Registration Now Open for San Joaquin County Sandhill Crane Tours

Each September, more than 10,000 sandhill cranes descend upon the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where they spend five months roosting and foraging in a protected wetlands area just west of Lodi.

During their stay at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and surrounding areas, the birds captivate onlookers with expressive song and unique social behavior, including a “dance” thought to be connected with courtship and bonding.

Registration is now open for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour, which offers guided tours of sandhill cranes in their fall-winter habitat. Guided tours, which begin Oct. 5, are offered mid-to-late afternoon during the first three weekends of each month from October through February.

“The sandhill cranes’ fly-in around sundown can be nothing short of spectacular. It’s a very worthwhile tour,” said CDFW Interpretive Services Supervisor David Moore.

Registration and additional information can be found at the CDFW Bay Delta Region’s Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour page.

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is also accessible at any time for self-guided tours. A series of informative displays are located at the reserve’s southern unit at 11154 W. Woodbridge Road in Lodi. Reserve staff recommend that guests stay through sunset to witness the sights and sounds of groups of sandhills returning to their roosting spots for the evening.

Please note that visitors who are age 16 or older must purchase a one-day Lands Pass or have a current hunting or fishing license in possession in order to access the reserve. Proceeds from Lands Pass purchases (which are less than $5) go toward wildlife conservation.

CDFW is also proud to co-sponsor the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival from Nov. 1-3.

Media Contacts:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958
David Moore, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 766-8380

 

Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County Closed to All Public Use Aug. 10-16 for Special Lottery Deer Hunt

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to remind the public that the Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County will be closed to all public use during the first week of the A Zone general deer season, Aug. 10-16, to accommodate a special lottery draw deer hunt.

Deer hunt permit holders will be the only ones allowed on the wildlife area during the first week of the A Zone deer season. No other public use is permitted. The area reopens to all users Saturday, Aug. 17.

The special lottery draw deer hunt was initiated for the first time this year to limit the number of hunters on the popular public hunting area for safety purposes and to improve the quality of the hunting experience for permit holders.

Only hunters whose names are listed on the hunt permit may participate in the hunt.  Anyone not listed specifically on the hunt permit, including non-hunters, helpers and assistants, will not be permitted on the wildlife area during the hunt period.

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Conrad Jones, CDFW Bay-Delta Region, (707) 576-2836

Wild Pheasant, Fall Turkey, Second Dove Seasons Set to Open Nov. 10

California’s fall hunting season hits full stride Saturday, Nov. 10 with openers for wild pheasant, fall turkey and the second dove season.

Combined with hunting seasons already open for quail, chukar, snipe, waterfowl, tree squirrel and rabbits, California hunters have plenty of options to pursue some spectacular game species and equally stellar table fare. Few states can match the sheer variety of hunting opportunities available to California hunters in the fall.

Both a valid hunting license and upland game bird stamp/validation are needed to hunt pheasant, turkey and dove. An upland stamp/validation is not required for junior license holders but all hunters are required to have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation when hunting migratory game birds.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Since 2012, CDFW has funded scientific research into California’s wild pheasant decline using money from the purchase of upland game bird stamps/validations. The latest findings point to a combination of factors that include changing agricultural crops, upland habitat loss, predation, competition from other species, warming temperatures and pesticides as contributing to the pheasant decline in recent years.

Still, the wild pheasant opener on the second weekend of November remains a popular tradition for many families and an important economic event for some rural communities.

The good news is that some of the best remaining wild pheasant habitat in California is found on state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges open to public hunting. Bagging a wild rooster pheasant requires dedication, knowledge and skill, but the end reward makes unmatched table fare.

Several CDFW Type A wildlife areas are especially popular with wild pheasant hunters, including Upper Butte Basin, Gray Lodge, Grizzly Island, Yolo Bypass, Los Banos and North Grasslands.

These areas are all open to pheasant hunting on their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl hunt days. The Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area and the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area will remain open the first Monday of the pheasant season – Nov. 12 – to provide additional hunter opportunities.

Type A wildlife areas in the San Joaquin Valley – Los Banos, Mendota, North Grasslands and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge – will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only during the pheasant season.

Three popular northern California federal refuges – Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge – and one San Joaquin Valley federal refuge – Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge – will be open to pheasant hunting the first Monday of the season in addition to their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday shoot days.

The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern California, home to some of the most robust wild pheasant populations in the state, are open daily to pheasant hunting throughout the season.

Please check with the individual property for specific details and regulations on each area.

The 2018 general pheasant season runs from Saturday, Nov. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 23. The daily bag limit is two males per day for the first two days of the season and three males per day thereafter. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Nonlead ammunition is required when hunting pheasants anywhere in the state, except on licensed game bird clubs.

Fall Turkey

The chance to provide a wild turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is strong motivation for many fall turkey hunters. The fall season runs from Saturday Nov. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 9, and – unlike in the spring season – both males and females may be taken. The daily bag limit is one turkey of either sex with a season and possession limit of two birds.

Three subspecies of wild turkeys can be found in California – Rio Grande, Merriam’s and eastern – with Rio Grande being the most widespread. Wild turkeys inhabit most counties in California. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Nonlead ammunition is required when hunting turkeys anywhere in the state unless the turkey is taken on the grounds of a licensed game bird club.

Second Dove Season

California’s second dove season runs from Saturday, Nov. 10 through Monday, Dec. 24. Although lacking the fanfare and tradition surrounding the Sept. 1 opener, the second season offers cooler weather, fewer crowds and the chance for a mixed bag of species – quail and rabbit, for example – that often share the same habitat.

