DFW Releases Wildlife Area Operational Changes for COVID-19

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has released its general rules for operational changes at their Wildlife Areas due to COVID-19 restrictions.  I’ll provide a few “highlights” and then provide a link below so you can read the entire thing.

All staff and members of the public are required to wear masks and maintain a minimum of six feet distance from others while conducting check station business and participating in recreational programs, including hunting.

Most non-portable restrooms will be closed to the public. Portable restrooms will be provided.

Handwashing and/or hand sanitizer stations will be provided near all restrooms. Please bring your own supplies for use in areas where stations are not available.

Please plan to carry out your own trash – (NOTE FROM ME – YOU SHOULD BE DOING THIS ALREADY ANYWAY!!)

(sweatline) Lottery hours may be adjusted and coordinated to facilitate this change across all regional check stations.

Controls will be established in the check station area and parking lots to increase physical distancing among hunters and staff. Controls may include parking markers, directional signage, requiring hunters to remain in vehicles, plexiglass barriers, extended counter tops, ground markers, etc.

To allow for slower processing times, check-in for hunters holding reservations and for lottery or First Come First Served (FCFS) opportunities may begin earlier than usual. These times will be posted on the informational web page.

To minimize the number of hunters congregating around the check stations, lottery and FCFS check-in will begin at a set time as opposed to immediately after reservation-holders are checked in (e.g. 1.5 hours before shoot time).

Hunters will be asked to remain in their vehicles until called by staff to check in or check out by number.

Controls for hunter/visitor check-out will be in place to minimize contact between hunters and staff, which may include drop boxes for collecting permits and harvest report cards.

Staff inspecting harvested birds will wear masks and gloves and maintain appropriate distance from hunters.

Each hunter should carry and present their own bird strap to facilitate safe check-out procedures.

These measures may result in delayed posting of harvest results. (Meaning SoCalHunt’s hunt result reports may be later than usual this season).

And, for those of you who may want to utilize the Wister Campground…

CDFW will accept RV Camping applications, where applicable, for the 2020-2021 hunt season. However, a final decision about whether to allow RV camping has not yet been made. If the decision is made to cancel camping, applicants will be contacted in advance of the season.

RV Camping operations, if allowed, will be consistent with local, state, and federal public health guidelines.

There is much more in there, these are just some highlights.  I’d encourage you to pull up the info via the link below and check it for yourself.   There are still some things that the individual Wildlife Areas have to determine due to the unique configuration and operations of each Area and when more info is posted regarding operations of our three So. Cal. Hunting areas (San Jacinto, Wister, and Kern) SoCalHunt will pass it on as soon as possible.

Here’s the link to view the full message on the Wildlife Area COVID-19 Operational Changes…



San Jacinto Wildlife Area 2020 Dove Season Opening Day Results

On Tuesday, September 1st, the San Jacinto Wildlife Area opening day of the 2020 dove season dawned sort of cool and slightly foggy.  By sundown 134 hunters had visited San Jacinto in pursuit of the little buff colored birds, resulting in a total of 171 dove harvested.  The average bag came out to 1.28 birds per hunter.  That was slightly down from last year’s average of 1.46.   Pretty typical for SJWA as it isn’t really known as a dove hot spot.  There were some hunters that left with a goose…egg, a few were able to harvest several, and some bagged 1 or 2 or so.  So, as usual for San Jacinto, it wasn’t wide open on the dove, but it wasn’t too bad.  It did give a big group of people a place close to home to give it at least a couple hours of effort and maybe scratch out a few birds.  Especially true for those that couldn’t put in a whole day or more to drive down to Niland or Brawley.

San Jacinto is opened for dove hunting until the end of the first half of the dove season on Tuesday, September 15th.  Thursday (September 3rd) is the last day the waterfowl side of SJ will be opened for dove hunting so, if you want to give the waterfowl side a try for dove hunting you only have tomorrow, Thursday, September 3rd to give it a try as I write this.  Also, don’t forget that it’s non-toxic (steel) shot only for all hunting everywhere again this year so don’t mistakenly bring along any lead shot shells.  That’s a big no-no.

Also, while I’ve got your attention, San Jacinto needs palm fronds to complete brushing up the waterfowl area’s blinds for the duck opener, which is Saturday, October 24th.    The next volunteer blind brush-up work day is set for Saturday, October 3rd.   Check the below link for info on the work day and/or for info regarding bringing in some palm fronds any time before the work day.


October 3rd is also pretty close to the duck season opener so volunteering to help out will give you an opportunity to do a little scouting for the duck opener.  By then conditions should be fairy close to what they’ll be on the opener.

If you have any questions about either subject or want to make arrangements to drop of some palm fronds contact Tom Trakes at (951) 236-3040 or the SJ Staff at (951) 928-0580.



Update on Kern NWR for the 2020/2021 Season

The California Waterfowl Association just published an update for Kern National Wildlife Refuge for the upcoming 2020/2021 Waterfowl Season.  According to the CWA, the water allocation for Kern was cut this year by 5,000 acre-feet to only 17,000 acre-feet.  CWA says this is 8,000 acre-feet less than Kern’s full allocation.  CWA says this will give Kern the ability to flood about 3,500 to 4,000 acres of the refuge when fully flooded in December.

CWA advised that Kern is estimating they will be able to handle 35 – 45 hunters for opening day.  Kern anticipates no changes to their hunt program from last season.

The California DFW (who runs the hunting program at Kern) is working on check station operations for COVID restrictions.  DFW will release these procedures on their website when they are approved.

You can read CWA’s report on Kern NWR here…



“E-Stamp” Federal Duck Stamps Now Available

If you happen to be a procrastinator and remember you need to buy your federal duck stamp the night before opening day you can now purchase it much in the same way you can purchase your state hunting license.  Online as an “E-Stamp”.  I know that for several years now you could buy your federal duck stamp online, but you had to wait for the actual stamp to arrive in the mail before you could go hunting.  With the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s “E-Stamp” program, you can buy your federal duck stamp and immediately print the certificate and go out hunting.  That’s even better than California’s online hunting license because you can use it right away instead of waiting for it to show up in the mail like your hunting license.

