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Jim Niemiec's Blog

WON News Column
by Jim Niemic

Passionate about the sporting life, Jim Niemiec has spent his life enjoying the outdoors, hunting and fishing around the world and as a writer he’s just as passionate about  informing the public of opportunities. 

Niemiec has searched out the best destinations and reports conditions accurately, but he has also  dedicated countless hours to conservation groups (national and international) in hopes of “preserving our rights and opportunities to hunt for future generations.”
Outdoor events worth attending and more
During the off-season, except for trips to a gun range, mid-summer hog hunt or a bunny rabbit trip out to the high desert, there are not a lot of hunting opportunities out there. New 2019/20 big game and waterfowl hunting regs are out, but bird hunters are still awaiting regs for upland game bird hunting.

Western Outdoor News just received word from Patrick Raahauge, owner of Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprises (951-735-7981) that the hunting range will be hosting the first annual Raahauge’s Youth Outdoor Adventure Day on July 20. The day long venue will be held to support the Raahauge’s Shooting Sports Foundation for future shooting and other outdoor events.

YOUTHS TO SHOOT AT RAAHAUGE’S OUTDOOR ADVENTURE DAY — Youngsters will get an opportunity to learn how to handle and safely shoot small arms rifles, archery gear and learn all about the great outdoors at Youth Outdoor Adventure Day. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Youth Outdoor Adventure Day is being sponsored by Turner’s Outdoors, HOWA, Lucas Oil Products along with other representatives of the shooting sports industry, conservation groups and outdoor orientated organizations.

According to Raahauge, “Youth Outdoor Adventure Day will offer youngsters an opportunity to shoot sporting clays, enjoy an archery range and try their luck out of a stocked fishing pond. The venue will feature experts in the field of safe shotgun handling, skills with bow and arrow target shooting and the stocked fishing pond should provide a new experience for many kids. Shooting and firearms experts will be manning the shooting booths and experts in other outdoor fields will be on hand to promote outdoor safety and conservation.”

The event will begin at 8:00 a.m. and conclude at 4:00 p.m. Pre-registration is now available online at the cost of only $15, at, which will include all events and activities. Those waiting to register on the day of the event will pay $20. In addition to there being plenty of great outdoor activities to participate in, there will be a FREE youth raffle and a special adult raffle will take place after all events are closed down.

Raahauge went on to add, “Youth Outdoor Adventure Day is designed to introduce kids of all ages to the great outdoors using hands on activities to encourage more youth evolvement in outdoor adventures.”

Some of the day long activities that youngsters can participate in include: kayaking, rock wall climbing, watch live gun dog handling and wild west demonstrations, go on a nature walk, build a quail call, paint a decoy and learn how to safely handle and shoot a 22 long rifle and sharpen their shooting skills at the BB gun booth.

Hunting wild turkeys in California is probably one of the fastest growing hunting opportunities available as more and more bird hunters are enjoying success in harvesting the largest of all upland game birds. Some 60 odd years ago California didn’t offer up much in the way of good turkey hunting, but after a number of successful transplants of birds from other states, the population of birds has grown to very huntable numbers. Coastal and northern counties in the state have reestablished breeding Rio Grande and Rio Grande/hybrids populations, but it is San Diego County where excellent game management of released turkey has really taken a strong hold. The wild turkey population in San Diego County is due, in part, to a number of private ranches, vast national forest land and the fact that the terrain, at about 3,500 feet of elevation, offers up excellent nesting conditions, not to mention difficult hunter access. The last population estimate in San Diego County was in excess of 30,000 birds, which all began with released birds from other states starting back in the 1990s.

The San Diego Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will host the 21st Annual Hunting Heritage Banquet on Saturday, July 13 at the Carlton Oaks Country Club in Santee. Doors to this great event will open a 4:30 p.m. As of press time, the website for the San Diego Chapter of NWTF is currently under construction. Anyone looking to find out more about this chapter’s banquet should call Vikki Conner, chairperson, at (760) 789-5875.

This is a very active chapter that promotes many events and supports hunting in Southern California. By attending this chapter’s turkey banquet, hunters will be able to learn more about hunting turkey in San Diego County, participate in some fun games and bid on a variety of turkey hunting gear, and wildlife art by way of huge silent and live auctions.


