New Procedures for Donations for the Annual Junior Hunt at San Jacinto Wildlife Area

I spoke to Tom Trakes, San Jacinto Wildlife Area’s Wildlife Habitat Supervisor, about a change in state policy regarding donations for their annual Junior Hunt. As most of you probably know, especially if you frequent the SoCalHunt Blog, the annual San Jacinto Wildlife Area Junior Hunt is an important event to pique the interest of our up and coming junior hunters who will be the future of hunting in California.

Per a change in policy by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife donations of money, food or merchandise cannot be accepted unless the donations go through a formal acceptance procedure. What this means is that if you want to donate any prizes, merchandise, food or funds to the Annual Junior Hunt you need to contact Tom at San Jacinto prior to December 15th so there will be adequate time to get the donation approved.

So, because of this new procedure, if you are of a mind to contribute to the Junior Hunt you have to plan ahead and get a list of the pending contribution(s) in on time or they can’t accept the donation. Tom wanted me to make sure I noted that this information is not a solicitation for any donations but information for anyone who wants to contribute.

I asked Tom how this was going to effect our donations to the Junior Hunt via the “money box” that formerly set on the counter in the check station. Tom advised that the money box is gone but, hopefully, to make up for that Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga was working on some type of raffle that will generate money that Bass Pro will then donate to San Jacinto following the donation procedure. (more on that when I get more details, hopefully within the next month or so).

Tom told me that this new procedure will not effect San Jacinto’s Annual Toy Drive for the Bryant Park Preschool as, in that case, they are just collecting the toys for the preschool and the donated toys are not being donated to the DFW, they are just the middle-man in that situation so the toy box will be at the check station as usual.

So, if you are of a mind to contribute anything to the Annual Junior Hunt, which will be held on Saturday, February 6th, 2016 this season, you need to contact Tom Trakes at either phone at 951-236-3040 or email at Thomas.Trakes@wildlife.ca.gov by December 15th.

This new procedure applies statewide so if you instead or in addition to want to donate to any other DFW Junior Hunt, such as the fine Junior Hunt program at Wister, the same procedure applies. In the case of any other refuge or wildlife area you would need to contact your chosen area directly.

See the attached letter from Scott Sewell, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor II / Area Manager for further details.

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Dove Season Opens Tuesday, September 1st – Reminder for San Jacinto

This coming Tuesday, September 1st, is the opening of dove season in California. Due to the ammunition restrictions required by the ill advised (and zero scientific study backed) AB 711 if you are going to hunt any state wildlife areas and ecological reserves, of which San Jacinto is one, you are now, as of July 1st, required to use non-lead ammunition.

Traditionally, in the upland areas of San Jacinto, we were allowed to use lead shot for taking dove, quail and rabbits but with the phase 1 ammo restrictions of AB 711 we must now use non-lead ammunition. Be sure, if you are going to hunt doves on the opener at San Jacinto, or any state wildlife area or ecological reserve, you don’t have any lead shot in your possession. You will be subject to a big citation if you are checked by a DFW Wildlife Officer (Warden) and have any lead shot on you. Be sure you carefully go through your hunting vest or whatever you’re going to carry your ammo in and ensure that there isn’t a stray lead shell from last year hiding somewhere.

You can read more about AB 711 here:

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition  

Good luck if you’re going. Maybe we’ll see you out there.

Volunteer Blind Brush-Up Work-Day At San Jacinto Wildlife Area A Big Success!

The first volunteer blind brush-up day for this coming season, Saturday, August 15th, had a good turn out with about 25 volunteers showing up at San Jacinto Wildlife Area’s check station parking lot to help out this year. Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area reported that the volunteers, mostly hunters that utilize San Jacinto, were on hand to help out and eagerly headed out to the ponds to work on their assigned blinds.

Some of the Volunteers (Thanks guys!)

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This work party was primarily tasked to build, or rebuild several blinds throughout the wildlife area for the upcoming season. Six new blinds on Marsh-U, Marsh-W, A-2, Walker-4, Walker-8 and F-1 were built. Many blinds were brushed up with palm fronds primarily provided by the volunteers.