Obviously, if you’re a procrastinator, this is ideal for you as you could actually buy your federal stamp just before you go to bed for opening day and you’d still be good to go in the morning.  The only minor complication in this program, for we California hunters, is that the California DFW hasn’t signed up for the federal duck stamp “E-Stamp” program.  HOWEVER, since a federal duck stamp is good in all 50 states you can purchase the “E-Stamp” from another state and it would still be good here.

The “E-Stamp” version of your federal duck stamp is only good for 45 days from the date of purchase or until your actual stamp shows up in the mail.  It is actually a “certificate”, not a stamp, that must be carried with your state license. They will still send you the actual stamp to use through the mail.  It is just to get you by until they send you the actual physical stamp through the mail.  From the USFWS web page… “As soon as you receive your physical stamp, you must sign it and use it for hunting.  Your “E-Stamp” certificate is no longer valid once you receive your physical stamp.  Regardless of whether you receive your physical stamp, after 45 days from the date of purchase, the “E-Stamp” certificate is no longer valid.  You must carry your current, signed federal duck stamp while hunting.”

The link below will take you to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s web page containing info on the federal duck stamp “E-Stamp”.  Also, if you scroll down a bit on that page there are links to the 25 states participating in the program where you could purchase one.




October 3rd – San Jacinto Wildlife Area 2nd Volunteer Clean Up / Brush Up Work Day in Preparation for Duck Opener

Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, advised that the second volunteer work day for the upcoming season at San Jacinto Wildlife Area will be Saturday, October 3rd.  This work day will be primarily for brushing up some of the area’s blinds which weren’t finished on the last work day, and possibly rebuild any blinds that need it for the coming season. Due to state COVID-19 policies masks will be worn and 6-foot physical distancing maintained along with working in small groups. Tom advised that volunteers should meet at the check station at 6:00 am and anyone coming out to volunteer should bring gloves, shovels and/or hoes, wire pliers, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, lots of water since it may be hot and, of course, a mask.

Also, if anyone has access to palm fronds, they still need more of these, all they can get.  When it comes to palm fronds, we can’t have too many so if you can bring some along, please do.

After the work is done, we will get together at a local restaurant (if opened) for a well-deserved lunch (each person responsible for their own bill).

In the meantime, if you have any palm fronds you want to donate you don’t have to save them for the workday.  You can call Tom or the SJ staff at the number below and make arrangements to drop them off before the workday.  Make sure the palm frond are either the type with no thorns or, if you want to strip the thorns off before you bring them in, that kind is ok too.

Hopefully, we’ll have as good turnout as the August work day (which was a record I believe) so we can get everything ship-shape at SJ for another waterfowl season.  As I always say, the more the merrier (and the less work for each person).

Remember this work day is only 3 weeks before the opener so this would be an excellent chance to do some scouting just before the season and to scope out what blind you might want to try to get for opening day.  Conditions should be fairly close to what you’ll see when the season opens so it would be worth coming out just for that.

If you have any questions contact Tom Trakes at the San Jacinto headquarters at (951) 236-3040, or the San Jacinto staff at (951) 928-0580.


CORRECTION – New Upland Game Area Map Available for San Jacinto Wildlife Area

The new map of the Upland Hunting Area at San Jacinto Wildlife Area that was published by SoCalHunt on August 19th contained a mistake, please disregard that map.  The area indicated as available for upland hunting that is in front of the Lake Perris dam should not have been indicated as part of the Upland Hunting Area.  A corrected map can be seen below and is also available for download on the SoCalHunt website Maps and Downloads Page.  Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.  If you know the area I think you’d figure out that probably isn’t a place you’d want to hunt anyway.  Just in case anyone looks at the original post for the map the corrected map is now in that post also.

This map (pictured below) is also available to download in .pdf format on SoCalHunt’s website Maps and Downloads Page at…


…You’ll have to scroll about 2/3 of the way down the page to find it.  Click on the picture of the map and the .pdf will open, and you can download it from there.

Once again I hope this helps anyone going to SJWA after dove after Thursday, September 3rd to keep you on the legal Upland Hunting Areas of the Wildlife Area.  Sorry for the error on the first map.  Good Luck!

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Warns of Fraudulent License Sales

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has put out a warning about unauthorized websites selling hunting and fishing licenses and tags.  Per the DFW so far the unauthorized website sales have been limited to charging excess fees, however, be aware you are giving some unknown website some of your sensitive information, and we all know where that can lead.  Also, the DFW warns that there is no guarantee the license and/or tags you receive will be valid.  The DFW advises that there are only four ways to be sure you’re getting a valid license.  #1 – the DFW’s automated license data system, #2 – over the phone through DFW’s authorized telephone sales agent at (800) 565-1458, #3 – through DFW’s license sales offices (although most are currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions), and #4 – through an independent license sales agent, which most of us are familiar with like Big 5, Walmart, Turners, etc.  The DFW has links within their article on this to the ALDS, the license sales offices, and a search engine for their independent license sales agents.  Click below for the DFW article regarding the fraudulent license sales and to get the links to the legitimate license sales locations.


Dove season is fast approaching so if you still haven’t got your license you need to get on it and get it done.  Just be sure you’re getting it from a legitimate source.



New Upland Game Area Map Available for San Jacinto Wildlife Area

With dove season fast approaching SoCalHunt has obtained from the SJWA Staff an updated map of the areas on San Jacinto Wildlife Area that are opened to Upland Game hunting.  As is usual, the first three days of dove season this year will find the ENTIRE Wildlife Area opened to dove hunting, including the waterfowl areas, however, after that if you’re going to chase dove on SJWA property the Waterfowl Areas will be closed to hunting and you can only chase the little buff birds in the designated Upland Areas.

This map (pictured below) is also available to download in .pdf format on SoCalHunt’s website Maps and Downloads Page at…


…You’ll have to scroll about 2/3 of the way down the page to find it.  Click on the picture of the map and the .pdf will open, and you can download it from there.

Hope this helps anyone going to SJWA after dove after Thursday, September 3rd to keep you on the legal Upland Hunting Areas of the Wildlife Area.  Good Luck!

