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The following appears in the January issue of California Sportsman:
By Brittany Boddington
My hunting adventures in France started with the Pyrenees chamois that you read about in last month’s column, but they didn’t end there!
I left the high mountains and traveled north to a 13th century castle to continue my hunt in style. My guide and friend Guillaume Roques-Rogery inherited this magnificent castle and, along with it, a big chunk of hunting land. He runs a company called France Safaris (francesafaris.com) with his wife, Lisa.
The area is in the Aveyron department in southern France, between Toulouse, where Airbus is headquartered, and Lyon, and has steep mountains and rolling hills, as well as thick forest. The landscape makes the hunting challenging, but there are plenty of animals and species to choose from.
We went for a drive around the hunting area the evening I arrived and spotted some animals, which got me excited for the next day. One of the most exciting species for me was the sika deer. They are originally from Japan and this was the first time I had ever seen one.
Sika are a dark brown deer with some light spots. Their antlers are similar to those of rusa and axis deer, but smaller and thinner. The area also has red stag, mouflon and fallow deer, and an occasional roe deer moves through. They also have a serious pig problem. Wild boars are in such high numbers that they’re destroying the ground, and it is difficult to make a stalk without bumping into one.
MY FIRST PRIORITY was finding a sika deer. We started early in the morning and walked along the edge of the forest. The light twinkled through the trees as the sun rose, making the area look heavenly. We were hoping to catch some deer moving into the forest as they started to look for places to bed down during the hot part of the day. We spotted some mouflon first, a bunch of females with babies. When they were spooked, they ran off downhill. Unfortunately, in the area we were walking, the leaves were pretty loud under our feet, so the animals heard us coming.
We next spotted a sika deer, but it was a young one and it disappeared in a flash. We continued walking for a few hours and it started to get hot, so we decided to leave the area alone so we wouldn’t spook everything for the afternoon. All the animals start to lay down in the thick forest – it gets hot here – and if pushed, they might disappear into mountainous areas we couldn’t reach by foot.
In the afternoon we set out on a sika mission. I was determined to find a big male sika deer. We walked along the forest edge again, and this time we saw a ton of animals, a sign that things were beginning to happen.
There were mouflon everywhere. We also saw some beautiful fallow deer, and as the afternoon passed, the red stag roar started. The sound filled the woods as the sun twinkled through; it was eerie but beautiful.
Then we spotted a big mature male sika deer bedded on the edge of the forest. We were on a ridge above it and had a great vantage point. I took my time getting set up. I was laying prone with my LAW .300 Win Mag and set up over a pack. I was rock solid.
We watched the sika for an hour while it lay there chewing. The deer was blissfully unaware of our presence, so much so that I started to get stiff from laying there so long. My neck was killing me and I kept shifting and wiggling in an attempt to get comfortable. During one of those wiggles the sika stood up. I panicked and missed the deer completely.
There was no time to regroup and try again once the sika disappeared into the forest. I lay there, dumbfounded at how I could miss such a perfect opportunity, but it happens, so I collected myself and we continued the hunt.
We headed back to the ridgeline we had walked that morning and started moving through the area slowly. The sun was starting to slide down in the sky, making it difficult to see into the woods without looking straight into the sun.
We carefully peeked over every ridge until Guillaume spotted a sika deer. I couldn’t believe that I would get another opportunity after I had blown it so badly earlier, but the hunting gods were smiling on us that day. I wasted no time dropping to one knee and resting my elbow on the other knee. I actually prefer to shoot from this position whenever possible.
Guillaume checked out the deer in a split second and gave me the green light. I knew the sika wouldn’t stand for long. We had been spotted and were in a staring contest. As soon as I got the green light, I fired.
Hit, the deer rolled down the hill. We shuffled down the incredibly steep slope toward where the deer had fallen. I started to feel something stinging on my leg but was too excited to let it slow me down. I slipped and slid, but at last we made it to the deer, which had only stopped rolling because it was caught on a tree.
