Saturday was opening day of waterfowl season in Nevada’s Northwest Zone, so reader Jason Radisson made his way to the Kirch Wildlife Management Area at Sunnyside.
Located about 175 miles north of Las Vegas, Sunnyside long has been a destination for duck hunters from the Las Vegas area. This was Radisson’s first duck hunt at the management area, and he wasn’t disappointed.
“Adams-McGill on opening day was great fun,” Radisson wrote in an email. “Waded two areas of recently flooded fields on the north and west sides, learned a lot about how the habitat works, shot a pair of mallard hens.”
Important for us to note is that Radisson did more than walk around and bag two mallards. He spent at least part of the time learning about the habitat he was hunting. No doubt, part of his learning included paying attention to how the birds used that habitat. A lesson I learned long ago is that the most successful hunters and anglers are those who take the time to pay that kind of attention to the habitat and their quarry.
With two ducks in the bag, Radisson turned his attention south to Pahranagat Valley and the mourning doves he hoped to find there. This is where he bagged 10 birds on an early September outing.
About this part of his adventure Radisson wrote: “Stopped at Pahranagat after lunch, the dove hunting was almost as good as the beginning of the season. Each of the dams had one to two dozen birds. Got six and a jackrabbit and called it a day.”
And a full day it was.
Along with bagging a few birds, Radisson also discovered one of the great things Nevada offers to its hunters and anglers — the chance for a two-for-one outdoor experience. In this case, Radisson was able to take advantage of the opportunity to hunt ducks in the morning and doves in the afternoon. All on the same day.
Years ago, I knew a family of bird hunters that went chukar hunting and only worried about filling their deer tags if they happened to see one along their way. In addition to their shotguns, those who had a deer tag carried their deer rifle slung over their shoulder just in case. Oftentimes they arrived back at camp with a few chukar and a deer.
Another two-for-one option combines hunting and fishing. The friends I hunt with like to bag their game as soon as they can and then spend their remaining vacation time fly-fishing for scrappy trout in a nearby reservoir while their meat is being cut and wrapped in town. It’s all about maximizing your opportunity.
At the Kirch WMA, hunters can just about hunt ducks and fish at the same time. Trout fishing can be quite good during the cool fall months, so hunting anglers stand a good chance of catching fat rainbows between duck flights. They also have the chance to reel in a bass or two.
Whether they are hoping to take advantage of Nevada’s two-for-one hunting opportunities or simply want to focus on ducks, hunters can expect to see good bird numbers overall as the season unfolds. According to the 2016 Waterfowl Population Status report compiled by biologists by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, duck numbers in the traditional survey area are similar to those of 2015.
Total bird populations were estimated at 48.4 million breeding ducks, 38 percent above the 1955 to 2015 average.
“With the exception of northern pintails, populations of the 10 most abundant duck species were at or above their long-term averages. In addition, the projected mallard fall flight index is 13.5 million birds, almost unchanged from the 2015 estimate of 13.8 million birds,” Ducks Unlimited said.
Here in the Pacific Flyway, numbers of breeding ducks were down 11 percent from 2015, but remain 17 percent above the long-term average.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.