Keep it Legal – Keep it Clean

Since it’s about a month and a half until duck season opens here in Southern California I figured now would be a good time to go over some of the rules, regulations and common courtesies involved in the sport. There’s nothing worse than getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar, so to speak, and having Mr. Green Jeans scratching you out an expensive citation and ejecting you from the wildlife area while fellow hunters look on from the neighboring blinds. So, here’s some of the stuff you need to know, or for most of us, already know, but maybe a little reminder wouldn’t hurt so nobody “forgets” what they’re supposed to do.

First, and most obvious, is the season dates and limits. For the 2018/19 season in the Southern California Area (where San Jacinto Wildlife Area is located) the following regulations apply:
Ducks and Geese: October 20, 2018, through January 27, 2019.
Special Youth Hunt Days: February 2 and February 3, 2019. (San Jacinto’s Annual Youth Hunt will be February 2nd, 2019).

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. (*NOTE* – Scaup may only be taken November 3rd, 2018 through January 27th, 2019 – so be careful the first two weeks of the season once again. There’s always a few Scaup around SJ before their season opens).
Geese: Daily bag limit: 23 of which 20 may be white geese and 3 may be dark geese.
Possession Limit Ducks and Geese: Triple the daily bag limit.
Black Brant (Although a “sea goose” I’ll add this because occasionally a few seem to show up at San Jacinto): November 9, 2018 – December 15, 2018. Daily bag limit: 2 per day. Possession limit triple the daily bag limit
Ok, now that we have the most obvious out of the way here’s a few more we all need to keep in mind.

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

NO LEAD AMMO!! This should be a no-brainer if you’ve hunted ducks within that last 26 years. The prohibition on lead ammunition for waterfowl hunting is a federal law and was phased-in starting in the 1987/88 hunting season and was nationwide by 1991. You might think that, since it’s been so long since the phase-in that no one needs a reminder of this. The reason I mention it is that even though California is phasing out lead ammo throughout the state for any type of hunting it still hasn’t been phased out altogether. We are currently in phase 2 of the phase-out of lead ammo in California and phase 2 states “Phase 2 – Effective July 1, 2016, nonlead shot required when taking upland game birds with a shotgun, except for dove, quail, snipe, and any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds, and any wildlife for depredation purposes.” So, if you happened to be out in the desert chasing quail last week and you’re going to bring the same sweatshirt you wore out there to go duck hunting this week make dern sure you thoroughly go through the pockets to make sure you didn’t leave a round or two of lead quail loads in there. Mr. or Ms. Warden won’t take the “oops, I forgot” excuse if the find any lead shot in your possession so make sure you don’t have any out there.

Sort of related to that is the shell limit. On any state wildlife area or federal refuge, you are limited to 25 rounds in the field. That’s not 25 rounds in the blind and another 25 hidden somewhere between your truck and the blind, that’s 25 period. If you really need more shells take the walk back to your truck, at least they allow us to keep some in our vehicles. In reality, there aren’t too many days you’re going to need more than 25 rounds. This is another good reason to check your pockets before you go into the field. You don’t want the aforementioned Warden(s) to check you early in the day and find out that, because you left 3 shells in your waders from chasing a cripple last week, you are in possession of 28 shells. Another big ticket.

Again, sort of related, make sure if you’re shooting a pump or auto-loading shotgun that is capable of holding more than two shells in the magazine make sure you have a magazine plug installed. You’re allowed three shells in the shotgun total, one in the chamber and two in the magazine. Don’t get caught without a plug installed in your shotgun while out in the field. Another big “ka-ching” if you’re caught.

Littering…(my pet peeve – the main reason for the “keep it clean” in this post title). If you brought in that candy bar, water bottle, ammo box or whatever assorted garbage you produce while in the blind, CARRY IT BACK OUT!! This includes your empty shotgun shells. Obviously, this stuff will weigh less than when you brought it in so there’s no excuse, (or actually there’s one partial excuse, which is to follow right here ->>>). Now I know, because it happens to me almost every hunt, with a modern pump gun or autoloader you’re going to lose a few shells. It can’t be helped as most of these guns throw the empties quite a way. But, please, make every effort to retrieve as many of your spent shells as you possibly can, plus any that you find that prior hunters missed picking up. Obviously littering is illegal, not only on the wildlife area but everywhere so just why would you even do it? A handy appliance for picking up spent shells is a shell stick. Here’s a link on how to build one, if you don’t want to bend over umpteen times picking up shells around your blind:

Skybusting. Please, just don’t. Skybusting or skyscraping is shooting at birds that are out of range hoping to get that one “magic bb” in the right spot to bring down the bird. I know it’s tempting, especially when things are slow, all you’ll usually end up doing is scaring away ducks that may have been starting to work a neighboring blind’s decoys or, worse, wounding a bird to fly off and die later on. Although there is no law against skybusting it makes you extremely unpopular with your fellow hunters so it’s not a good idea, unless you have stock holdings in an ammunition manufacturing business. 40 yards is about the furthest you should shoot at a duck. If you need some practice getting an idea of what a duck looks like at 40 yards take a life-sized decoy out to the local high school field and set it on the goal line and then walk out to the 40 yards line and look at it.

Excessive and/or poor calling. Another “just don’t” that’s not illegal but will PO your neighboring hunters if you “just do”. Calling properly actually takes some talent and, more importantly, practice to do correctly. I wrote a post on this a while back, so I’ll not rehash it here. Just click on the link below to read that post:

Parking. At SJ most of the blinds have specific parking areas. When you get you blind assignment in the morning (or later if you’re refilling) the SJ staff will tell you where to park. In most cases, these parking areas are for two reasons. First, to keep your vehicle safe. Nothing is worse than coming back to your truck and finding your windshield or the paint on your hood was peppered by shot sometime during the day. Second these spots are also designed so that as hunters come and go during the day it minimizes the disturbance of the other blinds in the area. So, park where you’re supposed to park to avoid the above problems.

Start/finish time. Start time, and finishing time, or legal shooting time, is posted at the check station for each day’s hunting. BTW – There’s an App for that! It’s called your cell phone. Set alarm times for start and finish times before you leave the check station. At San Jacinto the staff there also comes out into the wildlife area just before start time and blows an air horn at start time so there’s really no excuse to shoot early. Depending on the time of year and the conditions the morning fly off is sometime the only chance some hunters will get to bag a duck or two. If some, (yes, I’ll say it), Jerk shoots 5 minutes early it could ruin the hunt day for half the wildlife area, at least. It also tends to start a chain reaction of people shooting early as they think, since someone shot, that it’s now start time and their watch or cell phone is somehow set to the wrong time. It’s really the height of selfishness to shoot early just to try to bag a bird and thereby screw up everybody else’s hunt that day. Lastly, this one is illegal and if the Wardens catch you you’re done for the day with an expensive ticket.

So, that’s about it. The season’s just around the corner and it’s about time to pull the duck gear out of the garage and get ready for another season of duck hunting at San Jacinto. Hope to see you out there sometime.

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