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Former NHLer Willie Mitchell Catching Big Fish!

Willie Mitchell celebrated his Stanley Cup day by taking it fishing off Vancouver Island. (WILLIE MITCHELL)

Retired National Hockey League defenseman Willie Mitchell loves to fish, as he shared us with us in this 2014 profile. So it’s no surprise that Mitchell is spending life as a retired hockey player and Stanley Cup champion fishing (and landing some trophies).

Mitchell, like he talked about in our feature story on the former Los Angeles King, is also a dedicated conservationist who has tirelessly worked to protect wild salmon in his native British Columbia. He’s a really informative follow on Twitter (@Willie_Mitch33). Keep up the good work, Willie.


Adult Hatchery Coho Released Into Marin County Creek

A biologist releases coho salmon into Marin County’s Redwood Creek. (CDFW)


The following press release is courtesy of the California Department   of Fish and Wildlife: 

In an effort to boost the population of spawning coho salmon in Marin County’s Redwood Creek, biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Park Service (NPS) today released nearly 200 adult coho salmon in the creek at Muir Beach.

The released coho salmon were collected as juveniles from Redwood Creek in the summer of 2015 at an age of 6 to 8 months and reared to adulthood at the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery in Geyserville at the base of the Lake Sonoma Dam.

The release of coho salmon this winter is the culmination of the Redwood Creek Coho Salmon Rescue and Captive Rearing Project. This project, a collaborative effort by CDFW, NPS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, was initiated in 2014 with the goal of preventing the extinction of the coho salmon, which is listed as an endangered species under both the California Endangered Species Act and the federal Endangered Species Act.

Prior to 2014, fewer than 10 adult coho salmon were estimated to have returned to Redwood Creek annually to spawn. The long decline of coho salmon in Redwood Creek has been accelerated by recent periods of poor ocean survival combined with the prolonged California drought. Coho salmon are more sensitive to habitat degradation and poor water quality than other Pacific salmon species since they rear as juveniles in freshwater for a year or more.

Biologists hope that the released fish will migrate upstream and spawn in the creek. NPS monitoring staff will survey the creek in the summer of 2018 and collect tissue samples from juvenile fish. Genetic analysis of the tissue samples will indicate how many of the released adult fish produced viable offspring.

The first major release of adult coho salmon in Redwood Creek occurred in the winter of 2016. A third and final release of adult coho salmon is planned for the winter of 2018-19.

More information about the Redwood Creek Coho Salmon Rescue and Captive Rearing Project can be found on the CDFW website at wildlife.ca.gov/Drought/Projects/Redwood-Creek-Coho. The Redwood Creek coho restoration project is part of a broader effort to sustain and restore coho salmon runs along the central and northern California coast.



Commercial Crab Season In NorCal Finally Set To Open

CDFW file photo

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The northern California Dungeness crab fishery in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties will open 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. The opener will be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that will begin at 8:01 a.m. Jan. 12, 2018.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham had delayed the season a total of three times after crab quality test results in November and December indicated that crab were not ready for harvesting. Jan. 15 is the latest the Director can delay the season due to quality testing.

Any vessel that landed crab from other ocean waters prior to the season opening in Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties) is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9, for 30 days following the opening of those areas. In Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9, the 30-day wait period ends on Feb. 14, 2018. Please refer to the latest CDFW Frequently Asked Questions for the current 2017-18 season concerning how the 30-day wait period also applies to Oregon and Washington’s delayed season openers.

“Although we have witnessed delays in the opening of the Dungeness crab commercial fishery in recent seasons due to domoic acid, a delay in the northern portion of the fishery due to quality isn’t unprecedented. The last time the northern season opener was delayed due to quality occurred with the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons and both those seasons started on Jan. 15,” said Christy Juhasz, CDFW Environmental Scientist.

There were also two areas in the north that were under a health advisory issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) due to domoic acid since the recreational fishery season opened on Nov. 4. These were lifted last month by CDPH after continual sampling of Dungeness crabs by CDPH showed the amount of domoic acid had declined to low or undetectable levels.

Recreational crabbing remains open in California statewide.

All anglers are strongly encouraged to download the 2017-18 Best Practices Guide and observe best practices to reduce incidences of whale entanglements with crab trap gear. This guide was developed by the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, a collaborative effort between commercial crabbers, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations.

For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories.