Some of the work in progress

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…And some of the results

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Due to the number of volunteers they were able to get a lot done in a short time and then it was off to Casa Mexicana for another great lunch. Tom wanted to remind hunters that there would be one more volunteer work day, on Saturday, September 26th, to finish brushing up some of the blinds and “fine tune” things for the season. Tom wanted me to remind everyone that they are still in need of palm fronds for the next blind brush-up day. Even if you can’t make the work-day if you have some palm fronds you can drop off prior to the work-day the staff at SJ will be happy to make arrangements to receive them. Just give them a call at (951) 236-3040 if you want to drop some off.

Lunch!

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After the September work-day the next thing on the calendar for San Jacinto Wildlife Area is opening day of the waterfowl season on Saturday, October 24th! Everything is looking great for the season ahead. The water is already flowing into the ponds and many ducks are already in evidence around the wildlife area area.

Pic ducks

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Hope to see you some time during the season at San Jacinto.

 

Gear Review (Update) – Cartblind (Formerly Duck & Bucks Cart Blind)

Today SoCalHunt is revising an old gear review for what used to be called the Ducks & Bucks Cart Blind.

SoCalHunt originally posted this review in December of 2010 and it is still one of the most clicked on reviews or reports on the SoCalHunt blog so I felt an update was in order.  There have been a few changes over the years at the company, including some updates to the carts and a change in the name, so I figured it would be a good time to revise the review.  As far as the performance of the product it is still living up to everything I said about it in the original review so there won’t be a lot of changes in this review, just more of an update as far as the name of the product and the web address and such.  I will say that it is some of the best money I’ve ever spent on any hunting equipment for the marsh and I still feel that way.

Look! Out in the pond! It’s a boat, no it’s a cart, no it’s a blind….no it’s the Cartblind!

The Cartblind is a great combination of what a waterfowler needs out in the refuge marsh. It consists of a large decoy sled with wheels attached (which are easily removable) and a telescoping pull handle to pull the whole contraption with. There are also shoulder straps attached to the pull handle and to the sled that allows most of the weight to be carried on the hunter’s shoulders as the cart is pulled. Once to the hunting site there is a full camo cover that makes the cart into a very comfortable hunting blind.

The real beauty of the Cartblind is that you can load it at home, bungee everything down and the next time you have to take anything off of it is out at your blind or hunting site. Gone now are the days of loading everything in your truck, including the folded up decoy cart, arriving at the parking area, taking out the decoy cart and putting it together in the dark, loading all the decoys and equipment on it, bungeeing it all down, walking out to your hunt site, taking everything off the decoy cart, humping the decoys, guns and other equipment across the pond (usually 3 or 4 trips back and forth across the pond) and then repeating this in reverse order to go home.

The way we have used the Cartblind over the last few years is that we load it up at home with decoys, two smaller decoy sleds (which we find handy in putting out and picking up the decoys), blind bags, seats and whatever else we’re taking and then it goes in the back of the truck. When we arrive at the parking area for our hunting site we pull the cart out of the back of the truck, tuck the shotguns and camera box in under the bungee straps, extend the telescoping pull handle, throw the shoulder straps on and off we go to our hunting site. The 18 inch diameter, 4 ½ inch wide, airless tires make pulling the cart very easy.  One tip we’ve learned over the years is to cross the straps over each other across the chest so they don’t slip off your shoulders.

When we arrive at our hunting site, if we have happened to draw an island blind, instead of taking everything out of the cart and schlepping it across the water in 3 or 4 trips back and forth, the cart becomes a boat. We just push it into the water and it floats, even with all the equipment loaded on it.  It is rated to float about 200 pounds. We have found that, once it is in the water, it is easier to get out of the pull handle and push it from behind.

