Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days Offered Excellent Opportunities

Lauryn Ash, 2nd lieutenant with the California Air National Guard, participated in her first duck hunt during the Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days weekend. An 18-year U.S. Air Force Veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, Ash was hosted on her hunt by the Frog Pond Duck Club in Los Banos

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) conducted its first Veterans and Active Military Personnel Waterfowl Hunting Days recently, providing more than 650 veterans and active duty military the opportunity to hunt on state and federal managed public hunting areas. Gray Lodge Wildlife Area near Gridley and the Wister Unit of the Imperial Valley Wildlife Area near the Salton Sea hosted the most hunters over the two days. Gray Lodge hunters averaged 5.1 waterfowl on Saturday while the Wister Unit hunters averaged 3.5. Hunting results for all CDFW managed hunting areas are posted at wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Waterfowl#877772-hunt-results.

“Each of us at CDFW express our appreciation for the work and sacrifice many of our veterans made and continue to make,” said Stafford Lehr, Deputy Director of CDFW’s Wildlife and Fisheries Division. “Opening our wildlife areas and providing veterans and active duty personnel a special waterfowl hunting opportunity was not only a pleasure, but a chance to give something back for their exceptional service to our country.” 

Once the Veterans and Active Military Personnel Waterfowl Hunting Days dates were set, a coordinated effort took place among state and federal agencies, private organizations and duck clubs to provide veterans and military personnel with hunting opportunity. CDFW opened more than a dozen of its most popular waterfowl areas for these special hunt days. California Waterfowl (CWA) opened its Grizzly Island Ranch, Butte Creek Ranch and other properties. CWA reached out to members and cooperating partners to provide places for 60 veterans to hunt.

Duck clubs like The Members Duck Club near the Salton Sea and Mound Farms in the Yolo Bypass welcomed veterans for the Veterans and Active Military Personnel  Waterfowl Hunting Days. Club members accompanied veterans out to the blinds, helped them find their blind in the dark and set out decoys. CWA Volunteer Veterans Hunt Coordinator Mike Peeters said, “There is tremendous community outreach among landowners to connect with veterans, to give back and provide hunting opportunity.”

Only veterans and active military personnel could apply for a hunt reservation through the CDFW waterfowl reservation drawing system for the weekend. This made it possible for many to draw their first reservation of the 2020-21 waterfowl hunting season. A reservation is extremely important to hunters since it guarantees a place to hunt. Drawing a reservation is hard. In 2020-21, a record 1.23 million hunt reservation applications were submitted. At Little Dry Creek Unit within the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area, one of the most sought-after hunting areas, a record 141,160 applications were submitted. Overall, the odds of drawing a reservation for the 2020-21 season on a CDFW managed waterfowl hunting area averaged 4.05 percent.

Veterans and active duty personnel experiencing the hunt came away with several positives. First and foremost, they enjoyed a special weekend of waterfowl hunting. Those new to waterfowl hunting got a chance to experience a hunt with minimal hunter competition. Many also were able to share the experience with friends and family.

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Media Contact: 
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Knoxville Wildlife Area and Cedar Roughs Wildlife Area, Napa County Re-Open

moss covered oak on hillside

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pleased to announce the re-opening of the Knoxville Wildlife Area and Cedar Roughs Wildlife Area, both in Napa County. The August 2020 LNU-Lightning Complex Fire consumed the entire 21,500-acre Knoxville Wildlife Area and both units of the Cedar Roughs Wildlife Area (414 acres).  The public is asked to remain vigilant of potential hazards such as falling trees and rocks, and to confine use to established old ranch road trails. Potential for debris flow is high along the northern section of Berryessa-Knoxville Road and in the Long Canyon area during heavy rain events. To protect public safety, this may prompt subsequent closure of the Knoxville Wildlife Area.

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Media Contacts
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120 
Stacy Martinelli, CDFW Wildlife Biologist 

Special Post-Season Waterfowl Hunt Weekend Reserved for Veterans and Active Military Personnel Feb. 13-14

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will reopen and staff nearly two dozen of the state’s most popular waterfowl hunting areas to welcome veterans and active military personnel for a special hunt weekend Feb. 13 and 14.

The first Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days take place the second weekend in February throughout the Balance of the State, Southern San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California waterfowl zones on both private property and public land for eligible hunters.