More information on Dungeness crab, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

After 25 Years, Wildlife Forever CEO Retiring


The following press release is courtesy of Wildlife Forever: 

White Bear Lake, MN – After 25 years of service to fish and wildlife conservation, Wildlife Forever’s President & CEO, Douglas Grann has announced his retirement and turned over the leadership reins to Pat Conzemius, Executive Vice President.

Grann joined the non-profit organization in March of 1992. Prior to Wildlife Forever, he was Executive Vice President, Voyageur Art specializing in state duck-stamp prints and created the Australia “First of Nation” Duck Stamp Program.  He also served as Director of Operations for the National Wild Turkey Federation, starting their popular Super Fund Banquet program.

Mr. Grann’s responsibilities included the leadership of Wildlife Forever, management of staff and programs, plus creation and development of national campaigns. Grann states his greatest achievement was ensuring no less than 80% of every dollar raised was spent on conservation.  This goal was accomplished for 25 years with 94% of all revenue going directly to mission, confirmed by independent audits, in recent years.

“Wildlife Forever was built and supported by individuals who care deeply about the future of fish and wildlife.” said Mr. Grann.  “I am most thankful for those dedicated members, directors, staff and sponsors who invested in conservation and believed in developing stewardship in America’s youth. Thank you all, it has been a privilege to guide Wildlife Forever.”

Under his direction, numerous national initiatives have flourished.  He was instrumental in the creation of the State-Fish Art Contest (SFA); Master’s Walleye Circuit (MWC), World Walleye Championship (WWC); Handicapped Americans for Wildlife Conservation (HAWC); Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance (TRCA); “Racing for Wildlife” (NASCAR); and the Clean Drain Dry (CD2) Initiative.

One of the best measures of success comes from credibility and what others say about one’s work. Over Grann’s 25-year span, Wildlife Forever has received 60 special recognitions and major awards from state and federal agencies, corporations and governmental organizations.

“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with Doug Grann,” said Scott Grieve, Chairman, Wildlife Forever.  “I have served on the Board during Doug’s building of the organization and developing programs.  His tireless work on behalf of conservation and education is admired by everyone who knows him. We look forward to his continued leadership and new role as President of the Board.”

Grieve further said, “Wildlife Forever believes conservation education will ultimately determine the future of America’s fish & wildlife heritage. It is only through education and participation that we will pass on the stewardship of our natural resources to the next generation.”

As Wildlife Forever moves forward this vision remains the same for Pat Conzemius.  Pat has served for the past 10 years as Conservation Director and has handled all conservation projects, partnerships, grants and campaigns.  Conzemius concluded, “I am proud to continue this legacy Doug has built and will do all I can to ensure we maintain the highest of standards and always work to conserve America’s fish and wildlife.”

Wildlife Forever (WF): Wildlife Forever’s mission is to conserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and management of fish and wildlife.  For 30 years, WF members have helped to conduct thousands of fish, game and habitat conservation projects across the country. Recent audit reveals a 94% to mission rating.  To join and learn more about the award-winning programs, including work to engage America’s youth, visit www.WildlifeForever.org.

Here’s The California Upland Bird Stamp Winning Entry

Jeffrey Klinefelter’s winning painting in the California upland bird stamp contest. (CDFW)

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

A painting of a Wilson’s snipe has been chosen by a panel of judges as the winning entry in the 2017-2018 California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest. The painting was created by Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Ind.

Sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the annual contest is held to determine the official design for the upcoming year’s California Upland Game Bird Stamp.

Artists submitted their own original depiction of a Wilson’s snipe (Gallinago delicate), a charismatic, diminutive migratory game bird. The individual artists determined the setting and details, but entries had to include at least one Wilson’s snipe and be representative of the species’ natural habitat in California if a background was included.

Crawford 2017-2018 upland game second place

The entries were judged Wednesday by a panel of experts selected for their knowledge in the fields of ornithology, conservation, art and printing. Designs were judged on originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy and suitability for reproduction as a stamp and print.

The judges cited the anatomical accuracy of the representation of the Wilson’s snipe, and one judge praised the impressive “juxtaposition of the fine detail in the foreground with the almost dreamy background.”

Klinefelter created the painting based on his photograph of a Wilson’s snipe – after simplifying the original habitat with the intent of highlighting the bird.

Simons 2017-18 upland game third place

“That is where artistic license comes in,” said Klinefelter, a wildlife artist who also won the 2009-10 California Duck Stamp Contest. “The important thing when you are painting for a stamp is to avoid having your painting cluttered as that can take away from the visual impact of the species.”

