Date Set for Volunteer Blind Brush-Up / Touch-Up at San Jacinto Wildlife Area

Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, advised that they have scheduled one final volunteer workday at San Jacinto Wildlife Area. This will be a workday to fine tune and touch up the previous work on the blinds done on the last volunteer blind brush-up day. The date is Saturday, September 27th. Volunteers are asked to gather at 6:30 AM at the SJ Check Station Parking Lot. The main focus of this workday is to finish up the brushing up of any of the blinds that might still need it and to, in general, just make sure the wildlife area is in great shape. Tom advised that anyone coming out to volunteer should bring gloves, shovels and/or hoes, fencing/wire pliers and lots of water, since it is expected to be hot. Also sunscreen and mosquito repellent are suggested as good ideas. The mosquito repellant being especially important now, from what I understand. Also, since the ponds are well into the flooding process, waders will be a good idea. After the work is done we will get together about noon at Casa Mexicana Restaurant for a well-deserved lunch (each person responsible for their own bill).

Hopefully we’ll have as good turnout as the last couple work days and be able to, in effect, “customize” the blinds to assist in making the upcoming season exceptional. As I always say, on the workdays, the more the merrier (and the less work for each person). If you have access to palm fronds please bring as much can for use in helping to detail out the brushing of the blinds. (see the flyer below for the proper type of palm fronds – don’t bring any with the thorns on them, not good for our waders).

As has been on the previous workdays a good turn out will help get things in exceptional shape at San Jacinto and we’ll all look forward to an outstanding season of duck hunting.

If you have any questions contact Tom Trakes at the San Jacinto headquarters at (951) 236-3040.

Brush up Tune Up 2014

Who Ya Gonna Call? Skybusters!

There are two things that I know that anyone who has hunted any public refuge or wildlife area in California has experienced. These two things can disrupt a hunt and ruin what could potentially be a great day of hunting. Both are rooted in selfishness, narcissism and an utter disregard for fellow hunters, as well as, in the case of one of them, a disregard for the rule of law.

What are these two things? They are early shooting and skybusting.

Early shooting is shooting before legal start time. The legal start time for waterfowl hunting in California is one half hour before sunrise. The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) publishes a chart on their web site and in their printed regulation books showing what legal shoot time is for various areas throughout the state. In addition, the legal start time is posted each hunt day at the wildlife area or refuge check station. Also, at least at San Jacinto Wildlife Area, and I’m sure its done at other wildlife areas and refuges, the legal start time is announced at the morning briefing.

So, now you should know what the legal shooting time is for your area for the hunt day you’re on. How do you keep from shooting early? Well, maybe first I should talk about why you shouldn’t shoot early.

First, it is against the law. If a DFW Officer catches you shooting early it’s a big ticket and who wants to pay a big ticket, and possibly loose hunting privileges for a season? Second, its just down right rude. Here we all set in our blinds, ten minutes before shooting time. Ducks are filtering in to our decoys and we can hear the rustle of their wings and the muffled splashes as they touch down inside our decoy spread. All we have to do is wait ten minutes and we can hope up and potentially drop 4 or 5 birds between us for a great start to our hunt day. The clock ticks away, 9 minutes, 8 minutes….BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! from two blinds over and all the ducks sitting in the decoys take off for parts unknown. Because one person couldn’t wait 8 more minutes no one else on the refuge gets a shot at the many birds that were, (key word WERE), sitting in their decoys. And, unfortunately, this seems to be infectious, as once one person opens up others feel that its okay for them to shoot too. During a slim season, such as last year, sometimes the only good opportunity during the day to bag a couple birds is at start time but, because one person is so selfish and so desperate to kill a duck that they blow the opportunity for everyone else.

