Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So much for nice weather in November

Normally this is the time of year I complain about the beautiful weather. What most hunters would give anything for - warm, sunny days with, at most, light wind - is horrible for duck hunters.

But this season has been seriously weird. We hunted in an insane storm on opening weekend, 40 mph winds and driving rain. A huge storm blew in this weekend right when Boyfriend and I were getting out into the field at the Delevan National Wildlife Refuge. And now, on the eve of our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Lower Klamath to hunt with our friend Brent, it appears blizzard is setting in up there.

And it's not even December yet!
Now, hunting in the rain is one thing. Boyfriend hates it because he wears glasses, and it's a constant battle to keep his vision clear, but for some reason I really revel in it. There's something delicious about sitting in a marsh, rain pounding the back of my head, water dripping off the bill of my cap, knowing that sane people are watching football or bundling up in front of fireplaces, but that I am in this magical place where I might be lucky enough to get a couple of the best-eating animals on earth.

But cold? Yeah. I really don't like cold. I can be one tough chick in the rain, but stick me in a marsh when it's 20 degrees out and I have issues.

The first time I hunted in serious cold (yes, everyone east of California, I consider the 20s to be serious cold), Boyfriend and I were hunting geese in a flooded rice field somewhere in the Chico area. It was clear as a bell, windy as hell, and somewhere in the low 20s. We set our decoys in the water and watched as ice quickly formed around them.

I was absolutely freezing, and because the hunting was really lame that day, I didn't fire more than a couple shots, which means even my gun was cold. Pathetic.

I chugged coffee to stay warm. And when nature called as a result of drinking all that coffee, I informed boyfriend that there was no way in hell I was baring my butt in that icy wind - I was done.

Sacrilege! Yes, leaving a duck hunt early is like leaving a baseball game before it's over. I still feel guilty about it.

That was nearly four years ago. And I really hope I've toughened up a bit, because the forecast for Klamath on the days I'll be hunting this week is for lows in the 20s and highs in the 30s.

I've done what I can. I bought a massive box of chemical hand-warming packs at Costco. I've blown hundreds of dollars at REI stocking up on SmartWool undergarments (which, by the way, are on sale this week). And I'm trying to go zen about it.

And of course, I'm hoping for good hunting. Nothing like a good shoot to make you forget all about physical discomfort.

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Chad Love said...

I'm a sucker for foul-weather duck hunting. I don't know why, but I've always loved it. Rain, sleet, snow, wind. The only thing I don't like is too much ice, because then you start getting into some tricky safety issues for the dogs.

But other than that, I'll hunt pretty much anything short of a full-on blizzard, and I even tried that. Once. Even my stupidity has its limits...

Ryan Sabalow said...

You might want to recheck the weather forecast again, Holly.


It's supposed to get down to below zero tonight and single digits the next night in Klamath and Tule.

Highway 97 was closed this morning due to too much snow.

Honker hunting can be good on the ice, but that's a long way to go for a lot of shiverin' and two stinkin' birds each.

NorCal Cazadora said...

The only thing I don't like is cold - I don't do well with frozen fingers.

I've heard that women have colder hands than men, something about channeling our energies to our core because that's where we grow babies, but I don't know if it's true. I do know that I am less able to ignore cold fingers than Hank is. The only time I've heard a man complain about cold fingers is when I was hunting with my buddy David last year and it was in the low 20s, and he couldn't move his finger to the safety, much less the trigger, when a duck came in.

I'm actually a little excited at the prospect of hunting in snow, mostly because I know from my Minnesota days that if it's snowing, it's generally not that cold. And being a low-land Californian, I still romanticize snow.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Ryan, you keep sending me so much gloom! I was looking at the weather report when I wrote this blog post. Tomorrow - our travel day - is going to be colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra, but we're not hunting tomorrow, so I don't care. The next few days are supposed to be warmer.

Ryan Sabalow said...


Just giving you a scouting report.

I've been hunting those refuges since I was eight years old. I'm 30 now. I've never seen it this cold, this early. I've hunted up there plenty of times when it gets this cold later in the season though, though. You know how many ducks I've got all those times? Zero.

When it drops to below zero, it's not going to unthaw until the weather hits 40 degrees for a couple of days. There will be two or three inches of ice on all the marshes, even the big ones.

I've broken tail lights off my boat trailers trying to back into ponds on 20 degree mornings.

If you're expecting a nice marsh hunt, you're not going to get it.

Goose hunting can be good on the fields and on the ice though. You might even get some migrating ducks to come down.

I just want you guys to know what you're in for.

Good luck! But don't say I didn't warn ya.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Ryan, our host Brent has been hunting there probably at least a decade longer than you've been alive, and he has hunted every day of the season there for decades, so I'm not going in blind.

He knows the marsh, he knows the conditions he can expect. We know we'll check the weather again before we leave tomorrow and if it looks like the mercury's turning further south than we expected, we'll bag it, because we know there's a point at which the hunting is certain to be bad.

Also, he's not telling me it's going to be great hunting, and I never go into any hunt, ever, assuming it's going to be great, so my expectations are not an issue.

Mostly I'm just trying to look forward to seeing friends and hunting an area I get to hunt just once a year, and seeing how well I can adapt to conditions I'm not used to.

Besides, I've hunted Klamath in less-than-ideal conditions on one of these trips, and on one such occasion I was treated to the most beautiful vision I've ever seen on a hunt. So I refuse to sit here and act as if I'm driving to my own execution. I'm just getting ready to enjoy my much-needed break.

Ryan Sabalow said...

You'll have a blast, no doubt. I hope you guys get some birds.

Pheasant hunting can be great up there when everything's frozen.