Broderick Crawford of Clayton, Ga., placed second, Lawrence Simons of Lebanon, Ore., placed third and Erik Fleet of Julian (San Diego County) received honorable mention.

An upland game bird validation is required for hunting migratory and resident upland game birds in California. The validation replaces the stamp through CDFW’s Automated License Data System, but the stamp is still produced and available to hunters upon request. Money generated from upland game bird validation sales are dedicated solely to upland game bird-related conservation projects, hunting opportunities and outreach and education. CDFW annually sells about 175,000 upland game bird validations and distributes approximately 17,000 stamps.

Fleet 2017-18 upland game contest honorable with ribbon

Examples of recent CDFW projects funded by upland game bird validation sales include:

Estimating Factors That Influence Population Vital Rates and Space Use Patterns of Pheasant in the Central Valley of California. The ring-necked pheasant was introduced and established in North America during the 1800s and has long been a popular game bird for hunters. Although pheasants flourished in California during the 1900s, changes in agricultural and land-use practices in the latter half of the 20th Century reduced the amount and quality of habitat available to wild birds in the state and hunter harvest declined. This project uses telemetry to monitor pheasants and estimate population rates in different regions of the state. This information helps the support and maintenance of wild pheasant populations. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/pheasant.

Habitat Development and Enhancement Projects at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. The project will improve approximately 149 acres of upland nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants, turkeys, doves, quail and other upland wildlife species at CDFW’s Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Butte County. These improvements will enhance the department’s ability to manage water and increase the recruitment and survival of wildlife. The project will improve items such as nesting and foraging cover, and should result in higher pheasant, turkey, dove and quail populations. As all of the fields are located in the hunt area, the project will provide additional hunter opportunities. For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants/upland-game-bird/projects.

Any individual who purchases an upland game bird validation may request their free collectable stamp by visiting www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/collector-stamps. An order form is also available on the website for collectors who do not purchase a hunting license or upland game bird validation or for hunters who wish to purchase additional collectible stamps.



Sacramento-Area Local Outdoors Shop Closing

I have a pet peeve that whenever I travel with friends and family that whenever possible I’d rather avoid chain stores, restaurants and other retail outlets. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to avoid, especially here at home. But it’s nice to check out someplace local whenever possible.

Which brings us to a sad story coming out of Orangvale, a Sacramento suburb. In an outdoor retail world where giants like Bass Pro Shops make it difficult for the mom and pop stores to survive, the Sacramento Bee reported that a local fishing and hunting institution will shut its doors.

Here’s Bee reporter Chuck Fletcher with more:

Few businesses are as synonymous with their community as Wild Sports is to Orangevale, but after four decades of selling guns and fishing gear to northeast Sacramento County hunters and anglers, the retailer says it is closing.

“Store closing: huge sale,” screamed the yellow banner hanging outside the nondescript building this week.

Prominently situated at the intersection of Greenback Lane and Main Avenue, Wild Sports is one of the few retail stores outside of tire shops in Orangevale, a semi-rural suburban community of 34,000 people.

The store has been liquidating merchandise for weeks. Earlier this week, half a dozen patrons combed the 12,000-square-foot store, ringed with mounted animal trophies, for deals. Much of the remaining boots, gloves, scopes and outdoor gear was marked down by 30 to 40 percent. It’s not clear when the last day will come.

No comment” was the official word from a man in the back store room, who did not come out.

Wild Sports was big box sporting retail before the category existed.

“They were kind of an institution,” said Gary Voet, a former Sacramento Bee outdoors columnist. “The only place if you wanted to get any fishing-related stuff near Folsom was Wild Sports.”

As the news broke online, Orangevale residents expressed sadness that a community fixture would be leaving.

“Wild Sports was one of the last neighborhood outdoor sporting goods stores around. I shopped there all the time, and the fishing guys there were always super helpful,” said Hank Shaw, an award-winning outdoors author who lives in Orangevale.

Why the owners, listed in legal documents as Fligge Fligge Fligge, have chosen to close their business now is left to speculation with the owner declining to discuss. New gun laws and competition from online retailers are common theories.

Whatever the reason, it’s tough to see a local outdoors community’s beating heart taken off life support.




