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CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

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.”
Now is the time to shoot up your lead ammo!
Now would be a great time to check out the old lead shot ammo that upland game bird and big game hunters have likely stored away for years. The lead ban regulation goes into full effect next July, and no lead-based ammo will be allowed for sport hunting. It’s been a number of years since lead ammo has been banned in the Condor range, at state and federal wildlife refuges and the latest ban covered all wild big game along with native chukar, turkey, grouse and pheasant.

oldleadshotammo
OLD LEAD SHOT AMMO BOXES — Old shotgun shell ammo boxes make for great displays in gun rooms and man caves. This is part of the Niemiec collection of old shotgun shell cardboard boxes and wooden cases. The old art work on these shotgun shell boxes is really neat when set up on a shelf. Many of the older boxes from Remington, Winchester and Federal have a pretty high collector value. JIM NIEMIEC FILE PHOTO


Western Outdoor News checked in with Bill Gaines, president of Bill Gaines & Associates, whose profession is being a watch dog and communications specialist covering activities of the California Legislature, CA Fish and Wildlife Commission meetings and anything going on in Sacramento that would have any affect on hunting, sport shooting or pending new regulations relating to firearms, hunting accessories and ammunition.


WON asked Gaines to check on non-lead regulations that will go into effect on July 1, 2019.


“On July 1 of next year, non-lead ammunition will be required when taking wildlife with a firearm any where in California,” stated Gaines.


This hunting editor then asked Gaines as to whether he thought that perhaps there would an exception made by the CA Fish and Wildlife Commission for dove, quail and snipe hunting and the following was his response.


“It is a statute. As such the Commission doesn’t have that authority. Would have to be done by the State Legislature. As you know from my Special Reports, the past two years we have sponsored legislation that, if passed, would have given the Commission the authority to “temporarily suspend” the lead prohibition for those hunting seasons/calibers that ammo was deemed “reasonably unavailable,” said Gaines. (2017 AB 1544, & 2018 AB 3177)


Gaines went on to add, “With 70 percent of our State Legislature representing urban districts and with no background or real knowledge of hunting and its related conservation benefits AND many of those that voted in support of AB 711 (the Legislature that put the lead ammo phase-down in motion) in 2012 still in office, both bills died a quick death. We will, however, continue to educate the Legislature on why an avenue for relief of AB 711’s mandates is critical – especially in light of subsequent legislation and propositions passed which substantially restrict or fully prohibit internet/mail order or out of state purchases of ammunition by California residents.


So what options are presently available to shoot up lead shot ammo. Fortunately, Eurasian collared dove can be legally hunted all year long without any bag limit, quail season is set to open up on Oct. 20 and then there will be the second half of the dove season that is set to open Nov. 10. It’s not completely out of the question to hunt any of these smaller game birds with heavier lead and even copper plated lead shot. This hunter has often opted to hunt late season upland game birds with shot sizes from #6’s down to #4’s, of which, many are high-base loads. In fact, hunting with larger shot can often lead to more birds bagged by a single #4 pellet. Not too sure on what you want to hunt with heavier #1 or BB lead shot, except to hang on to these loads for self-defense use.


There is also the option of heading across the state line over to Arizona, where presently there are no bans on hunting with lead ammo other than on state and federal wildlife refuges and some adjoining lands. Arizona wildlife biologist Randy Babb told WON that the only restriction on hunting lead bullets is on the northern section of Arizona due to the presence of endangered Condors.


For those that will be hunting down into Baja or Sonora, Mexico and have registered a couple of shotguns, the Mexican government allows hunters to bring 100 rounds for each shotgun registered when crossing the border for the first time. According to Arturo Malo, outfitter for BajaHunting.com, gun permits are only valid for 90 days. There are three stores where additional ammo can be purchased that are located in the Mexican cities of: Tijuana, Mexicali and Ensenada. Gregg Shobe, who is the U.S. representative for Rancho El Coyote-Meling, 619-390-0905, which offers some of the best guided California valley quail hunting on Baja Norte, told WON, “Once in Mexico, hunters with gun permits can purchase additional shotgun shel

l ammo from Felipe Sierra’s sporting goods store in downtown Ensenada.”

Most shotgun and sporting clay ranges still allow the breaking of clay targets with lead ammo, but there are a few ranges that have already adopted the use of a non-toxic shotgun shell ammo.


