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Banding Together for Waterfowl

High Desert Waterfowling

A Nevada duck and goose hunt
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The Bulls gather massive armloads of grass and shrubs that are to be fashioned into makeshift individual blinds. I’m fiddling with my camera and keeping an eye on Lenny, a black Lab who isn’t quite sure of the stranger in his midst. Must be the Tennessee dialect.

We position ourselves in a dry creek bed adjacent to the cornfield, which seems totally out of place in the most arid state in the nation. Onions and garlic are among the high desert’s dominant crops. Even at 4,400 feet, neither will ever be listed on the standard waterfowl menu.

“You’re not going to see much corn during your stay, but the ranchers do raise some for their dairy cattle,” Elmer says. “When you can get permission to hunt a cornfield, you’ve always got a chance at the geese.”

Our first opportunity comes a few minutes before eight o’clock after Wayne’s subtle calling convinces seven western Canadas that the two family groups on the ground are gorging themselves on waste corn. The birds circle wide and then close in, locking their wings at the far end of the proverbial runway, just as the plan was designed.

We wait as the geese glide into range. And up we go, 12 gauges roaring, breaking the quiet morning chill with a barrage sure to wake the neighbors. Someone didn’t shoot straight, and that would be me, although Elmer is also muttering. Wayne, however, was on target. What we don’t know is that the best is yet to come. Later that morning, a silent flock of 20 or so honkers drops by for a visit. Lenny is pleased with the additional workout.

The afternoon is spent scouting the Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which encompasses 13,375 acres and is open to public hunting three days a week. Elmer managed this site for 15 years before accepting an administrative post with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW). Both he and Wayne are more than a little familiar with the territory.

Mason Valley WMA is fortunate to have three water sources, so even though the region has been under drought conditions, at least some of the area’s wetlands remain vibrant. Ducks Unlimited has had a hand in maintaining waterfowl habitat here through a number of cooperative projects involving the NDOW. These include pipeline construction, well rehabilitation, and seasonal wetland restoration and enhancement.

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