Borrego Springs, CA

Saturday, December 10, 2011

WARNING: Dead duck pictures tonight

If you’re squeamish about seeing pictures of dead wildlife, or are anti-hunting, I would suggest that you not read this post.  However, if you’d like to learn about what happens at a wildlife refuge hunter check station, then read on.


Today was the Anahuac NWR Hunter Check Station Chili Day.  The Friends of the Refuge group puts on this chili feed once a year for the hunters that hunt on the refuge.  We normally have a couple of canopies erected for people to sit under to eat out of the sun, but the wind was blowing way too strongly for them to stay up today.  We pushed the tables up against the check station where it wasn’t quite so windy, but still had some issues with things taking flight.  There is chili and rice and all the fixings along with an assortment of deserts (like the cupcakes I made the other night).  After being out since early morning, the hunters can use a hot meal.


Hunters check in at the station beginning at 4:00 in the morning each hunt day.  Many of them start lining up on the entrance road in the afternoon before the hunt day so that they can get first crack at their favorite spot once the door is opened.  They must also quit hunting by noon, and be checked out by 12:30 each day that hunting is allowed.


At check out, each bird is recorded along with the location where they were taken.  The first thing the check station operator does is determine the species, the sex, and the age of each bird.  He starts out by wiping each of the birds down to absorb any water that is on the bird so it doesn’t skew the bird’s weight.


                   The wing length of each bird is also measured as in this adult male blue-winged teal.


Sometimes the sexing of the juvenile birds can’t be done by plumage (feather coloring) alone.  Then it’s time to check the bird’s vent area for a cloacal protuberance (the duck and goose equivalent of a penis). 

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Hunters are generally a friendly lot, especially when they’ve been successful, and are most willing to show the distinguishing features of the different species.  That’s a male widgeon on the left, and a male blue-winged teal on the right.

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They’re also proud to pose with their take for the day.  Young lady hunters aren’t common, but this father daughter team did quite well.  The gentleman on the right brought in the only goose taken today.  It was a beautiful specimen, and he had quite a story to go with it.  As he and his companion were leaning against the bank, the goose flew over and he took aim.  He got it with one shot behind the eye.  As the bird dropped, he had to roll out of the way or the goose would have landed right on his face!  It isn’t everyday your bird lands right in your lap.


Mottled ducks are a species of concern on the refuge, so if one is taken the hunter is asked if the refuge can take a wing and the gizzard of the bird.  I don’t know that anyone has turned down this request.


The check station operator knows exactly where to cut the bird to extract the gizzard without hacking the bird to pieces.  The gizzard will be checked later to see if there is any lead shot in it.  Lead shot can poison and kill waterfowl as it does not dissolve.  Other shot dissolves. 

It was a good hunt day, and I don’t think anyone got skunked.  Everyone also seemed to enjoy chowing down after they checked out.  Many of these hunters come back year after year, so it’s kind of like old home week.

My personal hunt score is:  Mouse 5, Me 11! (Thanks in part to a super trap that JANNA sent me from Montana!)

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy


  1. You have caught 11 mice? What kind is the super trap?

  2. Your blog is just ducky tonight! Share the name of that mouse trap! Please!!!

  3. I'm not much for hunting and am always sad to see dead wildlife, but I found your post interesting and very informative.

    The other day when we were at the check station at Bankhead National Forest, all we saw were 4 dead bucks. There was no table spread with food anywhere. I'm thinking you folks are treating your hunters real well.

  4. Interesting post...not sure I understand about the taking of the gizzard. Have a great evening.

  5. I too would like to know the name of that trap. We have lots of mice and rats around here. Thank goodness they are not in the house though.

  6. Well, we all know that some species can stand to be "thinned out a bit" from time to time, but it still is sad to see such beautiful birds cut down in flight.

    A very interesting blog.

  7. I'd rather have seen pictures of all your dead meeses... ;c)

  8. Great post! Always fun to see father/daughter hunters. Our youngest daughter was a much better hunter than her male cousins. Brought back fun memories. We never had anyone feed us chili and cookies, though.........jc

  9. well now... that was certainly different!

  10. That was quite interesting, Judy, but I'm sure glad you didn't show pictures of the 11 dead mice.

  11. In parts of Oregon this year we saw barrels that asked hunters to deposit grouse wings and I wondered why. I still don't know why they want the wings??? Very informative post. I don't mind hunters that eat what they kill, it's all part of the cycle. I don't like trophy hunting.

  12. I have mixed feelings about hunting. I used to be completely opposed, but then I married a man who hunts deer and elk with respect for the animals.

  13. Well, that was different. Guess you have to be a hunter. My Dad hunted everything that was wild in our area. But, he did it for food for the family. Didn't eat it then, still wouldn't eat it.

  14. Very interesting post. Do hunters have a "season" limit?

  15. Great post! Our son and his wife hunt..bow and shotgun for deer, and turkey..and they eat what they hunt. If you don't mind, I would like to send a link to your post to them so they can see the process with ducks in the NWR...Just for the record, the only deer meat I eat is Venison Sausage..I need it processed and spiced!

  16. Great post! I always like to see a positive write up on hunting!

    Too many people today seem to think that there food apparently grows in those plastic containers in the store.

    The truth is the animals taken by hunters have had a better life and have a more humane and valued death than the food mills and slaughter houses that Wal Mart and most others providers use.
    I have been a hunter for many years and have seen a number of slaughter houses. Not to mention that I grew up on a working farm.

  17. Very interesting, Judy!! My Dad and brothers would hunt duck years ago. We often had wild duck for dinner.

  18. Donna K said...

    In parts of Oregon this year we saw barrels that asked hunters to deposit grouse wings and I wondered why. I still don't know why they want the wings???

    Donna & Others,

    That is how the OR Wildlife dept determines how many grouse were killed. It is cheaper to place barrels and signs at various spots than to set up manned check points.

    I bet there was no chili and cookies by the barrels either.