The Tejon Ranch, (661) 724-1218, is totally restricted to hunting big game, upland game birds and small game animals with non-toxic shoot or large caliber bullets. This regulation, which has been in affect for a number of years, has not seemed to have had any adverse effect on the harvesting of elk, deer, coyotes, turkey or the various species of upland game birds hunted on this 270,000-acre working cattle and hunting ranch.


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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. 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.


X Zone Mule Deer Hunting Forecase
Good forage, food and habitat conditions along the eastern slopes of the High Sierra have produced a very strong population of mule deer and prospects for X zones, some of which will open on Sept. 15, are very encouraging. While the last few winters have produced good snow fall and a slightly below average snowpack, it appears as if aquafers are pretty well primed with streams and creeks flowing at about a normal rate.

Western Outdoor News checked in with Jim Reid, owner of Ken’s Sporting Goods, (760) 932-7707, in Bridgeport to find out what rifle hunters can expect come opening day of the general deer season.


dandyzonea
DANDY ZONE A BLACKTAIL — Saul Lopez of Hollister hunted with master guide Chad Wiebe, Oak Stone Outfitters, and shot this dandy trophy-class blacktail buck. Deer hunting has been good along the coastal range. PHOTO COURTESY OF CENTRAL COAST TAXIDERMY


“We are getting good reports from archery hunters who have been out hunting for a couple of weeks now. Over opening week, we had no less than 10 hunters came into this sporting goods store to report their harvesting a buck and a number of these deer sported pretty good antler mass. For the most part, archery hunters are seeing lots of deer out across this X-12 zone with good conditions afield,” stated Reid.


Reid went on to add, “There appears to be no shortage of deer this season, but they are pretty well scattered. Good reports of a healthy herd of mulies is coming in from the badlands of Bodie Hills where there is ample water and some good stands of high sage and a pretty good food source. Come opening day of the general season, I am sure that there will be plenty of deer hunters high up in the High Sierra range, where fall conditions are near perfect. I would think that Eagle Peak and the Walker Mountain areas will produce a few dandy bucks this season. Nighttime temperatures are now dipping down into the high 30s and this will hopefully get deer moving around a little better. Those bucks that were harvested during archery season were still in velvet, but I would think that most all the bucks shot during the general deer season will be carrying a hard rack.”


Deer hunters planning on hunting around Bridgeport should not overlook stopping by Ken’s Sporting Goods to get a recent update, perhaps an area map and find out about entering this shop’s Big Buck Contest.


WON also checked in with Roxanne Foley, manager of the Silver Maple Inn and Walker River Lodge, (760) 932-7383, both of which cater to hunters, fishermen and are dog-friendly.


“It’s definitely feeling more like fall with temps dipping towards 30 degrees at night, some of the native trees are already turning golden, but daytime temps are still climbing into the mid-70s. Our inn has been popular with deer and duck hunters and trout fishermen for decades. Each opening weekend we cater to lots of sportsmen who are sporting gun dog owners and we have great kennels. Being located in some of the best mule deer hunting country along Hwy. 395, and our close proximity to the East Fork of Walker River that offers up great fall fly fishing, makes our lodges ideal places to stay,” said Foley.


Moving south to Bishop Western Outdoor News talked with Jeff Nelums, manager of Regan’s Sporting Goods, (760) 872-3000, about the outlook for zones X9a and X9b.


“These two X zones should produce some dandy bucks this season. There is plenty of water and food available along with a pretty good carry over of mule deer from the last two years. We have already had successful archery hunters check in and they all report seeing bucks. Most of the deer are hanging out at higher elevations, as daytime temps are still getting up into the high 80s. I would think that a soon as the eastern High Sierra gets the first snow fall that bigger bucks will be on the move. All of the X zones are great deer hunting areas and can produce some big racks and that’s why the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife have put these in a limited draw category,” said Nelums.


When asked about zone X9c Nelums added the following information, “This zone has produced some exceptional bucks over the past few years. It won’t open until Oct. 20 and by that time herds of deer should be down off the higher mountains adjoining the lower Owens River Valley and hunter success is traditionally very high.”


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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. 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.



Dove opener just fine, but birds scattered
Thousands of dove hunters showed up in the Imperial Valley for opening weekend of dove season and they were not disappointed in the number of birds winging over most all of the vast desert valley. Daytime temperatures on Friday nearly reached 110 degrees, which made for pretty poor scouting conditions as dove were reluctant to leave the shade of nearby roost trees.