Based on wildlife biologists’ reports coming in to WON, ducks and goose hunting in all portions of the Pacific flyway should offer up better than average waterfowl hunting. Overall puddle duck numbers are up except for mallards and pintail, but gadwall, widgeon, spoonbills and teal gained a few percentage points based on this spring’s nesting conditions. There was some flooding of nesting sites, but it appeared as if Mother Nature didn’t do much to hamper the hatching of eggs.

Pacific Wings (509-967-2303), based out of Basin City within the Columbia Basin, emailed WON about just adding a new hunting lease next to one of its more established clubs. The land and wetlands leased has great potential for combo duck and goose hunts, with a good population of Canada and snow geese using this property. Hunting will be limited to only one party at a time on the property. According to owners Mike and Justin Franklin, there are just so many goose hunting days available in Washington so this limits the number of hunters we can accommodate. All hunting takes place over full body decoys that are both land and water mixed.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

New dove hunting ammo
All native or wild upland game birds in California will now have to be hunted with non-lead shot, so out the door goes that lead shot ammo that has produced excellent gunning for dove and quail since first introduced back in the late 1800s. It’s really too bad that wing shooters have to give up on lead pellets, but DFW rules and regulations have been leading to that phase since AB 711 was passed by the legislature back in October 2013.

KENT’S NEW STEEL DOVE LOAD — This new dove load from Kent is likely to be a popular load for California dove hunters now that non-toxic shot is required.

Western Outdoor News checked in with Turner’s Outdoorsman’s Mike Etienne, Vice President of Purchasing and Marketing, to find out what this retailer has planned for dealing with upcoming issues created by AB 711.

“With ammo registration starting July 1, we brought all of our dove loads into our retail stores early so hunters can stock up before the end of June and avoid the headaches of the new regulations. Of course, this is an all steel year, so we are stocked up on Kent and Fiocchi dove loads at sales prices under $8 a box,” stated Etienne.

The following is a list of the most commonly asked questions required in the sale of ammo at the retail level now in California. This information was passed on by way of Turner’s Outdoorsman:

CA Ammunition Background Check/Registration Begins on July 1, 2019

Ammo Registration FAQ’s

1. How much will it cost for the “ammunition eligibility check”? a. There are two distinct types of ammo background checks. i. The “Standard” ammunition check will cost $1.00/transaction and will apply to persons whose information — including current address — matches an entry in CA DOJ’s “Automated Firearm System” (AFS), and who are not on the DOJ list of “Prohibited Armed Persons.” ii. The “Basic” ammunition check will cost $19.00/transaction and will likely be suited for persons who do not have a firearm listed in the AFS system, or those whose current address differs from their address for any gun listed in their name in the AFS system, or those who have undergone a legal name change (due to marriage, divorce or other reasons) that is different than their record(s) in AFS. iii. Alternately, a person purchasing a firearm may purchase ammunition at the same time and undergo one background check for the gun and ammunition at no additional cost beyond the firearm background check fees.

2. How long will the background check take? a. CA DOJ says the Standard check may be completed in a manner of minutes. b. The Basic check will take an indeterminate amount of time; CA DOJ has not announced a minimum nor a maximum amount of time for this ammo check.

3. Can I purchase ammunition in calibers or sizes that are different that those listed for me in the AFS system? a. Yes; there are no restrictions on which calibers/gauges that you can purchase.

4. Is there a limit on the amount of ammunition that I can purchase? a. No; there is no limit to the amount of ammunition that can be purchased.

5. I have a CA DOJ Certificate of Eligibility (COE), am I exempt from the process? a. COE holders are not exempt from the in-store eligibility check, but they can opt for the $1 “COE Verification Process” that is similar to the “standard” ammo background check.

6. I am a state/local or federal law enforcement officer; am I exempt from the in-store process? a. State, local or federal law enforcement officers are exempt when they show their peace officer credential and a written certification from the head of their agency when purchasing ammunition in store.

Western Outdoor News made the rounds of a few gun shops to get an idea of what’s available on dealers’ shelves in the way of new non-lead dove ammo and just how much the cost of a good dove shot is going to run. Based on shelf prices, as posted, it appears that dove/quail 20 ga. shotgun ammo will run between $8 to $12 a box for steel shot. Retailers were a bit hesitant about talking about special prices for dove ammo being available prior to dove season, but it’s a pretty good bet that there will be some sales going on at bigger retailers. Bismuth and TSS shot loads will be significantly higher, but this heavy shot can be pretty effective, especially for long distance shots or those taken at the larger Eurasian collard dove. Watch for ads in Western Outdoor News on any dove shot special pricing.

