State managed wildlife areas are not rare, but those that offer seven-day per week access, a shooting range and archery range as well as access to thousands of acres of foothill terrain are. Most of the state’s wildlife areas are made up of wetlands, but Spenceville State Wildlife Area east of Wheatland offers 11,887 acres of prime foothills country of the Sierra Nevada.
Very little public land exists that offers the type of country found at Spenceville. Much of the foothills are privately owned, and are being subdivided at an alarming rate, leaving very little natural habitat for wildlife. Consisting of rolling hills studded with valley oaks and grassland, the area has several creeks and springs. Spenceville is an example of how the foothills appeared 50 years ago when most of the property was held in large ranches. With some old homesites (just foundations now), stock ponds and a healthy stream (Dry Creek) that winds through the area, the visitor to Spenceville can feel like he’s got permission to trespass on a private ranch.
Spenceville offers a variety of game and some fishing. A “Type C” wildlife area, Spenceville offers liberal hunting opportunities with a “open for all legal species” from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. Deer, pig, rabbits, squirrels, dove, quail and turkey all exist in huntable populations. Recent years have offered excellent dove hunting thanks to efforts of area managers to plant food plots to attract the birds. Pigs come and go, and the hunter is not likely to easily encounter one without much effort and time spent. Turkeys are a good option here, and this area offers regulated spring turkey hunting with limited access early in the season, but more generous opportunities after the opening day crowds thin out.
While there are six ponds on the area, not all contain water year-round, particularly on dry years. There are a couple that offer decent fishing and frogging opportunities. Dry Creek runs through the area and does flow year-round, but only contains warmwater gamefish including green sunfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass and catfish. This is a shallow stream interrupted with pools that offer the best options for fishing. A couple of the ponds are “hike to,” and are good options for the float tuber seeking bass action.
Two major attractions at Spenceville are public shooting areas, one for firearms, the other for archery. The archery range is maintained by Yuba Bowmen and is located on Long Ravine Road. The firearms range is located on Waldo Road.
One fascinating part of Spenceville’s history requires a special regulation for visitors. No digging is allowed. The area was once used as a weapons testing grounds for nearby Beale Airforce Base, and there is the possibility that unexploded munitions exist.
Spenceville provides a challenge to the outdoor enthusiast looking for game. Some improvements like the food plots and the growing population of turkeys in the foothills have boosted hunter interest in the area, but despite this area’s potential, not many hunters spend the time it would take to find game here. Hot in the early fall, the area provides tough deer hunting conditions unless the hunter takes the time to scout for deer “hotspots.” Quail hunting can be very good here, again, if the hunter takes the time to locate the areas preferred by coveys.
While Spenceville access is available seven days per week, there are certain high use periods that require permits and access is limited. Spring turkey season is one such time, and the first weeks of the season are limited to pre-drawn permit holders only.
This area is a sleeper for the waterfowl hunter. While not offering much in the way of consistent duck or goose hunting, the ponds on the area can make for some good jump shooting at times. This is a known resource, so often the real challenge is being the first one to the pond when the ducks are there. Most of the ducks found here will be wood ducks and mallards. The area is also on a local flyway for Canada geese.
Other activities in the area include fishing at Englebright Reservoir and Camp Far West Reservoir. Lakeview Hunting Preserve is located in Sheridan, just a dozen miles west of the area. Salmon fishing is popular in the nearby Feather, Yuba and Bear rivers during the appropriate times of the year. Be sure to check regulations on all rivers before fishing, because special tackle restrictions, seasons and in the case of the Yuba, catch and release only regulations exist.
Major city facilities are in Marysville and Yuba City to the west or Grass Valley to the east. All of these towns have motels, hospitals, major chain grocery stores and sporting goods stores.