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San Jacinto’s August 24th Volunteer Blind Clean Up / Work Day a Great Success

Saturday, August 24th, was the second volunteer clean-up/blind brush-up day for San Jacinto Wildlife Area.  About 35 volunteers arrived bright and early at the SJ check station parking lot eager to get to work.  After a short briefing, Tom sent the volunteers out to various locations in the Wildlife Area to brush-up and even in some cases completely rebuild several of the hunting area’s blinds.

Several people had answered the call in that last few weeks to drop off palm fronds at the San Jacinto parking lot and all of them were utilized in building and brushing-up the blinds today.  Tom says more palm fronds are needed for the next volunteer work day and for maintenance of the blinds as the season progresses so if you can get a hold of any palm fronds any time before the work day you can drop them off at San Jacinto. Just call Tom at 951-236-3040 and he’ll make arrangements for someone to be there so you can drop them off.  Some hay bales were obtained also, and these were utilized to provide seating in some of the area’s blinds.  Extensive work and rebuilding was done on D-2, Walker 5, 10 & 12 and E-4 blinds as well as general brushing-up of many of the other blinds in the area.

Some of the volunteer crew

Hay bales for the blinds

Working on D-2

SJ’s backhoe in action!

After working hard all morning some of the volunteers who didn’t have to head off to other obligations and the SJ Staff headed over to Marcello’s Pizza in Nuevo for a well-earned lunch.

PIZZA…yum!

Once again, Tom and his team at San Jacinto (as well as myself) would like to give a big thank you to everyone that came out and worked hard to get the blinds ready for the fast approaching waterfowl season.

One more blind brush-up/work day is to be scheduled to finish getting things in good order for the coming waterfowl hunting season. The next work day is scheduled for Saturday, September 21st.  I’ll make a separate post with all the details for the September 21st work day when I get all the info and the flyer from the SJ Staff, but mark it on your calendar now so you can keep that date opened.  The September 21st work day will concentrate on working on and brushing up more of the blinds, so palm fronds are needed (check above for details on bringing in palm fronds to use for the SJ blinds).  Please make sure you don’t bring in the type of palm fronds with the thorns on their stalks, unless you’re willing to strip off the thorns first. Those things wreak havoc with waders if the thorns aren’t removed.  Watch SoCalHunt for the “official” announcement and details of the next blind brush-up/work day.

So, things are coming together at San Jacinto.  Mystic Lake is back big time, which should help things immensely this season.  There are also plans to possibly put some blinds on the Mystic lake shoreline, increasing your opportunity to draw a blind.  Most of the duck hunting area has been cleaned up and the SJ Staff, best in the state in my humble opinion, is continuing to plant food for the birds and has started flooding the ponds.  It should be a banner season at SJ this year.  Hope to see you out there some time.

 

 

 

 

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US Fish and Wildlife Reports Nationwide Duck Numbers Down slightly for the 2019/2020 Waterfowl Season

Since 1955, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service have reported the results of their joint breeding population and habitat survey.  Total duck numbers for this year were down slightly compared to last year’s count and, in fact, most species dropped to some degree with the exception of Mallards, Gadwall and Green Wing Teal which all went up slightly and Widgeon, which stayed the same as last year.  With the exception of Pintail and Scaup all species where actually up from their long-term averages, with Redheads actually right at their long-term average. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at: https://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/pdf/surveys-and-data/Population-status/Waterfowl/WaterfowlPopulationStatusReport19.pdf

reported:

“In the traditional survey area, the total duck population estimate, (excluding scoters, eiders, long-tailed ducks, mergansers, and wood ducks) was 38.9 million birds. This estimate was 6% lower than the 2018 estimate of 41.2 million and 10% higher than the long-term average (1955–2018).  The total pond estimate was 5.0 million, which was similar to the 2018 estimate of 5.2 million and the long-term average of 5.2 million. In general, habitat conditions during the 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (WBPHS) were similar to or declined relative to 2018, with a few exceptions.  Much of the Canadian prairies experienced below-average precipitation from fall 2018 through spring 2019. The U.S. prairies experienced average to above-average precipitation over most of the region. Habitat conditions were generally drier near the North Dakota border with Canada.”