WON then went to Kent Cartridge Company’s media representative Kevin Howard to find out more about Kent’s new steel dove loads and pick up a few tips for the upcoming dove season.

“With dove hunting being a long-standing tradition, Kent Cartridge has a new steel ammo load was designed to specifically help dove hunters bag limits this coming season. Our Steel Dove loads are the only load specially designed for dove hunters who are required to use non-toxic shot. Available in both 12 and 20 gauges, all steel ammo is a 2¾ inch shell casing, with velocities up to 1400 fps for high performance. Steel dove loads use specially blended clean burning powders for reduced felt recoil. All Kent steel shot dove loads are of #6 size shot.

Over the years Howard has hosted a number of media outings for gun folks and has been very involved with hunter success and safety in the field, including working with a lot of firearms and ammo manufactures and other shooting sports related companies. WON asked Howard for a few dove hunting tips based on his years of being closely tied to the industry and hunting.

“Scouting dove before the season opens is a good way to locate dove where they are feeding and watering. I would also suggest scouting the area to be hunted to determine flight patterns, as dove seem to fly the same course repeatedly. If you see a few birds flying over a spot, it’s a good bet other dove will follow. Dress in matching camo and also try to avoid swinging a shiny barrel before a dove gets within shotgun range. Finally, it is a good idea to get out to a gun range and do some clay target shooting, especially to find out how new steel loads pattern with the newest requirements for non-toxic shot in California,” said Howard.

While Winchester’s AA shotgun shell ammo is traditionally found being used by trap, skeet and sporting clays shooters at the range, Winchester’s line of AA ammo does include a steel load. There is currently a $2 discount per box on all AA ammo that will bring the price down. This refund discount will run through Sept. 21, with a maximum refund of up $100.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

What’s all the cooing about?
Based on reports afield and from all the dove cooing going on this early in the summer it appears that this year’s dove opener should be one for the record books,IF Mother Nature cooperates a little. There appears to be a very good hatch of mourning dove taking place and white-winged dove are enjoying good nesting conditions in desert regions. Dove hunters should be able to bag 15-bird limits on opening day, Sunday, Sept. 1, and hopefully conditions will allow for multiple days of hunting thereafter.

GOOD MOURNING DOVE HUNT  — Dove hunters should enjoy some good gunning come opening day of dove season on Sept. 1. From reports being sent to Western Outdoor News there is an excellent hatch coming off with plenty of food and water available across California, over into Arizona and clear on down into Mexico. Hank Osterkamp of San Clements shows off a game strap full of mourning dove. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

There is good news coming in from the San Jacinto Wildlife Area, by way of an updated report by Wildlife Supervisor Thomas Trakes.

“Dove season is looking very strong. With all the rain we had, winter crops are coming along just fine. With some safflower seed that was donated by CWA we planted it early and it’s already heading out. We should be able to start knocking it down in a couple of weeks,” says Trakes.

Trakes went on to state, “There are more dove on the refuge than I have seen in over a decade and they are spread out across the entire refuge. I would think that this coming dove season opener will offer up very good hunting, weather permitting, and that we could see a very high per gun average. On opening day, Sunday Sept. 1 and Monday Sept. 2, the entire refuge will be open to hunting including the waterfowl area. After the Monday shoot, hunters will only have access to upland game bird fields. We plan on keeping water in some ponds and will continue with our farming through the summer months.”

Western Outdoor News was able to get in contact with wildlife supporter Leon Lesicka of Imperial Valley, who was spending some vacation time over on the river in Arizona.

“Right now, I am watching flocks of white-winged dove flying around. There appears to be more birds this year and I would think that the overall hatch will be good, at least in this southwestern part of the lower Colorado River. Also, I am seeing more Gambel’s quail around and these coveys are numbering between 10 to over a dozen chicks along with adult birds,” stated Lesicka.

When asked about the farm fields to the north of Calipatria, Lesicka says that they seem to already have been planted in wheat and should be very huntable come opening day of dove season.

WON then checked in with avid sportsman Steve Turigliatto of San Diego, who has been out scouting dove.

“I’ve been out to the Imperial Valley a number of times recently. There are great numbers of mourning dove and production seems to be in full swing. In checking on the citrus groves there appears to be very good counts on white-winged dove, but the population of Eurasian Collard dove appears to be down around rural towns, but around feed lots there are plenty of this larger species of non-native dove,” stated Turigliatto.

