Hunt Results for San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Saturday – 10/22/16

San Jacinto Wildlife Area hunters experienced a great waterfowl opener with a high bird take average for opening day under hot, clear and calm skies. Shovelers were the number one bird bagged today and Cinnamon Teal took second place on this opener.  Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, reported that the results for Saturday, 10/23/16 were as follows:

197 adult and 34 junior hunters bagged 262 Northern Shovelers, 205 Cinnamon Teal, 24 Gadwall, 29 Widgeon, 174 Green Wing Teal, 2 Blue Wing Teal, 35 Mallards, 7 Pintail, 10 Redhead, 55 Ring Necks, 1 Bufflehead, 3 Wood Ducks and 23 Ruddy Ducks.  There were no geese taken on the wildlife area Saturday.  There were also 52 coots checked in on Saturday.  This resulted in an average harvest of 3.59 ducks for each hunter or 3.82 waterfowl with the coots included. Tom advised that out of 52 reservation cards 46 showed up on time.

San Jacinto is open for waterfowl hunting on Wednesdays and Saturdays only. You can put in for reservations on-line through the DFW Automated License Data System (ALDS).  Your reservation request has to be to the ALDS system 17 days in advance to get in on the drawing or you can get in on the daily “sweatline” drawing for the remaining blinds after the reservations are taken care of. Reservation spots are given out starting at 3 AM and the “sweatline” drawing is done after that. The ALDS can be accessed through the DFW web site at the below link –

Don’t forget that all licenses and 1 day, 2 day or season passes must be purchased at a DFW Office or a license agent before your arrival at the refuge.  These can be purchased on-line via the ALDS system also, however, you will have to wait for the DFG to mail you the actual licenses and passes which can take up to 15 days.  If you purchase your license and passes in person at a DFW office or license agent you immediately get them without the wait for the mail.  As in past seasons no licenses or passes will be sold at the check stations this season.  You can also show up for an afternoon refill hunt but the last refill is at 2 PM. For more information, contact the staff at San Jacinto at 951-928-0580.

SoCalHunt San Jacinto Hunting Report 10/22/16

SoCalHunt hit some luck for the waterfowl opener this season.  A pretty fair reservation drawing for opening day!  So, today, both my usual hunting partners and I were to be found at 0300 waiting, with baited breath, in the reservation line with a DFW reservation letter in hand.

One of my partners couldn’t get out of work, but fortunately works not far from San Jacinto, so he was there to give it a shot (hopefully a few more then “a” shot) at the ducks before he had to leave at 7 am.

When our turn came at the check station we picked a blind that we though would be “the spot” and then headed out to set up and get ready to start another great waterfowl season at SJ.  Because the change to standard time hasn’t happen yet there was plenty of time to get out to the blind and set things up for what we hoped would be a great day of waterfowling.

After we finished setting up the blind and placing the decoys we had about an hour to set back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the marsh waking up for the day.  As the sun began to lighten the sky in the east, just behind Mount San Jacinto, the few light wispy clouds behind the Bernasconi Hills to the west were tinged in a light pink color.



At precisely 6:26 am the start time horn blew signaling the assembled hunters on the wildlife area that the 2016/17 waterfowl season had begun!  Immediately the sound of multiple shotguns firing at their webfooted targets echoed across the marsh.  We had a few duck come within range almost right away and missed a couple of the first few but then my hunting partner who had to get to work scored on a nice cinnamon teal.

There were many birds flying but the majority, at least in our area, seemed to be coots and we had to use caution to pick them out before we fired on them instead of the ducks.  Not long after the teal splashed down my other partner nailed a nice mallard drake swinging in towards the decoys.  The bird appeared to be a yearling as he didn’t have the full bright green head of that fully feathered adult drake mallards.

Not long after this a hen shoveler came in range directly above the blind.  I was able to start my season’s harvest by dropping her as she pulled up to attempt to gain altitude.