Record Crowd of Volunteers at San Jacinto’s Volunteer Blind Clean Up / Work Day Saturday, August 1st

About 50 volunteers, (a record number!), showed up bright and early on Saturday, August 1st at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area check station parking for this year’s first volunteer clean-up/blind brush-up work day.  Due to expected hot temperatures Tom Trakes, of San Jacinto Wildlife Area, set the start time for this work day extra early, at 0530 to hopefully get things done before it really got warm.  Tom sent the volunteers out across the Wildlife Area to clean-up, repair, and brush-up several of the hunting area’s blinds.  In addition to the general clean-up and trash and shell pick up some of blinds required trimming of natural growth that was overgrown and cleaning out tumbleweeds and other plants that had taken over the inside of a few of the blinds. Several blinds were also repaired and brushed up with palm fronds either brought in by the volunteers or dropped off in the last several weeks at the SJ check station parking lot.

As always, Tom and his team at San Jacinto would like to give a huge thank you to everyone that came out and worked hard to start the process of getting things ready for the upcoming waterfowl season.

There will be at least one more blind brush-up/work day to finish getting things prepared for the coming waterfowl hunting season. The next one will be scheduled probably the first or second Saturday in September (date to be announced).  Watch here for details and the date of the work day when the date is finalized.  The September work day will concentrate on finishing brushing up the blinds, so palm fronds are needed.  If you can get a hold of any palm fronds any time before the work day you can drop them off at San Jacinto. Just call Tom at 951-236-3040, or the San Jacinto staff at (951) 928-0580, and they’ll make arrangements for so you can drop them off.  Please make sure you don’t bring in the type of palm fronds with the thorns on their stalks unless you’re willing to strip off the thorns first. Those things wreak havoc with waders if the thorns aren’t removed.

This year, as never before, the volunteers on these work days are essential.  Due to COVID restrictions and the fact that the SJ staff is short-handed this year, (just Tom and two staff members), it more important than ever to have another great turnout to make sure everything gets ready for the opener.   Watch SoCalHunt for the “official” announcement and details of the next blind brush-up/workday.



San Jacinto Wildlife Area 2020 Dove Season Opener – Tuesday, September 1st

The opening day of dove season in California is Tuesday, September 1st.  Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, just advised SoCalHunt that the entire wildlife area, including the waterfowl areas, will be opened to dove hunting for the first three days of dove season.  From the opener on Tuesday, September 1st, through Thursday, September 3rd, hunters will be allowed to hunt doves on both the upland area of San Jacinto and SJ’s duck hunting areas.  After Thursday, for the remainder of the dove season, from September 4th until September 15th, dove hunting will only be permitted on the upland side of San Jacinto.  There will be no dove hunting on the waterfowl side of SJ after September 3rd.

Tom also wanted SoCalHunt to remind everyone that due to Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations only non-toxic shot may be used to take any game anywhere in California.  Lead shot has been banned on State Wildlife Areas for the last three years, however, the no-lead restriction went into effect a year ago statewide for ALL hunting.   So, just remember, even if you don’t choose to hunt doves at San Jacinto WA or any of the other DFW Wildlife Areas, you still need UNLEADED anywhere you hunt in California.  DFW Wardens, as always, will be checking for lead shot and possession of even one round will result in you receiving a citation.  So, be sure to check your hunting vest thoroughly to make sure an old round of lead shot from a couple years ago, or from your last visit to the trap range, isn’t kicking around in one of your pockets.  Also, don’t forget that your 2019/2020 hunting license expired at the end of June.  Be sure you have your 2020/2021 hunting license, including your upland endorsement on your license.

The regulations covering doves are as follows, Mourning Dove and White-Winged Dove have a daily bag limit of 15 in combination, up to 10 of which may be white-winged dove. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. There are no limits on Spotted Dove and Ringed Turtle Dove, although these two varieties have the same season dates as Mourning Doves (September 1st -15th).  Hunting for Eurasian Collared Dove is legal year-round and there are no limits on them.  Note: There is no open hunting season on common ground-doves, ruddy ground-doves, and Inca doves.

Tom told SoCalHunt that the SJ Staff has planted several fields with dove-attracting crops on the Wildlife Area and they are seeing a good amount of dove on around this year.  Of course, San Jacinto isn’t Niland or Brawley or any of the other traditional “hot-spot” dove hunting areas and you’re unlikely to limit out in an hour, but you do have a good chance of bagging a few birds a lot closer to home.

So, hopefully, there won’t be any end of August thunderstorms that might chase the birds south and then there should be at least a fair chance of bagging a few.  If you’re want to try your luck at San Jacinto things are looking fairly good for opening day, Tuesday, September 1st.

Also, don’t forget, there is another volunteer blind brush-up work day coming up, probably the first or second Saturday in September.  SoCalHunt will have details on this as soon as the date is finalized.  A bonus here, if the work day is on the first or second Saturday in September, is that after lunch you can come back to SJ and get in a late afternoon dove hunt on the upland side!  Watch SoCalHunt for info on the work day soon.

And, before I go, Tom asked me to ask everyone to keep an eye out for palm fronds to utilize on the upcoming blind brush-up day.  If you can get any of them any time before the work day you can make arrangements to drop them off at San Jacinto by calling Tom Trakes at the San Jacinto headquarters at (951) 236-3040, or the San Jacinto staff at (951) 928-0580.  Of course, if you’re going to come out for the work day you could bring them along with you then too.


2020/2021 Federal Duck Stamp Now Available Online

In this time of restrictions, store shutdowns, and just nobody really knows what’s next, online purchases may be the way to go for your hunting gear and license.  I think we’re pretty much all aware that our general hunting license, upland, and waterfowl “stamps” can be purchased online and mailed to us.  You just have to give them about 10 to 14 days to get it to you before you go hunting.  At this point that shouldn’t be a problem, even if you intend to go dove hunting since that’s still 26 days away and duck season is still 79 days away.  (Here’s the login link for the DFW online license sales if you still need to do that part…)


The one thing you may still be missing though is your Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or, as everybody calls it, the Federal Duck Stamp.  US Post Offices are supposed to carry them but many times they either don’t have any or had just a few and are sold out.  And besides that, do you really want to go stand in line at the Post Office under the current conditions?  Many sporting goods stores carry a supply of the stamps as a convenience to their customers, but you never know when their supply will run out too and do you really want to go into a sporting goods store right now either…if they’re even allowed to be opened since that could change from day to day in some places.