Mother Nature cooperated the following morning after temps cooled down over night and the entire valley woke up to clear skies with temps holding at just under 80 degrees for most of the morning . Western Outdoor News didn’t have a chance to scout prior to opening morning, as there was a Combat Marine Outdoors event in Brawley hosted by Brandt Beef, Osterkamp Farms and the Fleming family. A group of some 35 wounded veterans were honored at the Stockmen’s Club and then guided to an awesome mourning dove hunt at Brandt Beef Farms.


limitedondove
LIMITED ON DOVE AND MORE — Gus Osterkamp of Tustin shot well on opening day of dove season while hunting alongside a stand of salt cedar. There were very few white-winged dove flying, but lots of mature mourning dove. In addition to bagging his limit of mourning dove, Osterkamp topped off his morning shoot with three big Eurasian collared dove. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC


Just prior to sunrise the entire valley echoed with sounds of many shotgun blasts across the desert floor. Our group of hunters had checked in to the Best Western (Brawley) and it was loaded with dove hunters. The staff had set up a cleaning station on the back parking lot and there was plenty of ice available.


WON checked in with a number of hunters after the morning hunt and there were mixed reports from those who had hunted as far north as the Farm Fields of Niland clean on down to some of the fallow farm wheat fields above El Centro. The consensus for the morning shoot was that there were plenty of birds flying but they were scattered. Also, many hunters commented on the lack of white-winged dove and fewer Eurasians dove feeding in fallow grain fields.


John Summers of Riverside, and his brother Bill, hunted the Upland Game Bird fields north of Calipatria using a map they picked up at the hotel. “There was a lot of hunting pressure on all of the fields. I think at our first field there were hunters surrounding the entire field, thus not giving the birds a chance to land. There was some friendly fire and hunting was tough. After harvesting 5 doves, our party decided to find another less crowded field. Finally, at about 8 a.m. we located a field off Hazard Rod and finished our limits of mostly mourning dove and a couple of Eurasian collared dove, but NOwhite-winged dove,” said Summers.


WON teamed up with Gus Osterkamp of Tustin and Mark Osterkamp of Brawley for a hunt to the east of Brawley along the flowing East Highline Canal. The hunt started off slow with just a few birds winging low over salt cedar brush, but after the sun got up a few little mixed flocks of mourning and Eurasian dove winged well within shotgun range along an established flyway. Fifteen-bird limits were bagged by 8:30 and the morning hunt ended with a handful of high flying Eurasian collared dove bagged.


John Massie of Ramona hunted on My Country Club leased ranch property around Lake Henshaw and filed the following report with WON:


“It was limit shooting for most hunters shooting over fallow grain fields, stubble or around a water hole. I shot a limit, but due to heavy cover was only able to find 7 mourning dove. Many hunters commented about the lack of white-winged dove and Eurasian dove in this northern part of San Diego County. My biological background would indicate that those big thunderstorms that hit this area last week, moved that species of dove south. Most of the birds that I shot were harvested after 8 a.m., likely due to cooler morning temperatures and plenty of food available nearby,” said Massie.


Massie added the following, “Just before sunset, on my home, I bumped a flock of a couple hundred dove, so there is definitely a migration in progress. My suggestion would be for hunters to spend some time scouting and then look ahead to the second half of the dove season.


Dove hunting was very slow at the San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge, located near Lakeview in Riverside County. According to the opening day report filed by Thomas Trakes, Wildlife Specialist for the refuge, there were a total of 162 hunters who headed out across the huge refuge but hunting was extremely difficult. There were only 98 dove harvested for a per-gun average of 0.6 per gun.


Dove hunters enjoyed pretty darn good mourning dove hunting is some spots of Riverside County for the Saturday shoot. Many limits were bagged, but more than half of those checked by WON had only about 5 to 8 birds for the morning hunt, but were hopeful that the evening flight might produce more birds bagged. An overcast sky and some drizzle made dove hunting in the county very tough for the Sunday shoot.


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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. 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 new afield
Very good news was passed on by Rick Francis, Wildlife Supervisor for Wister as WON was going to press.

“We just finished mowing our wheat fields and huge flocks of mourning and white-winged dove came to this food source. There is fresh water available, some good roosts nearby and all this should combine to produce a banner opening holiday weekend of dove hunting down here in Imperial Valley. After mowing Wister hunt sites 415 and 312A, both species of dove piled into these fields and there was enough water to allow them to drink nearby. There are not too many Eurasian collared dove winging over the refuge at this time,” stated Francis.


newblackcloud

NEW BLACK CLOUD AMMO FROM FEDERAL — Federal Ammunition has added #1 and #3 waterfowl shot, in both 12 and 20-ga., to its popular line of Black Cloud duck and snow goose ammo. Dealers will have these new loads on selves for opening of duck season.