The report revealed that Mallards were up to approximately 9.4 million, which was a slight increase from the 2018 estimate of 9.3 million, yet still 19% above the long-term average.  Blue Wing Teal numbers are approximately 5.4 million, which is 16% below the 2018 estimate of 6.5 million but 6% above the long-term average. Green-winged teal are down to 3.2 million, which is up 4% from the 2018 estimate of 3.0 million which make them 47% above their long-term average. The estimate for American Wigeon is 2.8 million which is level with the 2018 estimate of 2.8 million and 8% above the long-term average. Estimated numbers of gadwall are 3.3 million which is up 13% from the 2018 estimate of 2.9 million bringing Gads up to a whopping 43% above their long-term average. Scaup (both greater and lesser) were at 3.6 million, which is a 10% decrease from the 2018 estimate of 4.0 million making them 28% below the long-term average. Northern Shoveler (an SJ favorite) are estimated at 3.7 million which is 13% down from the 2018 estimate of 4.2 million but still a sizeable 39% above the long-term average. Redheads are at 0.7 million which is 27% below the 2018 estimate of 1.0 million and right at the long-term average. Canvasbacks came in with 0.6 million which was down 5% from the 2018 estimate of 0.7 million but still 10% above the long-term average. Pintails were estimated at 2.3 million, which was down 4% below the 2018 estimate of 2.4 million and, sadly, 42% below the long-term average.  (Note – all numbers rounded off).

So, it looks like, unfortunately, this coming season will present hunters with a slightly fewer birds but still, despite this, we might have the potential to get a crack at good numbers since most waterfowl, with the exception of Scaup and Pintail, are still above their long-term averages.

As always what will be more important to waterfowl hunters in the Southern California area over small fluctuations in nationwide duck numbers is the weather.  What Southern California duck hunters really need is some weather up north to spur the available birds into migrating into our area.  Another thing we Southern California duck hunters have to consider is that the California DFW’s own state breeding population survey shows duck numbers in our state are actually down 14% over last year’s state numbers.  (You can check out DFW’s report on the California Waterfowl Breeding Survey here:  https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/cdfw-completes-2019-waterfowl-breeding-population-survey/ )

As of this report it’s 61 days until the season opens here in Southern California.  It’s a great time to start getting all your duck hunting gear ship shape and maybe go shoot a few rounds of trap or skeet to tune up. Despite the lower duck numbers in both the USFW survey and the DFW breeding survey the bigger factor for us down in this part of the state is to get the birds moving our way.  Hopefully we’ll get the weather and the birds will migrate early, and we’ll have another great season at San Jacinto!

 

San Jacinto Wildlife Area 2019 Dove Season Opener – Sunday, September 1st

Sunday, September 1st is the opening day of dove season in California.  Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, let SoCalHunt know that the entire wildlife area will be opened to dove hunting for the first two days of dove season.  From the opener on Sunday September 1st, until Monday September 2nd, hunters will be allowed to pursue doves not only on the upland areas of San Jacinto, but also over on the Wildlife Area’s duck hunting areas.  After Monday, for the remainder of the dove season, from September 3rd until September 15th, dove hunting will be allowed only on the upland side of San Jacinto.  There will be no dove hunting on the waterfowl side of SJ after September 2nd.

Tom wanted SoCalHunt to remind everyone that this year, for the first time statewide, due to Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations only non-toxic shot may be used to take any game anywhere in California.  Although the last couple years lead shot has been banned on State Wildlife Areas this is the first year for the statewide regulation.  So even if you don’t choose to hunt doves at SJ you still need UNLEADED anywhere you hunt in California.  DFW Wardens will be checking for lead shot and possession of even one round will earn you a citation.  So, if you’ve hunted upland game in areas that allowed lead shot last year be sure to check your hunting vest thoroughly to make sure an old round of lead shot from last year isn’t hiding in one of your pockets.  Also, don’t forget that your old hunting license expired at the end of June.  Be sure you have your 2019/20 hunting license including your upland endorsement on you license.

