By STEVE MERLO, Contributing columnist
Shafter's "Straight Shooters Gun Club" came through in a big way for local needy families last weekend during their annual pheasant hunt and fundraiser near Shafter.
More than 250 hunters anted up $200 each to trek through alfalfa fields in search of wild flushing rooster pheasants with their friends and dogs.
Hunters were treated to 1,100 planted birds and found the shooting beyond excellent as most took home a three-bird club limit of the fine eating longtails.
The pheasants were in excellent shape, with most birds in top plumage and weighing in at 3 pounds each.
Proceeds for the event will help purchase 1,200 turkeys for 1,000 20-person meals intended to feed at least 20,000 people and their families during the holidays, and the club must be commended for their unselfish actions.
Nacimiento red hot
While hunting season races into the most successful months of the year, fishermen trekking to Nacimiento Lake are finding outstanding action on spotted bass throughout the lake.
While San Antonio Lake has dwindled away to a mere puddle of its old self, Nacimiento has plenty of water and the fish are responding to the cooling fall waters. The fish are coming shallow and are being caught all over the lake in waters less than 25 feet deep.
Most anglers are tossing worms, jigs and small swimbaits over rocky structures to take easy limits of the fine eating gamesters that weigh 6-10 pounds per five fish.
Located 20-minutes northwest of Paso Robles, the lake has remained open despite the drought affecting the rest of the state's recreational waters.
There's less than two weeks left to purchase tickets for the Nov. 26 Sportsmen's Night at the Kern County Fairgrounds.
Tickets can be purchased at Galey's Marine Supply, Ol' Boy Outdoors, 2nd Amendment Sports, Bear Mountain Sports, Valley Gun, Bob's Bait Bucket and the Ammo Dump.
Doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner served at 7.
Split dove season
Most of Saturday's second-half dove opener hunters reported excellent shooting on plenty of new migratory birds that have filtered into the area. Three of us managed quick limits out west of I-5 despite blowing through way too many boxes of shells fired at the speedy gamesters.
I've been chasing late-season doves for years and can assure most first-timers that they do appear to fly faster than they do in September. Don't worry though; it's an optical illusion because the birds are now fully feathered and appear larger than the early-season birds. That creates a sense that they're closer than they really are. Simply add a foot or two to your lead and you'll start hitting them again.
I've also discovered that late-season birds are more difficult to find after they hit the ground. Because they do appear closer when they're shot at, simply add 5 yards to your search line and you'll be surprised at how many more you'll recover.
The Kern National Wildlife Refuge west of Delano has seen a huge increase in the number of migratory birds over the last few weeks. According to acting refuge manager Nick Stanley, Saturday's average bird take hit 3.5 ducks per person for the 54 hunters getting in a first light, plus fill-ins during the rest of the day.
Most shooters are getting in via the standby or sweat lines, with only 12 reservations being issued.
The latest population count puts the number of ducks calling the refuge home at between 30,000-40,000, including a heavy influx of pintails, shovelers and greenwing teal. Local duck club owners have also seen an increase in their average bird count as the birds tend to spread out across the valley floor whenever the refuge shoots.
That's music to the members' ears because of the high prices they have to pay for water, or even a single blind.