No Practical Joke Here: Snipe Season Gets Underway in October

California’s statewide snipe season opens Oct. 19, 2019, and runs through Feb. 2, 2020, offering California hunters both an exceptionally challenging upland game bird hunt and some exceptional table fare. The daily bag limit is eight and the possession limit is triple the bag limit.

“They’re real. They’re not just a practical joke,” said Scott Gardner, the senior environmental scientist who leads CDFW’s Upland/Small Game Program, referencing the countless children who have been duped into mythical snipe hunts.

“Snipe are well-distributed throughout the state, but they’re a very challenging bird to harvest. Not only are they a difficult target to hit, but they often hang out with other shorebirds that you can’t take. So you really have to know your stuff when hunting snipe.”

A California hunting license, Harvest Information Program (HIP) Validation and Upland Game Bird Validation are required to hunt snipe. Junior Hunting License holders do not need an Upland Game Bird Validation.

Wilson’s snipe are a plump brown-and-buff migratory shorebird with short, stocky legs and a long bill. They are the only shorebird legal to hunt in California. While they can be found throughout the state during California’s long snipe season, they are elusive and hard to spot on the ground, which means hunters need to be able to identify the birds quickly on the wing.

Snipe typically flush from the ground and fly away in a fast, twisting, zig-zag pattern. The word “sniper,” in fact, originally meant a hunter who was skilled at shooting the notoriously wily bird.

Snipe are frequently found probing muddy ground for earthworms and invertebrates. They prefer the muddy edges of ponds, damp fields and other wet, open habitats. Areas with low vegetation provide adequate camouflage and cover for snipe, but they can often be spotted by glassing the water’s edge with binoculars.

Because of their habitat and a hunting season that runs almost concurrently with California’s Balance of the State Zone waterfowl season, waterfowl hunters are most likely to encounter snipe in the field. Snipe, however, are best pursued with a light upland gun, an open choke and light loads such as #7 steel shot. Waterfowl hunters who take a poke at a fleeing snipe with their heavy guns, big loads and tighter chokes often find themselves punching holes in the air and risk damaging a snipe’s delicate, delicious meat with a shot that connects.

While snipe have a wide wingspan, they are smaller than quail and it may take several birds to make a single meal. They are often roasted or pan-fried whole or breasted out and cooked with butter or bacon. Hunters who enjoy eating dove or duck will likely love the taste of snipe.

Snipe have a small but devoted following among some California hunters. The following tips and suggestions should inspire hunters to give snipe a try this season:

*Snipe hunting can be really good when the duck hunting is poor. Those warm, bluebird days in November make for a great opportunity to go snipe hunting.

* Snipe hunting is great for getting away from the crowds and enjoying some quiet time outdoors. So few people hunt snipe that snipe hunters often have all the boggy, upland fields to themselves.

*Snipe make for an exciting hunt. Snipe flush like a wild pheasant but can provide an abundance of shots and opportunities. A good snipe field can provide hunters with dozens of flushes.

*It helps to go on your first snipe hunt with someone who has hunted snipe before. You’ll be a lot more confident about your identification.

*If you miss a snipe you can often go after it again. A flushed bird will sometimes land again after a short flight.

*Snipe can be difficult and painstaking to pluck whole but it’s often worth the effort. The legs are especially delicious.

*You will almost never see a snipe on the ground before it flushes. Once you learn to identify snipe on the wing, however, it’s easy to distinguish snipe from other shorebirds. Snipe rarely fly in flocks. The vast majority of snipe flushes are single birds. Snipe often make a high-pitched call when they flush, sometimes described as a scaipe.

*Many snipe hunters don’t use hunting dogs. The low, erratic flight typical of a flushed snipe means a lot of low shots that can put a hunting dog in danger.

*Snipe are migratory birds and move. Snipe can be in one day in big numbers and gone the next. A good snipe field one day can be vacant of snipe the next.

*Snipe hunting regulations are available online at CDFW’s website within the 2019-20 bird hunting and public lands regulations booklet.

Please note that nonlead shot is now required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Please plan accordingly. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.