THE SIKA WAS gorgeous. It had ivory-like antlers and extremely dark brown fur. It was a big male, and Guillaume thought it might have been the biggest they had shot in that area. We tagged it, took some photos and then attempted to make it down the hill to a nearby road.
I had my rifle over my shoulder as I carefully worked my way downhill, but at one particularly difficult point I hesitated. Guillaume took my hand and I took a careful step onto what looked like a secure rock. But the rock rolled and I fell straight down the hill. I smacked down on my back and my rifle, with my feet dangling over an edge. Only Guillaume’s hand held me from falling straight down to the road. I almost took him down with me, but fortunately he caught hold of a tree as I fell. We finally made it down with the deer and called for help, which turned out to be Guillaume’s dad coming to rescue us.
In the car I started to feel the bangs I’d taken from my fall, and then the stinging in my leg again. I decided it was worth asking the question: “Do you guys have stinging nettle here?”
“Yes, we do,” Guillaume answered. “Did you find some?”
Yes, I had found some nettles. A lot, in fact; my shooting position had been right in a patch of it. I had been so excited about the deer that I had not even looked where I was kneeling. That was an itchy lesson I will not forget anytime soon, but at least I got my sika deer. CS
Considering how floored I was when I saw how dried out Lake Oroville had become a few years after I got to catch coho salmon there, this news was welcome relief!
California’s Lake Oroville reservoir has risen nearly 17 feet in the past 10 days as consistent rains continue to bring relief to the drought-stricken state.
California’s Department of Water Resources estimates the reservoir is holding 689.14 feet of water out of a capacity of 900. More rain is expected in the coming weeks, which could bring up to 30 more feet of water to Lake Oroville.
“This is excellent. This is what we need,” Kevin Wright , the Sierra Valley watermaster for Department of Water Resources, told KRCR 7 News. “We are not out of the drought … The lake has a long ways to go before it’s full. So, we still need to conserve water.”
News of longest tenured-member Jim Kellogg’s late December retirement from the five-member California Fish and Game Commission flew mostly under the radar, but over the weekend Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle provided a fanastic detailed breakdown of Kellogg’s sudden exit and the potential impact it will have on the state’s hardcore anglers and especially hunters.
Fimrite’s report is a great read and paints Kellogg as one of the remaining few members of the board with a bonafide passion for hunting, creating the fear that hunters will get the short shrift in the future with a perceived commission group more concerned about conservation – and I for one don’t dismiss that as it surely is vital as wel, but with a balanced approach – than supporting the state’s sportsmen and -women. That was where Kellogg presumably served as the biggest (only?) true ally for hunters and anglers.
Such a move may, observers say, complete the transformation of the commission from an organization that advocates for fishing and hunting to one that safeguards endangered species, preserves habitat and protects California’s top predators from slaughter.
But it won’t happen without a fight. While environmentalists say they are finally getting a fair shake in the high-stakes political game of wildlife management, advocates for outdoor sports fear they have lost their voice and that the role they have played in the protection of species is being forgotten.
The five-member commission, whose job is to recommend policies to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, has been wading through divisive issues that could profoundly impact the future of the state, including what to do about diminishing salmon populations, sick sea lions and disappearing sea otters.
How California responds to growing numbers of wolves, coyotes and mountain lions is a central battle. The question is whether the predators should be tolerated or encouraged — or driven away by guard dogs or gunned down when they get too close to people or livestock.
Historically, the commission has been made up almost entirely of hunters and fishermen, but that focus has changed in the past several years.
Just what that means for the future of outdoor sports in the state remains to be seen. But the ever-changing commission does appear to be lacking Kellogg-types with a passion for hunting.
More from Fimrite:
But it was the resignation of Kellogg, who often teamed up with Sutton and Richards, that was viewed by many as the end of the line for the hunting and fishing coalition on the commission.
