Saturday, December 10, 2011

WARNING: Dead duck pictures tonight

If you’re squeamish about seeing pictures of dead wildlife, or are anti-hunting, I would suggest that you not read this post.  However, if you’d like to learn about what happens at a wildlife refuge hunter check station, then read on.


Today was the Anahuac NWR Hunter Check Station Chili Day.  The Friends of the Refuge group puts on this chili feed once a year for the hunters that hunt on the refuge.  We normally have a couple of canopies erected for people to sit under to eat out of the sun, but the wind was blowing way too strongly for them to stay up today.  We pushed the tables up against the check station where it wasn’t quite so windy, but still had some issues with things taking flight.  There is chili and rice and all the fixings along with an assortment of deserts (like the cupcakes I made the other night).  After being out since early morning, the hunters can use a hot meal.


Hunters check in at the station beginning at 4:00 in the morning each hunt day.  Many of them start lining up on the entrance road in the afternoon before the hunt day so that they can get first crack at their favorite spot once the door is opened.  They must also quit hunting by noon, and be checked out by 12:30 each day that hunting is allowed.


At check out, each bird is recorded along with the location where they were taken.  The first thing the check station operator does is determine the species, the sex, and the age of each bird.  He starts out by wiping each of the birds down to absorb any water that is on the bird so it doesn’t skew the bird’s weight.


                   The wing length of each bird is also measured as in this adult male blue-winged teal.


Sometimes the sexing of the juvenile birds can’t be done by plumage (feather coloring) alone.  Then it’s time to check the bird’s vent area for a cloacal protuberance (the duck and goose equivalent of a penis). 

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Hunters are generally a friendly lot, especially when they’ve been successful, and are most willing to show the distinguishing features of the different species.  That’s a male widgeon on the left, and a male blue-winged teal on the right.

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They’re also proud to pose with their take for the day.  Young lady hunters aren’t common, but this father daughter team did quite well.  The gentleman on the right brought in the only goose taken today.  It was a beautiful specimen, and he had quite a story to go with it.  As he and his companion were leaning against the bank, the goose flew over and he took aim.  He got it with one shot behind the eye.  As the bird dropped, he had to roll out of the way or the goose would have landed right on his face!  It isn’t everyday your bird lands right in your lap.


Mottled ducks are a species of concern on the refuge, so if one is taken the hunter is asked if the refuge can take a wing and the gizzard of the bird.  I don’t know that anyone has turned down this request.


The check station operator knows exactly where to cut the bird to extract the gizzard without hacking the bird to pieces.  The gizzard will be checked later to see if there is any lead shot in it.  Lead shot can poison and kill waterfowl as it does not dissolve.  Other shot dissolves. 

It was a good hunt day, and I don’t think anyone got skunked.  Everyone also seemed to enjoy chowing down after they checked out.  Many of these hunters come back year after year, so it’s kind of like old home week.

My personal hunt score is:  Mouse 5, Me 11! (Thanks in part to a super trap that JANNA sent me from Montana!)

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy