Report on Wister Conditions – Access via highway111 – Version II – Update as of 10/17/19

This is a follow-up report to update the report SoCalHunt posted on 10/12/19 with new information on Wister and Highway 111. Anybody going to go to Wister for the opener of the waterfowl season Saturday (10/19/19) here is updated information as of 10/17/19 at about 4 PM regarding conditions at Wister and the road conditions that might affect your ability to get there.

Scott Sewell, Senior Fish and Wildlife Habitat Supervisor with the Department of Fish and Wildlife gave the following information and reported the conditions for the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area:

“I would like to thank you all for your support and I appreciate the feedback. First off, Hwy 111 is open and there is access from the north and south. As many of you know we have been faced with challenges at IWA and as I have said before “we will overcome them”. Even with Wister being 80-85% full we are still higher than the majority of WLA’s in the State in the flooding to acreage ratio. The ponds that are filling will provide new habitat and forage for the coming months. Social media has not accurately described our current position and forecast. Wister does have vegetation management issues but overall is looking good and will be ready for the season. Some of the comments made are simply inaccurate. We have very hard-working employees that are doing the best they can. I currently have a smaller crew than usual, but I have just hired 2 new FWT, I still have 1 FWT out on leave, I will be hiring a new WHS1, and I will be hiring a new seasonal or two. We will rebuild and will be stronger. Thank you for your support and good luck this weekend and season.

Wetland Units
514 ponded
513 ponded
413 East ponded
413 West 1&2 ponded 3 finishing 4 filling
312 A &B ponded C filling
115 A, B & C ponded
114 A &B ponded
Y15 A ponded B 2&3 ponded 1 filling
Y16 A 1&2 ponded B ponded
W11 A reservoir ponded B 1&3 ponded
W11 D 2 &4 ponded, 1&3 dry and will fill, 5 filling
U10 ponded
U12 ponded with 1 filling
U14 2,3,4&5 filling
T10 water ordered for Green feed 2&4
T10 1,3&5 will pond after Green feed
T12 ponded
T14 2,3,4&5 filling
S20 ponded
S22 2&4 filling
Hazards all ponded
Green Feed Fields
413 dry wheat
312 A Dry wheat
115 B 2&4 Rye irrigated
U10 2&4 Rye irrigated
S20 2&4 Rye water ordered
T10 2&4 Millet water ordered
Y14 1st Rye, prepping the next phase”

As for the concerned about access to Wister due to the “mud volcano” that appeared a while back in an area across highway 111 from the check station, Scott reported that Highway 111 will be opened with access to Wister from north and south.  SoCalHunt checked with the CalTrans website and as of 9:15 PM on 10/17/19 CalTrans is reporting:


So, it sounds like CalTrans will be finished Friday night but, worse case, even if they aren’t done it appears the worst there will be a slight delay due to traffic control so you might want to give yourself a little extra time if you can.

If you want to check of the current conditions for highway 111 before you leave for Wister you can check on the CalTrans Road Conditions web site at:

Just enter “111” in the box for the highway number or you can call and get recorded info at 1-800-427-7623.

If SoCalHunt learns of anything further regarding Wister or anything about the road conditions on highway 111 which may have an impact on hunters’ ability to get there we’ll try to get the info to you if time permits.


San Jacinto Wildlife Area Ready for the 2019/2020 Season – New Maps Available – Info for Opener

Once again, due to the efforts of the best Staff of any Wildlife Area in the state, the San Jacinto Wildlife Area is primed and ready to go for the 2019/2020 waterfowl season.  At 3 am, Saturday, October 19th the first reservation holder will belly up to the bar, so to speak, and pick their spot kicking off another great season at San Jacinto.

Tom Trakes, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor at San Jacinto Wildlife area wanted me to pass along a few tips and get the info out there that there are additional blinds this season (thanks to Mystic Lake) and provide a download link for anyone wishing to get a copy of the maps and area regulations.

First off, due to the extra blinds this season, it will be important for the reservation line, and the sweatline after that to move through the check station as quickly as possible.  It is important, to speed things along, that hunters have their fed stamp signed and their type A day pass filled out when they come up to the counter to pick their spot.  A table and pens will be provided just outside the check station for hunters to fill out their type A waterfowl passes and to make sure the federal duck stamp is signed before entering the check station.  Also, if you have a fishing license and maybe a deer tag or a pig tag it would also speed things along if those were separated into another part of your wallet, or wherever you keep that stuff, so you don’t have to dig through a pile of those skinny l-o-n-g license forms to find your hunting license and type A pass.  The more efficient everyone is the quicker they can get out to the blinds to set up.  This will be even more important after the time change when start time will be an hour earlier.  There are 65 blinds this season compared to the 50 we had last season and some of them are a good distance from the check station so it’s important to get everybody going in the morning.

