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Borrego Springs, CA

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Working the hunter check station

As soon as the sun was up this morning, I was getting ready to make my way to the hunter check station on the refuge.  This is the first weekend of the waterfowl hunt season.  Stephanie was there at four in the morning to let the hunters in, but she knows I prefer not to drive in the dark.  My night vision has deteriorated over the years.  80 some hunters came this morning.  They must check in, and tell where they will be hunting.  The number of hunters allowed in each area is very regulated, as is the total number of hunters per day. 

How these hunters make their way to some of the remote areas by foot in the dark is beyond me.  They wear chest waders, and mostly walk or use a boat or kayak to get to their chosen spot.  A number of them also have Labrador retrievers with them.  They are allowed to hunt until noon, and must check out, and show their birds by 12:30 or face a fine.  The first five days of the hunt, they are not allowed to take any mottled ducks.  Most hunters are experienced enough to be able to identify the mottled ducks on the wing, and not shoot at them.  However, there were four mottled ducks brought down yesterday by not so experienced hunters, and they received a $500 ticket for each bird.  All of the birds taken this morning were legal.

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You can’t really tell by the look on this 13 year old lad’s face, but he was very proud of the large mallard drake.  It was his first hunt, and he scored a beauty.  His adult companions draped all of the birds they had taken today around his neck for this picture.  I suppose he was trying to look very grown up, and not grin from ear to ear. 

I imagine that some people may not understand how I can be a bird lover, and yet enjoy working the check station.  While hunting is not something I would ever do, I can understand the need to regulate our waterfowl populations.  Waterfowl hunter’s fees have also been instrumental in securing and supporting many of our National Wildlife Refuges.  They all seem to have a respect for our natural resources, and most follow the rules to a ‘T’.  Besides that, I just like these folks.  They love the outdoors, and are passing it on to the next generation.  One man and his wife have been hunting each fall on the refuge for the last 40 years.

I asked one hunter about his take today.  He had harvested several different species.  I asked if he could tell the difference between the birds when he eats them.  He said he certainly could.  He put them in two categories mostly.  Diving ducks, such as Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks, he used and cooked in a gumbo.  Small dabbling ducks, such as Teals, were done on the grill, and larger dabblers, such as Northern Pintail, Gadwall, and Northern Shoveler (called spoon bills locally) are baked whole.  I’ve never eaten any of these birds, but I found it very interesting.

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In between checking out the hunters, I had another visitor.  Cindy is a brown shirt that I worked with at Okefenokee NWR last winter.  She was in the area visiting relatives and stopped by on her birding tour of the area.  We had a nice visit before she made her way down to the Smith Point Hawk Watch area.

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While I don’t have the bird life moving about at my site here in Winnie like I would at the volunteer village on the refuge, I am finding a few things to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon.  Since the whole compound is fenced, I also took Emma on a walk about this afternoon.  I let her off leash so she could burn off some of her energy.  She could sneak under the fence of the entrance gate, so I put her shock collar on just in case.  Didn’t need to use it, but I’ll only let her off leash on weekends or after hours while I am outside with her. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

31 comments:

  1. It's good that you feel that way about the hunters. I know what everyone says about keeping certain wildlife populations under control, but I could never work at that check station.

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  2. I only hunt with my camera, but I see the need more and more to control wildlife populations. Loved the photos of the Aster and the beautiful butterfly:)

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  3. I heard shots from duck hunters on the lake this morning also. It is a good sport, as long as the meat is used and not wasted. Love the flower pictures...what a change from Minnesota when you left. Have a great week!

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  4. When we were meat eaters, I loved duck. But not sure that I could work at a station where the hunters would have to show their "catch"

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  5. I understand the control of populations and the opportunity for funds for wildlife conservation; but, I have a glitch in my throat just reading about shooting the ducks.
    However, I love the photo of the butterfly and would love to use it on my blog??????!!!!!

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  6. A lot of people don't like the idea of shooting deer either, but there is overpopulation just about everywhere. The birds/animals stay healthier if they aren't allowed to overpopulate. I don't know if I could kill anything living, but I agree that most hunters are naturalists and respect the earth and its resources. I loved the butterfly picture.

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  7. That was an interesting conversation about the ducks and how to cook different kinds. Don't think it's for me though.
    It's great Emma can have some off leash time and I'm glad she was a good girl.
    Beautiful butterflies!

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  8. I had no idea ducks were over populating like deer.

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  9. I'm so glad you're happy in your unexpected job. It's great to see how everything worked out for the best...and you don't have to get up so early. :c)

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  10. Love the crab header. Haven't had fresh caught crab in decades. Sure miss that.

    I would never hunt either but I understand the need.

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  11. I have had squirrel, rabbit, duck and deer that my dad got hunting and all varities of fish from fishing. hunted when I was younger but wouldnt be able to pull a trigger today. Met a family at a campground who ate when their dad lost his job because of his hunting, otherwise they said they didnt know what they would have done for food. Its the ones that hunt lions and elephants that to me are wrong, they just
    want the trophy.