Species and daily bag limits are the same as the regular season with the following exceptions: Brant are not open to take and geese are not allowed to be taken in the Balance of State Zone on these days.

In addition to a valid California hunting license, California duck validation, federal duck stamp and Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation, any person participating in these hunts must possess and present upon demand verification of eligibility. Acceptable verification includes: a Veteran ID Card, military ID card for active duty personnel, or a state-issued driver license or ID card with veteran designation. Qualifying veterans are those defined in Section 101, Title 38, of the United States Code. Absence of verification may subject the hunter to citation.

Among those public areas reopening for Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days: The Little Dry Creek Unit of the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, Kern National Wildlife Refuge, Los Banos Wildlife Area, Mendota Wildlife Area, Merced National Wildlife Refuge, San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, North Grasslands Wildlife Area, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Volta Wildlife Area, Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.

A wildlife area pass is required to hunt on Type A and Type B state-operated wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges during the hunt weekend. These items are not available for sale at hunter check stations and must be purchased ahead of time. All 2020 Type A and Type B Wildlife Area Season Passes and Type A One and Two-Day Wildlife Area Passes will be accepted during the hunt weekend. A Type A or Type B Season Pass is required to hunt on Type B Wildlife Areas.

As of Feb. 1, overnight camping is once again allowed on state-operated wildlife areas and federal refuges reopening for the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days Feb. 6-7 and the Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days Feb. 13-14. Please check with the individual property for entry procedures, specific details and other regulations.

Waterfowl hunters are strongly encouraged to review the 2020 CDFW Wildlife Area Operational Changes due to COVID-19 webpage prior to visiting any state-operated wildlife area or refuge in order to understand all required health and safety practices in place to help protect visitors and staff. Waterfowl hunters are further advised to check with the individual property they are planning to hunt for specific entry procedures, details and other regulations.

Below are general COVID-19 safety guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus in the outdoors:

  • Stay Local: Stay close to home during this pandemic period. If you or anyone in your household is feeling sick, please remain at home and plan your trip for another time. 
  • Plan Ahead: The ongoing pandemic response continues to be dynamic. Prior to leaving home, check to ensure your destination is open, if parking is available and what visitor guidelines may be in effect.
  • Stay Safer at Six Feet: No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Those camping together should only include people within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings or parties.
  • Keep Clean: Be prepared as not all services may be available. Restrooms may be unavailable or closed. Bring soap/hand sanitizer. Please pack out all trash.

Stay Covered: The state requires you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Individuals must have a face covering with them at all times.

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

Photo:
Bill Self of Dublin is an Air Force veteran, retired educator, and lifelong California sportsman. He and his fellow veterans along with active military personnel will enjoy an extra weekend of duck hunting Feb. 13 and 14 during California’s first Veterans and Active Military Waterfowl Hunting Days. Photo courtesy of Edward Lee.

Camping Reopens on CDFW Lands, State-Operated Wildlife Areas and Refuges

With the recent lifting of the Regional Stay-at-Home Order in all parts of the state, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will once again allow overnight camping on department lands, state-operated wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges where camping is permitted, effective Monday, Feb. 1.

The reopening of camping and the overnight use of camp trailers and motorhomes will accommodate waterfowl hunters participating in the Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days Feb. 6-7 and the Veterans and Active Military Hunt Days Feb. 13-14 at wildlife areas and federal refuges in the Balance of the State, Southern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California waterfowl zones.

Non-hunting related dispersed camping on CDFW lands will once again be permitted on those specific properties that allow camping.

The California Department of Public Health Jan. 6 Travel Advisory remains in effect: Californians should avoid non-essential travel to any part of California more than 120 miles from one’s place of residence. Avoiding travel reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Waterfowl hunters are strongly encouraged to review the 2020 CDFW Wildlife Area Operational Changes due to COVID-19 webpage prior to visiting any state-operated wildlife area or refuge in order to understand all required health and safety practices in place to help protect visitors and staff. Waterfowl hunters are further advised to check with the individual property they are planning to hunt for specific entry procedures, details and other regulations.

