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As the Sept. 19 and Sept. 26 general deer hunting season openers approach, hunters across the state are gearing up to head out in search of deer in many of the most popular hunting areas. Deer seasons are already underway for archery and in zones A and B4.
Deer tags are still available for many of the state’s most popular zones. Hunting licenses and tags can be purchased online, at one of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) license sales offices or through one of CDFW’s many license sales agents. For more information on deer hunting zones and seasons, see the 2015 Big Game Hunting Digest. Specific zone maps and information are also available online.
The sale of hunting licenses and tags provides approximately $25 million every year to CDFW to fund research and management of California’s wildlife, including the enforcement of fish and wildlife laws, crucial habitat conservation, post-wildfire forest restoration and wildlife migration and population studies.
“We encourage hunters to have fun and be safe while exploring California’s wild places,” said CDFW Deer Program Coordinator Stuart Itoga. “We appreciate the role hunters play in conservation and management of the state’s wildlife.”
For the 2015 deer season, hunters need to be aware of two new regulations: Mandatory tag reporting and the use of nonlead ammunition on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves.
Starting this year, all deer tag holders must report to CDFW. Hunters that take a deer must report within 30 days of harvest or by Jan. 31, whichever occurs first. Hunters that received a tag but did not harvest a deer or did not hunt must also report by Jan. 31. Harvest reports may be submitted online or by U.S. mail to CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002. Beginning in 2017, anyone who fails to submit a report for the 2016 season will be charged a $20 non-reporting fee when applying for a 2017 deer tag.
Effective July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting on state wildlife areas and ecological reserves and for all bighorn sheep hunts. Lead ammunition may still be used on Bureau of Land Management (BLM), national forest and private lands.
Statewide, estimated deer population numbers are up slightly from 443,000 last year to 512,000 this year. Last year, approximately 22 percent of the state’s deer hunters harvested a deer.
Scouting an area prior to hunting and getting off the beaten path can be keys to hunter success, especially during this time of historic drought. CDFW recommends that hunters keep current on possible public land closures in zones they plan to hunt.
“California is in the fourth year drought and large wildfires have caused some forest closures,” Itoga said. “We expect wildfires could cause additional closures of public hunting lands this year. On a positive note, some of the areas burned will provide high-quality deer browse as regeneration occurs in future years. Improved nutrition could lead to healthier deer populations and enhanced opportunities for deer hunters in future seasons.”
Regional U.S. Forest Service and BLM offices provide helpful information regarding emergency closures of public hunting areas. Please visit CDFW’s website for zone-specific information and regional contacts.
Manuel Saldana Jr. of Yuba City-based MSJ Guide Service sent us this update on king salmon fishing:
As a former San Joaquin Valley resident, this is just downright depressing.
Tulare County – I went to college in and lived in adjacent Fresno County – is one of the state’s biggest casaulties of the drought, as Time Magazine reports:
As California faces its fourth year in a drought, the farming region of Tulare County, located three hours north of Los Angeles, is at the epicenter of the crisis. To date, 5,433 residents in this rural region twice the size of Delaware are without water. Most live in East Porterville.
Over the past year, Office of Emergency Services (OES), a county agency responsible with responding to large-scale disasters, implemented a bottled drinking water program, a mobile shower unit and a 2,500-gallon potable water tanks that are placed outside a home and connected directly to each home’s plumbing system.
Despite the county’s efforts, it can take up to six months for a family to receive emergency assistance. Tired of waiting, many families are moving to neighboring towns and out-of-state.
Despite Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate amid a fourth year of drought, Californians aren’t exactly doing their part to save water.
Here’s a portion of a report from the California Department of Water Resources:
Despite continued hot conditions, Californians surpassed June’s conservation rate and reduced water use by 31.3 percent during July, exceeding Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s 25 percent mandate for a second consecutive month since the new emergency conservation regulation took effect.