The California Waterfowl Association (CWA) may be the solution is to get your Federal Duck Stamp.  As a convenience to hunters every year the CWA has online sales of the stamps for hunters.  The cost is $34.95 which includes a $9.95 handling fee but there’s no need to run around town looking for one then, it just shows up in your mailbox in about a week or so.

CWA will sell non-members the stamp too but if you’re not a member then while you’re at CWA’s website buying your stamp why not sign up as a CWA member.  You’ll receive their bi-monthly magazine with your CWA membership and you’ll also be helping ducks and duck hunting in California.  If you’re a duck hunter in California, you should be a member of CWA.

But, just to be sure you’re all legal and ready to go when the season starts order your stamp ASAP.  CWA doesn’t have an unlimited supply of Federal Stamps, so get yours soon.  Since it’s coming in the mail make sure to give CWA enough time to send it to you.  Ordering a week before the season might be a problem if you intend to hunt the opener.  Better to get your stamp now and you’ll have it in plenty of time.  Below is the link for CWA’s page for online sales of the Federal Waterfowl Stamp. You’ll also notice that CWA has some checkboxes on the page that allow you to buy the stamp and add a donation to CWA which, if you do, avoids the $9.95 handling fee and you’ll receive some nice premiums like a hat, knife, or multi-tool.  (see the page for details).


Also, while you’re there buying your stamp, if you’re not already a CWA member, here’s the link to the page to join CWA.  Membership is $35 a year or, for Junior hunters (under 18 years old) $15 well spent.


Now, I would encourage you to buy your stamp through CWA and join up while you’re there (if you’re not already a member) but in these times where some are pretty strapped for funds, there is an alternative that’s a little less expensive.

You can also purchase your Federal Duck Stamp online from the US Post Office. You can go to…


…and purchase your Federal Duck Stamp directly from the post office.  If you’re in the general Southern California area the Post Office will hit you up for $1.30 for shipping but that brings your total to $26.30 for the stamp.  Now, I don’t know what the Post Office’s lead time is for shipping you the stamp but I’m pretty sure you’ll have plenty of time to get it before the season starts if you order one soon.

So, get your Fed Stamp, and don’t forget to sign it, and you’ll then be ready for the 2020/2021 duck season.  Hope to see you for the duck opener with all your licenses, stamps, and passes so no one has to get turned away at the check station.



August 1st – San Jacinto Wildlife Area Volunteer Clean Up / Brush Up Work Day

Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, advised that the first volunteer work day for the upcoming season at San Jacinto Wildlife Area will be Saturday, August 1st.  This work day will be primarily for cleaning up the hunting area, to start brushing up the area’s blinds, and to build a few new blinds for the coming season. Due to state COVID-19 policies masks will be highly encouraged and we will adhere to social distancing, working in small groups. Tom advised that volunteers should meet at the check station at 5:30 am and anyone coming out to volunteer should bring gloves, shovels and/or hoes, wire pliers, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, lots of water since it’s expected to be hot and, of course, a mask.

Also, if anyone has access to palm fronds, they need a good supply of these, all they can get.  When it comes to palm fronds, we can’t have too many so if you can bring some along, please do.

After the work is done, we will get together at a local pizza restaurant “Marcello’s” for a well-deserved lunch (each person responsible for their own bill).

In the meantime, if you have any palm fronds you want to donate you don’t have to save them for the workday.  You can call Tom or the SJ staff at the number below and make arrangements to drop them off before the workday.  Make sure the palm frond are either the type with no thorns or, if you want to strip the thorns off before you bring them in, that kind is ok too.

Hopefully, we’ll have a good turnout so we can get the blinds brushed up for another waterfowl season.  As I always say, the more the merrier (and the less work for each person).

After this long break we’ve all suffered through hopefully we’ll have a great turnout for the work day.  Obviously, we’ve gotten a late start due to the lockdown so it’s all that more important to get a good turnout of volunteers to get the blinds and the Wildlife Area in top condition for the upcoming season and another great year of duck hunting.

If you have any questions contact Tom Trakes at the San Jacinto headquarters at (951) 236-3040, or the San Jacinto staff at (951) 928-0580.


Info Regarding Camping Spots on DFW Property (Wister Campground Drawing)

FYI for anybody that might want to get a camping spot at Wister this coming season I received the following from Scott Sewell, Senior Fish Wildlife Habitat Supervisor, Department of Fish and Wildlife…

COVID-19 update
CDFW will accept Recreational Vehicle Parking Draw Applications, where applicable, for the 2020-2021 hunt season. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are uncertain at this time, whether or not RV camping will be allowed, or what limitations will be in place, at our Wildlife Areas during the 2020-2021 season. We will make a final determination based on State guidance concerning camping prior to the relevant upland game/waterfowl seasons. If the decision is made to cancel camping, applicants will be contacted in advance of the season. Please note that any potential limitations on camping would not affect hunting on our wildlife areas.

Valerie Termini
Chief Deputy Director
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

US Fish and Wildlife Cancels Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey

For the first time in 65 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service have canceled their annual joint Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey.  The cancelation is due to concern over the current Coronavirus restrictions.

The survey, conducted annually in May, has been used since 1955 to estimate breeding populations and make management decisions for waterfowl.  The USFWS, along with the Flyway Councils, will use long-term data from spring/summer monitoring for these species to make decisions on regulations and harvest management decisions.

This will have no effect on the 2020/2021 season regulations.  These regulations were based on habitat conditions and population estimates from the 2019 breeding season.

To set regulations for the 2021/2022 season the USFWS will utilize the long-term data and models to predict the 2020 spring populations and habitat conditions instead of the survey data.

The USFWS expects that the 2021/2022 regulations will be, in general, similar to the 2020/2021 season based on the long-term averages, however, in some cases changes may be appropriate and the USFWS will work with the Flyway Councils to identify populations of special concern.

I would expect this to translate into pretty much identical regulations for the 2021/2020 season as we already have set for the 2020/2021 season, with some possible exceptions if some “special concerns” come up.

For further details you can check Ducks Unlimited’s article on the cancelation of the Survey at the link below:


So, no Breeding Population and Habitat Survey to peruse this summer for our preview of the upcoming season.  Hopefully, without the USFWS checking on them, the birds will do their spring thing and produce a bumper crop of ducklings that will be ready for us by the time the season rolls around.