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California Fish and Game Commission Meets in San Diego

At its October 9-10, 2019 meeting in San Diego County, the California Fish and Game Commission discussed and took action on several items that relate to California’s natural resources.

The Commissioners unanimously adopted regulations to issue experimental fishing permits to support sustainable fisheries and promote innovation in California. The new regulations allow experimental fishing permits to be issued to those fishermen who participated in the 2018 box crab experimental gear permit program. Next year, the Commission will consider adopting regulations to establish an experimental fishing permit program.

The Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP), and accompanying Pacific Herring regulations, were also unanimously adopted. The FMP formalizes Pacific Herring management strategies that are responsive to environmental and socioeconomic changes while also preserving the sustainability of the fishery within the context of the entire ecosystem. Among other changes, the regulations establish a recreational bag limit for Herring and allow for the regulation of the commercial Herring fishery under the Herring FMP.

The Commission also evaluated and discussed a state water bottom lease application from the Malibu Oyster Company, which is proposing to locate a shellfish aquaculture operation in Santa Monica Bay, approximately a mile offshore in Malibu. Preliminary considerations for the Commission included previous leases or uses of the site granted by State Lands Commission (of which there were none) and whether there were any known water quality issues (there were none at this time). Additional assessment of environmental impacts and public concerns still lie ahead. The Commission unanimously voted to allow the proposal to move forward for environmental review, tribal notification and public noticing. The proposal is still in the early stages of review and must gain many additional levels of approval, including from the Coastal Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, before the project comes to fruition.

All members of the Commission were present at the meeting, including President Eric Sklar, Vice President Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Commissioners Russell Burns, Samantha Murray and Peter Silva.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.

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Media Contact:
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Hunters Encouraged to Purchase Ammunition Now as California’s 2019-20 Waterfowl Season Is Fast Approaching

California’s 2019-20 waterfowl hunting season opens Oct. 19 throughout much of the state and waterfowl hunters are encouraged to stock up on their favorite duck and goose loads sooner rather than later so as not to miss out on any hunting opportunities.

“Waterfowl hunters tend to be very generous people, and one of the best things about the season are those special invitations to be a guest at a private duck club or a last-minute offer to join in on a waterfowl reservation at a public hunting area,” said Melanie Weaver, who oversees the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) waterfowl program. “We don’t want any of our waterfowl hunters to miss out on these experiences because they had difficulty finding or buying ammunition the night before their hunt.”

New, more stringent ammunition purchasing regulations took effect in California July 1, 2019, requiring background checks, often multiple forms of personal identification, and a current and accurate record within the California Department of Justice’s Automated Firearms System. Hunters who haven’t purchased a shotgun or rifle in California since 2014 or had one transferred or recorded through a licensed firearm dealer in California may have difficulty purchasing ammunition. More information is available at the California Department of Justice website.

Specific opening and closing waterfowl season dates vary by zone. Detailed information about daily bag and possession limits can be found on the Fish and Game Commission website.

Quality public hunting is available on more than two dozen national wildlife refuges and state wildlife areas and ecological reserves managed by CDFW. Nontoxic shot certified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been required nationwide for waterfowl hunting since 1991. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.

It is common for waterfowl hunting areas to close periodically throughout the season due to safety concerns caused by flooding. Areas that most commonly experience flood closures include Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Sutter National Wildlife Area, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, and Little Dry Creek and Howard Slough Units of Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area. Hunters should keep informed regarding potential closures on the public area status website, which will be updated throughout the season. Reservations for state-operated wildlife areas that are closed due to flooding will not be accepted at other hunting areas, and refunds will not be issued for applications submitted to areas that are closed or where reservations are not available.

A valid California hunting license, appropriate validations and a signed federal duck stamp or  the electronic duck stamp must be obtained before entering the field. In addition, a wildlife area hunting pass is required to hunt on many state-operated wildlife areas. Licenses, validations and passes are not sold at wildlife areas, so hunters must purchase these items in advance.

California hunters are required to complete a hunter education training course before purchasing a hunting license for the first time in California. Approximately 30,000 students complete this requirement annually.

