Western Outdoor News, NorCal
California Guns & Hunting

Bill Karr has been full time staff with Western Outdoor Publications for 25 years now and was raised fishing and hunting, as well as managing, owning and building marshes and duck clubs. He's hunted archery and gun for mule deer, blacktail, whitetail, antelope, elk, wild pigs, grouse, pheasants, doves, ducks, geese, pigeons, crows, turkeys, rabbits and exotics around the United States, Mexico and Canada, and even run trap lines in the winter. Karr has been published in Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, many newspapers and had his photography published internationally. Karr is a Navy Vietnam-era veteran, past president of the Outdoor Writer’s Association of California (OWAC), member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) and an inductee of the California Outdoors Hall of Fame. He has been awarded two Public Service Recognition Awards by the Outdoor Writers Association of California OWAC) for organizing and running the WON “Shoot for the Future” program and for the WON YOUTH OUTDOOR SPORTS FAIRS. He has served on the Youth Committee of the California Waterfowl Association, and as a member of the Advisory Committee to the California Department of Fish and Game, Game Bird Heritage Program.

Lead that bird: Become a better wingshooter
How did you do on the dove opener? Was it 15 shots for 15 dead doves? Not likely, especially since it’s the first bird hunt of the year, and it usually takes a few shots (boxes for some) to get dialed in.

So, the Sept. 1 dove opener came as an eye-opener to the lack of practice most of us had during the off-season, and we were reminded we gotta “get back into it.”

Of course, not all bird hunting will be as challenging as doves, considering their speed, quirky moves in mid-air and dodging/ darting ability, but even so, taking a look at what you may or may not be doing right is important.

Keep these seven things in mind next time you pick up your shotgun and you’ll see your wingshooting game ­improve immediately. 

1. Let your hips and back do the work: Your shotgun swing is the primary factor that leads to hits and misses, and a proper swing begins in the hips. During the shot, the upper body should remain fixed relative to the gun, your feet should serve as your anchor, and your hips should allow for lateral movement. Understanding this simple principle will help correct many of the mistakes you’re making when shooting crossing birds. To hit incoming or outgoing targets, your body should trace the path of the bird by flexing or extending your spine while maintaining a fixed position with your upper body and legs. 

2.  Improve consistency: Inconsistencies in gun mount foils many shooters and makes them miss even before they ever pull the trigger. Practice proper gun mount over and over again, and be certain that you can quickly and naturally get into position for a shot. When you elevate your shoulders, your face should strike the same position on the stock every time. Very, very few shotgunners practice gun mount over and over as they should, and very few shooters mount their gun consistently with every shot — coincidence? Repeating the mounting process builds muscle memory and allows your brain to subconsciously get into position for the shot even when there’s a cackling rooster exploding underfoot.

3. Don’t be overgunned or overchoked: Dropping to a low-recoiling gun for practice or borrowing a sub-gauge gun for a hunt oftentimes remedies problems that go unnoticed with the punch and blast of larger guns. Don’t overchoke your gun, either; an improved cylinder choke should be effective (depending upon your field load) to 25 or even 35 yards, and most shots at wild birds occur around that distance. If birds are jumping early, a modified or even a skeet 2/light modified will generally get the job done.

4. Shoot one bird at a time: If you haven’t gotten lost in a large flock of birds, then you haven’t done much wingshooting or waterfowl hunting. With big flocks of birds it’s easy to go from one dove to the next as massive flocks of the birds pass overhead. Pick one target, offer it your full attention, and kill that bird before you move on to the next.

5. Take your time and shoot quickly: New shooters tend to be overwhelmed by fast-moving targets and shoot behind fast-moving birds. Eventually, most wingshooters try to compensate for this by rushing the shot in the hopes that a high-speed mount and trigger pull will compensate for sloppy mechanics and poor target focus. The best wingshooters, though, eventually realize that a smooth gun mount and proper trigger engagement is actually much faster (and much more successful) than a quick-draw slop shot. The best way to achieve this Zen-like state? Shoot a bunch of skeet, trap and sporting clays from a low gun position. Over time, you’ll realize that you have more time than you imagine — and that a cool hand and a smooth shot is far more effective than a mad scramble to the trigger.

6. Ditch the bead: Some of the best wingshooters intentionally pull the beads from their shotguns. Why? Because switching focus between the bead and the bird results in a choppy swing and an inevitable miss. It’s easy to remain focused on the bird while maintaining a complete understanding of where the muzzle of your gun is pointed. To test this, focus on an object and pretend to mount your shotgun. You can maintain target-focus while remaining acutely aware of the position of your front hand; the same goes for the rib of your shotgun.

