It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any updates here so it’s good to get back at it. Between a protracted move to Southern Oregon and a global pandemic I hadn’t put together any time to duck hunt during the 2020-2021.
It doesn’t help that the Rogue River Valley isn’t as ducky as other parts of the state, so while there are opportunities here I am going to have to work a lot harder to find them. In the meantime, there’s always a five-hour drive back up to Vancouver or the seven-hour drive to the Tri-cities area to remind me of just how good I had it when it came to duck hunting. Still, I managed to reconnect with my hunting buds and we put together a two-day hunt during the long Martin Luther King weekend. We managed to scout the Patterson Unit on the Saturday while we waited for our Sunday pick at the Fee Hunt Unit at McNary.
With Covid-19 restrictions in place, eating in the Tri-Cities area was limited to take-out and one Mexican place that offered “outdoor” seating, meaning they left the back door of the restaurant open while you ate in the main dining room. It worked, but it was cold.
A Lottery Pick for a Sunday Hunt
It always seems like the same thing at McNary. Blind 1 goes first, then 13, then 6, then 4, 5, followed by the rest.
So with the 4th pick we managed to get Blind 6, an all around allstar at the refuge.
Setting up for a South Wind
The forecast was for a Southwest wind of 5-10mph, which is perfect for this Blind, which faces Northeast. We set up a couple of pods of decoys on the left and right of the point with a big landing zone right in front of the blind and waited for legal hunt time. Our first look was a trio of mallards that did exactly what we had planned, cupping right into the landing zone. We spared two of the ducks so they could tell their buddies that the guys Blind 6 can’t shoot and that they should all come back and make fun of us.
We got a few other looks in the first hour of the hunt and managed to down a couple of other greenheads without much fanfare. It was looking like it was going to be a great day. Then the wind shifted.
Wind Shifts from the North
The wind shifted and was now a slight breeze blowing in our faces, which is the last thing you want when you are hunting ducks. Sure enough, the blind across the slough, Blind 9, began heating up. To make matters worse, those guys were dead-eye shots and would stone every bird that came near them. They were not saving any birds for us. To be fair they also were taking quality shots and not skybusting.
The hunters in nearby Blind 5 were equally disciplined. So, while competitive, our group of 3 blinds in close proximity allowed birds to work our shared pool and we mostly took the shots we earned. We pulled out the pull-string motion duck to try to compete and starting getting more looks but not a lot of finishes in the wrong wind.
The Wind Shifts Back from the South
After about 90 minutes of the North wind, it shifted back from the South. It was still a light wind, but it made a big difference. Now ducks started getting closer and working our spread more and we downed a few more mallards. For this trip we had decided to pass on most of the divers and stick to mallards, canvasbacks, pintails and widgeon.
After a few more hours of bad shooting we still managed to yield another couple of ducks as we waited out the other blinds. By about 2pm I think we had the refuge to ourselves. This is when we finished strong. Without the constant calling from other blinds, they became very responsive to our call and we bagged our final three birds for a total of 9 on the day, all mallards. If the guys in 9 had been shooting from our blind they would have had about 15 total.