NorCal Hatchery Struggling To Produce Chinook

Coleman Hatchery photo by USFWS


With the holidays and an extremely busy schedule I had last week, I missed posting a fine report from the Sacramento Bee’s Ryan Sabalow on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coleman National Fish Hatchery’s woes:

Here’s Sabalow with more:

The federal Coleman National Fish Hatchery tries to produce about 12 million fall-run Chinook salmon for release each spring into Battle Creek, a Sacramento River tributary south of Redding. This spring, the Coleman hatchery will only have half as many young salmon to release.

The reason harkens back to the abysmal river conditions in the heart of California’s historic five-year drought – and the choices fishery managers made those years to move the baby Chinook by tanker truck out to sea in a frantic effort to save the commercially important fish.

They knew at the time trucking the fish would lead to fewer fish coming back to Coleman this year to spawn.

“Everybody kind of acknowledged and understood at the time the consequences,” said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, a fishing advocacy group.

Chinook live two or three years in the Pacific Ocean before adult fish head back upriver to lay their eggs and die, starting the cycle anew. Fish hatched in California’s five-year drought that ended officially in the spring are returning to Central Valley rivers this year.

Almost all of the Central Valley’s fall-run Chinook are hatched from eggs and sperm that biologists harvest from adults that return to hatcheries below the dams blocking the fish from their traditional spawning habitat.

Fall-run adult fish – raised at five hatcheries across the Central Valley – provide the bulk of the fish caught in the commercial and recreational fishing industry. McManus and other fishing advocates say fall-run Chinook support $1.4 billion in annual economic activity in California and about 23,000 fishing related jobs while providing locally caught fish for Californians’ dinner tables.


Start The New Year Right: With Delicious Crab Meat

Photos by Mark Fong


Happy New Year from California Sportsman! As you’re watching bowl  games and pondering your New Year’s resolutions, how about some crab? Or lingcod? The following story ran in our December issue. Our correspondent Mark Fong also has a profile of the guides who took him out into the Pacific, Happy Hooker Sportfishing:

By Mark Fong 

For anglers fishing off the coast of San Francisco, late fall is a special time of year. It marks the intersection of two very popular sport fisheries: the Dungeness crab opener and the conclusion of the rockfish and lingcod season. 

With the opportunity to bring home tasty claws and filets for the holidays, this is a very popular time to be on the water. And over the years I have done my share of rockfishing, as I enjoy both the fishing and the fine table fare that it affords. 

But I had never been on a crab and rockfish combo trip before. Based on my experience, I can see why these are some of the most in-demand trips of the entire year.

There are many great charter boats operating out of the bay and along the coast. High on the list is Happy Hooker Sportfishing (happyhookersportfishing.com; 510-223-5388). With skippers Chris and Jonathon Smith at the helm, I always know that I will be treated to a first-class day on the water.

The much anticipated recreational Dungeness season opened on Nov. 4. With this date entered on my
iPhone calendar, I made sure to book my trip well in advance. But even so, I had to settle for a date after the opening weekend. (Note to self: book earlier next year.)


After departing from the Berkeley Marina in the predawn dark, we made our way past Alcatraz Island and continued through the Golden Gate. Soon the morning sun began its ascent over the picturesque East Bay hills and we headed out to sea. A mix of scattered high clouds made for a brilliant sunrise and created amazing shades of pink, blue and orange set against the iconic San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge.

About an hour into the trip on the Pacific Ocean, Capt. Chris informed us that we would be stopping to pull and move a string of crab traps. A group of eager anglers assisted Capt. Jonathon and the deckhand Ryan with the task at hand. 

It was quite a process to see, as Chris positioned the Happy Hooker next to a floating crab trap buoy, a team member secured it and quickly passed it along to Jonathon, who attached the rope to the automated crab block and pulled the trap aboard. 

The catch was carefully measured and sorted, and any crabs that weren’t keepers were released. The traps were checked, baited again and set up on the rear deck. Once all the traps in the string were aboard, Chris made a quick run to a new location where the traps were quickly sent down to soak. In short order, we were on our way to the rockfishing grounds.

As we neared the Farallon Islands, the anticipation level grew. My fishing buddy Ian Rigler and I decided to target lingcod. Jonathon told the boat that the best option for lingcod was to fish a trap rig with natural bait. For those wanting to target rockfish, shrimp flies were the best choice. When the captain and the deckhand speak, it is wise to listen. They are on the water everyday and are dialed into exactly what the fish are biting.