Below are general COVID-19 safety guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus in the outdoors:

  • Stay Local: Stay close to home during this pandemic period. If you or anyone in your household is feeling sick, please remain at home and plan your trip for another time. 
  • Plan Ahead: The ongoing pandemic response continues to be dynamic. Prior to leaving home, check to ensure your destination is open, if parking is available and what visitor guidelines may be in effect.
  • Stay Safer at Six Feet: No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Those camping together should only include people within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings or parties.
  • Keep Clean: Be prepared as not all services may be available. Restrooms may be unavailable or closed. Bring soap/hand sanitizer. Please pack out all trash.
  • Stay Covered: The state requires you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Individuals must have a face covering with them at all times.

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Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

Many Californians Took to the Woods and Waters in 2020

Fishing, Hunting License Sales Soar Amid Pandemic

With more free time on their hands, a growing interest in securing their own food, coupled with the needs for physical outlets and mental relief as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more Californians turned to fishing and hunting last year.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued nearly two million sport fishing licenses in 2020, an 11 percent increase from 2019. Of those, 1,201,237 were annual resident sport fishing licenses, a 19 percent increase over 2019. Not since 2008 has CDFW issued as many sport fishing licenses as it did last year.

California hunter numbers also spiked. CDFW issued nearly 300,000 California hunting licenses in 2020, a nine percent increase from the previous year. Of those, 244,040 were annual resident hunting licenses – an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

About 16 percent of the annual resident hunting licenses issued last year – 43,450 – went to first-time license holders. Another 12 percent of those hunting licenses – 31,835 – went to reactivated hunters, meaning residents who didn’t purchase a California hunting license in 2019, but held one in a prior year.

“We recognize it’s important to provide an outlet for recreation, mental and physical health during these difficult times, and we’ve worked hard as a department to keep hunting and fishing opportunities open, available and safe as much as possible,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We’re especially excited to welcome so many new hunters and new anglers of all ages and all backgrounds. A California fishing or hunting license is a passport to outdoor adventure and a gateway to healthy living, environmental stewardship, good times and lifetime learning.”

Hunters and anglers play a crucial role in managing natural resources by regulating wildlife populations to maintain ecological and biological diversity, participating in surveys for scientific data collection and reporting wildlife crimes. Hunters and anglers also help sustain a multibillion-dollar outdoor recreation industry and provide a significant funding source for fish and wildlife conservation in California.

Amid the global pandemic in 2020, CDFW created new virtual learning resources for hunters and anglers while instituting COVID-19 safeguards and precautions on the ground to keep hunting and fishing opportunities open and safe for both staff and participants. Among those efforts:

  • The Harvest Huddle Hour (R3H3) debuted. Part of CDFW’s R3 initiative to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters and anglers in California, the virtual seminar series for beginning adult audiences is intended to increase knowledge and confidence around skillsets required to harvest wild food in California. The seminars, archived online at the CDFW website, included “Intro to California Inland Fishing,” “Bag and Possession Limits and Gifting Your Take,” “Intro to Foraging,” “Tackle Box Basics” and “Intro to Turkey Hunting.” More topics in hunting, fishing, foraging and the shooting sports are planned for 2021.
  • Beginning in May, CDFW’s Hunter Education Program allowed aspiring hunters to complete their hunter education requirements entirely online. Prior to COVID-19, California offered a traditional in-person course or a hybrid online/in-person class with a certified Hunter Education Instructor.
  • CDFW’s Hunter Education Program also moved its Advanced Hunter Education Clinics – focused on the how-to of hunting – to an online, webinar format in 2020. The webinars, archived online at the CDFW website, included “Waterfowl Reservation System and Refuge Operations,” “Waterfowl Wednesday,” “Upland Opportunities” and “Band-tailed Pigeons – What They Are and How to Hunt Them.” More topics are planned for 2021.
  • CDFW’s Fishing in the City Program, which provides angling opportunities for city dwellers and suburban residents, continued with trout and catfish plants in neighborhood park ponds and suburban lakes even though it had to suspend in-person fishing clinics. Fishing in the City created a series of “learn to fish” videos to help newcomers get started in fishing – and help parents get their kids started in fishing.
  • CDFW instituted COVID-19-related safeguards and operational changes at all state-operated wildlife areas and refuges — popular with hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, hikers, and others — to keep these areas open and accessible throughout 2020 and into 2021.