California Fish and Game Commission Sets 2020/21 Season Regulations

The California Fish and Game Commission, during their April 16th meeting, adopted changes to the waterfowl season dates and regulations for the 2020/21 waterfowl season.

Regulations adopted for the Southern California Zone (which will cover San Jacinto Wildlife Area):

Seasons: Ducks and Geese: October 24, 2020 through January 31, 2021.

Special Youth Hunt Days: February 6 and February 7, 2021. (San Jacinto’s Annual Youth Hunt will be February 6th, 2021).

Limits: Ducks: Daily bag limit: 7. Which may consist of 7 Mallards, of which only 2 can be female; 1 Pintail; 2 Canvasback; 2 Redheads; 2 Scaup.  (Scaup may only be taken November 7th, 2020 through January 31st, 2021 – so be careful the first two weeks of the season this year).

Geese: Daily bag limit: 23 of which 20 may be White Geese and 3 may be Dark Geese.

Possession Limit Ducks and Geese: Triple the daily bag limit.

Black Brant (Although a “sea goose” I’ll add this because occasionally a few seem to show up at San Jacinto): November 19, 2020 – December 15, 2020.  Daily bag limit: 2 per day.  Possession limit triple the daily bag limit.

“Electronic” Spinning wing decoys (AKA – mojos) will be allowed from December 1st until the season ends (statewide) – non-motorized /wind-powered mojos are allowed all season. (NOTE – As far as I could find this was not mentioned in the season regulation changes at the Commission meeting so I’m listing the dates based on last season’s regulations (assuming no changes). This has been December 1st for as long as I can remember but check with the official regulations once they are posted on the DFW web site or the printed regulation books when they come out, probably in a couple of months but still well before the season).

Last season one of the regulations that most affect San Jacinto hunters were, of course, the extended end date for the season which gave us one more hunt day.  This season January 31st happens to be the last Sunday in January.  The federal framework allowed for the season to end on the last day in January and it just so happens that January 31st is the last Sunday in January, which is the traditional end of the season, so no extended season this time.  Another change this season is that the Scaup limit was dropped to 2 birds (it was 3 last season).  Also, the Brant seasons will be reduced from 37 days to 27 days.  Not a real big concern for SJ hunters but there’s a very slim chance one will show up at SJ so it would behoove you to know what they look like.  Other than that, most other regulations stayed pretty consistent with last season’s regulations.

So, there it is.  The regulations are set, and as of this writing, Tom and the entire SJWA Crew are working hard to get San Jacinto Wildlife Area in excellent shape for the upcoming 2020/2021 waterfowl season.  Hopefully, our present “quarantine or lockdown or restrictions” (whatever you want to call it) will end soon and the hard working staff at SJ can get a couple of cleanup days scheduled to assist in getting things ready for the season.  When (if?) any of these clean up/work days get scheduled try to pitch in and help if you’re able – Info will be posted here on SoCalHunt when I receive it.  AND Mystic Lake is still there and still nearly full with the addition of some water from the last series of storms.  This should be a big help to enhance the hunt results at good old SJ!

This above information is provided as a general guide only. Although they haven’t updated it to the newly adopted regulations yet when they do, probably in a month or two (still well before the season) please check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website at:


…or printed regulation book (available probably not long after they update their web info at most license agent locations) for official information and/or for regulations in other waterfowl zones in the state.

Now, all we need is to get some weather up north at the right time this year, hopefully early in the season, to drive the birds down to us and we can all look forward to another fantastic season at San Jacinto Wildlife Area.

The Beginning of The Addiction – The First Time

Since we’re pretty much all under “house arrest” to one extent or another I figured I’d take a ride in the way-back machine and relive my first waterfowl hunt, the beginning of the addiction.

The exact date is lost in the fog of time, but it was somewhere around December 1975.  I’d been hunting a couple of years by then, but I’d only hunted upland game.  My one and only shotgun at the time was a 20-gauge Ithaca 37.  My dad wasn’t a hunter, nor was he a fisherman but, to his credit, he never tried to block me from developing a love for both these outdoor sports.

At my work at the time one of my coworkers, who was sort of a mentor to me, was also interested in hunting but had even less experience then I did.  As we talked while we worked and at lunch breaks, we’d many times pour over the Western Outdoor News, which I think was either a quarter or thirty-five cents back then, and we would read the reports of the waterfowl harvests at the Wister Wildlife Area.  There were often pictures in WON of the hunters and their straps sometimes showing limits of pintail, which had a seven-bird limit back then, along with limits of Snow Geese, which I believe was three back then.

Well, we were impressed.

We talked it up and decided, “Hey, we could do that!”  So, a plan was formed.  One Friday afternoon we would drive down to Wister and bag us both a limit of ducks and geese.

Of course, some preparation was necessary.  Neither of us had any waterfowl equipment.  My buddy had some fishing waders and he already owned a 12-gauge but all I had was my little Ithaca, no waders, no camo, no proper ammo, no decoys.

I was a duck hunter extraordinaire already…right?

I hit the sporting goods store at Puente Hills Mall.  Yes, they had a sporting goods store there at the time, and they even carried guns, ammo, and hunting gear.  In fact, some may not believe this, but a few years later I bought my deer rifle, a Remington 700 7mm Mag, at the JC Penney’s Store at Puente Hills Mall.  Can you imagine what would happen nowadays if you walked out of a major mall with a boxed rifle under your arm?  Nobody gave that a second look back then.  But, let’s get back to the subject of this story.

Anyway, as luck would have it, they were having a sale on decoys, so I picked up a dozen pintail decoys.

I also picked up a couple of boxes of 12-gauge #4 lead shot.  Yup, that was long before the lead ban.  Also, I picked up a pair of cheap vinyl stocking foot waders. I had a pair of high-top sneakers at home to cover the stocking feet.  Last was the state and federal duck stamp to add to the hunting license I already had for upland hunting.

Of course, by this time I was about out of money and I still needed a shotgun because the little 20-gauge I had wasn’t going to cut it for geese.  Even though back then, you could walk out of the sporting goods store with a gun in five minutes, unfortunately, you still had to pay for it.