Francis went on to add, “The Farm Fields, just to the north of Brawley and off Hwy 111, were mowed last week and they are holding good numbers of birds right now. The weather is looking very promising with early morning temps in the high 70s. It’s looking like cooler weather might stay in place through opening weekend. There are still chances of thunder shower activity, but right now weather conditions are looking very promising,” said Francis.


Western Outdoor News has been checking on wetlands, estuaries and newly flooded duck ponds for the past week and indications are that the first small flocks of puddle ducks are starting to arrive. Prado Basin enjoyed a good local hatch of mallards, teal and gadwall on O.C. Water District ponds that are rotated and kept flooded all year long. Already these local birds are mixing with newly arriving puddle ducks hatched in other areas of California. At Wister, which traditionally sees it’s first winter flocks of northern pintail arrive by late August, there hasn’t been any showing up yet. According to Rick Francis, refuge manager, the refuge has started to flood up for waterfowl season and that could be the reason no new flights have arrived to date.


Ducks Unlimited’s latest report indicates that the overall waterfowl population is down for this current year, based on a survey just released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While most duck species LTA (long-term average) populations are above normal levels, only the widgeon showed an overall small increase in the number of ducks that will fill flyways this fall. Gadwall at 31 percent below 2017 levels, northern pintail and blue-winged teal at 18 percent below 2017 counts faced the largest species population declines.


Ducks Unlimited went on to state, “When and where ducks will be depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat and weather conditions, as well as other factors, all influence local bird abundance, distribution and ultimately, hunter success!


Perhaps, finally, AB 2805 – Depredation: Wild Pigs, authored by AM Frank Bigalow, will bring the cost of hog hunting down to where it should have been years ago. This newly introduced bill would make some major changes in the way California manages its growing wild pig population. This bill would, as authored, eliminate the need for ranch owners to purchase a pig tag for every pig taken (by depredation) and, as it stands now, allow the hunting public the opportunity to purchase an annual validation for hunting wild hogs. According to Bill Gaines, of Bill Gaines and Associates, AB 2805 will allow hunters to purchased a validation (similar to a duck stamp) and only have to buy it once a year and it would be good for as many pigs as a hunter would like to shoot. Gaines thinks that the cost of this annual wild pig validation will likely be $25.


Talking about wild hogs, Lincoln Raahauge announced last week that he will be starting to hunt the foothills of western slopes of the High Sierra on a private 12,000-acre ranch located about a 30-minute drive from Fresno. Raahauge’s hunts are for 2½ days, starting on Friday afternoon and ending on Sunday and he offers: a hunt conducted by a licensed guide, all-terrain vehicle afield, food, lodging, field dressing of a pig and hunting over experienced hog dogs. Hunters need bring all-weather hunting gear, sleeping bag, gun(s) ammo, hunting license and pig tag. For additional information and booking information Lincoln Raahauge’s Hog Hunting Guide Service, call (951) 334-1018.


Federal Ammunition has just introduced some new upland game bird and waterfowl shotgun shell ammo. While many dove hunters opt to shoot smaller gauge ammo on mourning and white-winged dove hunts, those having the extra option of shooting bigger Eurasian Collared dove often step up to a 12-gauge shotgun. Federal now has added new load options for its Hi-Bird Upland game bird ammo. Introduced just last year in limited shot sizes, now hunters can find #4, #5 and #6 lead Hi-Bird on dealer’s shelves. The powerful Hi-Bird loads feature a two-piece wad with SoftCell technology to decrease perceived recoil and produce a more consistent long-range pattern. With lead shot still being legal in California for quail and dove, Hi-Bird ammo is ideally suited for late season dove hunting when birds become fully feathered.


For waterfowl hunters Federal expanded load options for its Premium Black Cloud ammo featuring FLITEVCONTRL FLEX. Black Cloud ammo is now available in shot size # 1 and #3 in both 12 and 20-gagues. This load has a payload of 40 percent FLITESTOPPER steel pellets and 60 percent Premium steel for dense patterns and larger wound channels.


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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. 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.


Now is the time to check out your shotgun!
Don’t wait until opening morning of dove season to find out that you have a mal-function with your favorite upland game bird shotgun. Many times over the past half a century, this hunting editor has been with hunting parties where at least one hunter required the use of a back up shotgun, loaner or had to pass a shotgun back and forth between hunting buddies.