For June and July, the cumulative statewide savings was 29.5 percent. Saving water in the hot summer months is critical to meeting the State’s overall 25 percent savings goal through February 2016, as the summer is when the greatest amount of water is traditionally used, particularly on outdoor ornamental landscapes. State officials urged residential water users to keep up their efforts to conserve.
“Californians’ response to the severity of the drought this summer is now in high gear and shows that they get that we are in the drought of our lives. This isn’t your mother’s drought or your grandmother’s drought, this is the drought of the century,” said Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “Millions of conscientious Californians are the real heroes here — each stepping up to help local water resources last longer in the face of an historic drought with no certain end date.” July’s water savings moved the State 228,940 acre-feet (74.6 billion gallons) closer to the goal of saving 1.2 million acre?feet by February 2016, as called for by the Governor in his April 1 Executive Order. Cumulative savings for June and July is 414,800 acre?feet, or 35 percent of the savings goal.
Conservation programs put in place during the late spring and early summer months by most of the State’s water suppliers are now in full swing, yielding dramatic reductions in water use and heightened water use awareness. With dry conditions forecast to continue through November, the focus remains not only on enhancing current efforts but on encouraging suppliers that are behind to make the commitment to conservation and meet or beat their targets.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites all Californians to celebrate the end of summer by going fishing. Sept. 5 is the second of two Free Fishing Days in 2015, when people can try their hand at fishing without having to buy a sport fishing license. Free Fishing Days are also a great opportunity for licensed anglers to introduce non-angling friends and children to fishing and the outdoors.
All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect. Every angler must have an appropriate report card if they are fishing for abalone, steelhead or sturgeon anywhere in the state, or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity river systems.
CDFW offers two Free Fishing Days each year – usually around the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend – when it’s legal to fish without a sport fishing license. This year, the Free Fishing Days were set for the Saturdays near Independence Day and Labor Day (this year, July 4 and Sept. 5).
Free Fishing Days provide a low-cost way to give fishing a try. Some CDFW regions offer Fishing in the City, a program where children can learn to fish in major metropolitan areas. Fishing in the City and Free Fishing Day clinics are designed to educate novice anglers about fishing ethics, fish habits, effective methods for catching fish and fishing tackle. Anglers can even learn how to clean and prepare fish for eating.
Anglers should check the rules and regulations for the waters they plan to fish because wildlife officers will be on duty to enforce them. For more information on Free Fishing Days, please visitwww.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days.
Compelling and haunting story in the L.A. Times this week about the drought’s effects on California’s native fish populations, specifically Chinook salmon.
With the drought four years and counting now, the ramifications of scant rainfall totals, little snowpack and runoff and hot conditions have made survival difficult for salmon heading back from the Pacific into the state’s rivers.
From Times reporter Bettina Boxall:
Spawning winter-run Chinook would never choose to hang out on the outskirts of Redding on a day when the city baked in 111-degree heat. They would prefer to swim in the cold, spring-fed waters of the McCloud and other Sacramento tributaries to the north.
But for about 70 years, those historic spawning grounds have been out of salmon reach, blocked by the towering concrete face of Shasta and the buttresses of its smaller sibling, Keswick Dam.
“This is as far as fish can go on the Sacramento main stem,” fishery biologist Ryan Revnak said as he steered his boat upriver toward Keswick, which regulates flows from Shasta’s hydropower plant.
Revnak, who works for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, pointed out the gravel beds where the salmon built their nests, called redds. A female, close to death after laying her eggs, hovered in shallow water near the bank. A dead male, his procreative work also done, floated by.
Salmon eggs and emerging fry need cold water to survive. The river temperature shouldn’t top 56 degrees. Last year in the spawning grounds below Keswick, it climbed above 62 degrees. Only 5% of the 2014 brood stock lived.
In the story, Boxall visits the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery at Shasta Dam, which has endured heartbreak in terms of loss of salmon.