Tom also wanted me to mention that they’ll have a coffee pot going for the opener and anyone that wants to bring a box of donuts or some muffins or whatever to share should feel free to do so.

Also, Tom provided SoCalHunt with new blind maps for San Jacinto’s usual duck hunting area along with a detailed map of the new Mystic Lake blinds and the access roads/trails to each of them.  Also, for the Mystic blinds Tom provided a page of GPS locations for the blinds so you can use a GPS to get to the exact spot. (Last year’s GPS page for the regular blinds is still the same).  You can download a copy of everything at SoCalHunt’s web page at:

…got to the “Maps and Downloads” page and scroll down to find what you need.  Just click on them to download a copy.

Everything is ready to go at SJ and its t-minus about a day and a half until the ducks begin to fall as I write this.  Hope you have a great season out at good old San Jacinto Wildlife Area!




Report on Wister Conditions – Access via Highway 111

If you’re going to go to Wister for the upcoming waterfowl season opener next Saturday (10/19/19) here some information regarding conditions at  Wister and the road conditions that might affect your ability to get there.  As you most likely have heard there have been some road closures and construction off and on in the area of the Wister entrance and check station due to a “mud volcano” which popped up a while back across the highway from the check station.

Scott Sewell, Senior Fish and Wildlife Habitat Supervisor with the Department of Fish and Wildlife reported the following conditions for the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area:

North End
514 All ponded
513 Ponded trying to get water to Disable Site
413 Still Ponding, 413W2 dry, 413W3 half ponded, 413W4 dry
312 312B2,4 ponded, the rest still dry but filling.
312C 2,4 just getting water, 312C 5 just getting water.
115 B1 just getting water, B3 East is ponded B5 ponded.
114 All ponded

South End
Y15 Last 2 ponds near Davis Rd Dry.
W11 Last 2 ponds near Davis Rd Dry.
U14 2,4 ponded, 5 is filling, 1 is dry.
U12 2,4 filling, 5 ponded, 3,1 filling
U10 Ponded
T10 All Dry due to no pipeline.
T12 Ponded
T14 1,3 Dry, 5 low water in swell, 2,4 Ponded
S20 1,3 Ponded

Scott advised that Wister staff is currently flooding as much as possible and the above information is as of this past Monday.

In addition, for those concerned about access to Wister due to the “mud volcano” that appeared a while back in an area across Highway 111 from the check station, CalTrans is reporting as of Saturday, October 12th, 2019 at 02:13 PM:


There is no indication on the CalTrans web site if there will be any closures or restrictions past 10 pm (2200) tonight (Saturday 10/12/19).  So, right now it sounds like you can get to Wister, although there may be some minor delays.  Hopefully, it will be completely opened by next Friday night/Saturday morning.

If you want to keep on top of the current conditions for Highway 111 you can check on the CalTrans Road Conditions web site at:

Just enter “111” in the box for the highway number or you can call and get recorded info at 1-800-427-7623.

If SoCalHunt learns of any further reports on any changes to either conditions at Wister and/or road conditions on Highway 111 which may have an impact on hunters’ ability to get there, we will post a new report.

UPDATE!: As of 6:28 PM on 10/14/19 CalTrans reported the following –

SR 111


Info for Kern National Wildlife Refuge Waterfowl Opener, Saturday October 19th

Kern National Wildlife Refuge Staff has released info on the expected conditions for the 2019/2020 waterfowl season opener on Saturday, October 19th. This information appeared on the Kern Refuge website on 9/26/19 at: 

“Please see the waterfowl opener quotas, blinds, and units open to hunting. Due to this year’s lower water allocation, our hunter quota numbers are also lower than last year. As we flood up more habitat the quota numbers will change, so continue to check the website for updates. 

***The following is a projection of what is going to be open for the opener. Hunting areas and quotas are subject to change.***

Free Roam: 2 

Space Blinds: 11, ADA 1

Assigned Ponds: 2 and 4

Hunter Capacity: 42

Number of Reservations: 7”

SoCalHunt reached out to Kern National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader Nick Stanley regarding their water allocations and projections for the coming season and Mr. Stanley was kind enough to get back to me within just a couple of hours with the following information:

 “This upcoming waterfowl opener is going to be exactly the same as last year, this is all based off of our annual water allocation which is given to us from the Bureau of Reclamation. The amount of water available to the Bureau of Reclamation for this area this year is about 19,000 acre-feet. For us, this is an average/normal water year with that amount of water. We start fall flood up in August and we will continue to flood habitat until late January. During this flood up period as we flood more habitat, more areas will open for hunting opportunities. When we are fully flooded this year, we are projecting the hunter quota will be between 120-130 hunters and we will continue to refill until 2 pm. Thanks for your time and let me know if you have any other questions good luck this waterfowl season.”

