Gavin Quintana, a 17-year-old from Reno, Nevada started his duck season with a bang. On Sunday, October 15, he shot an exotic mandarin duck.
Quintana, who is a senior at Churchill County High School, couldn’t hunt the Saturday opener because of a job at a local lumber yard. So on Sunday morning, he hunted geese and in the afternoon in decided to try for ducks on the Truckee River with his girlfriend.
“I was just walking down the river trying to jump a couple of ducks,” Quintana tells Field & Stream. “There was a group of 10 to 15 wood ducks, and this one happened to be right in the middle of them. I knew exactly what it was when it jumped up and the sunlight hit it.”
Quintana hit the bird well with his first shot and then tried unsuccessfully to pick off a woodie from the flock. “I was shaking, man,” he says. “I missed the rest of my shots on the other birds, but I didn’t care.”
Quintana quickly recovered his unexpected kill and admired it. The duck had a distinctive orange-white-and-black head, as well as a stunning flash of orange on its wing. “I was extremely excited,” he says. “I had the feeling I would never see anything like it again.”
Mandarin ducks are often considered the Asian equivalent to the wood duck. The species is endemic to east Asia and has been brought over to North America as an exotic species. Feral populations have established themselves in parts of California, including in Sonoma County. It’s not clear where the duck Quintana shot came from, but it’s possible that it came from one of those California populations. The duck didn’t have any bands or zip-ties on its legs that would identify it as a pen-raised bird.
After shooting the rare specimen, Quintana continued hunting but didn’t bag any other ducks that day. He plans to get his mandarin duck mounted. “I’ve been hunting my whole life, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” he says. “I’ve seen photos on social media of rare hybrids and crazy ducks that people have shot, but I never thought I’d have an opportunity like this.”