A hen mallard came swinging into the decoys soon after and I believe all three of us fired at this bird.  She went down but was swimming away from us as soon as the splash from her fall subsided.  My other partner quickly headed her off as she was attempting to climb out of the pond and she was added to our strap.

Of course, since none of us are perfect shots these successes were interspaced with occasional misses on ducks as they buzzed the pond we occupied and several “false alarms” as coots continued to buzz our blind from many directions. Time was running out for my partner that had to get to work and just before he had to call it a day a hen cinnamon teal rocketed by and he was able to connect with speedy little bird.  Unfortunately he was now out of time and he collected his brace of teal, wished us good luck and headed out to begin his work day.  (sorry I didn’t get any pictures of his birds.  I didn’t think about it at the time)

Not long after he left a low flying duck came straight in towards the blind.  I was able to connect and the duck crashed to the ground just a few feet in front of our blind.  The best kind of retrieve!  No wading involved and a hen ring neck was added to the strap.

As the sun rose higher in the sky things started to slow somewhat and the dead still sky reflected brightly in the mirror like surface of the pond.



After a few minutes of inactivity I caught sight of a little teal headed in towards the blind. As she passed I folded her and she splashed down several yards out in the pond.  After collecting the little green wing hen it was almost as if someone had flipped a switch and the wildlife area grew quiet.  As is always the case at San Jacinto there were other visitors near our blind and we enjoyed seeing them as well as the ducks we’d see earlier.  A pair of black Phoebes seemed to take a special liking to our blind and hung around pretty close for a while.


We stuck it out for a while longer but we saw very few ducks flying after that and none of those came within range of our shotguns.  An occasional shot or two were heard around the wildlife area but nothing as consistent as the first hour or so of the day.  About 10 am it was getting fairly hot and we decided to call it a day.  We picked up our decoys and gear and headed out to our truck to make our way home.


So the 2016/17 waterfowl season opener is in the books.  We ended up with 7 birds between the three of us, which isn’t fantastic but it’s pretty good.


No matter how many ducks come home on the strap its always great to get out on the wildlife area and enjoy a morning of duck hunting and take in the sights and sounds of the marsh.  I know there were many hunters that did well today and the coming hunt days will, hopefully, be productive for the hunters trying their luck and duck hunting skills at San Jacinto.  Hope to see you out there some time this season.

The Shell Stick

As you probably know, if you’ve read some of the past posts here on the SoCalHunt Blog, one of my pet peeves is litter in and around the blinds and hunting area.  One of the biggest sources of this litter is the obvious byproduct of waterfowl hunting with a shotgun, especially a pump or auto-loader, empty shell casings.

Almost without exception (unfortunately) just about any blind I’ve occupied in the past several season after opening day has had some degree of empty shell litter.  In fact, it is such a rarity to get a completely clean blind that I will usually mention that the blind was clean upon my arrival in my hunting reports here on SoCalHunt.  As a consequence of the operation of the pump or auto-loading shotguns most waterfowlers use, empty shells get thrown all around inside and outside the blind.  The multi colored plastic of the different brands of shells and their shiny “brass” bases lend unwanted decoration to the hunting site.  (I put “brass” in quotes for a reason, I’ll explain later)  Now I can understand not picking up every single shell ejected by your gun.   It’s almost impossible to locate every one.  Some land in brush or bushes, some hit the water and float away before the hunter has a chance to gather them up and some get stepped on and driven into the mud before they’re seen so I’m not ranting against the hunter that might leave two or three random shells around a blind.  It’s the 20, 30 or 40 random shells strewn about that tick me off.

I always carry a couple of plastic grocery bags out to the blind with me to dispose of my trash and I always make it a point to clean up any other litter I find, including the masses of empty shells found all too often in and around the blind.  As the sands of time flow through the hourglass and my body, especially my back, ages, it has begun to become more difficult to bend over 20, 30 or 40 times to pick up someone else’s empty shell casings.  Yeah…I’m an old fart.  Anyway, I don’t want to stop picking up empties just because it makes my back a little sore.