So, there you have it. It looks like, due to the water allocation from the Bureau of Reclamation, Kern is going to have to start out with only a few areas opened by October 19th but will continue flooding throughout nearly the entire season, opening areas and increasing hunter quotas as the flooding progresses, and will eventually be around or at their full capacity at some point.

This sounds like an improvement over last season as we didn’t really get most of our rain until after the season ended and near the end of the season the most hunters accommodated any one hunt day at Kern was 120. Considering that probably a few of these were refills it sounds like they might have had a capacity of around 100 at the most. Of course, we did have the federal government shutdown in mid-December, which may have affected the hunter capacity also.

Fortunately for the Kern hunters, the California DFW actually runs the hunting program at Kern, so hunters were still allowed access to hunt, but most other things there didn’t get done during the shutdown. If you followed SoCalHunt’s hunting results reports last season you already know that Kern did not submit any reports from the middle of December until after the shutdown ended, which was after the season ended, as the hunt results reports are one of the things that the federal staff handles there.

If you’d like to see what areas are proposed to be opened for the October 19th opener, SoCalHunt has the current Kern hunting map, I’ll post a screen capture of it here.  You can also go to the SoCalHunt webpage maps and downloads page if you want to download a copy. Just scroll down near the bottom of the page and you’ll find it. You can view it there or click on it to download a copy if you’d like. Go to:

…and go to the “maps and downloads” page. SoCalHunt will try to keep this updated on the “maps and downloads” page with new maps as Kern NWR opens new areas and issues new maps.

Bottom line, checking last year’s stats on Kern it appears they started out with about the same, or just slightly higher, hunter quota as proposed this season. The 2018/2019 season opener had 63 hunters accommodated and then they went down to 53 the next Saturday (as we all know there’s always more hunters for the opener than a regular hunt day). Considering some of these were almost certainly refills it looks like they’re starting out nearly the same as last season. If projections hold (and the government doesn’t go through another shutdown this season) it sounds like there will eventually be a little more room to hunt at Kern than last season as the season progresses. 


San Jacinto’s September 21st Volunteer Blind Brush Up / Work Day -Things are Looking Good at SJ

Saturday, September 21st, was the final volunteer blind brush-up work day at San Jacinto Wildlife Area prior to the opening of the 2019/2020 season. About 20 volunteers showed up at the SJ check station parking lot at 0600 ready to get at it. Tom briefed the volunteers and they headed out to various locations around SJ to finish rebuilding and to brush-up several of the blinds.


The San Jacinto Staff has obtained some hay bales and these are being utilized to provide seating in some of the area’s blinds. Work was finished up on some of the blinds and F-1, F-2, Walker 12 & X blinds were finished being brushed-up. 


While out on the wildlife area the group took some time to check out Mystic Lake, which still has plenty of water and is currently holding a couple of thousand ducks! Thinks are looking good for the coming season!


One of the blinds, ready for brushing. Hay bale seats in place already.


Brushing up a blind.


Walking out to check out Mystic Lake.




After the hard work in the morning, some of the volunteers who didn’t have other obligations to get to and the SJ staff headed over to Marcello’s Pizza in Nuevo for a well-deserved lunch. 


Finishing up the PIZZA!


Once again, Tom and San Jacinto Crew would like to shout out a big “thank you!” to everyone that came out and worked hard to finish getting the blinds ready for the upcoming duck season, and I echo that sentiment. 


The SJ Staff is flooding up the area big time and the food that has been planted for the birds over the last few months has got a lot of duck and other birds using the SJ waterfowl area. Mystic Lake still has plenty of water and should help hold birds in the area throughout the season. Tom and his crew will continue to tweak things, finish up a few blinds that still may need a little attention, and in general, make sure things are ship-shape for the October 19th opener.


Get your license, passes and get your reservation request in soon and hopefully, we’ll see you out there at SJ for what appears to be shaping up to be a great season. 

