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Gunning the Great Basin

A duck hunting expedition through southern Oregon’s closed-basin lakes
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By Bill Nichol

Big snowflakes pelted the windshield as I drove through the Cascade Range in the dark. Winding up the pass, I noticed tall evergreens looming just beyond the highway’s edge and curtains of snow swirling in my headlights. In general, driving in snowy weather makes southerners pretty nervous. And on this November night, I was no exception.

A long flight to Portland, Oregon, and several hours of driving had already worn me down. Running into a blizzard was something I could have done without. But like most waterfowlers, I have a soft spot for inclement weather and thought these flakes might be a promising sign for the next day’s hunt. So when I finally descended into the Klamath Basin, it was with a mixed sense of relief and optimism.

Overnight, the snow had turned to cold rain. Heavy drops were pounding the concrete boat ramp when DU biologist Mike Shannon and I met up with DU regional director Jason Rounsaville on the shore of Agency Lake. Climbing aboard Rounsaville’s boat, we motored across open water for 10 minutes before slowing to look for a place to set our rig. My partners decided on a point on the channel connecting Agency Lake with Upper Klamath Lake to the south. “I saw hundreds of scaup huddled against this point when I was scouting two days ago,” Shannon said. “But with this rain, who knows where they’ll be today.”

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