Now, as I asked before, how do you keep from shooting early? Personally I think the best way now a days is to set the alarm on your cell phone. Pretty much everybody and their brother has a cell phone now and there are two good things about that, clock-wise. First, the time on the cell phone is set by the cell phone provider signal so it is accurate. Second, as I mentioned above 99.99% of the cell phone I’ve seen have an alarm app. So, if start time is 6:25 am set your alarm on your cell phone for 6:25 am. “But”, some say, “won’t the alarm going off scare the birds off my pond?” My answer to that is that the multiple shots going off all over the refuge a millisecond after start time will be scaring them much more then the little “beep, beep” of your cell phone alarm.

Here’s a link to DFW’s Shooting time chart for Southern California for the 2014/15 season:

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations/So-Cal-Shoot-Times

Now, on to skybusting. Some call it skybusting, some call it skyscraping in short it is consistently shooting at birds that are out of range. I say consistently because we all make errors in judgment and distance once in a while, but doing it over and over indicates a problem. Once again, as with shooting early, this practice is rooted in desperation to kill a duck and basic selfishness along the lines of “if I can’t shoot them then no one else can either”. There are guys out there that are pretty good at longer range shooting and can consistently drop birds at 60+ yards but they are few and far between. There are also guys that will tell you they have dropped ducks at 100 yards, and, its not a lie, they probably have. However, the 100 yards shooters are relying on an old technique called “the golden BB”. The “golden BB” is that one pellet that happens to hit the bird in a vital area, such as the head, and brings it down when, under normal circumstances, due to the distance, the bird would usually escape due to the loss of shot velocity not inflicting a debilitating wound. Once a shot pattern gets beyond 50 yards or so it starts to spread so much that it is possible for a bird to fly right through the center of the pattern and not be hit by one pellet. What’s worse is when the bird is hit by only one or two pellets in an area that isn’t immediately lethal. What happens then is the bird flies off only to die somewhere else from blood loss or inability to escape a predator due to the injury. A good rule of thumb is to try and keep all your shots within 40 yards, 50 on the outside. At 40 yards you’ll still have a dense enough pattern to knock the bird down, usually killing it in the air, if you center it in the pattern. The part of skybusting that effects other hunters’ hunt is that when people are shooting at high flying birds they are scaring them out of the area and not giving them a chance to work anyone’s decoys where they might come in for a good lethal inside 40 yard shot. Skybusting will not endear the offender to anyone on the refuge as they are preventing anyone else from having a chance at the ducks which, if left unmolested, might very well drop into someone decoys.

Sometime inexperience is the reason for skybusting. People will shoot at high birds thinking they are in range just because they haven’t hunted that much. If you are weak on judging distance the following might help. Take a standard sized decoy out to your local high school football field some Saturday or early evening. (don’t use a jumbo-sized decoy it will throw you off). Place the decoy on the goal line then walk out to the 40-yard line. Turn around and point your finger at the decoy and look down your arm, as you would down the barrel of your shotgun. This will give you an idea of what a duck look like at 40 yards. A word of caution here. I recommend looking down your arm at the decoy because it would probably not be a good idea to take your shotgun out on a high school football field and point it at the decoy. Your local law enforcement would probably take a dim view on that so use your arm, or may a broomstick at most if you have to have a prop. The idea of this is to get an idea of the size of a duck at 40 yards. You might want to do this several time over the course of several days until you get a good idea of what 40 yards looks like.

Bottom line on all this is I know, in most cases here, I’m probably preaching to the choir but hopefully this will dissuade a few people from doing one or both these two things. If everyone cooperates, which is essential on a refuge or wildlife area with their close together blinds, everyone will have a good productive hunt.

Yet Another Successful Blind Brush-Up Day At San Jacinto Wildlife Area

Saturday, August 23rd, 0700, found a good number of volunteers waiting in the San Jacinto Wildlife Area’s check station parking lot to help out with this year’s volunteer blind brush-up day. Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area reported that about 30 volunteers, hunters that utilize San Jacinto were on hand to receive their assignments and then headed out to the ponds to work on the blinds.

