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Bad waterfowl season doesn't hurt business
With the close of a late white goose hunting season last week and the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge postseason hunt meeting on Friday, the sun has set on the waterfowl season until October.
The season seemed to be hit or miss due to unfavorable weather and increased habitat, and while there was a low bird harvest ratio, there was an increase in hunting business to retailers and the refuges.
"For the entire season, it was a common trend across the valley that the duck harvest was down. It was down due to early flooding, which spreads the ducks out, and the weather was sunny. There were not a lot of windy days," said Garrett Spaan, the refuge hunt coordinator and park ranger.
His comments confirmed what many hunters expressed as their experiences this season.
Doug Austin, who works at Kittle's Outdoor & Sport, said he heard from oldtimers that it was the worst season in 42 years.
"When I take the entire month of December off and I don't go hunting, it's bad," said Austin.
While the duck harvest was down, the number of hunters was up, at least on the Sacramento, Delevan, Colusa and Sutter national wildlife refuges.
"We had a lot of hunters, an increase in hunters on all four refuges. Harvest was down, there was a lot of habitat for them to use," said Spaan.
Similarly, local businesses didn't see any decline in business due to poor harvest numbers.
"Business was slightly above average; birds were below average," said Kittle's owner Pat Kittle.
"We had guys come in and buy fishing gear. They said, 'if we can't get ducks, we're going fishing,'" said Jean Franklin, a Kittle's employee. "Business was good on the weekends. It was really good. Hunting wasn't that great this year, but they like to come up and hunt, so they do," said Ramona Traub, manager at Grenzella's Inn.
Not all hunters had a bad season. Those with access off the refuge seemed to fair better.
"Because of flooded rice fields and private duck clubs, birds aren't as confined to the refuges as they used to be. There's a lot of places for them to go," said Spaan.
Some speculated that private clubs on rice patties with early flooding got to zero in on the limited habitat.
"People that had water early did really well. Once everybody got water it was hit or miss," said Franklin.
Joey Quadt, a firefighter with the Menlo Park Fire Department in East Palo Alto has been hunting in the area for 13 years and said this was the best season he'd ever had.
"The season ended up being great, it was just really late. Mid-January was the best week of the year — on fire. Our club did great," said Quadt.
Quadt is a member of Tri-City Duck Club in Maxwell.
"We did better than a lot of people did. There were times I'd see 200 to 300 ducks a hundred yards in the air," he said.
Whether or not he is successful in his duck blind, Quadt brings business to the area.
On his days off during hunting season, he always stays in the same room at Motel 6 in Williams, supports local events like the firefighter crab feed, eats at Granzella's and buys equipment at Kittle's.
"I gotta give some love to Kittle's. I don't know how many times I ran out there," said Quadt.