Bidwell Ranch Celebrity Goose Hunt
by George Visger, "The Wild Guy"
This past year, in response to an ever-burgeoning resident goose population at the Bidwell Ranch, WU and the Bidwells formulated a plan to benefit both parties. The resident goose population had taken advantage of the No Hunting Area around Pond 3 and the ranch house for some time. In addition to causing a hardship due to concentrated numbers of birds over grazing areas along the pond, the large numbers of live decoys living on the ranch year round were drawing more and more geese into the No Hunting Area each year. Due to the close proximity of Pond 3 to the Bidwell house, a controlled hunt was devised. The plan was to not only have a depredation type hunt to reduce the number of resident geese, but to disperse the birds which had been habituated to using pond 3 exclusively.
Those who hunt the ranch during the early North East season know how hard it is to pull birds from the No Hunting Area without weather. Considering this was a different kind of W.U. hunt, and with blessing from Mark and Debbie Bidwell, we decided to not only help with the ranch’s problem, but raise much needed funds for our WUF programs such as the Youth Summer Camp. Hunters joining the fray included Nate Shettlesworth, Mike Bright and his friend Marc Murfitt from out of state, long time members Rocky Maruca and his dad Bob and his son in law Jess, and my father son duo of Paul Slivon and son Karl. I made a couple phone calls and was able to round up a few other beat up ex NFLers.
My old 49er teammate Dan Bunz of the infamous “Stop” on the goal line in Super Bowl XVI (SF 1978-83, Detroit 1984), Jason Harriston (SF 1997, Denver 1998) and Tony Cline (Buffalo 1995-97, SF & Pittsburg 1999).
On Friday, October 8, I picked up Bunz in Auburn after he finished teaching his classes at Sutter Middle School and we rendezvoused with the gang at the Bidwell Ranch that night.
October 9th, the opener, dawned bright and early, with groups dispersing to Ponds 1, 3 & 4 and a group in the pasture near Lost Creek at the west end of the ranch. We hunted the morning shoot, with birds had by all. Bunz and I accompanied the father son duo of Paul and Karl to Pond 4. Paul and Karl took limits of honkers, four mallards and three widgeon, with Carl making a couple of nice clean shots on honkers. Bunz and I fetched birds, carried shells and took lessons from Karl. Even with it being the opener, the birds proved to be wary and required a bit of calling to coax in.
Some hunters elected to have lunch in camp while others of us headed to town to eat, swap lies and get ready for the evening shoot. The afternoon was warm and sunny and proved to be better for fly-fishing than waterfowl hunting. We had fish rising in the decoys but no birds. Most of the other groups had more activity then we did.
The highlight of the Saturday afternoon hunt was the incredible Bar-B-Que and feed the Bidwells put on for the group. Mark and Debbie Bidwell and Grampa Floyd Bidwell, along with a host of Bidwell family and friends took care of our every needs. We all strapped the feedbags on and ate like kings. Good food, great company and beautiful weather capped a great day.
Sunday morning we rotated fields. Bunz and I took Marc Murfitt and his deadeye son Karl out to the pasture by Lost Creek. The deadly father son duo pulled a nice double on specks and we added 6 mallards before calling it quits at 8:30 a.m.
Many, many thanks to the Bidwells for their hospitality and the hunters for making it a great first ever Celebrity Goose Hunt. And thanks to those old beat up players we drug out into the fields.