Hunter retrieving a duck

CDFW Implements Wildlife Area and Refuge Check Station Safety Precautions for 2020-2021 Hunting Seasons

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is planning ahead to provide ample recreational hunting opportunities on wildlife areas and refuges this fall and winter, while also keeping hunters and CDFW staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDFW has established a page on its website to describe specific procedures to be implemented this year for public and staff health and safety. Wildlife areas and refuges will be open as long as visitors implement these practices.

Hunters should be aware of the following:

  • Changes have been made to in-person lottery and first-come-first-served (FCFS) operations for the 2020-21 waterfowl season, such as adjusted hours and controls to increase physical distancing between hunters and staff. To further reduce the congestion of hunters at check stations during peak use periods and minimize the potential for spread of COVID-19, hunters will be allowed to enter a lottery or FCFS list at only one state wildlife area or federal refuge prior to each shoot day for the 2020/21 waterfowl season. This limitation does not apply to reservation applications through the Automated License Data System.
  • Sanitation procedures have been put in place, including a requirement for all individuals on the property to wear masks and maintain distance from others while conducting check station business. Non-portable restrooms will be closed to the public (portable restrooms will be provided). Hunters and other visitors to CDFW lands are asked to bring hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies with them, and to carry their trash home for disposal.
  • Controls for hunter/visitor check-out will be implemented to minimize contact between hunters and staff. In some locations, this could include the installation of drop boxes for collecting permits and harvest report cards. Each hunter should carry and present their own bird strap to facilitate safe check-out procedures.
  • CDFW is accepting RV camping applications, where applicable, for the 2020-2021 hunt season. Please contact wildlife area staff for up-to-date information on the status of RV camping.

For details, additional information and updates, please check https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/COVID-19 frequently throughout the season.

CDFW may need to update these provisions to ensure consistency with the latest state and local guidelines and directives.

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

Waterfowl Hunting Delayed on Public Hunting Areas in the Sacramento Valley

Media Contacts:
Shaun Oldenberger, Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3763
Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) must delay opening day of waterfowl season on Type-A state and federal hunting areas in the Sacramento Valley. Due to a delayed rice harvest, opening day will be Oct. 29, one week later than the rest of the Balance of State Zone.

Dry grasses surrounding a pond under overcast sky
Yolo Basin Wildlife Area

The areas affected by this delay in opening day are Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, Little Dry Creek Wildlife Area, Llano Seco Wildlife Area, Howard Slough Wildlife Area, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Delevan NWR, Sutter NWR and Colusa NWR.

This year’s rice harvest is unusually late because wet weather delayed the spring planting and a mild summer slowed maturation. The harvest is expected to continue into late October this year in the Sacramento Valley.

DFG reached the decision to delay the waterfowl season in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and representatives from the agricultural community in the Sacramento area. The delayed refuge opener is intended to minimize crop depredation consistent with Lea Act requirements and the purpose of some state and federal areas. The Lea Act of 1948 provided funds for the acquisition of federal lands and for the state to acquire matching acreage to attract waterfowl away from adjacent agricultural lands.

Delayed refuge openers were common from the late 1940s to the early 1980s but advancements in farming technology have produced rice crops that mature earlier, minimizing the need for delay. There have been only three delayed refuge openers for waterfowl hunting in the last 26 years, the last of which was during the 2006-07 waterfowl hunting season.

Hunters should familiarize themselves with the regulations on the Fish and Game Commission website at www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/current/waterfowlregs.aspx.