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Klamath hunts improve as weather worsens

1/20/2006

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KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The Klamath Basin is known throughout the West as a top destination for consistent waterfowl action, and Miller Island State Wildlife Refuge is usually atop the list.

Other hot areas near Klamath Falls include Klamath Marsh, Klamath Lake, Hank's Marsh, Shoalwater Bay, Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge and Lower Klamath and Tule Lake national wildlife refuges.

"Early hunter success has been down at Miller Island this year so far," said ODFW biologist Jim House (541-883-5732).

"The guys with the little, hidden, secret pothole, where the birds have what they need and feel safe and secure, are coming out with limits."

South migration

Through mid-November, House said the big push of birds normal in late fall hadn't arrived. He expects the flocks are held up in habitat up north.

"Hunters should look for winter weather to push those birds south anytime," he said.

When that happens, Klamath shooters will take pintails, spoonbills, wigeon, gadwall and mallards.

In early December, wigeon and gadwall were taken most regularly at Miller Island.

House recommends the last few weeks of the waterfowl season for geese at Miller Island.

Waterfowl numbers

Lanny Fujishin, manager of the Klamath Wildlife Area, said mid-November's waterfowl survey indicated more than 624,000 ducks and geese were in the Klamath Basin. That's nearly 200,000 more than last year.

The birds move around throughout the basin, Fujishin said.

"If we get sustained winds, the Upper Klamath Lake get choppy and the birds start seeking smaller ponds for shelter," according to Fujishin, making Miller Island an ideal area to hunt during storms.

Hot units

The Klamath State Wildlife Area is 3,300 acres, with 2,400 contiguous acres at Miller Island and 900 more scattered throughout the Klamath Falls area.

The main complex is 3 miles south of Klamath Falls on Highway 97.

Gorr Island is south on the Klamath River from Miller Island. Shoalwater Bay and Squaw Point are on the west side of Upper Klamath Lake about 10 miles west of Klamath Falls off of Highway 140.

A boat is needed to get to Gorr and Squaw Point. A launch is available on Eagle Ridge for Shoalwater and Squaw Point, and Miller Island offers its own launch on the Klamath River.

Shoalwater is excellent for shore-bound shooters.

At Miller Island, Unit B is popular with duck hunters, Fujishin said, while units A and C produce the best goose hunting.

Unit B has high vegetation and lots of potholes, ideal for duck hunting during clear weather.

"It helps to have a dog to find those birds when they go down," Fujishin said of Unit B.

Pheasants

Nearly 1,000 pheasants were released at Miller Island this fall.

Pheasant season runs through Dec. 11, and plenty of roosters should still be around early in the month.

Regs

Miller Island is open to hunting on odd-numbered days in November and December and even-numbered days in January.

There is no fee. Call (541) 883-5732 for current conditions.


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