Western Outdoor News headed out to Mike Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprises shotgun and 5 Stand target ranges this past week and joined in on some fun clay bird shooting. It was a busy venue and most likely closer to opening day of dove season, the ranges will have longer lines of shooters awaiting their turn at each station. Fortunately, this shooter’s Charles Daly 20 ga. O/U shot just fine after spending a few weeks in the hands of Fred Borders, owner of Bolsa Gunsmithing, (714) 894-9100, in Westminster.


preopenereurasian
PRE-OPENER EURASIAN DOVE SHOOT — WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec shows off a bunch of Eurasian collared dove that he shot just outside the rural town of Niland shooting with Federal Premium copper-plated 7.5 shot. Many dove hunters try to shoot a few of these big dove prior to opening morning of dove season. JIM NIEMIEC FILE PHOTO


Not only is it a good idea to head out to a nearby range to sharpen up one’s shooting eye, but it’s also time to make sure your shotgun barrel is clean and that any rust or grime is removed before heading out to a dove field.


Western Outdoor News checked in with Mendel Woodland, operator of Mendel’s Hunting, (626) 255-1422, based out of El Centro, who has some spots for opening weekend of dove season.


“I still have a couple of open spots for dove hunters come opening weekend. The ranches that I will be hunting this year are currently holding good numbers of both mourning and white-winged dove. I limit the number of hunters on each ranch and spread my hunters out to ensure that each shooter gets a good opportunity at harvesting his limit of dove. There are also pretty good numbers of Eurasian collared dove winging through this part of the valley,” said Woodland.


There is more good news coming out of the Yuma region from Richard Spraque, owner of Sprague’s Sports, (928) 502-0447, whose huge retail store is in Yuma, Ariz.


“We had a dove opener planning meeting last Thursday with vested parties and as of today the white-winged dove population is looking solid. In fact, the AZGFD small game biologist form Phoenix was down for the meeting and previously toured a bunch of different fields and was impressed. His report stated that there were no pre-migration formations of white-winged, which is thought to be a good indicator (of dove sticking around through opening weekend). We are still way behind in moisture here in Yuma County overall with only some spotty thundershower activity,” reported Sprague.

California Dept. of Game and Wildlife regulations still allow the shooting of lead shot for upland game bird species, but dove hunters heading out to state properties (ie. Wister or San Jacinto) to hunt will have to use non-toxic shot. Some hunting clubs also require dove hunters to shoot non-toxic shot. Tejon Ranch, (661) 663-4284, and the High Desert Hunt Club both don’t allow upland game hunters to shoot lead shot. Turner’s Outdoorsman is having a sale on non-toxic upland game bird loads and although the price is still much higher than lead shot, at least this non-toxic ammo is a little cheaper than the full MSRP. One exception to lower priced upland game bird ammo would be those that opt to shoot bismuth shot, which is still on the higher priced side.


Three concerns that dove hunters should be aware of when hunting a fallow field. Due to the extreme heat that has carried on through the entire summer season, there is a better-than-even chance that some hunters, and their gun dogs, might run into a rattlesnake. Lower native grass and shrubs could allow a snake to strike quicker than in tall vegetation likely making them more aggressive. Also, when hunting an abandoned farm field, make sure that you stay away from areas where there is low-strung barbed wire. Dave Macke of Trabuco Canyon, manages a hunt club out in Prado Basin, and he was out cutting barbed wire this past weekend to ensure safer conditions when hunting with a sporting dog. Another concern, but not a critical one, will be the presence of foxtails. The lack of significant rains this past year, resulted in crops of foxtails being not as serious as it was when normal rains fell across most all of Southern California. But check your hunting dog after the hunt anyway.


On the brighter side of this year’s dove season is the wide spread of turkey millet (or more normally called dove weed) that seems to grow well with hot weather. Most all the hillsides of open terrain have some of this plant. As the seeds dry up, drop and turn blackish, these seeds make for an excellent food source for dove.


For those hunting dove, an upland game bird stamp ($9.72) is required and this stamp can be purchased at any DFW licensing station or online. The daily limit on mourning dove is 15 and a combined limit of mourning dove and white-winged dove cannot exceed 10 white-wings. The possession bag limit after three separate days of hunting, (ie. through Monday, Sept. 3, Labor Day) is triple the daily bag limit.


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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. 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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