This work party was primarily to clean out the area’s blinds and the get them brushed up and camouflaged for the upcoming season. Several of the blinds were completely rebuilt by the volunteers. Most of the blinds were brushed up with palm fronds primarily provided by the volunteers.

Brush up8
Brush up 12
– Building a blind -

Due to the number of volunteers they were able to get a lot done in a short time. Tom reported that he will probably call for one more volunteer work day, probably some time in late September, to finish up some of the blinds and “fine tune” things for the season. Much of the flooding of the ponds has already started, which is a little earlier then usual, but with the water situation in the state this year its better to take it when its available.

Brush up 1
Brush up 7Brush up 6
– A couple of the completed blinds -

After the September “fine tuning” of the blinds the next thing on the calendar for San Jacinto Wildlife Area is opening day of the waterfowl season on Saturday, October 18th! Everything is looking great for the season ahead. The water is already flowing into the ponds and a lot of birds are already using the area.

Hope to see you out at good old SJ.

Second Volunteer Work Day / Blind Brush Up Day Saturday, August 23rd

The second blind brush up / Volunteer work day at San Jacinto Wildlife Area is coming up fast. Two weeks from tomorrow, on Saturday, August 23rd.

Tom Trakes, of San Jacinto Wildlife Area, advised that anyone coming out to volunteer should bring gloves, shovels and/or hoes, fencing/wire pliers and lots of water, since it is expected to be hot. Also sunscreen and mosquito repellent are suggested as good ideas. Volunteers are asked to gather at 6:30 AM at the SJ Check Station Parking Lot. The main focus of this work day will be brushing up /repair / building of the blinds throughout the wildlife area.

Hopefully we’ll have a good turnout as there is still a lot of work to do to get ready for the upcoming season. As always, when it comes to work days, the more the merrier (and the less work for each person). Also, if you have access to palm fronds please bring as much can for use in brushing the blinds. (see the flyer below for the proper type of palm fronds – don’t bring any with the thorns on them, our waders can’t take those).

A good turn out for the work day will help get things in “ship shape” at San Jacinto and we’ll all look forward to another great season of waterfowling.

If you have any questions contact Tom Trakes at the San Jacinto headquarters at (951) 236-3040.

SJ Brush Up 2014

Volunteer Work Party at San Jacinto Wildlife Area a Big Success!

This past Saturday, 7/26/14, about 25 volunteers, made up of hunters that utilize San Jacinto Wildlife Area, assembled to assist the SJ staff in getting the wildlife area ready for the fast approaching waterfowl season. Shortly after 7 am the volunteers divided into groups and dispersed throughout the wildlife area to take on their assignments.

Some of the volunteers
volunteers

The main goal of this work party was to clean out the numerous water control structures throughout San Jacinto and extracting tumbleweeds and brush and weeds blocking access to them.

Some of the volunteers hard at work
Workers2

Workers1

Now that the water control structures are cleared out the San Jacinto staff can start water flowing and begin the process of flooding the ponds for the waterfowl season. Some of the flooding was started Saturday as soon as the water control structures were cleared.

Traditionally, after a work party, many of the volunteers usually met at Casa Mexicana Restaurant for a well-deserved lunch break but Tom reported that on this Saturday most of the volunteers had other obligations to get to so they passed on lunch this time. This just goes to show the dedication of the hunters volunteering as they still showed up to work even though they had other things going that day.

Much was accomplished on this work party with a good turnout of volunteers from the hunting community. This work should help San Jacinto put on another successful waterfowl season for we Southern California hunters. As of this writing another work party day at San Jacinto is scheduled for Saturday, August 23rd. The August 23rd work party will be primarily a blind brush up day. This will probably be the final preparation to get San Jacinto ready for the 2014/2015 waterfowl season.

For information on the upcoming blind brush up day at San Jacinto Wildlife Area you can call the refuge office at 951-928-0580 or Tom Trakes 951-236-3040.