CDFW Photo: Black brant hunting in Humboldt Bay.

October 2019 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

Various Days — Guided Wetland Tours, By Reservation, at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). A wildlife naturalist will lead any group, school or organization on a half-mile route through the diverse wetlands of the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. General information includes wildlife identification, behavior patterns and conservation efforts. The experience can be customized to include requested information. The minimum group size is 18 people. For more information, please call (530) 846-7505 or email lori.dieter@wildlife.ca.gov.

Various Days — Ecological Reserve Tours at Elkhorn Slough, 1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville (95076). Naturalists lead walks every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 11 a.m. Binoculars and bird books are available for the public to borrow at no cost. The visitor center and main overlook are fully accessible. The day use permit fee is $4.12 per person, ages 16 and older (permits may be purchased onsite). Groups of five or more should please notify staff that they are coming and groups of 10 or more can request a separate tour. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands/places-to-visit/elkhorn-slough-er.

Various Days — General Bear Season Opening in Select Deer Zones. General bear season opens concurrently with general deer season in the A, B, C, D, X8, X9A, X9B, X10 and X12 zones. Current bear hunting regulations, in-season updates and general black bear information can be viewed at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/bear.

Various Days — Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Access Permit Application Deadlines for Multiple Hunting Opportunities. Wild pig, deer, bear, turkey, dove and quail hunts are available through the SHARE program. An $11.88 non-refundable application fee will be charged for each hunt choice. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

First through Third Saturdays and Sundays of the Month — Sandhill Crane Wetland Tours at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, 7730 W. Woodbridge Road, Lodi (95242). Online registration has begun for those wishing to participate in these guided tours, which run October through February. Registration is available online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regions/3/crane-tour. A one-day Lands Pass must be purchased to attend and instructions are available on the same website. Tours fill fast and registration may be done as much as six weeks in advance. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/regions/3/crane-tour.

Weekends Beginning Oct. 19 — Guided Wildlife Tours at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 12:30 p.m., 3207 Rutherford Rd., Gridley (95948). The 90-minute walking tour covers slightly more than a half mile through this premier birding spot that highlights migratory waterfowl and other wetland wildlife. Tours are canceled in heavy rain. This land is part of the CDFW Lands Pass Program and associated fee-for-use requirement. For more information on the Lands Pass Program, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands-pass. There is no additional cost for the tour. Tour tickets online: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wildlife-viewing-on-the-gray-lodge-wildlife-area-butte-co-tickets-72324329015?aff=erelexpmlt. Walk-ons welcome. For tours/general information, please call (530) 846-7505 or email lori.dieter@wildlife.ca.gov.

2 — California Spiny Lobster Commercial Fishing Season Opens Statewide. For more information regarding lobster and lobster management, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/invertebrates/lobster.

5 — Wetland Wildlife Identification Workshop at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., 3207 Rutherford Rd, Gridley (95948). Wetland birds and plants will be the focus of this walking tour, though a variety of wildlife will be present. Information will include identification, behavior, habitat requirements and viewing equipment use. Reservations are required. This land is part of the CDFW Lands Pass Program and associated fee-for-use requirement. For more information on the Lands Pass Program, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/lands-pass. For more information on the tour, please call (530) 846-7505 or email lori.dieter@wildlife.ca.gov.

5 — Native Plant Sale, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, 14715 State Highway 94, Jamul (91935). Join the Earth Discovery Institute (EDI) for the annual Native Plant Sale. This is an opportunity to learn about native plant gardening and to purchase trees, drought tolerant shrubs, and fragrant and flowering pollinator attracting plants. A wide array of plants that are native to Southern California and water wise will be available, and a consortium of gardeners and horticulturists will be on hand to answer questions and help you pick the perfect plants for your property. You can find a plant list on EDI’s website: http://earthdiscovery.org.

5 — General Duck and Goose Season Opens in the Northeastern Waterfowl Zone. For more information about regulations, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

5 — General Deer Season Opens in Zones D19, X1, X2, X3a, X3b, X4, X5a, X5b, X6a, X6b, X7a and X7b. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

5-6 — Early Season Junior Hunt for Quail in the Mojave National Preserve. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit Upland Game Bird Hunting Regulations.