The key to the solution to this is something that I discovered about most shotgun shells that some might not realize.  Shotgun shell “brass”, in most cases, isn’t brass.  Its plated steel.  I’m sure there’s exceptions but I have yet to find one that is actual brass.  Maybe if you found a real old shell it would have a real brass base but then it would probably be an illegal shell for waterfowl hunting as it would probably contain lead shot.

The reason this discovery is important for my solution is that steel is magnetic and brass isn’t.  Since almost all shotgun shell “brass” is plated steel it is magnetic.

So, here’s the solution…






I simply took an about 2 1/2 foot piece of broomstick and mounted a powerful “rare earth” magnet on the end of it.  I then wrapped some camo tape around the broomstick and, “Voila!”, a shell picker-upper.  Now I don’t have to bend over each time I have to pick up an empty shell.  The magnet is strong enough that I can sometimes pick up 4 or 5 shells at a time if they’re close together.

The magnet, which is the most important part of this devise, can be found at places like Lowe’s, Home Depot or Harbor Freight however most of these don’t have a hole for mounting them on a broom stick.  If you use this type you’d probably have to epoxy the magnet on the stick.  The one that I used for my shell stick I found on ebay.  Just search “rare earth magnet” on ebay and you should be able to find a few offers of round rare earth magnets with countersunk holes in them that are perfect for this use.   You can probably get a lot of 3 to 5 of them for around $6.

One more note on the magnet.  Be sure it’s a “rare earth” magnet as they have greater pulling power then a regular old magnet.  If you get a weak kid’s toy type magnet it probably will have problems holding the shells as you pick them up.

I hope this helps anybody who wants to keep things clean in the blind to make it easier for you and helps save your back.

This is a TEST – This is only a TEST

Ok, apparently there’s been a problem with my photos on my posts here.  What’s supposed to happen when you see a photo here on the SoCalHunt Blog you’re supposed to be able to click on the thumbnail in the post and get a full sized image to enjoy.  It came to my attention that whenever anyone would click on a photo thumbnail they’d get Error 404 – file not found.  With the help of the WordPress staff I believe we have the problem figured out so I’m going to post a couple thumbnails here to see if the fix works.  If  so (which it should) I’ll go back a few posts and fix those also.  Anyway, here’s a couple thumbnails as a TEST.




Sorry if you weren’t able to fully enjoy the photos before.  I’ll try to keep on top of this so it doesn’t happen again.

Third Volunteer Work Party at San Jacinto Wildlife Area Another Big Success

About 20 volunteers, mainly comprised of hunters that frequent San Jacinto Wildlife Area, gathered at the Check Station parking lot bright and early on Saturday, 10/8/16 at 0700.   This was the third and last pre-season volunteer work day to assist the staff in getting things “tuned up” and ready for the fast approaching 2016/17 duck season at San Jacinto.

I was in attendance for a change and looked forward to getting some work done as well as checking out the wildlife area.  As I approached SJ on Davis Road the sun was coming up and light clouds were coloring the sky.

Sunrise over Mt. San Jacinto


Ground fog coming up to the check station



A lot of things were taken care of on this work party.  The volunteers finished brushing up several blinds and did a lot of trimming of overgrowth in and around some of the blinds and their access trails and dikes.

Some of the Volunteers clearing some overgrowth from the access between “C” And “D” ponds.


The area looks great and the flooding of the wildlife area ponds is complete or nearing completion.  There are numerous ducks and some geese already using the wildlife area, plus some other critters that are always around SJ.

Lots of ducks over the ponds (sorry I had my wide angel lens on so they’re kind of small in this picture)


Nice flight of geese overhead


Some Cattle Egrets hunting up breakfast


Mr. Coyote looking for a snack


Sandpipers feeding


Ponds ready to go!






After the work party, some of the volunteers met at Casa Mexicana Restaurant for a well-deserved lunch break.

