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Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Hunting vs. wildfires
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Quail numbers are up but birds are scattered

Ducks making timely arrivals
Very promising duck reports are coming into Western Outdoor News from state and federal wildlife refuges and duck clubs from Wasco all the way down into the Imperial Valley. There was a good local hatch of mallards, gadwall and teal at most wetlands and these birds are now moving around, but spending nights pretty close to where they were hatched. Currently more flocks of pintail, gadwall, teal and some widgeon are arriving daily, as duck counts begin to reach near-record numbers for this early in the fall season.

MATURE PUDDLE DUCKS — Capt. Buzz Brizendine of San Diego had success in harvesting two prime puddle ducks while hunting at the South Ranch last year with master guide Bob “Budda” Fields. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Wister Wildlife Refuge, located just east of the southern end of the Salton Sea, is one of Southern California’s most popular duck hunting refuges, hosting thousands of duck and goose hunters annually. There are many good reasons why this state refuge shoots so well, and that is because the wetlands offer up ideal habitat and there is a good mix of food and fresh water to hold birds prior to continuing a migration down into Mexico.

WON checked in with Rick Francis, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor I. for the Imperial Wildlife Area (Wister) and he filed the following information.

“At this time, we have over 1,000 acres of permanent wetlands consisting of sites 513, W12 and Y16 and these ponds are holding good numbers of local mallards and gadwall and these ducks are using these sites daily. Last week we started flooding all of the other units and they should be ready for the duck season opener,” said Francis.

Francis then went on to add, “Swamp Timothy and bulrush are the main food sources for waterfowl feeding in refuge ponds and we will be planting our green feed units with rye grass and wheat.”

Western Outdoor News then asked Francis about last year’s duck and goose harvest.

“It was a good year of waterfowl hunting with a total of 9,115 waterfowl harvested. Comp counts showed the following numbers of ducks harvested: 1,621 green-winged teal, 1,425 cinnamon teal, 1,257 pintail, 1,027 widgeon, 445 mallards and 411 shovelers. In addition to a respectable duck harvest, hunters also killed 1,206 snow geese, but only 2 Canada geese.

There are no new rules or regulations for use of the Wister campground for this coming waterfowl season, but the refuge was closed to all traffic on Oct. 1, 2018 and the access will be reopened prior to the duck opener.

PRADO BASIN PUDDLE DUCKS — Hank Osterkamp of San Clemente enjoyed a successful Duck hunt in Prado Basin during a winter storm. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

The best goose shooting sites at Wister are expected to be T10-2 and 4, U10 2 and 4 and S20 2, which are scheduled to have wheat and rye grass that will be planted a little later. For those coming to this refuge to shoot ducks a few of the better shooting sites are U12, U14, T12, T14 and 413(west) according to Francis’s report.

Another popular state wildlife refuge that shoots for a pretty decent average all season long is the San Jacinto Wildlife Area located in Riverside County.

Tom Trakes, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor for San Jacinto called in the following report, “Right now almost three-fourths of the refuge is flooded and flocks of new ducks are arriving daily. The bulk of the ducks now on the refuge are teal, but there are also mallards, gadwall and a few widgeon. There are also 20 specks hanging around and I would think a few of these smaller geese will be harvested opening morning.”

Trakes went on to state, “We planted 2,000 pounds of wheat recently and it’s coming up very well. In addition, this refuge has plenty of watergrass, Swamp Timothy and alkali bulrush that should provide ducks with plenty of food. I would think that our season opener will produce good gunning at most shooting sites and hopefully come opening day, there will be more ducks in the valley.”

Moving up into the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley lies Kern National Wildlife Refuge, which shoots small numbers of duck hunters for some of the best averages posted in all of Southern California for a public shooting area.

The following is a recap of what Nick Stanley, refuge project manager, filed with WON.

“Currently we have over 2,000 ducks on the refuge, mostly made up of resident mallards with some teal mixed in. To date, only about 400 to 600 acres are flooded, but this will increase as we continue to take on more water. Most of the Moist Soil units on the refuge received a spring irrigation, so they are in very good condition for the upcoming waterfowl season,” says Stanley.

Stanley went on to add the following, “Current water allocations are less than last year’s, so unfortunately the refuge will have a decrease in flooded areas this coming season. Hunters who would like additional information on duck hunting at Kern can call refuge headquarters at (661) 725-2767.

