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Del Norte Outdoors: Storm shouldimprove HBduck hunting

By Andy Martin

While anglers wait for the Smith River to drop back into shape after this week's big storm, Del Norte County hunters may want to head south to Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which experiences its best waterfowl action late in the season.

"Once we get flooded up—and we rely on the rain for that—late season gets really good," says Lauren Wendt of the refuge. "Usually in late December and January the average is around three birds per hunter."

Hunter success was around one bird per hunter before the big rainstorm. That was because of low freshwater levels and brackish water in the sloughs. But heavy rain over the weekend will create better conditions for ducks and geese.

The refuge has a year-round population of mallards and Western Canada geese. Green-wing teal are already showing up and more migratory ducks are expected as cold weather pushes them down from up north.

Hunting is allowed Tuesdays and Saturdays on the Salmon Creek Unit of the refuge. There is a lottery each morning to draw blinds. A second drawing occurs at 10 a.m. and hunting ends at 3 p.m. each day.

"There are a total of 15 blinds," Wendt says. "Each blind can accommodate four hunters at a time."

"Right now Blind 11 is pretty much the only one shooting consistently," Wendt says. "Blind 12 is starting to pick up. Later in the year, Blinds 14, 11 and 6 are good."

In the past, Blind 10 yielded little success, so refuge workers dug a new pond for this season.

Last season, hunters harvested 230 Aleutian geese. "They fly off the bay in the morning and fly over the hunt area," Wendt says. Western Canada geese, meanwhile, are regularly taken.

For recorded hunting information, call (707) 733-5518. The refuge headquarters can be contacted at (707) 733-5406. There is a $5 fee per hunter to hunt on the Salmon Creek Unit, with a $10 minimum for a blind.

The Smith was experiencing its annual lull between salmon season and steelhead season last week, but more steelhead were showing up each day. The latest blast of water from the weekend's storm will probably signal the end of salmon season, although a few fish will continue to show up through the end of the year.

As the Smith drops back into shape this week, plunking should be good in the lower river for bright winter steelhead. For tips on rigging up to plunk, visit Lunker Fish Trips in Hiouchi, Englund Marine in Crescent City or Chetco Outdoor Store in Harbor.

Outdoors writer Andy Martin, a former editor of Fishing & Hunting News, runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast during the winter. His Web site is www.wildriversfishing.com

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Outdoors writer Andy Martin, a former editor of Fishing & Hunting News, runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast during the winter. His Web site is www.wildriversfishing.com

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