I'd define myself as more of a big game hunter rather than a waterfowl expert, but two weekends ago I tried my hand at some duck-and-goose hunting along the Merced River.
With the help of a Sun-Star photographer, I think I solved a mystery from the hunting excursion.
When my dad was around my age, he'd frequently come from Santa Clara County to Merced County to take advantage of the waterfowl hunting. Now that I live here, I figured it'd be a travesty not to do the same.
I headed out early Sunday morning with my buddy, Dave Lueck, and two of his friends. We set up on a small island on the Merced River, using some camouflage netting and shrubs as cover.
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When the sun came out and started to knock off some frost from the sand, several flocks of geese went flying overhead -- most of them heading in a beeline to the southeast despite our calls.
The ducks did the same. Many flew right over our decoys and calls without a second thought.
That was the case much of the morning until one group finally dropped down to our calls and circled the island we were on.
We managed to knock one out of the sky, but that counted for most of the action we had that day. The rest of the flocks continued to head southeast as if on a mission.
It was an enigma to us where they may have been going, since the patch of land we were posted on looked like such a pristine spot for waterfowl.
When I got back to the Sun-Star the next work week, I was talking with Marci Stenberg, our photographer, about my hunting trip and all the flocks of geese we saw. She proceeded to show me a few photos she got that same week of hundreds of geese at Lake Yosemite.
I chalked it up as mystery solved.
Dave thinks a lot of the geese we saw were headed up the river to the Snelling area, but I still have an inkling that some changed course for the lake.
Either way, Marci shot more geese with her camera in an hour than we did with shotguns, camo calls and decoys.
But Marci always seems to have a way of getting the shots she wants ... maybe I can take some hunting lessons from her.
When I told her about our slow day on the river, she said, "Well, I got my limit!"
I'll be going back out hunting this weekend with a few more buddies of mine.
Maybe I should bring Marci along as a guide.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.