I rigged up a large dead sardine on my trap rig. Knowing that I wanted to primarily target lings, I’d brought my Cousins Tackle CPX 809 matched with an Avet Reel – an SXG2 spooled with 45-pound FINS 40G Braid. This was the perfect set-up for handling the 24-ounce weight needed to effectively fish the deep water at the islands.


It did not take long for the fish to start coming over the rail. Ian was soon hooked up with a nice ling. As for me, I could not get bit. As I awaited my first, Ian was now fighting a second, even bigger fish.

Then it happened – my first bite. But rather than a ling, it turned out to be a big rockfish. I quickly put the fish in my bag, rigged up a new bait and then dropped down again. After a few minutes I was into a nice lingcod. I put steady pressure on the fish and slowly worked it to the surface, where Jonathon gaffed it and swung it aboard.

Over the next few hours my good fortune continued. Not only was I able to put my second ling in the boat but also caught a variety of quality rockfish. The action around me continued at a torrid pace, with other anglers on the boat catching fish too. Before I knew it Chris informed us to wind ’em for the final time of the day. The shellfish were waiting for us. 



On the return trip to Berkeley, Chris and crew pulled several more strings of crab pots. When all was said and done, it was limits of crab for all, in addition to plenty of quality rockfish and lings.

After the fish were cleaned and filleted, the moment everyone was waiting for was at hand: crab time. Jonathon and Ryan the deckhand passed out orange mesh bags to each angler. As I quickly learned, there is a pecking order to this process. Any of the helpers who assisted the crew in pulling traps had their bags filled with the prized crabs first. On this day, every angler happily took home a limit of 10 delicious Dungeness.

Back at the marina, the tackle store was abuzz. Outside, a small crew was at the ready to cook and clean our crab for a small fee. Within short order I was on my way home with a cooler full of fresh fillets, cooked crab on ice and memories of a great day at the Farallon Islands. CS

Editor’s note: For more on recreational crab fishing regulations, check out wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Fishing-Map/San-Francisco.

A Family’s Hunting Reunion


Merry Christmas from California Sportsman! Have a safe and prosperous holiday. Check out this family hunting adventure that’s available in our December issue:

By Tim E. Hovey

In the fall of 2015, I took my daughters Alyssa and Jessica out to Wyoming to hunt deer. After hunting hard near the town of Cody for three solid days without luck, a chance meeting with a game warden would lead us to a land manager named Alan. With little more than eight hours left to hunt, Alan agreed to give us access to an immense amount of property so that we could hopefully fill our tags. 

We hunted hard that final evening and were able to put three doe in the coolers for the ride back to California. Beyond grateful, I called Alan and told him how much we appreciated his generosity. He seemed more thrilled that my two daughters had driven all the way from California and had killed deer on the property. He ended the call by stating simply, “See you next year!”

Needless to say, I stayed in contact with Alan, and when the 2016 Wyoming deer season rolled around, I asked him if he had any open spots for us to hunt the farm again. ”Come on down!” he texted back. 

Jessica (top) and Alyssa glassing for deer.

ON OPENING MORNING, WE decided to hunt Bureau of Land Management ground first in the hopes of running into bucks. The actual owner of the property Alan managed would only allow does to be taken by hunters, and this season both Alyssa and Jessica wanted a chance to shoot a buck.

The morning hunt was extremely cold and windy. I set my daughters up at the edge of a canyon and I hiked further down the ridge to look for deer. After several hours of brutal winds and near-freezing conditions, we hadn’t seen a thing.

Back at the truck, I could see that the girls were spent. We were only 10 miles from Alan’s farm, so I texted him to see if he was around. Instantly he suggested we come onto the farm to meet him. 

Alan was all smiles as we shook hands. He was glad we had made the trip out again and quickly produced the hunting permits for us to fill out. He pulled out a map and pointed out a few spots he had seen deer recently. He then folded the map up and handed it to me. We again expressed our appreciation and got back in the truck and headed out to hunt.

The property is a mix of agricultural fields, native habitat, heavily wooded creeks and levees – essentially everything deer need to happily live on and thrive. That was part of the problem. The land is a working farm and the deer heavily impact profits by openly grazing on the crops. 

The owner, under Alan’s suggestion, had decided to open up the property to hunters to hopefully keep the deer numbers in check.

SINCE WE HAD BEEN successful there the previous year, all three of us were very excited to be back on the property. Alan’s report that the deer were skittish and hard to find this year did little to dampen our enthusiasm. 