As for limits, Mourning Dove and White-Winged Dove have a daily bag limit of 15 in combination, up to 10 of which may be white-winged dove. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. There are no limits on Spotted Dove and Ringed Turtle Dove, although these two varieties have the same season dates as Mourning Doves (September 1st -15th).  Hunting for Eurasian Collared Dove is legal year-round and there are no limits. Note: There is no open hunting season on common ground-doves, ruddy ground-doves, and Inca doves.

Tom told SoCalHunt that the SJ Staff are seeing a good amount of dove on the Wildlife Area this year and several fields have been planted with dove-attracting crops.  Now, that said, SJ isn’t Niland or any other “famous” dove hunting area and you’re definitely not going to limit out in an hour, but you do have a good chance of bagging a few birds close to home.

So, banning any last-minute thunderstorms that might chase the birds further south there should be at least a fair chance of bagging a few.  If you’re want to try your luck at San Jacinto things are looking pretty good for opening day, Sunday September 1st.

Also, don’t forget, you have a great chance to scout out areas to hunt doves at San Jacinto by attending the upcoming volunteer blind clean-up/brush-up day on Saturday August 24th, just a week and a day before the dove opener.  As I said, it’s a great way to scout out some doves on SJ and also a great way to help get things ready for the quickly approaching duck season.  Details at the below link:

https://socalhunt.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/volunteer-clean-up-brush-up-work-days-set-for-san-jacinto-wildlife-area-august-24th/

Hope we’ll see you out at good old San Jacinto some time.

2019/2020 Federal Duck Stamp Now Available Online Through California Waterfowl Association

If you’re an avid hunter, like me, you probably already have your 2019/2020 California hunting license, along with all the required endorsements for the upcoming season.  The one thing you may still be missing at this point is your Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or, as everybody calls it, the Federal Duck Stamp.  US Post Offices are supposed to carry them but many times they either don’t have any or had just a few and are sold out.  Many sporting goods stores carry a supply of the stamps as a convenience to their customers, but you never know when their supply will run out too.

The California Waterfowl Association (CWA) may be the solution is to get your Federal Duck Stamp.  As a convenience to hunters every year the CWA has online sales of the stamps for hunters.  The cost is $30 which includes a $5 handling fee but there’s no need to run around town looking for one then, it just shows up in your mailbox in about a week or so.

CWA will sell non-members the stamp too but if you’re not a member then while you’re at CWA’s website buying your stamp why not sign up as a CWA member.  Besides their bi-monthly magazine CWA usually has a promotion they’ll send along to you (currently it’s a CWA leather patch hat) and you’ll also be helping ducks and duck hunting in California.  If you’re a duck hunter in California, you should be a member of CWA.

But, just to be sure you’re all legal and ready to go when the season starts, order your stamp ASAP.  CWA doesn’t have an unlimited supply of Federal Stamps, so get yours soon.  Since it’s coming in the mail make sure to give CWA enough time to send it to you.  Ordering a week before the season might be a problem if you intend to hunt the opener.  Better to get your stamp now and you’ll have it in plenty of time.  Below is the link for CWA’s page for online sales of the Federal Waterfowl Stamp. (I know the link says 2018-19 but the 2019/2020 stamp is on that page available for sale, they’re just using the same link as last year.)

https://www.calwaterfowl.org/product/2018-19-federal-duck-stamp/

Also, while you’re there buying your stamp, if you’re not already a CWA member, here’s the link to the page to join CWA.  Membership is $35 a year or, for Junior hunters (under 18 years old) $15 well spent.

https://www.calwaterfowl.org/product/annual-membership-single-payment/

So, get your Fed Stamp, and don’t forget to sign it, and you’ll then be a ready for the 2019/2020 duck season.  Hope to see you for the duck opener with all your licenses, stamps, and passes so no one has to get turned away at the check station.