5-6 — Fall Fish Festival, Taylor Creek Visitor Center, 35 Visitor Center Road, South Lake Tahoe (96150), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., both days. The festival encourages participation by youths and their parents in a variety of educational and entertaining activities. For more information, please visit https://tahoesouth.com/events/fall-fish-fest-kokanee-salmon-festival-at-taylor-creek-visitor-center.

8 — California Fish and Game Commission Tribal Committee Meeting, start time to be determined, Rincon Government Center, One Government Center Lane, Valley Center (92082). For more information, please visit https://fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2019.

8 — Conservation and Mitigation Banking Program Stakeholder Meeting for Northern California, 1 to 4 p.m., Stanford Room, 650 Capitol Mall, Sacramento (95814). A public meeting to provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss their experience using the current Bank Enabling Instrument (BEI) and Conservation Easement (CE) templates, and to discuss other bank topics in a forum with the agencies’ banking staff and decision-makers. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov or contact mitbank@wildlife.ca.gov.

9-10 — California Fish and Game Commission Meeting, begins at 9 a.m. both days, Rincon Government Center, One Government Center Lane, Valley Center (92082). For more information, please visit https://fgc.ca.gov/Meetings/2019.

9 — CDFW Conservation Lecture Series, 1 to 3 p.m., “The ecology and conservation of ungulate migrations in the American West,” presented by Arthur Middleton, Ph.D. In recent years, wildlife ecologists have made major strides in understanding how ungulate migrations evolve, why they are important, and what causes them to decline. At the same time, storytellers have been using advances in digital photography and videography to increase interest in wildlife migrations amongst the general public and policymakers. This talk will review major science and policy developments with insights and case studies from the diverse migratory ungulates of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where Arthur Middleton and his group at UC Berkeley have done much of their work on the topic. Attendance is free. To register or learn more, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/lectures.

12 — Elkhorn Slough Reserve Teachers on the Reserve Workshop, Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville (95076). The workshop introduces teachers to the reserve and the education field trip program. The workshop is free and continuing Education Units will be available. To register, please visit www.elkhornslough.org/education-program/teacher-development and for more information, please contact Virginia Guhin at virginia.guhin@wildlife.ca.gov.

12 — General Bear Season Opens in the Remaining X Zones. General bear season opens for the remaining deer hunting X zones. The general bear season will remain open until Dec. 29, or until CDFW determines that 1,700 bears have been taken. CDFW reminds successful hunters to have their tag validated and a tooth extracted from the skull of their bear. Current bear hunting regulations, in-season updates and general black bear information can be viewed at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/bear.

12 — General Deer Season Opens in Zones D11, D13, D14, D15 and D17. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

12 — Archery-only Pheasant Season Opens and Extends Through Nov. 3. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit Upland Game Bird Hunting Regulations.

13 — Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve Canyoneer Hike, Grasslands Loop. 3 to 7 p.m., 14715 State Highway 94, Jamul (91935). Canyoneers have special permission to hike this 5600-acre CDFW ecological reserve. View sage scrub and riparian environments and hear about efforts to convert grasslands to native habitat. The ruins of a historic brick-making kiln will also be visited. This is an intermediate 5-mile hike with an elevation gain/loss of up to 1,000 feet. For more information, please call (619) 468-9125 or email tracie.nelson@wildlife.ca.gov.

15 — Tour Leader Workshop at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 3207 Rutherford Rd, Gridley (95948). The free workshop will focus on developing leaders in nature study for the Tuesday morning, “Wildlife Ramble” and “Exploring the Wetlands” youth education programs. Reservations are required. For more information, please call (530) 846-7505 or email lori.dieter@wildlife.ca.gov.

