Nearly 1,000 young hunters took to the fields on Feb. 4-5 this year, as Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days opened to clearing skies and the ducks and geese were plentiful. These special two days of waterfowl hunting were open only to junior license holders age 17 or younger, and their non-hunting adult mentors.
Various hunts were conducted on 21 wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges where the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) operates waterfowl hunting programs. Private waterfowl clubs and conservation organizations, including the California Waterfowl Association and individual chapters of Ducks Unlimited, hosted twice this number of young hunters statewide.
The main objective of Youth Waterfowl Days is to provide young hunters with a special opportunity to learn more about waterfowl hunting and provide a mentored experience.
“This year CDFW staff worked at opening previously flooded areas like the Little Dry Creek Wildlife Unit, since Grizzly Island and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Areas were closed due to flooding,” said Craig Stowers, an environmental program manager with CDFW’s Wildlife Branch Game Management Program. “Not only did the young hunters have some great experiences, but they also did very well, averaging nearly three birds each on Saturday.”
One of the top-producing areas was Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, where young hunters averaged 5.4 birds on Saturday. On many of the other state-managed properties, such as Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, youths averaged approximately three birds each. Numerous private duck clubs and organizations with waterfowl properties throughout the state opened their doors to young hunters as well. Some, like the Cameron Duck Club in East Nicolaus, provided guided hunts for youths.
Eleven-year-old Colby Fritter of Chico completed his Hunter Education Course on Saturday. He secured his license at 3 p.m., just in time to go to a private duck blind for an afternoon shoot. On his first hunt, with his first shot, he took a Canada goose with his Youth Model Remington 870 20-gauge.
“He lit up like a Christmas tree,” said his father, Scott Fritter. “He worked and studied hard to pass the hunter education course and exam and it really paid off. It was an experience and opportunity of a lifetime.”
At the Little Dry Creek Unit in the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area, staff cleaned up flood debris to prepare for the 63 youth hunters who hunted the first day. Each of the young hunters was directed to a blind or free-roam area deemed safe to hunt. Upon completing their hunt, they were invited to dine on hot dogs, chips and bottled water. It was the first time the unit was open since Jan. 7, and provided exceptional opportunities for the young hunters.
Waterfowl hunting results, including results for each state-managed Youth Hunting Days hunt, are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl#877772-hunt-results.
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478