On a personal note I would like to extend my thanks to all the volunteers that came out and worked so hard. Unfortunately, the last couple years, I’ve been unable to attend the volunteer workdays as my work schedule has me working weekends right now. I truly appreciate the work that the volunteers do and I know the SJ staff appreciates it also.

Duck Numbers Up for the 2014/2015 Season!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that duck numbers were up significantly again over last year’s duck count. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service http://www.Flyways.us web site reported:

“Preliminary 2014 duck population and pond estimates from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 49.2 million breeding ducks was 8% higher than last year’s estimate of 45.6 million, and 43% above the long-term average.”

Flyways.us reported that Mallards were up to approximately 10.9 million, which was 5% above the 2013 estimate of 10.372 million, and 42% above the long-term average of 7.7 million. Bluewing Teal numbers are approximately 8.542 million, which 10% above the 2013 estimate of 7.732 million and 75% above the long-term average of 4.9 million. Green-winged teal are up to 3.440 million, which was 13% above the 2013 estimate of 3.053 million and 69% above the long-term average of 2.0 million. The estimate for American wigeon is 3.117 million up 18% from the 2013 estimate of 2.664 million and 20% above the long-term average of 2.6 million. Estimated numbers of gadwall are 3.811 million which is 14% above the 2013 estimate of 3.351 million and 102% above the long-term average 1.9 million. Scaup (both greater and lesser) showed 4.611 million, which is 11% above the 2013 estimate and 8% below the long-term average of 5.0 million. Northern shoveler (our beloved spoonys) are estimated at 5.279 million which is 11% above the 2013 estimate of 4.751 million and 114% above the long-term average of 2.5 million. Redheads were 1.279 million which is 6% above the 2013 estimate of 1.202 million and 85% above the long-term average of 0.7 million. Canvasbacks showed 0.685 million which 13% lower then the 2013 estimate of 0.787 million and 18% above the long-term average of 0.6 million. Pintails were estimated at 3.220 million, which was 3% below the 2013 estimate of 3.335 million and 20% below the long-term average of 4.0 million.

So it looks like its could be shaping up to be a great season already. Now all we need here in Southern California is some severe weather up north at the right time to trigger the duck’s migration down to our area and some much needed rain / water around our neck-o-the-woods to attract and hold the birds.

As I type this its 107 days until the season opens down here in SoCal. It might be a good time to start getting the gear together and cleaned up and inventoried. Oh, and maybe think about buying a few more boxes of shells as it looks like we’re going to have more birds to shoot at this season. (Oh, and pray for some rain!!)

Dates Set for Upcoming Volunteer Blind Brush Up Days at San Jacinto Wildlife Area

Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, advised that they have scheduled two volunteer “blind brush up” work days for San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The dates are Saturday, July 26th and Saturday August 23rd.  Volunteers are asked to gather at 6:30 AM at the SJ Check Station Parking Lot. In addition to brushing up the blinds other activities will be cleaning out water control structures on the wildlife area’s duck ponds, building new blinds and/or repairing old blinds and generally cleaning up the blind areas (pulling out a plethora of tumbleweeds). Tom advised that anyone coming out to volunteer should bring gloves, shovels and/or hoes, fencing/wire pliers and lots of water, since it is expected to be hot. Also sunscreen and mosquito repellent are suggested as good ideas. After the work is done we will get together at Casa Mexicana Restaurant for a well-deserved lunch (each person responsible for their own bill).

Hopefully we’ll have a good turnout as on each date as there is lot of work to do to get ready for the upcoming season. As always, when it comes to work days, the more the merrier (and the less work for each person).  Also, if you have access to palm fronds please bring as much can for use in brushing the blinds. (see the flyer below for the proper type of palm fronds – don’t bring any with the thorns on them, our waders can’t take those).

A good turn out for these work days will help get things in “ship shape” at San Jacinto and we’ll all look forward to another great season of waterfowling.

If you have any questions contact Tom Trakes at the San Jacinto headquarters at (951) 236-3040.

SJ Brush Up 2014



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