Turigliatto went on to add, “There is a lot or wheat, corn and melons all across the Imperial Valley, all of which are a great food source for dove.”

As for San Diego County Turigliatto said that nesting appears to be later than normal. He told Western Outdoor News that the likely reason for a later dove hatch was all the cold weather, rain and winds that blew through this county up until early June, may have set the dove hatch back a couple of weeks.

Yuma has always been a hot spot for dove hunters and this year is shaping up to be another good shoot. WON asked Richard Sprague, owner of Sprague’s Sports in Yuma,, to file a report.

“We just had our dove opener planning meeting this past week with an Arizona biologist and he reported that white-winged dove are at an all-time high and with the wetter winter we have had this year, and he is expecting the mourning dove hatch to be excellent. The World Dove Cook Off will be held this year on Sept. 7 (Saturday after opener), with more details to follow. This year will also mark the 31st Big Breast Dove Contest,” said Sprague.

In contacting Johnathan O’Dell, small game biologist for the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, the following was passed on.

“Things are looking good in Arizona. We’ve had a very wet winter this past year. Even though we have multiple nesting per year for mourning doves, our biggest hatch occurs in late July. So, it’s still a little too early to tell but it’s expected to be good. As summer agriculture in Arizona continues to be dominated by small grain crops (durum wheat specifically) the doves will only continue to benefit. The call count index for white-winged dove across Arizona remains at record highs and the population is growing steadily,” stated O’Dell.

The local hatch of mourning and Eurasian collared dove is strong as witnessed by all the paired-up dove winging around or sitting on telephone wires in Southland cities. Early morning walks with my Lab Sierra are being rewarded with the cooing of many dove, flights of paired up mallards and at times a small flock of Canada geese. Surprisingly, there appears to be ample turkey millet (dove weed) growing in areas where one would think that foxtails had totally taken over.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Rains helpful… but was there enough?
Mother Nature treated all of California, adjoining states and most all of Baja Norte with ample amounts of rainfall. Late spring rains are very unusual for the southern part of the state and right up almost through the end of May measurable rain and some snow fell at higher elevations. Western Outdoor News just returned from a long trip that carried this hunting editor clear up to the northeastern California and was followed up with a flight over southwestern Arizona and across the high desert region, all of which showed signs of some recent rain.

One of the first contacts made was with master guide Harold Horner, outfitter for High Desert Guide Service, (760) 447-1030, based out of Victorville.

CANADA GEESE OF ALTURAS — Excellent wetlands across northeastern California have contributed to an excellent waterfowl hatch. Puddle ducks and Canada geese have recently hatched out good numbers of chicks and conditions are ideal for these young birds to grow into adults. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

“The high desert did get off and on rain and some snow at higher elevations starting with those winter storms. Unfortunately, most all of the most recent weather patterns didn’t drop much in the way of any significant rain in this region, but the winds did howl across the desert floor. It’s a bit too early to determine whether chukar and quail numbers will be huntable. We normally don’t see chicks on the ground until June, but we are hopeful that chukar have recovered somewhat and that we will be seeing coveys as we start scouting for the upcoming upland game bird season,” stated Horner.

WON also checked in with valued resource Kirby Bristow, Sr. wildlife biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, who has supplied this editor not only with “on-the-spot” information, but also has been a great Arizona quail hunting partner.

“I think there will be good reproduction on Gambel’s quail, as the winter rains were the best we’ve seen in over a decade. I’ve heard reports of broods that have fledged already, so these recent rains shouldn’t reduce chick survival and may enhance it, as the moisture in general improves forage conditions,” said Bristow.

Bristow went on to add, “Arizona is holding judgement on Mearns’ quail until after the summer rains. With adequate moisture we should have good Mearns’ numbers. With luck (and summer rains) it will be a good hunting season for all three species of Arizona quail. Overall, I would guess that it won’t be outstanding (quail hunting),but I would think there will be some areas where the Gambel’s quail numbers could be excellent!”

WON spent three days up in God’s Country (Modoc County) checking out wetlands and duck/goose breeding habitat. Northeastern California and most all of northern Nevada had plenty of rain this winter and storms still continue to pound that region right up to press time. Rivers, streams, creeks and even seasonal streams are all running with many lakes and ponds spilling.

Last year this region enjoyed good rainfall that produced a bumper crop of ducks and geese and this year looks even stronger for reproduction of all waterfowl, upland game birds and big game. Canada geese have hatched most of their goslings along with some puddle duck chicks following hens around at most every bit of open water. Surprisingly, there were more paired up gadwall spotted than mallards, to go along with a few teal and some sprig.