Limits remain the same as the early season: Mourning dove and white-winged dove have a daily bag limit of 15, 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. Hunting for Eurasian collared dove is legal year-round and there is no limit. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Lead ammunition is permitted for hunting doves in 2018. Nonlead ammunition, however, is required when hunting on all CDFW lands. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.

In addition to public hunting opportunities available at CDFW state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges, CDFW offers special hunts at the Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts page and through the SHARE program, which provides public hunting access to private land or other landlocked properties. New hunters should visit CDFW’s Apprentice Hunts webpage for additional pheasant hunting opportunities.

Media Contacts:
Scott Gardner, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 801-6257
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Registration Now Open for Fall Sandhill Crane Tours in San Joaquin County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting online reservations for docent-led tours of sandhill cranes and their wetland habitat at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, just west of Lodi in San Joaquin County.

The late-afternoon tours run from Oct. 6 through February 2019. They are offered the first, second and third Saturdays and Sundays of each month for the five-month duration of the cranes’ fall-winter stay. Online registration is required and is available as early as eight weeks prior to tour dates.

Registration began in mid-August for October tour dates. November tour dates will become available starting Sept. 15. Registration and additional information is available at the CDFW Bay Delta Region’s Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour page. Please note that purchase of a one-day Lands Pass for a nominal fee is required with registration.

“We are very pleased to offer public tours at the reserve and to showcase the benefits of the restored wetlands,” said CDFW Bay Delta Region Manager Gregg Erickson. “These natural resources belong to everyone. All of us have a part in taking care of them as well as enjoying them.”

The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is accessible at any time for self-guided tours. A series of informative, interpretive panels are located at the reserve’s southern unit at 11154 W. Woodbridge Road, Lodi, CA  95242. Staying through sunset is recommended to witness the sights and sounds of “fly-over” as groups of sandhill cranes return to roosting spots for the evening.

CDFW is also proud to co-sponsor the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival scheduled for Nov. 2-4. Information about festival tours and activities is available at www.cranefestival.com/index.php.

Media Contacts:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
David Moore, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 766-8380

Wild Pheasant Hunting Season Opener Nears

The second weekend of November brings a popular tradition for many families in California – the opening of pheasant season.

Although the overall wild pheasant population has been decreasing in recent years and the number of hunt days has been reduced on some wildlife areas, opportunities are still available on state-managed lands.

The 2017 general pheasant season will open Saturday, Nov. 11 and extend through Sunday, Dec. 24. The daily bag limit is two males per day for the first two days of the season and three males per day thereafter. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Native to Asia, the ring-necked pheasant was introduced to California as a game bird species in the late 1800s. Though they flourished in California for decades, numbers have been dropping since the most recent high in the late 1990s. Total pheasant harvest on public areas in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys declined from a high of 4,828 roosters in 1998 to 461 last year.

In an effort to address the decline, CDFW continues efforts to restore and enhance upland habitat on public areas. This is in addition to a multiyear collaborative research project with Pheasants Forever and the United States Geological Survey to better understand factors that limit populations. These field studies of wild pheasant survival and reproduction at locations around northern California will continue into 2018 and result in a report of findings and future management recommendations.

Preliminary results indicate that changing land use practices is one of the major drivers of wild pheasant declines on both public and private lands. An overall decline in annual acres of “unharvested cropland” correlate with pheasant declines as well as decreases in acres of planted barley, sugar beets, winter wheat and sorghum, and increases in acres of nut trees and rice. Pesticide use and increases in avian predator populations also appear to play a role.

In 2010, CDFW reduced the number of days that certain wildlife areas will be open for pheasant hunting due to a decline in the number of hunters targeting pheasant and the cost to operate check stations during the first week of the season. For the upcoming season, hunters should be aware of the following restrictions on wildlife areas:

  • Type A wildlife areas in the Sacramento Valley (Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area and Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area (Little Dry Creek, Llano Seco and Howard Slough units) will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and the first Monday (Nov. 13) during the pheasant season.
  • Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and Grizzly Island Wildlife Area will only be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the pheasant season.
  • Type A wildlife areas in the San Joaquin Valley (Los Banos Wildlife Area, Mendota Wildlife Area, North Grasslands Wildlife Area, Volta Wildlife Area and San Luis National Wildlife Refuge free roam area) will only be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the pheasant season.
  • The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Kesterson Unit blind area will only be open for pheasant hunting the first Monday (Nov. 13) and a special zone of the Freitas Unit will only be open on the first Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 11-12) of the pheasant season.
  • The Wister Unit of Imperial Wildlife Area in Imperial County and San Jacinto Wildlife Area in Riverside County will continue to be closed to pheasant hunting this year.
  • Type C wildlife areas will remain open as normal.

Nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting pheasants anywhere in the state, except on licensed game bird clubs. For more information please see the CDFW Nonlead Ammunition webpage.

All hunters must carry a current California hunting license in their possession. Adult hunters (18 or older) must also have an upland game bird validation. The full upland game bird hunting regulations and a summary as well as the public lands regulations for 2017-18 are available on CDFW’s website.

The modifications of the shoot days on Type A wildlife areas are pursuant to the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 550(i)(1).

For more information on specific hunting opportunities, hunters should contact their regional CDFW offices and check the CDFW website.

Media Contacts:
Matt Meshriy CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 322-6709
Brad Burkholder, CDFW Lands Program, (916) 445-1829
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908