This has a couple advantages. First you can keep the (now) boat stable, even if it is loaded a little unevenly. Second you can push down on the rear of the boat which keeps the bow of it high so no water splashes in, and third, it actually assists you in wading through a muddy pond bottom as, by pushing down on it, it takes a lot of your weight off your feet so you don’t sink in the mud as much. Once you get to your hunt site, whether you had to cross the water or not, if it is a free roam area or there is no adequate prepared blind, when the cart is empty, with a few minor adjustments, it becomes a very comfortable blind.

To make the cart into a blind there are 4 “feet” that pull out and adjust for height at the end of the cart (which will become the bottom of the blind). Once these are adjusted (between 15 and 22 inches) to the proper height the cart is tipped up on end. When this is done the camo blind cover falls into place. The only other adjustment that is needed to complete the conversion is to adjust the telescoping pull handle to become a rear support for the blind. When used as a blind there is a back and butt cushion which makes it very comfortable to sit in. Our blind also came with a middle camo cover (not shown in our pictures), which you wouldn’t want to use for duck hunting, that would make it a good deer/turkey blind. In addition, if you move the top camo cover to the bottom and lay the cart/blind down it can be utilized as a layout blind also. If you find yourself in a shallow pond and the wheels are digging into the bottom the wheels can be easily removed by pulling a spring steel pin (no tools necessary) and just pulling the wheels off.  It might be a good idea to buy a couple more of these pins at the hardware store and carry them in your blind bag just in case you drop one in the field.

The only real disadvantage I have found with the Cart Blind is that it will only accommodate one person when utilized as a blind (so you’d have to take turns or flip for it I guess, LOL).  Although, in an area like San Jacinto, which has mostly prepared blinds, you normally wouldn’t need to use it as a blind.  Also it would be a two man job to load it or unload it from your truck, which is the way we originally handled it, but I solved that a few years ago by making ramps, such as a gardener uses to get his lawnmower in and out of his truck, which makes it a snap for one person to handle now.

The Cartblind comes in five different configurations now, which is a change for the original.  There are configurations for a “Buck-Cart” (for use a a ground blind for deer or turkey), a “Duck-Cart”, obviously for duck hunting, an “Ice Fishing-Cart”, for use as an mini ice fishing house (which I don’t think we here in Southern California have to worry about), a Goose-Cart”, for use primarily as a layout field blind, and a “4 Season Cartblind” which, near as I can tell by the illustration on their web site, looks like the old style “Bucks & Ducks Cart Blind”, which is what SoCalHunt has.  The “4 Season Cartblind” is going for $399 and the others are priced at $499.  It appears, as of the writing of this update, that only the “4 Season Cartblind” is in stock as they are asking a $199 deposit on the other four to “pre-order”.  Check it out at…

www.cartblinds.com

…for further information or to order one.

DFW Commission Sets 2015/16 Season Regulations

The California Fish and Game Commission, during their August 5th meeting in Fortuna, California, adopted waterfowl season dates and regulations for the 2015/16 waterfowl season.

Regulations adopted for the Southern California Zone (which will cover San Jacinto Wildlife Area):
Seasons:
Ducks and Geese: October 24, 2015 through January 31, 2016.
Special Youth Hunt Days: February 6 and February 7, 2016. (San Jacinto’s Annual Youth Hunt will be February 6th, 2016).
Limits:
Ducks: Daily bag limit: 7. Which may consist of 7 mallards, of which only 2 can be female; 2 pintail; 2 canvasback; 2 redheads; 3 scaup. (Scaup may only be taken November 7th, 2015 through January 31st, 2016 – so be careful the first two weeks of the season again).
Geese: Daily bag limit: 25! Of which 15 may be white geese and 10 may be dark geese.
Possession Limit Ducks and Geese: Triple the daily bag limit.

“Electronic” Spinning wing decoys (AKA – mojo’s) will be allowed from December 1 until the season ends (statewide) – non-motorized / wind powered mojo’s are allowed all season.

The regulations that most affect San Jacinto hunters are the fact that, again, scaup cannot be taken the first two weeks of the season. Also, last season the canvasback limit was 1, this year its up to 2 cans a day. Although geese aren’t a big concern at SJ, as far as going over limit, this year’s regulations up the limit on geese to an amazing 25 (WOW!) of which 15 may be white geese and 10 can be dark geese.