Good luck. Enjoy yourself.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Hank will be glad to hear that - he plans to sneak away for some upland hunting while I'm off in the frozen marsh :-)

Ryan Sabalow said...

You can't hunt quail on Lower Klamath or Tule, but there are a number of places around there that you can.

For instance, there's a ridge right next to the State Live RV Park that separates Lower Klamath and Tule. It's called Sheepy Ridge.

It's a Type C wildlife area. I've never hunted it, but I've seen a ton of quail on it. He may want to give that a try.

I've also heard that on days where there's big winds you can go to the top of the ridge and pass shoot specks and snows.

There's a couple of rock blinds up there. Might be worth a shot if the wind's howling and there are big flocks of migrators buzzing around in the afternoons.

It's also fun to drive around and watch the coyotes in the afternoon. They get really goofy when there's snow and ice up there.

It might not hurt to make a drive over to Modoc National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday or Saturday afternoons. I hear good things about hunting near the creeks. They usually don't freeze. You don't need a pass or anything to go out there.

Let me know how you guys do.

Josh said...

We'll miss you down here. Also, we'd love to go...

Have fun, and be safe. We'll be eating roasted pheasant Thanksgiving Day, thinking about you folks.

By the way (way off topic here), you really should be more direct to certain of your friends about when you are going to be on the radio!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Dude, we both Facebooked and tweeted it!

And ... I was thinking of you yesterday when I was pulling my latest round of feathers from a bull spring and drake wigeon. After I photograph them, how about I let you have first pick?

Phillip said...

You are SO gonna freeze your ass off. I sure miss hunting in chilly weather.

Phillip said...

heh heh... not only are you gonna freeze, but with the water all frozen, the birds will be piling into Sac and Delevan.

But man, I miss hunting when you have to run the boat out onto the river to catch your dekes as another block of ice carries them away.

Shewee woman said...

Come on Holly, you have invested in the smart wool, bought the hand warmers but the most important thing you need to stay comfortable with your coffee is a Shewee. If I haven't sent you one, I'd be happy to. You'll never bare your bottom again. Come on and try it at home and get used to the idea that you too can be empowered by the simple fact that you can now stand up fully clothed and take a whizz. When hunting abounds, I don't go without a Shewee. Without sounding too corny, "it's the comforts of home in your pocket". I've got them in Nato Green now so they are even somewhat camouflaged!

SimplyOutdoors said...

I really don't know much about duck hunting - but, since I live in Michigan, I know a thing or two about cold.

Thankfully, though, over the years I've learned to dress for it - how to properly layer; that you need to keep your extremities warm to keep the rest of you warm; and that cotton clothing has absolutely no place or purpose for keeping a person warm.

I do completely understand, though, Holly. There is just something about being out in the elements, while other people are taking the easy way out and staying home.

Love it!

Anonymous said...

A few hundred miles north of you up here on the border of Orygun and Washington, it had rained the day before. That night it was supposed to drop down into the high 20s.

As I left the house at 3:30 I knew I'd have to slow down my drive because of icy patches or worse, black ice.

When I got to my fav public hunting grounds, I was amazed at the number of hunters there on a weekday. It was obvious I wouldn't get into one of the hunting units I wanted, so I put my name on the Standby List.

The prediction was for colder temps and snow that afternoon.

Being 1st on the Standby List wasn't all that bad as I had an "in" to the unit I wanted to hunt before noon.

Just as I was walking out into the field the wind started blowing and it started pouring down mercilessly...brrr COLD!

As the afternoon progressed the snow never arrived, but the rain continued. Fortunately, if anything the temps warmed up a little.

The Mallards were everywhere looking to come in and work well where I was.

All these willing Ducks made it all worth it to me.

But then, where I live, "sogginess" is just a way of life.

BTW, it's 17 Degrees outside as I write this today, and I'm about to take off for a nice afternoon hunt. When it's this cold they don't start flying until around noon.

Bill C.-Orygun

Live to Hunt.... said...

I say let it freeze up north, so that it pushes all those fresh birds down here to the Valley. Going out to the club for the next 4 days and hope to see some dumb, fat mallards moving in from the north. They're going to be beat and hungry looking for a little R&R after the storms they endured the last week.

Josh said...

re the radio show, in my defense, your tweet read "wanna hear me and Hank this morning?" It was at 10:30, which means I'd have to have read it just minutes before you were on. As it was, I read it just after the vegan interview ended.

But I'm mad because I love. : )

Yes I'd love the feathers, too! I've got nothing to offer in exchange, except duck eggs and thrifty italian...

NorCal Cazadora said...

Josh, my last tweet was from the green room before I went on, so it was not at 10:30 - it was more like 10.

Shewee woman, I just need to practice peeing while standing. Haven't tried lately because generally I'm not terribly concerned about baring my butt.

As for many of the rest of you: I'm not afraid. I don't care that a bunch of ducks have flown south as we were driving north. I'm spending several days with friends: There will be hunting, eating, drinking and friendship - AND a Thanksgiving dinner. I don't give a rip about whether I get a limit - I'm with friends. And if I've figured that out in four years of hunting, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone whose experience spans 5-10 times as many years as mine does.

'Nuf said. Happy hunting, folks. And BTW: Bill, hope you had a great hunt this afternoon!

The Hunter's Wife said...

Holly, just popping in to say I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

May your foul weather be fowl weather.

gary said...

Hope you're thawed out by now - that sounds cold. I'll agree with Hank, hunting in the rain is the pits when you wear glasses. By the time I'm done hunting some days I'm almost crosseyed trying to look out between the rivlets running down my glasses. I struggle with contacts and wonder if lazer is the ticket.

Hope you had a great hunt!