SOUTH RANCH HONKER — WON's hunting editor Jim Niemiec was very proud of his yellow Lab Sierra for this great retrieve of a big Canada goose. The hunt took place at the Cibola Sportsman’s Club last December. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Last winter saw an increase in the number of greater Canada geese that showed up at the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge…not by much, but offering up better hunting opportunities for those hunting on both the California and Arizona sides of the lower Colorado River.

The Cibola Sportsman’s Club,, had pretty decent goose hunting at the South Ranch location, especially for those unattached hunters who booked a couple of days of hunting with master guide Bob “ Budda” Fields and staying in the cabin at the ranch. WON successfully hunt the ponded area of South Ranch bagging ducks and big honkers on each visit to the club. With a large Canada goose population up in Canada and good nesting across western states, Cibola Valley should offer up very good goose hunting this coming season starting on the full moon of November.

Bob Corbett, co-owner of the Cibola Sportsman’s Club, passed on the following about South Ranch, “We are planting a new stand of alfalfa and the ponds are getting ready to flood. We likely won’t have a lot of ducks this year, BUT IF there is a massive freeze-up in Utah, we could see some very good Canada goose hunting at the ranch. We will keep WON posted of how the migration shapes up for Cibola Valley.”

Moving on up to the vast wetlands of central, northern and northeastern California, the region is holding lots of puddle ducks and thousands of Canada geese. WON toured this region last week and was amazed at the number of ducks and dark geese that were either loafing on ponded water or lakes with many fields filled with geese during the morning and evening feeding periods.

This WON hunting editor lived and courtesy guided all around Alturas for nearly a quarter of century and I honestly cannot remember seeing this number of Canada geese. Stopping off at the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge was enjoyable with most all of the ponds brim full and loaded with waterfowl. According to the local wildlife biologist, this past spring offered up excellent nesting conditions for ducks, geese and sandhill cranes, which produced a bumper crop of chicks that survived well due to an abundance of water and plenty of bug life.

Honey Lake is about three-quarters full and holding both geese and ducks, while farther up the road Goose Lake will be huntable this coming fall as the lake has miles of shoreline, with creeks and adjoining freshwater ponds offering up places for waterfowl to get a drink.

One concern that this WON editor would have is that there is TOO much water! 

There is a lot of standing water and most all reservoirs and stock ponds are full, thus there might be no need for ducks and geese to be in too much of a hurry to head farther south into our portion of the Pacific Flyway. Alturas Ranches (old Lyneta Farms) gets its water from the north fork of the Pit River, and the valley between Likely and the Modoc Wildlife Refuge has a huge population of Canada Geese. This ranch has plenty of water and lots of green grass (alfalfa) to hold birds until a solid freeze occurs in Modoc County.

For waterfowl hunters thinking about heading up to hunt northeastern California this season, contacts for guided hunts include: hunting with master guide Brent Dolby of Modoc Waterfowl Outfitters at (530) 640-0411, or think about hunting on the 31,000 acres of Alturas Ranches at If a hunt party wants a good place to stay and have a great dinner, don’t pass up the option of booking a couple of nights at California Pines Lodge by calling (530) 233-5842.

New waterfowl ammo from Federal

By Jim Niemiec

WON Staff Writer

Federal Premium shotgun shell ammo is a very popular choice among waterfowl hunters, whether hunting ducks or geese. This company is a leader in manufacturing non-toxic shot and their design of wads produce excellent patterns when hunting either out of a duck blind or in a pit blind for decoying Canada geese; offering up long-range effectiveness for pass shooting as well.

New for the 2018 waterfowl season is the improved Speed-Shok Waterfowl ammo. The new and improved line of waterfowl ammo includes 10 new loads in several shot sizes. According to Federal, speed kills more ducks and geese and now this new ammo kills birds even cleaner with the redesigned Federal Speed-Shok. Its “catalyst” primer and faster burning powders dramatically reduce residue, while its optimized velocities knock birds out of the sky.

This new ammo is available in 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 and .410 gauges with a shot selection from size # 7 up T shot, with muzzle velocities varying from 1550 fps down to 1400 fps.


FEDERAL’S NEW WATERFOWL AMMO — The new Speed-Shok Waterfowl ammo from Federal Ammunition features better patterns and muzzle velocities of up to 1550 fps.

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