Volunteer Clean Up / Brush Up Work Day Set for San Jacinto Wildlife Area August 24th

Tom Trakes, from San Jacinto Wildlife Area, advised that the next volunteer work days for San Jacinto Wildlife Area would be Saturday, August 24th.  This work day will be primarily to finish cleaning up the hunting area, to start brushing up the area’s blinds, and to build a few new blinds for the coming season.  Tom advised that volunteers should meet at the check station at 6:00 am and anyone coming out to volunteer should bring gloves, shovels and/or hoes, wire pliers and lots of water since it’s expected to be hot. Also, if anyone has access to palm fronds, they need a good supply of these, all they can get.  When it comes to palm fronds, we can’t have too many so if you can bring some along, please do.  After the work is done, we will get together at a local pizza restaurant “Marcello’s” for a well-deserved lunch (each person responsible for their own bill).

In the meantime, if you have any palm fronds you want to donate you don’t have to save them for the workday.  You can call Tom or the SJ staff at the number below and make arrangements to drop them off before the workday.  Make sure the palm frond are either the type with no thorns or, if you want to strip the thorns off before you bring them in, that kind is ok too.

Hopefully, we’ll have a good turnout so we can get the blinds brushed up for another waterfowl season.  As I always say, the more the merrier (and the less work for each person).

Also, if you do come out to help on the August 24th work day there’s a potential bonus as this is just a week and a day before the opening of dove season.  The waterfowl side of the wildlife area will be opened for dove hunting the first two days of dove season (Sunday, Sept. 1 & Monday Sept. 2).  Dove hunting will only be allowed on the Upland Game side of the Wildlife Area after the first two days.  If you want to hunt SJ this would also be a good time to get a little scouting in for the dove opener while you lend a hand.  Just remember, if you do come out to hunt dove at San Jacinto it’s unleaded now, even for upland game on the wildlife area, and everywhere else in the state now for that matter, NON-TOXIC SHOT ONLY!

Hopefully, we’ll have a good crew of volunteers for this one to get the blinds looking good for the upcoming season and another great year of duck hunting.

If you have any questions contact Tom Trakes at the San Jacinto headquarters at (951) 236-3040, or the San Jacinto staff at (951) 928-0580.

San Jacinto’s Volunteer Blind Clean Up / Work Day Well Attended, Saturday, July 13th – Boy Scout Eagle Project Also Accomplished

On Saturday, July 13th, about 25 volunteers showed up at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area check station parking lot bright and early at 0700.  In addition to the volunteers some of the Boy Scouts from Troop 337 were in attendance to work on Riley Garrett’s Eagle Scout Project, which was to repair and upgrade the kiosks next to the check station parking lot.  Tom sent the volunteers out across the Wildlife Area to clean-up several of the hunting area’s blinds.  In addition to the general clean-up and trash and shell pick up some of blinds required trimming of natural growth that was overgrown and cleaning out tumble weeds and other plants that had taken over the inside of a few of the blinds. Due to this past winter’s heavy rains there was an unusual amount of vegetation this year.

Heading out to the blinds

Getting ready to work on Marsh A

Mystic Lake lookin’ good!

Working on the kiosks.

After working hard all morning the volunteer crew, Scouts and the SJ staff retired to the awning at the check station parking lot for a great lunch of Carne Asada, rice and beans along with soft drinks provided by the Boy Scouts.

A well-deserved lunch…yum!

Once again, Tom and his team at San Jacinto would like to give a big thank you to everyone that came out and worked hard to start the process of getting things ready for the upcoming waterfowl.  Also, a big thanks to Riley Garrett and the other Scouts for their hard work upgrading the kiosks along with a big thanks to Shane Tucker and Carlos Gutierrez for lending their expertise and assistance on the hot roofs of the kiosks.   And finally, a big thanks to the Scouts again, from everybody, for providing a great lunch.