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    1. That's what I had growing up, too. We had frog legs, rabbit, deer, elk, antelope, javelina, duck, quail, and my father taught my brothers and me to respect all nature. Hunting wasn't/isn't a game for my family. It was sustenance then and supplemental protein now.

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  12. This post is really amazing and worth reading. Thank you for sharing. Dawn Travels

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  13. I've never worked a check station for ducks... looks like an interesting job.... maybe not as messy as banding them ;-)

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  14. I was waiting to hear your explanation about working the hunter check station--sure didn't seem to me it would be your thing! This job just keeps getting better and better--now Emma has her own private walking area!

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  15. Dennis use to hunt, and our son hunts with my brother. It was bow and arrow season, and he hunts wild turkey and deer on a friends wooded property. Illinois tends to be over run with deer and Kelly has his bounty made into Venison steaks, and sausage..I'm with Donna W., it's those who hunt big game for the trophies that really bother me.

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  16. Interesting post about duck hunting, the differing tastes and preferences for preparing and eating them. I'm a newbie birder, and wondered about the hunters and how they were. It's nice to hear how disciplined they are, their love of nature, and passing it on to generations. To me, this is better than the average American couch potato clicking through channels, totally unaware of the beauty we eliminate with every mall and housing development, and going from climate controlled house to car to work/school and back without ever really experiencing the weather first hand. I was aware that hunting licenses support the NWR's but kind of had a negative stereotype of hunters. Thanks for providing your first hand perspective. I'm not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, so I can't go high and mighty about duck hunting anyway - the ducks' lives are certainly better than most of the (industrial farm-raised) chickens, cows, pigs, etc, that are the bulk of our American meat-lovers diets. Thanks for your wonderful posts! Great pictures too. Hi to Emma.

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  17. Many great comments on this post. Hunting plays a very important part in wildlife management. Not only for ducks but all game. All the fee's collected from hunters help keep 1000's of acre's of land open to the public year round. Without the fees paid from hunters many NWA would not be able to operate, and many would not exist. Many fish and game clubs participate in conservation projects throughout the country that can be enjoyed by all year round.

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  18. I have never been anti hunting. We are carnivorous predators, it doesn't make a difference if we raise the animals we kill to eat on a farm, or take them in the wild.

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  19. It's too bad Ducks can't use shotguns to hunt humans in a few over-populated areas.

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  20. Howdy judy & Emma,
    So glad Emma gets to run wild in that BIG YARD !!! She NEEDS IT !!! You are a true 'conservationist', Judy.. Understanding the WHOLE of what CONSERVE means... Sure everyone goes to the STORE, buys MEAT, from where and HOW raised ?? SE ASIA, China forget it !!!!
    Wildlife is MORE FLAVORFUL, COOKS BETTER and saves the populations from getting out of hand and causing disease or starving.. Even some TROPHY hunters take the mounts and DONATE THE MEAT to FOOD BANKS and other hunters do also... Good pics !!!
    Hope y'all have a great week with lots of HAPPY DAYS !!!

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  21. That's a lot of hunters, but I suppose the refuge is huge. During this time of year I stay away from some of the parks where hunting is allowed, kind of scared to be mistaken for something else. Especially when I have to dog with me. Still, I understand the whole hunting thing and it's good there are rules. What IS a mottled duck anyway?

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    1. http://txtbba.tamu.edu/species-accounts/mottled-duck/ (courtesy of Google Search)

      This link will takes you to The Texas Breeding Bird Atlas which tells you all about mottled ducks.

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  22. That's a lot of hunters, but I suppose the refuge is huge. During this time of year I stay away from some of the parks where hunting is allowed, kind of scared to be mistaken for something else. Especially when I have to dog with me. Still, I understand the whole hunting thing and it's good there are rules. What IS a mottled duck anyway?

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    Replies
    1. http://txtbba.tamu.edu/species-accounts/mottled-duck/ (courtesy of Google Search)

      This link will takes you to The Texas Breeding Bird Atlas which tells you all about mottled ducks.

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  23. I am not a hunter either, but it's interesting how respect for nature is shown and how well it is regulated too!

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  24. The part I can't get is they wade out there in the dark with the Gators! Great info on the duck hunting. If I had to pay 2k in fines I would get a new hobby or study my bird book. :)

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  25. Nice blog here! Additionally your web site so much up very fast! What web host are you using? Can I am getting your affiliate hyperlink to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

    Cccam Server

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  26. It was great seeing you again and knowing you are wintering at a place that gets you outdoors. The Smith Point Hawk Watch was missing the birds - the east wind was blowing them away from us. The day before had been gangbusters. Oh well. But Jeff did ID the birds I photographed at Anahuac: Couch's flycatcher, swamp sparrow, imm. Swainson's hawk. I haven't even edited those photos yet! Got back to Oke and photographed a prescribed burn. Will post pix and video on our Facebook and blog soon: okefenokee.tumblr.com

    We miss you at Oke, but glad to know you are in a great and very birdy place.

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  27. Nice post.Thank you for sharing this in Your blog.

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