So, regulations are set, bird numbers, in general, are good, well over the long term averages, and San Jacinto is looking good for the upcoming season. Now, all we need for a great season is some decent amount of rain. Come on El Nino!! Hope to see you all out at good old SJ!

This above information is provided as a general guide only. Please check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website at:

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations

…or printed regulation book (available soon at most license agent locations) for official information and/or for regulations in other waterfowl zones in the state.

Dates Set for Upcoming 2015 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, August 15th and Saturday September 26th. 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 glut of tumbleweeds that always seem to take over some of the blinds). 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. In addition, some of the blinds are already surrounded by water, so bring waders also so work can be done on these blinds too. As always for this time of year, sunscreen and mosquito repellent are suggested as good ideas. After the work is done we will get together at Casa Mexicana Restaurant about noon for a well-deserved lunch (each person responsible for their own bill).

Hopefully we’ll have a good turnout on each date as there is lot of work to do to get ready for the coming season. As always, when it comes to work days, the more volunteers the better (meaning 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, also know as wader ripper palm fronds).

Even if you can’t come to the work-day(s) if you have palm fronds that you’d like to donate prior to the work-day(s), and can drop them by SJ, that would be appreciated.

A good turn out for these work-days will help get things in “top-notch” condition at San Jacinto. This will make for a good start to another great season of waterfowl hunting at San Jacinto.

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

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Duck Numbers Up Slightly for the 2015/2016 Season!

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

“Preliminary 2015 duck population and pond estimates from the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey are now available. The estimate of 49.5 million breeding ducks was similar to last year’s estimate of 49.2 million, and 43% above the long-term average.”

Flyways.us reported that Mallards were up to approximately 11.6 million, which was 7% above the 2014 estimate of 10.4 million, and 51% above the long-term average of 7.7 million. Bluewing Teal numbers are approximately 8.5 million, which about the same as the 2014 estimate of 8.5 million and 73% above the long-term average of 4.9 million. Green-winged teal are up to 4.1 million, which was 19% above the 2014 estimate of 3.4 million and 98% above the long-term average of 2.1 million. The estimate for American wigeon is 3.0 million down 3% from the 2014 estimate of 3.1 million and 17% above the long-term average of 2.6 million. Estimated numbers of gadwall are 3.8 million which is 1% above the 2014 estimate of 3.8 million and 100% above the long-term average 2.6 million. Scaup (both greater and lesser) showed 4.4 million, which is 5% below the 2014 estimate of 4.6 million and 13% below the long-term average of 5.0 million. Northern shoveler (the favorite of SJ, our beloved spoonys) are estimated at 4.4 million which is 17% below the 2014 estimate of 5.3 million and 75% above the long-term average of 2.5 million. Redheads were 1.2 million which is 6% below the 2014 estimate of 1.3 million and 71% above the long-term average of 0.7 million. Canvasbacks showed 0.76 million which 11% higher then the 2014 estimate of 0.685 million and 30% above the long-term average of 0.6 million. Pintails were estimated at 3.0 million, which was 6% below the 2014 estimate of 3.2 million and 24% below the long-term average of 4.0 million.

So it looks like, despite California’s drought, this coming season has the potential to produce good numbers of birds. Some species are down a little, like the Pintails and Scaup, but most species are up at least a little from last year, but some are up significantly over their long-term averages. Hopefully El Nino will kick in and we’ll get some rain down here to provide the needed habitat coupled with some severe weather to the north at the right time to trigger the duck’s migration down to our neck-o-the-woods in time for our season.

As I type this its 106 days until the season opens down here in SoCal. It might be a good time to start getting your duck hunting gear together and maybe go shoot a few rounds of trap or skeet to tune up. If you’re optimistic (like I am) you might want to consider buying a few more boxes of shells as it looks like we might have a few more birds to shoot at. (Oh, and pray the predicted El Nino kicks in and we get some rain!!)

To check out the above duck numbers for yourself go to www.flyways.us



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