We drove onto the west side of the property at about noon. Less than a mile in, Jessica spotted a small group of antelope way to the left and near the very edge of the property. They were over 800 yards away on alert and looking to their right. I grabbed the binoculars and spotted what they were looking at. A whitetail doe was approaching the group; for some reason they didn’t like it. 

There was no cover and I knew a really long shot might be difficult for the girls. As we sat there thinking about what to do, Alyssa suggested that I head out and see if I could get close enough for a shot. I looked back to Jessica and she nodded in agreement. 

I grabbed my rifle and shooting sticks and closed the door. The big difference between this hunt and our previous one here was that Alyssa now had her driver’s license. I handed her the keys and told her to stay put until I signaled them.

The field I had to cross wasn’t planted but had been heavily disked. I had to navigate huge chunks of dirt and move through massive dips in the field as I closed the distance. As I moved, I watched the group. The doe and the antelope were focused on each other and never noticed me. I just kept hiking through the rough field towards the deer. 

At about 450 yards, I noticed that the doe was now moving away and towards the boundary of the property. Another 50 yards further and she’d cross the fence. I had sighted in the Savage Axis rifle to shoot long distances, and the week before at the range, I was regularly pinging the 400-yard steel. The rangefinder put the deer at 429 yards, a long shot for sure, but I felt I could get it done.

I set up the sticks, sat on a huge chunk of dirt and found the deer in the scope slowly feeding away. Within seconds the deer turned broadside and I placed the crosshairs at the top of the shoulder, right above the heart, and squeezed the trigger. 

The doe hopped once and started running towards me. I loaded another round and waited for the deer to stop. Seconds later I saw her stumble and then fall over. The shot was right through the heart.

I heard the truck horn go off several times as the girls celebrated from afar. I motioned for them to bring the truck up as close as they could. It was an awesome feeling to know that I could now rely on my daughters to assist on my hunt. Within a few minutes, Alyssa navigated the old farm roads and pulled up within feet of the dead deer.

With an assist from my hunting partners, it took less than 30 minutes for us to completely quarter out the deer and put it on ice. We cleaned up and got back on the hunt. Jessica voiced the general mood. 

“One down, two to go!”

WE SLOWLY DROVE THE edge of the old cornfields. As we cut between parcels, Alyssa spotted several adult deer cutting from the native vegetation at the edge of the property into the crop. We quickly got out, but the eight deer had disappeared in the dry corn.

We were convinced that more deer were holding tight in the corn and kept searching the edges. With about 45 minutes of daylight left, Alyssa spotted two huge doe standing in the corn, 60 yards from the truck. She told me to stop, quietly got out and made her way to the front of the truck. I watched as she rested her rifle on her sticks and mounted up behind the gun. The shot came and she turned around with a huge smile on her face. 

Despite hearing Alyssa’s deer crash in the dry corn, she wanted to track it. The trail was easy to follow and the large doe was piled up in the field 40 yards from where she had been hit.

As daylight faded, I handed Alyssa a headlamp, a skinning knife and told her to start quartering out her deer solo deep in the old cornfield. I knew deer would be moving as the sun began to set and I was hoping we could find our third and final doe for Jessica.

Alyssa took the processing gear and got to work. Jessica and I got back in the truck and started looking for deer. We didn’t have to go far.

Jessica spotted a smaller doe standing in the next field over at only 130 yards out. She grabbed the shooting sticks and I grabbed the rifle. Jessica then found the standing doe in the scope and took her shot. The deer folded right there. 

Three tags, three deer, though it wasn’t quite over yet.

AS WE CELEBRATED, THE deer suddenly got up and started trotting towards the edge of the field. Jessica took a rushed shot at the escaping deer but missed. Within seconds the deer disappeared in the thick brush. We were both stunned. The shot looked perfect and I had even spotted blood on the escaping deer’s side.

We searched until dark and both of us felt like the deer was gone. We were about to head back and help Alyssa when a heartbroken Jessica suggested we take one more look.

I drove down an old road adjacent to a large drainage canal. At the end of the road, we turned around and headed back. I was in the middle of consoling Jessica when she spotted the deer floating dead in the canal. 

We loaded up Jessica’s deer and headed back to help Alyssa. With headlamps and flashlights guiding us, my daughters and I skinned out and quartered their deer in the darkness of an old cornfield in northern Wyoming. It was a memory I will cherish forever.

