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Waterfowl season

OUTDOOR TALES:

September 27, 2001|By AL KALIN, Special to this newspaper

Waterfowl season starts Oct. 13 and continues through Jan. 20. There's a separate season for canvasback ducks that opens Dec. 14 and ends Jan. 20, just like the regular duck season.

The daily bag limit remains at seven ducks this year, including mergansers. You can shoot seven mallards but no more than two females. Only one pintail is allowed of either sex. Should any canvasbacks fly by, only one can be bagged of either sex during their special season. Two redheads of either sex are allowed in the daily bag limit and finally not more than four scaup can be taken. Like last year, the possession limit is double daily bag limit.

Brant season starts Nov. 10 and ends on Dec. 9. The limit is two per day and four in possession.

The American coot and common moorhen season runs concurrently with the regular duck season. As always, the daily bag limit remains at 25 birds per day and 25 in possession of either all one species or a mixture of the two. The possession limit is 25, not double the daily bag limit like regular waterfowl. This makes good sense and I applaud the California Department Fish and Game for such a wise decision. It's beyond me what you would do with 25 coots, much less 50.

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Those who hunt coots are rather rare and cut from different cloth than duck hunters. I saw a coot shooter last year with a bumper sticker on the stock of his shotgun that read: "If it flies, it dies."

I can envision a new sport, the coot shooter's run. The idea would be for each contestant to be assigned a separate Imperial Irrigation District drainage ditch. At a set time all contestants would run through the water of the shallow drains, shooting at coots as they flushed from the weeds along the banks, splat, splat, splatting on the water as they attempted to gain altitude.

To increase the degree of difficulty, all contestants would be required to retrieve their bagged birds and carry them as they ran the course. First aid and water stations could be set up along the way to rehydrate the athletes and treat those who had cut or bruised their feet on broken glass, barbed wire, old tires and cement chunks in the bottom of the drains.

Helicopters could cruise alongside the contestants carrying cameramen and reporters, supplying live audio/video feed for the television audience, including the progress of all runners as they approached unknown water hazards and plowed their way downstream.

Once the finish line was crossed with a limit of birds, the contestant would have to pluck and clean the coots. Only after the last bird was processed and checked by the panel of judges would the clock stop for that athlete. Minutes could be added to the total time for large amounts of pinfeathers or coot down left on the birds.

The top athlete would receive the coveted Copper Coot Award, a beautiful trophy cast in copper and green with age, showing a majestic coot complete with green headdress, woven from olive leaves, perched jauntily upon his head.

I just hate it when I start daydreaming while writing these outdoor columns. Anyway, goose season starts Nov. 3 and ends the same day as duck season — Jan. 20. The daily bag limit is five geese. You can shoot up to three white geese and three dark geese. Only one small dark goose is allowed. This would include the Aleutian, cackler and Richardson versions of the Canada goose. Remember, though, you can only have five geese total and the possession limit is double the daily bag limit.

So what's the forecast for the upcoming waterfowl season? Across the United States the duck-breeding population decreased 14 percent over last year but comparing it to the 1955-2000 average, the duck breeding population is up 9 percent. That's the good news.

In the Pacific Flyway, and particularly that portion of the Pacific Flyway that our ducks are raised in, it sucks and that's putting it mildly. After a warm, dry winter and early spring, severe drought gripped much of the area during breeding season.

Areas once green and flush with full potholes were virtual deserts this last year. Total breeding duck numbers fell 28 percent to the lows of the early 1990s and pintails plummeted 65 percent to an all-time low of only 66,000 birds. All other species of ducks showed double-digit declines with redhead and canvasback numbers exceeding a 50 percent drop.

The number of white geese that visited our valley declined last year. The Western Arctic and Northern Territory, where our white geese breed every year, had normal conditions this past spring and it's believed there will be no drop from last year's numbers. The first flights should begin arriving in a few weeks for their winter stay. The number of juvenile birds with each adult pair will tell how well they fared.

Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at akalin@quix.net

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