Duck Hunting Expands on Upper Klamath Lake

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Photographs courtesy of Don Archer

With the flooding of 2500 acres on Agency Lake (Upper Klamath Lake) by the Nature Conservancy, duck hunters have been probing and exploring the new terrain. Prior to the breaching of the dykes, I met an old duck hunter out on the lake one blue-bird day. We crossed paths on the open water and cut our engines to chat. He is in his mid-seventies, and he has been hunting the lake for over forty years. I candidly admitted that I had been lost in the fog twice that year and was contemplating buying a GPS. He was excited about the upcoming flooding and reclamation of old marsh. "Do you realize," he said, "that we have the opportunity to study and chart the flight patterns of ducks and geese on uncharted grounds. Get a GPS and keep notes!"


My first hunt was a disaster. I picked a partially submerged dyke with broken willows to back my grassed boat up against. In front of me I had a small body of water about twenty yards wide that followed the old dyke. This sliver of water ended up against a floating mat of straw that stretched for a half a mile. On the other side of this impenetrable tangle of mat, hundreds of birds flew in from the lake, crossed the new open water tracts and landed on the edges of the straw to rest. Six weeks into the season, the birds climbed high over every tree lined dyke. Probing the water I found depths of three to five feet on the edge of the vast swath of floating straw from the fall harvest. The next day I headed over to the Williams River area to find cover.

I positioned my boat in a cluster of willows with shallow water all around me. For the next three hunts, I did very well calling small flights of teal and lone mallards. I watched hunters at mid-day fire up their Mud Buddies and explore the area for back-water mallard water. My mid-November the large flights of teal zig-zagging across the new water seemed to disappear. The birds were not dropping into my stool and almost all of the flying birds were not responding to my calls. Even more frustrating, my boat was not positioned correctly for pass shooting. I watched enviously as some duck hunters fired at birds from their boat out in a maze of floating mat and tulle patches. As if I had eaten sour grapes for lunch, I told Don that they were probably shooting at divers.

Towards the Williamson River a few fields remain uncovered by water but without any cover.

Coming in from my last hunt with one bird in hand, I decided to get as close to the shallows as I could. Earlier I had observed that the eastern edges of this new tract met fallow grounds infested with tall weeds. On my first outings I had not disturbed any large concentrations of birds hiding in the thick maze. But this time my old friend Don Archer and I watched as mallards jumped from the edges as far back as a fifty yards in this weed, congested thicket. I looked for any tell-tale signs of a boat dragged into this cover, but I found no signs. I stood up on the highest position on my boat and yelled Eureka! I spotted a pot-hole in the jungle. Meanwhile, the birds we jumped were already circling back and dropping into the tangled web of brush and weeds. Moving down the shoreline I spotted another pot-hole and some dark silhouettes. "Oh, oh," I said to Don. "I think I am looking at some decoys." Just then a guy stood up and lifted both arms in the air in frustration. They had passed up firing on ducks directly overhead not wanting to give their secret location away to us. I gave a friendly gesture back and moved out of the area. At least he had not given me the middle finger salute. I have been very tolerant of exploring duck hunters stumbling onto my spread. After all, the flooding took place almost a month after the season opened. I hope this courtesy continues as duck hunters move in and out of the area trying to find good locations.

Don Archer waits for my lab Buddy to take a leak.

Initially I was worried that too many hunters would pour into the area. So far that has not been the case. Most of the newly flooded land is large tracts of open water adjoining the lake. Many of the local hunters still return to their favorite spots at the mouth of the Williamson River and along the tulle shores of the straits. With the exception of divers, mid season typically slows in the number of puddle ducks that stay in the area. I am just delighted, however, that in these times of high fuel costs, I have a new hunting area only a few miles from my home. It will be interesting to see how the new marsh comes to life with tulles and bulrushes. A spokesman for the Nature Conservancy said that in a test section the tulles came up in two years and in five years the test section had matured. So far I have only found three entrances through the "breached" dykes, although the tract can be accessed from the Williamson River. Any duck hunter worth his salt will find the "secret spots." If we are tolerant of each other this season and demonstrate good manners in the marsh, all of us are going to have a lot of fun figuring out how to hunt this newly created marsh. Additional marsh will be created east of the Williamson River adjacent to Goose Bay. According to Matt Barry, project manager for the Conservancy, as reported in the Herald and News, November 19, 2007, 2200 additional acres will be flooded surrounding Goose Bay. Barry estimates that the water level will be lower than the other areas, which should attract puddle ducks. Best of luck!

Dave Archer

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