There was a pretty good turnout today, which as I said, included me for a change (about time), and much was taken care of to prepare for the season ahead.  This work is important to help San Jacinto Wildlife Area continue the quality hunting experience for the hunting public.

The next event at San Jacinto Wildlife Area is opening day of the waterfowl season on Saturday, 10/22/16. Hope to see you out there for the start of another great duck hunting season.

Tom and the entire San Jacinto staff appreciates the hunters who come out and volunteer to do this work and would like to extend their thanks to them.

Date Set for Third (and final) 2016 Volunteer Blind Brush-Up Day at San Jacinto Wildlife Area – October 8th

Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, advised that they have scheduled a third volunteer “blind brush-up” work-day for San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The date is Saturday, October 8th.  Volunteers are asked to gather at 7:00 AM at the SJ Check Station Parking Lot. In addition to brushing up the blinds other activities that might be handled are cleaning out water control structures on the wildlife area’s duck ponds, building new blinds and/or repairing old blinds and general clean-up of the blind areas.  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 might be surrounded by water, as the flooding of the ponds will be almost complete at that point, so it would be handy to bring waders also so work can be done on these blinds too if needed.  As always, for this time of year, water, 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).

As always, when it comes to work days, the more volunteers the better (meaning less work for each person).  Also, Tom added that if you have access to palm fronds please bring as much can for use in brushing the blinds. Tom said there are still a lot of blinds to brush and they can’t have too many palm fronds to do the job.

Tom wanted me to make sure that everyone knew that even if you can’t come out for the work-day if you have palm fronds that you’d like to donate prior to the work-day, and can drop them by SJ, that would be most appreciated.  You can call Tom at the number below to make arrangements to drop off your palm fronds.

A good turnout for this work-day will go a long way in getting things “ship-shape” condition at San Jacinto.  This is the last work day in preparation for the season start on October 22nd (only 2 short weeks after this work-day).  Hopefully This work-day will make preparations for another great season complete and go a long way towards providing the hunters of San Jacinto with another great duck hunting season.

(Hint – This is also a great way to check out SJ for the upcoming opening of the waterfowl season, October 22nd, only 14 days following the work-day).

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


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

Saturday, 8/29/16, about 13 volunteers, Sportsmen that hunt San Jacinto Wildlife Area, were on hand bright and early at 0600 at the SJ Check Station parking lot prepared to assist the staff in getting the San Jacinto ready for the fast approaching 2016/17 duck season.

Many thing were accomplished this Saturday morning.  The volunteers cleaned up around the check station office and restrooms and cleaned up the parking areas at the B and C ponds.  They also brushed up A-2 and took out the Salt Cedar in the C-3 and B-4 Blinds and also cleared path of travel down the levees.

Some of the volunteers discussing their work assignments


Flooding of the wildlife area continues on most of the ponds and there are quite a population of waterfowl already on SJ.

After the work party, about half of the volunteers met at Casa Mexicana Restaurant for a well-deserved, and delishous, lunch break.

Some of the volunteers chowing-down


A lot of work was accomplished by a much smaller group then the last work party.  As always this work goes a long way to help San Jacinto Wildlife Area to maintain the high quality of hunting experience for the hunting public.   Tom advised me that yet another work party day at San Jacinto is going to be scheduled, probably for late September to do a little “fine tuning” at SJ prior to the season opener.  Check back with SoCalHunt often for that announcement, and, of course, I’ll get a blog post out on that as soon as the date is set.

For information on the upcoming blind brush up day, or to donate more pam fronds (they can always use them), at San Jacinto Wildlife Area you can call the refuge office at 951-928-0580 or Tom Trakes 951-236-3040.

Again I would like to extend my personal thanks to all the volunteers that came out and worked so hard.  I was actually planning on attend this work party (really I was) but my new grandson decided to make his appearance into the world a couple weeks early.  I am thankful for the volunteers, once again, for picking up my “slack”.  I truly appreciate the work that the volunteers do and I know the San Jacinto staff appreciates it also.