7. Rethink your lead: One of the questions frequently asked by new shooters is how far to lead a crossing bird or target — three feet? Four feet? These cheats can work on a skeet field where every station is exactly the same presentation, but they’re generally useless when you’re shooting wild birds. Instead, begin your swing, pass the target, and press the trigger while you keep the muzzle moving. When the lead feels right, be ready to press that trigger.

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Fight pollution!
Hunting wild pigs helps keep groundwater clean!

Any excuse will do when it comes to doing something you love to do, right? And since I love hunting wild pigs, I just found another reason why I should get out there and hunt even more of them!

In addition to the extensive damage that wild pigs can cause to crops, farmland, ranch land and wild areas, a study has now determined that they have a detrimental impact on water quality! Not a surprise for anyone who has seen a hog wallow, but the study goes beyond that.

It seems that a research project done by the LSU Agricultural Center’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, found that wild hogs were having similar detrimental effects on water quality in 64 parishes in central Louisiana.

According to the report, the research, conducted in 2015, revealed that pathogens were extensive in sampled water bodies on private lands adjacent to Kisatchie National Forest and were regularly asso­ciated with feral hogs. The water at all 40 sites in the study contained one or more pathogens that were potentially unsafe for human or wildlife contact.

Of particular concern in the 40 sites sampled was DNA fingerprinting that positively matched 22 sites with high levels of E. coli in the water with fecal samples obtained from feral hogs both within and outside the areas sampled.

Additionally, salmonella was found at 38 of 40 sites. Both pathogens are considered harmful to both humans and wildlife. Associations were also noted between feral hog presence, heterotrophic bacteria counts (a measure of overall bacteria amount in the water) and microbes that could cause leptospirosis, yersinosis and Klebsiella pneumonia.

For wildlife, the diseases could have devastating effects. Leptospira can cause kidney damage and loss of renal function in squirrels, raccoons and white-tailed deer. Leptospira has caused abortions in white-tailed deer and many other mammals. I’m guessing it would do the same with blacktail and mule deer.

Salmonella can infect wild turkeys and other wild birds resulting in liver damage, severe diarrhea and death. Klebsiella can cause sinusitis and pneumonia in wild birds and turkeys. Yersinia can cause gastro­enteritis in white-tailed deer and raccoons, and severe overwinter mortality has been observed in wild migratory birds.

And not surprisingly, the bigger the feral hog population, the more impact they have on regional water quality, and since feral hogs are known carriers of more than 30 bacterial and viral diseases, including many pathogens than can be spread through contact with water, it’s not a good thing.

Many recreational activities in these areas, including swimming, kayaking and hunting, could put humans in direct contact with these pathogens.

Humans can become gravely ill from some of these diseases if misdiagnosed or untreated. DNA fingerprinting indicated that feral hog family groups were moving or being moved great distances in the region, up to about 30 miles at a time.

The long and short of it is that wild pig populations, when allowed to grow to large numbers in certain areas, pose a real threat to wildlife populations and human health. The fortunate thing here in California, is that there are almost no areas where wild pigs are in large enough numbers to really impact anything other than a small stock pond or spring.

In reality, we are a state of millions of people and relatively small areas of public land where hunting is allowed. Public lands are heavily hunted, so wild pigs are never allowed to gain in big numbers. And private lands are allowed depredation permits where wild pigs can be killed day and night with little or no oversight, so they never really gain in big numbers there either.

So, while a big wild pig population in some states might be a problem, here in California it’s not likely to ever pose a significant threat to any of our water resources. Even so, I’ll do my share in trying to keep the wild pig population down in the state. It’s my duty. And my job as an outdoor writer.

Hunting tag draw
So, how did you fare in the California big game drawing?

Well, well, well, I truly was a little surprised that I was not drawn for anything this year from my hunting applications for deer, elk, antelope or bighorn sheep or extra fundraising drawing fundraising tags. Because I also wasn’t drawn for anything last year in 2015. Oh wait, I wasn’t drawn for anything in 2014, or 2013, either! Really? No, no really. I also wasn’t drawn for any big game animal in 2012, or 2011!