THE FOLLOWING DAY WE made a point to drive out to the property and thank Alan, who was so happy that we once again had filled our tags on the property. As he shook my hand, he looked me square in the eye and said something that struck a chord. “Don’t stop doing what you’re doing, Dad!”

Early the following morning, we loaded up all our gear and started the long drive home to California. The trip back was bittersweet for me. I know future trips will be tough. The girls had to miss a week’s worth of school to hunt the opener. I know as they get older, catching up on schoolwork will be harder for them. 

Jessica sat up in the back and said, “Hey, Daddy, thanks for taking us deer hunting in Wyoming.” Alyssa thanked me as well. The worries about returning evaporated. 

Those would-be trips didn’t matter. What mattered was that both my girls were there with me then. And I’m very confident that one day the Hovey family will be back! CS


Trout Plants Throughout The State For Holiday Fishing

Photo by CDFW


The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The winter holidays are a great time for families and individuals to enjoy recreational trout fishing, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) trout hatcheries plan to provide plenty of opportunities for anglers of all ages over the next two weeks. Specific plants of catchable trout are scheduled at 79 waters in 25 counties between now and Jan. 5.

CDFW trout hatcheries stock many inland waters throughout the year, in support of the angling public. As always, CDFW’s trout stocking schedule can be found online, as well as California’s map-based Fishing Guide.

Please see the list below for a county-by-county breakdown of stocking locations. Happy Holidays and best wishes for excellent fishing in 2018!

Alameda County

  • Horseshoe Lake
  • Lakeshore Park Pond
  • Shadow Cliff Lake
  • Temescal Lake

Contra Costa County

  • Lafayette Reservoir
  • Los Vaqueros Reservoir
  • Contra Loma Reservoir
  • Heather Farms Pond

El Dorado County

  • Folsom Lake

Fresno County

  • Fresno City Woodward Park Lake

Inyo County

  • Diaz Lake
  • Owens River, below Tinnemeha
  • Owens River, Section II
  • Pleasant Valley Reservoir

Kern County

  • Ming Lake
  • Hart Park
  • Riverwalk
  • Truxton Lake
  • Kern River below Lake Isabella

Lake County

  • Blue Lake Upper

Los Angeles County

  • Alondra Park Lake
  • Echo Park Lake
  • El Dorado Park Lakes
  • Legg Lakes
  • Lincoln Park Lake
  • MacArthur Park Lake
  • Santa Fe Reservoir
  • Belvedere Lake
  • Downey Wilderness Park Lake
  • Hollenbeck Park Lake
  • Hansen Dam Lake
  • Kenneth Hahn Lake
  • La Mirada Lake

Madera County

  • Bass Lake
  • Sycamore Island
  • Eastman Lake
  • Hensley Lake

Marin County

  • Bon Tempe Lake

Merced County

  • Yosemite Lake

Nevada County

  • Rollins Reservoir

Orange County

  • Carr Park Lake
  • Centennial Lake
  • Eisenhower Lake
  • Greer Park Lake
  • Huntington Park Lake
  • Mile Square Park Lake
  • Tri-City Lake
  • Yorba Linda Regional Park Lake

Placer County

  • Halsey Forebay
  • Folsom Lake
  • Rollins Reservoir

Riverside County

  • Little Lake
  • Perris Lake
  • Rancho Jurupa Park Pond

Sacramento County

  • Elk Grove Park Pond
  • Hagen Park Pond
  • Folsom Lake (Granite Bay boat ramp)
  • Howe Community Park Pond
  • North Natomas Park Pond
  • Granit Park Pond
  • Rancho Seco Lake

San Bernardino County

  • Cucamonga Guasti Park Lake
  • Glen Helen Park Lake
  • Seccombe Lake
  • Yucaipa Lake
  • Silverwood Lake

San Diego County

  • Cuyamaca Lake
  • Chollas Lake
  • Lindo Lake
  • Murray Lake

Shasta County

  • Baum Lake
  • Shasta Lake

Solano County

  • Lake Chabot

Sonoma County

  • Ralphine Lake

Stanislaus County

  • Woodward Reservoir
  • Modesto Reservoir

Tulare County

  • Success Reservoir
  • Lake Kaweah

Ventura County

  • Casitas Lake
  • Rancho Simi Park Lake
  • Reseda Lake

Yuba County

  • Collins Lake