Here’s where another friend came to the rescue, or actually his father came to the rescue.  His dad owned an old Winchester model 1897 shotgun.  For those unfamiliar with the Winchester 1897, it was the second pump-action shotgun designed by John M. Browning in, of course, 1897.  They were produced until 1957 so I’m sure this one wasn’t 78 years old, but I’ll bet it was a good 40 years old at the time.  After explaining my situation with the upcoming hunt, the old 1897 was kindly loaned to me.

So, after borrowing from my fishing gear to rig the decoy anchors we were fully armed and ready for our trip.

My hunting buddy picked me up on the assigned late afternoon in his Dodge two-wheel-drive pickup (this will be important later in the story) and we headed down to Wister.  After an approximate four and a half-hour drive, we pulled in off of highway 111 and into the check station parking lot.

We got our names in the lottery for the sweatline draw and waited with great anticipation to see when our ping-pong ball would drop out of the bingo ball cage.  As I recall we were drawn not too far from the top and so headed for the truck to attempt to get a little shut-eye before the wind-up alarm clock went off at 0300 for us to get back to the check station and pick our spot.

As we slept..sort of…the constant tick, tick, tick of the wind-up alarm clock seemed to get louder as the appointed alarm time approached.  Added to the excitement of the first duck hunt I don’t think either of us got more than a half-hour sleep total.

When the alarm finally rang, we jumped out of the truck and headed up to the check station to pick our spot.

Since we had no idea what we were doing, when it was our turn to pick our hunting spot it was kind of an eeny-meeny-miny-moe situation.  So, after picking our hot-spot and paying for our day passes, which you bought at the check station in those days, we grabbed a map of Wister from the check station counter and were off to our big waterfowl adventure.

The wind was blowing hard, maybe 30 mph or so and the sky held broken clouds.  There had been no rain, and it wasn’t threatening any, just those big puffy clouds blowing across the sky, hiding and revealing the moon and the star as they wind hurried them along.

We got down to the crossroad that would lead to our hunting spot and turned left off of Davis road.  As we drove down this road, we saw a sign indicating that our parking spot was coming up soon and, near as we could tell, we had to transition over to the adjacent dike to enter the parking area a couple hundred yards down the dike.  Just after we started down the dike, we noticed a puddle of water on it that was probably five feet across covering the top of the dike.  It appeared that the adjacent pond had just overflowed onto it.  Being Wister newbies we didn’t give the puddle a second thought and charged right through it in my buddy’s two-wheel-drive Dodge pickup.

Of course, if you’ve ever been to Wister, you probably know what happened.  Yup…we sunk her right down to the axle in the middle of the puddle.

We didn’t have a shovel, not that it would have done much, and, apparently, we were the last ones headed out to that particular hunting area as no one else came up behind us that might have helped.

After about an hour of pushing from either end of the truck and attempting to use one of the hubcaps as a makeshift shovel, we concluded that we’d have to walk back to the check station to get some help.  All the other hunters were already in their hunting areas and setting up so it was a long walk with no prospect of a ride.  Now, remember this was well before cell phones so the only way we were going to get help was the payphone on the side of the Wister Check Station.  As we walked towards the check station, we could hear whistling wings above us and make out ducks flying back and forth above us in the gathering light.  When start time rolled around about a hundred shotguns opened up all over the wildlife area and we could even see an occasional duck falling out of the sky as the hunters connected with their prey.

We finally got to the check station and called the Auto Club for a tow.  I guess they don’t do this any more down at Wister or maybe it was because we were just in a puddle and the area was generally dry, but we managed to get the auto club to come out and pull us out of the puddle.

Once we were free, we jumped back into my friend’s truck and managed to get to our parking spot without further incident.  We were generally covered with mud and the truck was too, inside and out.  When we finally got our limited gear out to our hunting spot it was about 8:30 am.  We’d missed the best shooting of the day, however, the wind was picking up even more and the Snow Geese were beginning to fly.

We quickly threw our dozen decoys out and basically just hunkered down on the dike near the hunting spot stake and waited for whatever might come along.  We didn’t have to wait long.

Several times flights of magnificent Snow Geese flew right over us fighting the strong wind, just seeming to hang there in the sky not 30 yards above us.  We fired and fired yet nothing fell.  Occasionally we could even hear shot drumming off the wing feathers of the geese, yet they didn’t come down.  Either the #4 shot didn’t have enough oomph or the wind was blowing our shot strings way off course.

Finally, on one of my shots, a “golden bb” broke the wing of one of the Snow Geese and it nosedived into our pond with a huge splash.  I quickly set the shotgun down and “ran” (as much as you can run in Wister mud) to claim my prize.  I thought it was dead as it hung limply as I carried it back across the pond, but it was apparently only stunned by the hard splashdown.  As I approached the dike it woke up and began to beat me with its wings and scratch at me with its claws.  The only thing I could think to do was to stumble the last few steps to the dike and bash its head on the barrel of the old Winchester.  That ended the fight.

So, finally, I had my first waterfowl and my first goose.  It wasn’t long after that my buddy was able to also scratch down a goose except his was actually dead on splashdown and didn’t fight him when he brought it back.

After a few more unsuccessful shots on the geese by both of us, things started to slow down and I thought I’d take a short walk down the dike just to stretch my legs.  I got about 75 yards down the dike and just as I was about to turn around and walk back to our hunting spot a drake pintail jumped out of the brush near my feet.  It didn’t fly very well and, looking back, I believe now that it was probably a cripple that escaped in the morning shoot, but I was able to connect on it and also harvest my first duck.

We hunted a little while longer, but the ducks were no longer flying, the wind had slowed down, and the geese that were still flying were now flying well out of range.  We finally called it a day at about 1 pm.

So, that’s it.  That’s how it started.  I’ve been chasing them for 45 years now and hopefully will be doing it a while longer.

2020 California Game Warden Stamp Now Available

Well, it’s that time of year again.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announces the 2020 edition of the Warden Stamp is now available.  Unless you’ve been in a coma or something for the last seven years, you’re probably aware that the Department of Fish and Game changed its name on January 1st, 2013 to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  With that change our good old Game Wardens were designated as “Wildlife Officers”, and it even says so on the Warden Stamps since 2014, but most hunters and fisherpersons still call them “Wardens” and the DFW is still calling this the “Warden Stamp”.