18 — General Duck and Goose Season Opens in the Colorado River Waterfowl Zone. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

19 — General Season for All Quail Opens in Zone Q1 and Zone Q3 (extending through Jan. 26, 2020). For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

19 — General Snipe Season Opens Statewide (extending through Feb. 2, 2020). For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

19 — General Chukar Season Opens Statewide (extending through Jan. 26, 2020). For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

19 — General Duck and Goose Season Opens in the Balance of State, Southern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California Waterfowl Zones. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

19 — General Deer Season Opens in Zone X9c. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

23 — California Northern Spotted Owl Stakeholder Forum, 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., 5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A, Santa Rosa (95403). The California Northern Spotted Owl Stakeholder Forum is a meeting that allows agencies, nongovernmental organizations, researchers, landowners, timber companies and other interested parties to share information surrounding northern spotted owl management and conservation efforts in California. Participants may attend in-person or via webinar and reservations are not required. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/timber/nso-forum.  

26 — General Deer Season Opens in Zone D16. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

31  Last Day of Recreational Ocean Salmon Season from Horse Mountain to Pigeon Point. Recreational ocean salmon fishing closes statewide. For more information, please visit the ocean salmon webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon or call the CDFW Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429 or the National Marine Fisheries Service Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (800) 662-9825.

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Media Contacts:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

 

CDFW Celebrates Contributions of California’s Hunters and Anglers on National Hunting and Fishing Day

National Hunting and Fishing Day will be celebrated on Saturday, Sept. 28. In conjunction with this annual observance, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds Californians of the plentiful opportunities to enjoy hunting and fishing in the state and commends them for their commitment to conservation.

President Richard Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day in 1972. It is annually held on the fourth Saturday in September to promote outdoor sports and conservation. Shortly after this proclamation was signed, participation in hunting and fishing started to steadily decline in California and nationwide. Because of the important financial and volunteer contributions that hunters and anglers make to conservation and wildlife management activities, the decline in participation poses an ever-increasing threat to our natural resources. As a result, CDFW is leading the effort in California to increase participation through its involvement with the nationwide campaign to recruit, retain and reactivate (R3) hunters and anglers. The California R3 effort is engaging diverse hunting and fishing stakeholder groups to turn barriers to hunting and fishing into opportunities for participation.

California is the third-largest state in the nation and approximately half of its land is publicly owned. That translates into millions of acres of huntable public property on which CDFW offers varied hunting opportunities.

In 2018, 269,277 licensed hunters contributed approximately $26.2 million toward wildlife management and conservation activities in the state. Wildlife management and conservation activities have resulted in many success stories for various species around the state, including the Tule elk, wild turkeys, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Aleutian Canada Goose, numerous ducks, among others, over the years in California.

Fishing opportunities also abound in the more than 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 4,172 lakes and reservoirs and 80 major rivers in California. The state features more than 1,100 miles of coastline that is home to hundreds of fish and shellfish species.

CDFW offers two “free fishing” days each year in the state, and this year prospective anglers received those opportunities on July 6 and Aug. 31. Fish production is also an important CDFW activity which in 2018 produced millions of pounds of trout for recreational angling.

Last year, CDFW issued 1.77 million fishing licenses and those licenses (including report cards and validations) generated $66.9 million in funding for fisheries management and protection.

Fisheries management and conservation activities have also resulted in numerous success stories over the years in California for various species around the state, including wild trout, landlocked salmon, Largemouth Bass and the Alabama Spotted Bass.

These management activities are funded by hunting and fishing dollars. In order to help increase the number of success stories and contribute to these important conservation and wildlife management activities, consider helping by signing up to take a hunter education course, visit the CDFW website to learn more about participating in fishing and hunting opportunities, or reach out to your local CDFW office or the statewide R3 coordinator to seek guidance on getting started.

Many hunting and fishing seasons are currently open and provide opportunity to acquire lean, antibiotic-free protein sources such as wild trout and other fish, deer, bear, dove, tree squirrel, rabbit and other upland game.

For more information on hunting and fishing opportunities in the Golden State, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov. For information on hunter education, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunter-education. For information on how to purchase a hunting or fishing license, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/online-sales. For more information on National Hunting and Fishing Day, please visit www.nhfday.org.

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Media Contact:
Jen Benedet, CDFW Hunter and Angler R3 Program, (916) 903-9270