I didn’t remember being on a dry streak that long, but checking it out, that makes it 6 years that I haven’t drawn any of my choices for any big game species in California. I guess it’s not a good idea to be calling for the DFW Director to resign or be replaced and still expect to be drawn for a good tag, right? Nah, no way that could impact anything.

So now, I’ve got 14 points for bighorn, 13 points for pronghorn antelope, and 5 each for deer and elk. It’s no wonder that I, and other hunters, are hunting outside of California instead of in this state… chances of getting drawn for a good hunt are almost zilch already, and with the mind set of those running the DFW, we’re going to get fewer hunting opportunities in the state, not more.

Sure, we can always apply for the huge, non-productive A and D Zones, or the B Zones that have a lot of deer but also a lot of territory to cover, so any scouting requires living in the area or spending weeks on the road and scouting. Sorry, I don’t have the time, and many others don’t, either.

The good thing, is that I’m getting to know some of the D3-D5 areas really well, and with my new Polaris side-by-side crew cab, I’ll be able to take advantage of some of the ORV roads in the Sierra. Looking forward to that, but I also bought 4 doe whitetail deer tags in Wyoming at about $40 apiece, so my venison supply is guaranteed.

Fly Fishing in the National Parks 


In celebration of the National Parks 100th anniversary, Terry and Wendy Gunn and Bennett Mintz researched, wrote and edited a new book entitled “25 Best National Parks to Fly Fish,” a how-to-do-it manual on fly fishing every park from Maine to Alaska, published by Stonefly Press.

The book’s foreword was written by Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service. “25 Best National Parks to Fly Fish” is dedicated to Lefty Kreh with the notation, “Lefty Kreh has touched more lives and converted more people to fly fishing than anyone ever has or ever likely will.”

Each park chapter contains driving directions, entry and access information, fish species, and recommended tackle, fly patterns and mile markers for river and lake entry along with detailed maps and photos. Accompanying each chapter is a “sidebar” of travel information including highways, airports nearest the park, fly shops, campgrounds, hotels, restaurants, lodges, outfitters, must-see attractions and nearby emergency medical services.

Each park consists of a single chapter with the exception of Yellowstone. Because of its size and number of fly-fishable waters extending beyond the park boundaries, Yellowstone Park is divided into four chapters primarily in Wyoming, but extending into Montana and Idaho.

For additional information or to purchase the book, contact Stonefly Press at; fax (877-609-3814); or e-mail

Land lockup forever
Say ‘No’ to National Monuments

The five-member Arizona Game and Fish Commission and 10 former commissioners have sent a letter to President Barack Obama, urging that he not designate 1.7 million acres in northern Arizona as a new Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. And it’s about time the states began calling for an end to such designations of huge public land masses.

Most National Monuments have bee declared by a president, and every single time they proclaim the “protection” of such lands, usually for “future generations.” The truth is, the same restrictions imposed at the time of creation of a national monument will continue for perpetuity. There is no “future use” for those “future generations”…just continued restrictions and closures.

There’s a lot more at stake in giving away rights to existing state lands and uses, and some of the issues have included the size of the areas and types of resources protected; the effects of monument designation on land uses; the level and types of threats to the areas; the inclusion of nonfederal lands within monument boundaries; the act’s limited process compared with the public participation and environmental review aspects of other laws; and the agency managing the monument.

Opponents have sought to revoke or limit the President’s authority to proclaim monuments, but so far, pretty much any time the President wants to take away public lands under the guise of “National Monuments”, they get away with it.

Congress is currently considering proposals to preclude the President from unilaterally creating monuments in particular states, and to impose environmental studies and public input procedures, among other changes.

Obviously, Monument supporters favor the act in its present form, asserting that the public and the courts have upheld monument designations and that many past designations that initially were controversial have come to be supported. They contend that the President needs continued authority to promptly protect valuable resources on federal lands that may be threatened.

I vehemently disagree with that thought. There should never be one person making decisions that impact the states, and millions of citizens of the United States. Never has that been more obvious than under the Obama presidency, where he has violated his oath of office and the Constitution of the United States too many times to count, especially with his “Executive orders.” Obama has done more damage to our lands and our liberties than any president in our great history.

Calling the proposed monument “a solution to a non-existing problem,” the Arizona commissioners said designating this large swath of land as a national monument could impose unnecessary rules and regulations, negatively impact outdoor recreation, and compromise the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s ability to manage and conserve wildlife.

The commissioners support the multiple-use concept on public land, as that approach provides the most wildlife-related recreational opportunities for the public and allows the commission and department to work closely with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on sustainable resource management.

