So, You Want to Start Duck Hunting? (part 1)

This will be a three part series on how to get started in duck hunting. To begin, of course, is part one.

So, you want to start duck hunting?

Are you nuts? You want to get up at all hours of the very early morning, battle sub freezing temperatures, wade through freezing water and two foot deep mud, sit in the rain and spend large amounts of money to shoot at a few ducks?

Okay, all kidding aside, there’s nothing like duck hunting and despite some of the above “hardships” those of us that have the addiction wouldn’t trade it for the world. If you’d like to join in with the addicted the following advise will at least get you started, hopefully for a minimum amount of dinero.

First of all you’ll need your hunting license, but, before you can get that you’ll need to take a Hunter’s Education Course and get your Hunter’s Education Certificate. By law you can’t buy a hunting license without first taking, and passing, a Hunter’s Education Course. There are on-line courses you can take, however, these require you to show up and take a 4-hour follow-up course to get your actual certificate. If that’s your preference just search “hunter’s safety course Southern California” on the Internet and you’ll find several. Probably better (in my opinion anyway) is to take a full 8 hour course with a Hunter’s Safety Instructor. You can find a list of scheduled classes through the Department of Fish and Game at the following link:

Some of these courses aren’t too expensive but expect to put out between $10 and about $50 depending on where you take the course. Every spring San Jacinto Wildlife Area offers the course for free, but that’s already happened this year. If you’d been checking SoCalHunt regularly you would have seen the announcement for this year’s course at San Jacinto.

Okay, now that you have your certificate next is the license. You can get that at any DFG license agent (AKA: sporting goods store, Walmart, etc.) or at your nearest DFG Office (check the DFG web site for locations). If you do get it at your DFG Office you’ll actually save 5% as they don’t charge you the license agent handling fee that the sporting goods and other “license agents” will charge. They will, however, charge you a 3% license buyer surcharge, although the “license agents” also charge this fee. Actually, right now, you may want to hold off on this step until just before July, or even just before duck season, as hunting licenses are good from July 1 to June 30, but you can buy them earlier if you’d like to. I’d at least get it before September 1st as that’s then opener for dove season, which is a good “tune up” for duck hunting. The cost for your license, and necessary stamps will be (from the DFG web site:

$44.85 – resident hunting license
$19.44 – California duck stamp validation
$ 9.21 – Upland game bird validation (just in case I go quail or dove hunting – it’s worth having for that option in case you don’t get drawn out of the sweatline bucket.)
$ 0.00 – Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation – (required to get a license – you’ll be required to take a short survey of your last season’s hunting. If this is your first license that should be an easy survey.)
$15.00 – Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp – (AKA: Federal Duck Stamp) – (This one you’ll have to get at either the Post Office or many of the “license agents” carry them as a convenience for their customers – you won’t be able to get this stamp at the DFG Office).

Therefore, according to the above, your total price to get licensed to duck hunt will be about $79.29 or, if you want the option to upland hunt, $88.50.

Also, one more thing, if you’re going to hunt a refuge such as Wister or San Jacinto you’ll need a type A one-day, two-day or season pass. I always buy the season pass as I go often enough to make that a really good deal. I hunted 17 times this past season, which figured out to $8.22 for each hunt day. If you were fortunate enough to be able to hunt every available hunt day at a refuge like Wister, which hunts Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, that would give you a potential 44 hunt days which would figure out to $3.18 for each hunt. (Of course, this was figured on last season’s season long pass price). The refuge check stations don’t sell these passes any more so you have to have them in your possession when you arrive on opening day or you will be turned away, even if you have a #1 reservation. Get them at the same place you got your license. Per the DFG web site the price for the 2012/2013 season pass is:

$150.69 – season long type A pass

The DFG license web site doesn’t list the prices for the one-day and two-day passes yet but last season’s prices were:

$ 18.00 – one-day type A pass
$ 31.58 – two-day type A pass

You can expect these will go up a little, probably around a buck or two.

You’ll have to do the math and see which permit(s) might be best for you based on how many times you expect to hunt during the season.

One last thing on the licenses and permits, all of them are available on-line at the DFG licensing sales web site at:

However, even though you can buy these on-line, if you do that you’ll have to wait up to 15 days to receive the actual license, stamp validations and/or permits in the mail before you can use them. Now, if you’re buying your license, stamps and permits a long ways out from the season, no problem. But, if you’re buying close to or after the start of the season waiting for them to come in the mail may constitute a problem. If you buy these in person at a “license agent” of DFG Office then you walk out with the actual license, stamps and/or permits and there’s no waiting involved.

Okay, that’s it for the first part. Now you’re “legal” so what’s next? In the next installment will discuss one of the most necessary items you’ll need when duck hunting…the shotgun and what to feed it (ammo).

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