get their act together in time to make the trip. I was committed to hunting with my son and my Dad on opener so getting a 3 man blind was important. With only 15 or 16 3 mans on the refuge, I posted up the question of whether one was likely to be available with pick #20 and was assured by several people that there would almost definitely be one. When the feds opened back up on Thursday, I called the headquarters and confirmed the refuge would be open. So, on Friday, I picked my son up from school at lunch time and we were off. LA traffic sucked. But, we made it through. We went straight to the refuge to scope it out. Found out that five of the 30 or so blinds were dry and closed – 4 of them were 3 mans. Hmmmm. That’s a bummer. Might not get the 3 man we were hoping for. My folks were coming from the other direction and arrived in the area before us. They picked up Hot City BBQ to go and we regrouped at the hotel room. Broke the news to my Dad that getting a 3 man was questionable. He was fine with the whole thing. Said he’d get up and take a separate car. If we got a 3 man, great; if not, no biggie. Got there for the morning call and the second check station guy who was now their recognized us from our trip to Merced a couple of years ago – he was working the check station then. Both check station guys were very nice and informative. When our pick came, there was a single three man left which we took. Stoked! [/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Got to the parking lot, got geared up and headed out. We knew that this spot was a little pothole pond that wouldn’t require many decoys. The blind was just a little less than 1.5 miles from the lot. Walks sure do seem longer in the dark. Got to the blind and found the three single man pits on the opposite side of the water. The spot was a pool on a slough where the slough makes a 90 degree turn. It was indeed quite small. About 20 or 30 yards across and some points. It also had a couple of fingers that stretched for another 20 or 30 yards. The whole area was lined with tules. It looked nice and like it had the potential for mallards, cins and gads. The blinds had good but not great cover around them. We first lifted the lids and checked the blinds. Two of the three blinds had huge black widows in them. I was prepared for that having hunted the grasslands a time or two before. Dropped a bug bomb in each pit and put the lid back on. Then I got to work setting a light decoy spread just around the edges and back in the fingers while my son started cutting brush for cover. We were set up by shoot time. It took a few minutes to get rolling but eventually there were a good number of birds around. Some way up high, some a ways away and a few checking us out. My son broke the seal with the queen – a hen spoon – last year, his first shot was a scotch double on cin teal. Karma. I gave him a little grief in a good natured fatherly sort of way. He’s on his fourth season and regularly outshoots me. Speaking of Karma, I dropped the next bird – also a hen spoon. He gave me a little bit of grief. It was funny, I hit the bird but it started to glide off and my son cleaned it up. He immediately said “that goes on your limit! You shot it, I just finished it off for you.” The kid’s learning too fast. Next the boy drops a gwt and then Dad gets into the action with a gwt of his own. Dad was mostly along to watch and be a part of it. He sometimes has trouble picking up the birds in time to get a shot on them but he very much enjoys being out there with us. I think he only took a few shots all day and that gwt was his only duck of the day. Anyway, my son and I agree that from now on, we’re passing on spoons. We expected the bigger birds to start working and to kind of trickle in for the rest of the day and hoping for an afternoon flight. We were planning to stay all day. That plan seemed to be working out fairly well as we each collected a bull sprig for our next birds and then had a pair of mallards work in beautifully. I dropped the drake and we gave the hen a pass. At that point, things really started to slow down with not nearly as many birds in the air. A little later a second pair of mallards come in nicely and this time my son takes the drake and we give the hen a pass. Nice. After 30 minutes or so of no action, my son decides that our cover needs to be better so he gets out and wanders off to cut some more. While he’s out, a single drake comes in very nicely to about 25 yards. I whiff on all 3 shots. Still a little upset at that one. My Dad was so convinced that bird was going to die, he didn’t even raise his gun. By this point, the birds really have pretty much dried up and it’s hot and still. A while later we see a duck get up from the slough a few hundred yards away – the only water in the area was the slough itself everything else was dry for as far as we could see – never hunted an area like that before. We give some soft calling – the birds did not like aggressive calling at all. The trick was just enough of a call to get their attention then shut up and let them come – and the bird turned and came toward us. Once it saw our decoys, it whiffled straight in and stuck its feet out to land about 20 yards away. My son shot it about 3 feet off the water. That was cool. It was also the last bird we saw and shot that day. Didn’t see another bird from around 11:30 or noon until we packed up and left at 4. After the gad, my son decided he’d make a trip back to the car to reload on shells to be ready for the afternoon. We gave him our seven “best” birds to put on ice and kept the two spoons out with us – I doubt a warden would give a ticket to a kid walking back to the truck to put nine birds on ice but I think he could if he wanted to. Once we got him loaded up, it was too pretty not to take a picture:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=medium]View attachment 54186[/SIZE]

[SIZE=medium]So, overall, we had a great opener. Had a guaranteed spot to hunt, lucked out and got a blind where all three of us could go and shot some quality decoying birds. Looking forward to the rest of the season![/SIZE]
 

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Green House

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Great write up!!! Sounds like a heck of a great time with three generations in the blind and some quality birds to boot. The smile says it all!!!
 
D

Dove Hunter

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Congratulations on your hunt and thanks for a great story . The description matches perfectly one of my ponds
 

Skeet

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Sounds like a great time :smiley_10sign:
 

Nimrod

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:smiley_10sign: Fantastic! Great write up. Thanks for sharing.
 

One Track

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Nice job Amigo. Those kids make it all so special.
 

ilovesprig

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Great write-up & picture of your son............... :smiley_10sign:



ps.............Still have your Pulsaters.
 

Duckfan

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Great story and pic!


Appreciate the details. I know the blind you hunted. :)


Glad it was open for the 3 of you!
 

CATCH

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Great job, love Merced....and they are strict about there 25 shot rule.
 
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