On the upland game bird scene there were lots of Eurasian collared dove winging around Alturas, up through the Madeline Plains and across to Adin. Only a few California valley quail pairs were seen, but this could be due to excellent ground cover that is high enough to hide quail. Based on last year’s production for most all of northeastern California one would expect this year to offer up good quail hunting. Unfortunately, not much can be done about the diminishing numbers of sage grouse that back in the 70’s were found in huntable numbers.

All along the central coast conditions remain ideal for nesting hens, paired up valley quail, deer and hogs. Cold winds and wet weather has pushed back the maturing of wheat and other standing crops, but hog hunting has been off the charts. All outfitters report lots of pigs on ranch properties with the first piglets of the spring now following sows around in foot high foliage. Reports afield indicate that hog hunting will continue to get even better and remain so until crops are harvested. The acorn crop is just now beginning for all species of oaks and there should be plenty of acorns on the ground come late September.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

CANCELLED — Outdoors and shooting events at upcoming youth venues

Two youth events are scheduled at Raahauge’s Shooting Sports Enterprises which should offer up excellent exposure to the great outdoor for young boys and girls. The 21st annual Youth Safari Day will be held on July 20 and, new for this coming summer, will be Youth Day 2019, which is a Mike Raahauge Foundation event to support youth shooing and other outdoor events, and will held at Raahauge’s range on June 1.

Youth Day 2019 will offer youngsters an opportunity to shoot sporting clays, enjoy an archery range and try their luck at fishing out of a stocked pond. The venue will feature experts in the field of safe shotgun handling, skills with a bow and arrows and fishing should provide a new experience for many kids.

SCI YOUTH AT RAAHAUGE’S SHOOTING COMPLEX — Young boys and girls can learn how to handle firearms and shoot safely under the guidance of experts when attending Youth Safari Day or Youth Day 2019. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

This event will be for one day and is limited to the first 100 youths that sign up and visit the web site Only kids between the age of 12 to18 will be allowed to participate in this fun day. Included for the day of activities will be shotgun rental, ear plugs, safety shooting glasses, 25 clay bird targets, 25 rounds of ammo, archery and fishing equipment, a hot dog lunch and raffle ticket. Check-in time begins at 7:30 AM. Youngsters can also bring their own tackle.

Adults are welcome to attended Youth Day 2019. Adults can opt to purchase a lunch for $6 or for $30 (cash only) they can participate in some of the shooting events, including lunch. For additional information contact the shooting range office at (951) 735-7981.

For the past 21 years, the Orange County and Los Angeles chapters of Safari Club International have hosted Youth Safari Day at Raahauge’s, set for July 20th, and this year could be one of the best events for kids. Not only will boys and girls get an opportunity to see just how wonderful the great outdoors is, they will also get expert attention in the safe handling of 22 rifles, air guns, shotguns and archery gear.

Youth Safari Day,, is a full day of great outdoor programs and concludes with a giant raffle. Ten’s of thousands of kids have participated in this venue over the course of years, many of which have returned year after year as they were growing up. Parents from all over Southern California make the drive to Raahauge’s to witness their children experience great and safe outdoor activities.

At Youth Safari Day kids will get a chance to experience just about everything that’s out there to do and the list of activities includes, but not limited to the following: shotgun range, BB gun range, kayaking on Tule ponds, rock climbing, decoy painting, learning how to cast and fish, visit with many conservation groups, share the thrill of a big game hunt by walking through the Safari Trophy Room Trailer,

Western Outdoor News has supported Youth Safari Day since it was first organized by SCI past president Dennis Anderson, Mike Raahauge, both the L.A. and O.C. chapters of SCI and a group of very committed volunteers, whose goals were to allow all kids an opportunity to get involved in the great outdoors and participate in events that they would ordinarily not have access to in the confines of city life.


WON has recently heard of a concern of New Castle Disease in Riverside County that presently seems only to involve wild ranch chickens. A source stated that officials are coming to homes and taking domestic chickens away if they are suspected of carrying or being exposed to the deadly New Castle Disease. As of press time, there hasn’t been any evidence presented that this disease has spread. It was years ago when the New Castle Disease broke out in Riverside County that resulted in many lost upland game birds and pigeons used for dog training. As a result of this disease, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed restrictions on bringing upland game birds and waterfowl harvested in Mexico back to the United States.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

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