The new Warden Stamp, for 2020 is now available for purchase online via the CDFW online license services (ALDS).  To purchase the new Warden Stamp, just follow the link below to purchase via the ALDS system.

Click on the below link to go to the Warden Stamp page and follow the instructions to buy it online:


The Game Warden Stamp isn’t really a “stamp” for your license, such as your federal duck stamp is, although the name might lead you to believe that, rather it’s a roughly 3” x 3” decal.

The 2020 version of the stamp is a deep blue background with a Warden’s badge and a drawing of a Dorado, one of our prized migratory game fish that are caught offshore in Southern California almost every summer, in case you’re not familiar with them.  (see picture below)

The DFW still has its entire series of Warden Stamps available.  If you like a prior year’s design better than this year’s or would like to collect the entire series, they are all still available, from the first one in 2010 up through this year’s stamps.

The 2010 version is a green shield with a Warden’s badge and an elk silhouette on it.  The 2011 version is a light blue background with a Warden’s badge and a silhouette of a trout or salmon on it. The 2012 version has a dark brown background with a Warden’s badge and a silhouette of a California quail on it. The 2013 version has a gold background with a Warden’s badge and a silhouette of a duck landing on it. The 2014 version has a red background with a Warden’s badge and a silhouette of a lobster on it. The 2015 version of the stamp has a wood grain background with a Warden’s badge and the shadow of a bear on it. The 2016 version has a blue background with a Warden’s badge and the silhouettes of two bighorn sheep on it. The 2017 version of the stamp is a green background with a Warden’s badge and drawing of a sturgeon. The 2018 version of the stamp is an orange background with a Warden’s badge and a drawing of a Warden K9. The 2019 version of the stamp is a dark blue background with a Warden’s badge and a drawing of two snow geese flying.  (See pictures below). If you like them all you could buy one, or more, of each one if you want to.

The stamps are $5 each and the funds go into a special account. The money is used to provide our Game Wardens with additional equipment, training and new programs, such as new communications and surveillance devices, protective equipment, training in specialized areas, new law enforcement programs to assist them in their duties.

Due to State budget cuts, non-hunting / fishing politicians feel that the DFW is a “painless” way to cut back on the budget by giving the DFW less to do more with.

Quoting the DFW website on the Warden stamp:

” The Warden Stamp Program was initiated in 2010 to address the need for better equipment and training for the state’s wildlife officers and to provide funding for special law enforcement programs. All funds raised from the sales of the stamp go to purchase necessary equipment for wildlife officers and to support CDFW’s K-9 program.

“Those who purchase the Warden Stamp – hunters, anglers and non-consumptive users – appreciate and want to conserve our state’s amazing natural resources,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Purchase of the stamp demonstrates public support of wildlife officers and allows them to do their jobs more safely and efficiently.”

Approximately 465 wildlife officers patrol and protect 159,000 square miles of California’s natural habitat and 200 miles out to sea. Though their primary function is to enforce California’s Fish and Game Code, they may be called upon to enforce any of California’s laws.

Wildlife officers patrol on foot, on horseback, by plane, boats and in a variety of vehicles. They investigate reports of violations, collect and preserve evidence, write reports and testify in court.

Wildlife officers are also expected to promote and coordinate hunter education programs, collect and report information on the conditions of fish and wildlife and their habitat and represent CDFW at local schools, meetings of hunting and fishing clubs and other community events.”

Now – back to me…

As I’ve said every year that I’ve written about the Warden Stamp, the important point here, in my opinion, is getting the money to the “boots on the ground”.  If your $5 (or more, if you can afford it) results in some equipment, training or what have you that helps catch a poacher in your area the payoff may be more game or more fish for you and yours to legally harvest.  And, the bottom line is, that’s what’s important.  As for the “stamp”, stick it on your truck, ammo box or tackle box, stick it in a drawer, throw it away if you want, do whatever you want with it.  The important thing is to help give our Wardens the tools they need to protect our hunting and fishing heritage.

Now, as I have done every year since 2010, excuse me while I pull up the ALDS on my computer and order this year’s Warden Stamps.


San Jacinto’s 26th Annual Junior Waterfowl Hunt Event a Great Success, February 8th, 2020

As always, I want to say that there were so many great sponsors, volunteers, and so many that supported the Junior Hunt event with prizes, assistance, and food they deserve another big thanks from all of us.

The San Jacinto Wildlife Area Junior Hunt is an outstanding event to cap off a great season of hunting for our Junior Hunters.  The Junior Hunters had some good waterfowl hunting and, as always at the SJ Junior Hunt Event, they also came away with some fantastic prizes at the lunch and giveaway at mid-day.

As is the tradition at SJ, the Juniors and their adult mentors were treated to a great breakfast of pancakes and sausage with coffee and hot chocolate.

After a great breakfast, the Juniors and their escorting adults headed out to the Wildlife Area to set up and wait for the starting horn blast.  The hunting was fairly good this year and many waterfowl were harvested by the Junior Hunters.

(In case you missed it you can read the hunt results here…  https://socalhunt.wordpress.com/2020/02/08/hunt-results-for-san-jacinto-wildlife-areas-26th-annual-junior-hunt-saturday-2-8-20/ )

When lunch rolled around everyone assembled at the Check Station workshop for lunch and the prize giveaway. Lunch was fantastic with the Juniors and their adults dining on BBQed hamburgers and hotdogs donated by Angelo’s Burgers and Quail Forever and pulled pork prepared and donated by John Ross from Dee’z Boy’z BBQ in San Jacinto.  Tom Trakes’ daughter provided and decorated a fantastic cake for the event.

This year’s Junior Hunt was dedicated to the memory of Easton Parker, also known as “Beaston”, one of the SJ Junior Hunters that sadly passed away this past year from a brain tumor.

After lunch the event everyone was excitedly waiting for, the prize giveaway was conducted.  There was so much support for this year’s Junior Hunt that all the Junior Hunters received at least two raffle prizes each!  The prizes ranged from gun cases, decoys, fishing rods, and a plethora of other assorted hunting and outdoor gear.  Needless to say, all the junior hunters went away happy.  There were several “Grand Prizes” at the event.  5 firearms given away and a German Shorthair puppy, donated by Chaz Prato was also one of the grand prizes.