“That partnership is not broken, and we do not believe another layer of bureaucracy is needed to conserve or ‘protect’ 1.7 million more acres on the Arizona Strip or Kaibab National Forest,” the commissioners said in the letter.

The commissioners countered several claims by monument proponents, pointing out that:

— There is no threat to the migration corridor for deer between Arizona and Utah. If an issue were to arise, they should seek to remedy and mitigate it, not create another set of rules.

— Selected harvest and forest management is a viable management tool and shouldn’t be eliminated. Catastrophic wildfires over the last decade demonstrate the importance of regulated forest management.

— The area is already protected from uranium mining under a moratorium until 2032, at which time there may be new, environmentally safer technologies that would allow for cleaner extraction.

— Travel management plans in the national forests have already closed many roads. The public shouldn’t be denied reasonable access to their public lands from additional road closures a monument designation might bring.

— Ranchers who are good stewards of both the land and wildlife could be forced out by monument restrictions. Game and Fish works with many ranchers and private landowners who take wildlife needs into consideration.

Finally, the letter pointed out that Arizona already has more national monuments (18) than any other state, and that only 23 percent of the remaining federally owned public land in the state does not have some sort of special designation.

The commissioners concluded that the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department can ensure that Arizona’s wildlife is properly managed and conserved by working cooperatively with the Forest Service and the BLM, and they urged the President not to burden Arizona with this unwarranted national monument designation.

Just say “no” to any more federal takeovers of state lands, it does nothing but limit use by us, the public, and shuts us out of our own lands.

Change in deer tag numbers indicative of hunting future
The writing is on the wall. And it has been for quite a few years, as we have brought to your attention many times before. If you didn’t believe it before, you can now: Animal Rights, anti-hunting activists have a firm hold on California and their efforts are now being seen directly in a big change in the allocation of big game hunting tags issued in California, just announced in a Jan. 8 announcement from the California Fish and Game Commission.

The announced change is striking the number of deer (and other big game species) tags allowed to be sold statewide from a long established number to a series of ranges, with every single one of them much lower than the existing number. That, of course, allows the DFW to respond to lower herd numbers by allowing hunters to shoot far fewer animals.

In case you missed it in my previous writings, this potential lowering of hunting opportunity in California is related to a few different things, the very least of which is what the announcement mentions: “Because various environmental factors including severe winter conditions can adversely affect herd recruitment and over-winter adult survival, the final recommended quotas may fall below the current proposed range in the ‘low kill’ alternative…”. Let’s clarify, EVERY SINGLE change is well below the current range except for the B Zone, which remains 35,000 as a minimum.

The true reason for the change in tag allocations is this: The DFW fully expects big game numbers in California to fall in the very near future, and not because of “winter kill,” but because of predation by the ever-growing numbers of mountain lions, bears, coyotes, and now wolves. That’s the big deal. Now that we have a pack of wolves in California, and they are already beginning to kill livestock, it won’t take very long for more and more wolf packs to spread across the North State and begin wiping out our small herds of elk, and remaining deer herds.

It was not animal-rights activists that brought the wolf pack into California directly, but the huge influx of wolves into the United States was brought about by animal-rights activities nationwide — all part of their plan to replace hunters with predators.

Just as an example of the new proposed tag allocation numbers, the A zone currently offers 65,000 deer tags, but will in the future be 30,000 - 65,000. That means the number of deer tags could be cut by more than 50%. And the same is true of almost every single one of the A through D Zones. For the X zones, Archery Hunts and the Additional Hunts, the same applies, with huge potential cuts in the tag allocation numbers.

Similar changes are being made for elk herds and even bighorn sheep, so the DFW is expecting impacts on every big game species in the state.

This entire thing was a well-thought-out plan that has taken decades to bring online. A big part of it was the replacement of qualified fish and wildlife people in the various state fish and game agencies, and in those who make the fishing and hunting laws, like our very own California Fish and Game Commission. We have suffered severe damage by anti-hunting and fishing Fish and Game Commissioners, and Directors of the DFW who truly don’t support consumptive sports.

The future of hunting in California is growing dim, and that’s tough on hunters and outdoor folks, but it’s even worse for the various wildlife species in California that are being impacted by animal-rights, anti-hunting groups that are bringing about these changes. It is not healthy wildlife management, and it spells doom for some species in the state. But for those anti-hunting zealots, they would rather see deer and elk die violently via tooth and claw than by hunters’ guns.

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