There will be at least two more blind brush-up/work days to finish getting things in ship shape for the coming waterfowl hunting season. The next one is scheduled for Saturday, August 24th and the one after that in late September (date to be announced).  I’ll make a separate post with all the details for the August 24th workday when I get all the info and the flyer from the SJ Staff, but for now, go ahead and mark it on your calendar.  The August 24th workday will concentrate on working on and brushing up the blinds, so palm fronds are needed.  If you can get a hold of any palm fronds any time before the work day you can drop them off at San Jacinto. Just call Tom at 951-236-3040 and he’ll make arrangements for someone to be there so you can drop them off.  Please make sure you don’t bring in the type of palm fronds with the thorns on their stalks, unless you’re willing to strip off the thorns first. Those things wreak havoc with waders if the thorns aren’t removed.  Watch SoCalHunt for the “official” announcement and details of the next blind brush-up/workday.

2018/2019 Season Waterfowl Take Review For California From the California Waterfowl Association

The California Waterfowl Association (CWA) has published a California Season Review in their Summer 2019 magazine issue.  Some interesting numbers were revealed by the review.

The CWA published numbers for all refuges and wildlife areas in the state with comparisons to years past and to other refuges and wildlife areas.  I’ll just concentrate on the three areas that SoCalHunt regularly reports on, San Jacinto, Wister and Kern along with some general numbers of interest to us from throughout the state.

Starting with San Jacinto Wildlife Area CWA reported that the number of Cinnamon Teal bagged at SJ was #2 for the state with 967 birds.  Wister did really well in the state numbers race with Wister showing up #1 for Cinnamon Teal with 1,357 birds, #2 for Green Wing Teal with 2,287 birds and #2 for Pintail (despite a 2 bird limit this season past) with 1,893 sprig taken.  Kern didn’t make the top three for any bird species for the state.

For the Southern California Area, which includes the three areas SoCalHunt reports on, some of what CWA calls “notables” were Pintail were up 40%, Green Wing Teal were up 34% and Shovelers were up an incredible 100%!  CWA also noted that only Southern California had an increased harvest and an increase in average harvest per hunter for the 2018/2019 season.

As for geese statewide it was a dismal year.  White geese were down 70% with 2,650 harvested statewide, Specks were down 48% with 2,762 bagged statewide, and Canadas were down 38% with only 649 taken statewide.  This was a big hit in our part of the state for Wister as they usually do pretty good on the snows at Wister most years.

CWA also provided a graph of the last five seasons reflecting the weekly take of waterfowl for all wildlife areas and refuges in the state.  Not surprisingly it shows a spike the first week of the season then a nosedive the next week that gradually improves, for the most part (with slight exceptions here and there) as the season progresses, until it gets close to the take for opening week on the last week of the season.

The CWA also show a graph for the last five seasons showing the percentages for the top seven species throughout the state.  On that chart the take for the state for this past season was the second lowest of the five years, with the 2016/2017 season showing lower total numbers (by only 985 birds total) then this past season.  Both those seasons (16/17 & 18/19) had substantially lower numbers then the other three years on the graph.

So, the takeaway from all this is that Southern California did somewhat better this past season than the rest of the state, especially with the good old spoonies, which had a 100% increase.  Although, statewide, this past season was slower than others in the last five years.

If you’d like to see the entire report on the 2018/2019 season stats from CWA you have to get a copy of their Summer 2019 magazine.  As far as I can find this information is not online.  You can get a copy of the CWA magazine by joining the California Waterfowl Association by clicking on the link below.  It’s $35 for an annual membership and $15 for a Junior Member (12 and under) and includes four quarterly issues of the CWA magazine.  Money well spent IMHO.

https://www.calwaterfowl.org/

 


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