San Jacinto Wildlife Area’s 26th Annual Junior Waterfowl Hunt Giveaway – Donations Needed

Due to the extended regular waterfowl season this year the last regular hunt day at San Jacinto Wildlife Area is Wednesday, January 29th, 2020.  A week and a half after the last regular season hunt day, on Saturday, February 8th, 2020, the Junior Hunters will have a unique opportunity to end their season with a bang by participating in the 26th Annual Junior Waterfowl Hunt.  SoCalHunt will post more details about the actual hunting opportunity for the Junior Hunters at a later date, this post will be more about some important preparation for the Junior Hunt and what you can do to help if you’re so inclined.

Besides the hunting, one of the things our Junior Hunters look forward to at the SJWA Junior Hunt is the lunch and giveaway at mid-day.  The Junior Hunters hunt cards are entered into a drawing for all kinds of great prizes and usually there’s enough to go around that the Junior Hunters walk away with at least two giveaway prizes each!  The San Jacinto Staff puts in a great deal of work on the Junior Hunt as do many volunteers. The SJ Staff and the volunteers truly believe the annual San Jacinto Wildlife Area Junior Hunt is an important event to keep the Junior Hunters interested and create memories for the Junior Hunters, who are, in fact, the future of our sport.

This year is the 26th Annual Junior Hunt and it would be great to have a copious amount of donations for the giveaway prizes to make a really memorable event for our wonderful Junior Hunters.

In 2015 there was a change in state policy regarding donations for the annual Junior Hunt.  Per the 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. (You can read SoCalHunt’s post on the 2015 donation procedures change at this link:     This post has been edited to reflect this season’s dates and info.)

Attached below are two letters from Scott Sewell, Senior Fish and Wildlife Habitat Supervisor for the area, regarding the purpose of the Junior Hunt event and detailing some more information regarding Junior Hunt Donations:



I should note that this donation procedure will not affect 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.  There is not formal acceptance procedure required for the Toy Drive donations.

So, if you are of a mind to contribute anything to the Annual Junior Hunt, which will be held on Saturday, February 8th, 2020 this season, you need to contact Tom Trakes at either his phone at 951-236-3040 or email at  by the deadline of January 8th,  2020. Tom wanted me to make sure I noted that this information is not a solicitation for any donations but information for anyone who may want to contribute.

To make it simple for anyone wanting to donate prizes for the Junior Hunt, SoCalHunt has cut through the red tape for you.  I’ve have tried to make it as simple as possible if you’d like to donate a prize or two, or more.  What the bottom line turns out to be is simply sending Tom Trakes a simple email (at his email address above) detailing what you intend to donate.  To make it easy I’ve included a link below to the SoCalHunt website’s “Maps and Downloads” page.  Scroll down to the very bottom of this page I’ve posted a link to a MS Word file of an example email to send to Tom Trakes, so you can make your donation.  Just follow the instructions at the top of the Word file. Just copy and paste this into an email and plug in what you’re donating and the details in the underlined sections.  The Donation Email MS Word file will be found at the very bottom of the SoCalHunt website “Maps and Downloads” page. Just click on it to download the Word file to your computer.

Hopefully this season’s Junior Hunt will be another record event, both in birds bagged and giveaway prizes donated.  This is a wonderful opportunity to show our Junior Hunters how much they are valued as they are the future of our sport.  Hopefully you are able to contribute to this great event.

Thanks in advance to all who can donate and/or volunteer this season!

Dove Hunting Results for San Jacinto Wildlife Area – Opening Day 2019 Dove Season

Opening day of the 2019 dove season, September 1st, at San Jacinto Wildlife area dawned bright and hot.  By the end of the day 163 hunters had utilized San Jacinto for their pursuit of the little gray rockets, coming away with a total of 238 dove.  That averaged out to 1.46 birds per gun.  Not fantastic, but SJ isn’t really know as a dove mecca.  There were some that came away skunked, a few managed to bring down limits and many harvested 2 or 3 or so.  So, as was expected it wasn’t gangbusters on the dove but it wasn’t bad and it did give many that couldn’t dedicate a whole day or more to drive down to Niland or Brawley a place close to home to give it at least a couple hours of effort and maybe scratch out a few birds.

San Jacinto is opened for dove hunting until the end of the first half of the dove season on Sunday, September 15th.  Today (September 2nd) is the last day the waterfowl side of SJ will be opened for dove hunting so, as I write this, you only have a little less than 6 hours left for hunting dove on the waterfowl side.  Also, don’t forget that it’s non-toxic (steel) shot only for all hunting everywhere 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 19th.    The next volunteer blind brush-up work day is set for Saturday, September 21st.   Check the below links to either bring in some palm fronds any time before the work day or for info on the work day its self, if you’d like to volunteer or both.

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.

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