Last summer, a narrow, rock-rimmed stretch of the blue-green Sacramento River near Redding turned into a mass graveyard for baby salmon. Upstream releases of water from Shasta Dam were so warm, virtually an entire generation of endangered winter-run Chinook was wiped out.
The tanks and egg trays are bathed with circulating water released from the dam. Last summer, hatchery managers had to use chillers to maintain the proper temperature. They may have to do the same this year.
To counter the drought losses, Livingston has ramped up production. The hatchery team is spawning 300 adults this year and come winter will release twice as many juveniles into the Sacramento as it normally does.
But even in good years, only a tiny fraction of those young hatchery salmon survive to adulthood and return to spawn. And if river conditions aren’t right, their offspring will perish.
Facing that grim scenario, Livingston last year established a captive brood stock, which the hatchery will raise for the entire three-year life cycle of the fish. If worse comes to worst, it will function as a fall-back population. “You can’t give up trying,” said Assistant Hatchery Manager John Rueth.
In the meantime, he added, “All of us keep praying for this massive El Niño.”
That El Niño scenario, which unfortunately could also create a whole new set of problems in the state (not to mention not even reverse the curse of this wretched drought), may be a salmon’s sole Christmas wish list this holiday season.
Here’s an update on reservoir levels from the California Department of Water Resources.
Some notable numbers (with current percent of capacity)
Trinity Lake (29)
Lake Oroville (31)
Shasta Lake (40)
Folsom Lake (21)
Camanche Lake (20)
New Melones Lake (13)
Don Pedro Lake (32)
Stampede Reservoir (14)
San Luis Reservoir (19)
Lake Cachuma (19)
Castaic Lake (38)
Lake Perris (36)
Our friends at Kittle’s Outdoor Sports in Colusa (530-458-4868) provided this release for this weekend’s big duck calling contest:
The 2015 California State Duck Calling Championship & Outdoor Expo will be in Colusa on August 29 and 30 at the 10th Street Veteran’s Memorial Park.
Kittle’s Outdoor Staff is proudly hosting this event for the fifth year in a row. “Each year we spend months preparing for this event, hoping to bring in new and exciting products, sales, events, and much more,” said Pat Kittle, owner of Kittle’s Outdoor & Sports.
He added that this is the perfect weekend plan for everyone in the family, from experienced hunters to young aspiring hunters. There will be two free seminars on Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, on Saturday morning after opening ceremonies, there will be a FREE Junior Duck Calling Workshop hosted by Three-time World-Champion Brad Allen and Junior World Champion Ryan Sherbondy.
This year, California Waterfowl Association will be joining the event in the park as their Regional Duck Calling Contest becomes part of the Colusa event. “
That means there are 2 contests that can get you your ticket to the World Contest in Stuttgart, Arkansas,” said Kittle. There are also multiple other CA state contests that are not World Qualifiers, but bring in a lot of competition!
Kittle announced that there is a full line of for the two-day gathering:
9 am – Dedication of events followed by Free Junior Calling Workshop.
10:30 am – Junior / Intermediate Duck
11:30 am – Junior / Intermediate Speck
12:15 pm – Seminar: “Speck Hunting My Way” with Ben Williams
1:30 pm – CWA Regional Duck Calling Championship World Qualifier ($50 entry fee)
3 pm – CA State Live Duck.
6 pm – CWA Fundraiser Hunter’s Party at Steelhead Lodge Bar & Grill
9 am – Dedication of events; CA State Canada Goose Youth & Adults
10:30 am – CA State Duck Calling Championship World Qualifier ($50 entry fee) 12 noon – Seminar: “Setting up a Successful Decoy Spread” by Deadly Decoys.
1 pm – CA State Speck
2:30 pm – CA State Two Man Meat. Duck 2 team limit per person.
Sponsors: Colusa Casino Resort, Browning, Merlo Waterfowl Company, Hevi-Shot, J.J. Lares Championship Calls, California Waterfowl, Fish Dog Ben Williams Outdoors, Mariani, Sitka, Tanglefree,