Tom wanted me to give a special thanks to Quail Unlimited for sponsoring the shotgun raffle earlier this past year for the two shotguns at Bass Pro Shop.  Through their generosity, quite a bit of money was earned which allowed many prizes to be purchased for the event, along with two of the shotguns given away to the Juniors Hunters.  Tom also wanted to thank Bass Pro Shop for assisting with a place for the earlier shotgun raffle by QU and for giving the SJ crew a great discount on the prizes they bought for the event which made the money spent go much further.

After the raffle, many of the Junior Hunters went back to their blinds to finish out their day, and their waterfowl season, hunting.

The Junior Hunt was an outstanding event, as it usually is.  As I’ve said every year and will repeat again as I fervently believe it, the Juniors are the future of our sport, so it is vital to keep them interested and involved in waterfowl hunting.  San Jacinto’s Annual Junior Waterfowl Hunt definitely goes a long way towards that goal every year.

Tom told me he’d like to thank, as well as I would myself, everyone who donated prizes, food, labor or anything else towards this event.  We all should also thank the San Jacinto crew for, as usual, going the extra mile to help make this event happen. We all appreciate all your hard work.

So, another Junior Waterfowl Hunt is in the books.  Check out the pictures below of the 73 Juniors Hunters that participated this year and the beautifully decorated cake Tom’s daughter worked so hard on.  This was a great event to celebrate the 26th annual waterfowl hunt at San Jacinto Wildlife Area and a great way to usher in what will hopefully be a lifetime of waterfowl hunting for the future of our sport, the Junior Hunters.

Also, off the subject of the Junior Hunt, but since I have your attention, Tom told me that he expects to have a cleanup day scheduled some time in March to start the process of cleaning up the Wildlife Area in preparation for next season and he also wanted me to remind everyone that the annual Hunter’s Education Class, which is required for new hunters to obtain their license, would likely be conducted in May.  Watch here on SoCalHunt for the dates for those events when they are set.

Here’s just a few photos of the Junior Hunt event.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Kern National Wildlife Refuge 2019/2020 Season Long Stats

The end of the 2019/2020 waterfowl season at the Kern National Wildlife Area revealed some interesting stats for the number of birds checked in and the per hunter average take.

2375 adult and 117 junior hunters (2492 hunters total) harvested a total of 1798 Northern Shovelers, 298 Mallards, 1227 Gadwall, 478 Widgeon, 483 Pintail, 1549 Green Wing Teal, 803 Cinnamon Teal, 605 Redheads, 14 Canvasbacks, 108 Ring Necks, 6 Scaup, 161 Bufflehead, 2 Goldeneye, 4 Blue Wing Teal, 2 Eurasian Widgeon, and 88 Ruddy Ducks. There was also 1 duck listed as “other”.  In addition, there were also 1 Canada Goose, 1 Ross’ Goose, 3 Snow Geese, and 14 White Fronted Geese taken at Kern this season. 75 Coots were also checked in for the 2019/2020 season at Kern. This figured out to a total of 7657 Ducks and Geese or, with the Coots included, 7732 waterfowl taken for the season. The per hunter average take for 2019/2020 season came out to 3.07 Ducks and Geese per hunter or, with the Coots added in, 3.10 waterfowl per hunter.

In comparison to last season, there were 103 more adult hunters this season over last and there were 17 more junior hunters for a total of 120 more hunters accommodated in 2019/2020 season compared to the 2018/2019 season. (This includes the Junior Hunters from the Junior Hunt). As for the birds, I’ll list them with a plus by the number or a minus by the number to indicate how many more or less of each type of bird was bagged this season over last.

There were +144 Northern Shovelers, +76 Mallards, -91 Gadwall, no change in the Widgeon (478 this season, 478 last season), +6 Pintail, +406 Green Wing Teal, +302 Cinnamon Teal, +191 Redheads, -11 Canvasbacks, +41 Ring Necks, -20 Scaup, -76 Bufflehead, -7 Goldeneye, +6 Wood Ducks (0 last season), -8 Blue Wing Teal, +2 Eurasian Widgeon (0 last season), and -14 Ruddy Ducks.  There were also -2 ducks listed as “other”.

For the Geese numbers, there was no change in the Canada Geese (1 this season, 1 last season), +1 Ross’ Goose (0 last season), -2 Snow Geese, and +5 White Front Goose.

There were also +33 Coots bagged this season. This was a total of +731 Ducks and Geese taken and, with the Coots included, +764 waterfowl taken this season compared to last season. The per hunter averages were +0.15 Ducks and Geese or, with the Coots included, +0.16 waterfowl this season over last season.

So, there you have it, the year-long stats for the Kern National Wildlife Refuge.  As compared to last season’s stats it appears that many of the species had more birds and almost as many species had fewer birds harvested. However, the species with increases picked up quite a few more birds in most cases and the species that had fewer, in most cases, had only a small number fewer.  Overall Kern had good averages most of the season and ended up with a slightly higher per hunter average than last season.  Hopefully, the breeding populations will do their thing up north and we’ll get the weather needed to drive the ducks south early in the season and things will improve again next season.

Hunt Results for Kern National Wildlife Refuge Junior Hunt, Saturday, 2/8/20

The waterfowl take for the Kern National Wildlife Refuge Junior Hunt gave the Junior Hunters a great average bag for their efforts. Cinnamon Teal were in the first position for number of ducks checked in with Shovelers found in the second spot.  The Kern NWR Staff reported that the results for the Junior Hunt on Saturday, 2/8/20 were as follows:

31 junior hunters bagged 22 Shovelers, 4 Mallards, 19 Gadwall, 11 Widgeon, 9 Pintail, 14 Green Wing Teal, 30 Cinnamon Teal, 4 Redheads, 8 Ring Necks, 1 Bufflehead, and 6 Ruddy Ducks.  No Geese or Coots were checked in by the Juniors at Kern on Saturday.  This worked out to an average bag of 4.13 ducks per Junior Hunter and, of course, with no Geese or Coots to figure in to the total, 4.13 waterfowl for each Junior. Out of 13 reservations issued, 5 arrived on time to claim their hunting spot.

There you have it, the final hunt of the 2019/2020 season for the Kern National Wildlife Refuge.  Congratulations to all then Junior Hunters who participated in the harvest.

Watch here for the Kern National Wildlife Refuge season-long stats report soon.



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