Archive for April, 2011

Big Changes Coming for Check Station Operations for the 2011/2012 Waterfowl Season

The California Department of Fish and Game has announced some big changes for their refuge check station operations for the 2011/2012 waterfowl season. Quoting the DFG press release:

“Beginning with the 2011/2012 waterfowl season, hunters will be required to purchase any needed season passes and stamps in advance from DFG license agents or license sales offices.

The DFG’s new Automated License Data System (ALDS) replaces the current paper-based licensing system. Under ALDS, licenses, stamps, permits, and passes will be printed instantly, on generic license stock, using point of sale equipment at DFG license sales offices and at approximately 1,400 license agent locations throughout the State and in bordering states. It is not feasible to have ALDS terminals installed at check stations.

The ALDS will give every DFG license agent the ability to sell all hunting license items, including these items. Additionally, for the 2011/2012 hunting season, licenses, stamps and passes, will be available for purchase online from the DFG website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov.

We advise hunters to pre-purchase all licenses, stamps, permits, two-day and season passes, before arriving at the Hunter Check Stations next season (2011/2012).”

Now this, at least to me, was unclear as to if they would be selling the one-day passes at the check stations. So, rather the guess I contacted Tom Trakes at San Jacinto for the official word. Tom told me that this coming waterfowl season they would be handling no money at all at the check station. Hunters will have to obtain all their licenses, stamps, season passes and even their one-day passes from either a DFG license sales office or license agent location. This means you need to plan ahead and get your day pass before you need it. You won’t be able to decide at 10 pm the night before that you’d like to go duck hunting the next morning (unless you happen to have a day pass that you purchased in advance, or a season pass, on hand).

This, in my opinion, is another good reason to buy a season pass from the DFG. If you’re even a moderately avid duck hunter you’ll probably go more then 8 times in the season and after that you’re saving money every time you go over buying the day passes.

Another good thing this will bring about is that the check-in line in the morning should go much quicker as everyone will either have their required licenses, stamps and passes and will just have to pick their blind site or they won’t have them and they’ll be asked to leave. So, don’t make the drive for nothing. Make sure you have your license, stamps and passes (preferably your season long pass) before you get to the check station.

One other aspect to this is that, at San Jacinto Wildlife Area, they always have a 5-gallon water bottle sitting on the check station counter for donations for the annual junior hunt in February. Much of these donations are the change from a $20 bill when hunters buy their day pass. This is likely to really cut into the amount of donations received for the junior hunt this coming season. So please, do the kids a favor and bring a buck or two to put in the bottle when you check in.

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To Call or Not to Call? That is the Question. The Quack Attack.

Duck calling is a true art. It takes a modicum of talent to do it correctly. Not only that it takes a good chunk of time dedicated to practice to do it right. Some types of calls are easier to master then others, but there are some things common to all calls. Hunters that either have little experience or are miss-informed about the purpose and effectiveness of duck calls ignore many of these aspects.

First – Don’t call at birds that are already heading your way. If the ducks are already heading towards you the only thing you might accomplish by calling is to flare the birds away from your blind. A real talented caller may not spook the ducks but if they are already heading in calling won’t improve that. If the duck are already heading your way DON’T CALL. The only exception to this would be using a light feeding cackle as the ducks circle your decoy spread, and this is only if you know how to do it right.

Second – Don’t call at an empty sky. Calling into an empty sky, with no birds flying, will not magically make ducks appear. No matter how good a caller you are if the ducks aren’t in the air all your calling might accomplish is to annoy hunters in adjacent blinds. Not only because of the noise your making but especially because they will be craning their necks to see what you’re calling at.

Third – If you’re going to use a call, PRACTICE. Bad calling is worse then no calling. I will be the first to admit that I am not a good caller. Because of that I limit myself to a pintail whistle and, occasionally when the situation calls for it, a goose call (which is easier to at least call decently with then a duck call). There are many good DVD’s and even videos on youtube that you can find that will help you in becoming a good caller. This is the time of year to start practicing. Get a DVD or peruse youtube and practice as often as possible. Go to a local park lake and see if you can attract ducks with your call. When you get them swimming over to see who’s “talking” to them then you’re probably ready.

Forth – Call only at birds heading away from you. The real purpose of a duck call is to bring the ducks attention to your decoy spread. Once the ducks turn and see your spread and start in don’t call. Again, if you are proficient with it, the only exception would be a light feeding cackle as the ducks circle your decoy spread.

Fifth – Did I mention PRACTICE!

Sixth – If you’re not real good at calling you might want to try a pintail whistle. Some may not be aware of it but most ducks actually whistle instead of quack. Try a pintail whistle as it is not too hard to imitate pintail (of course), teal, and widgeon which are more prevalent in our Southern California marshes any way.

So, if you plan on calling ducks in next season go out and get a call and a good instructional DVD now so you’ll be ready in October when the season starts. Beside, you can have fun for about 6 months driving your wife or girlfriend crazy with your practice.


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