“I’m leaving pretty much out of frustration,” Kellogg said in an interview. He had been on the board for 14 years when he retired Dec. 31, the longest-serving member of the commission.
“I’m just tired of being the only one fighting the fight for the hunters and fishers,” he said. “The first 12 years I won most of the battles, and the last couple of years I lost almost every battle.”
The changes on the commission are an illustration of a statewide phenomenon. Californians, more than ever, regard wildlife, including apex predators, as a valuable part of the ecosystem instead of as food or vermin.
Chuck Bonham, the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, says he is committed to embracing science-based wildlife and ecosystem management while preserving the history and traditions associated with hunting and fishing.
Clearly, though, there has been a movement away from those traditions. The transformation became vivid in 2012 when then-Assemblyman Jared Huffman of San Rafael, who has since been elected to Congress, introduced a bill to change the name of the department that has managed fishing and hunting in California since 1872 from “Fish and Game” to “Fish and Wildlife.”
It was clear that Kellogg was fighting for hunters, and anytime a community that faces constant scrutiny in California loses a voice like Kellogg’s, it’s a big loss.
Trout Unlimited reported on the House’s controversial bill that may compromise the Clean Water Act.
Here’s TU’s Kate Baker with more:
President Obama has promised to veto the measure (Senate Joint Resolution 22), and as today’s vote demonstrated, the votes to override his veto are clearly not there.
We have been here before. This is the third attempt by the House during this Congress to derail the EPA/Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Rule. Enough already! Americans support this rule, and commented in droves in favor of it during the rulemaking process.
Congress and President Obama have rejected similar attacks in the recent past. In the2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed into law just before Christmas, Congress wisely decided to reject a rider that would have derailed the rule that will help the federal government do a better job with the foremost of the fundamentals—deciding what is, and what is not, a waterway afforded protection by America’s favorite natural resource law, the Clean Water Act.
The measure approved by the House today is an extraordinary and radical action to overturn the Rule, which was rightfully created through an open and deliberative agency rulemaking process. By using the Congressional Review Act, this joint resolution would not only wipe out the final Clean Water Rule, but it would also prohibit any substantially similar rule in the future. This action would lock in place the current state of jurisdictional confusion and offers no constructive path forward for regulatory clarity or for ensuring protections for our nation’s waters. America’s hunters and anglers cannot afford to have Congress undermine effective Clean Water Act safeguards, leaving communities and valuable fish and game habitat at risk indefinitely.
The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 24 projects that will receive funding from its Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) Restoration Grant Programs
The grants, which total $31.4 million, are CDFW’s first distribution of funds through these programs. They include approximately $24.6 million awarded through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program to projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; and approximately $6.8 million awarded through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program for projects that benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta specifically.
In response to this first solicitation, announced last August, CDFW received 190 proposals requesting a total of $218 million in funding. All proposals underwent an initial administrative review, and those that passed were evaluated through a technical review process that included reviews by CDFW scientists, as well as experts from other agencies and academia.
The 24 approved projects will further the objectives of the California Water Action Plan, including establishing more reliable water supplies, restoring important species and habitat, and creating a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system (e.g., water supply, water quality, flood protection and habitat) that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades.
“These projects achieve the spirit and intent of Proposition 1 to protect and restore important ecosystems around the state,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Investing in these projects is exciting. These projects prove we can conserve California’s natural resources, while also contributing to other critical statewide needs, such as enhancing water supply reliability.”
Californians overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1 in November 2014. CDFW received its first appropriation of funds for allocation July 2015. In a little over one year from voter approval, and just more than six months from legislative appropriations, CDFW is awarding these first grants with Proposition 1 funds.
Projects approved for funding through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program include:
Projects approved for funding through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program include:
More information about CDFW’s Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants. Funding for these projects comes from the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act 2014 (Proposition 1) bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Proposition 1 can be foundhere.
Here’s a report from San Diego’s Lake Jennings:
Join us for our second annual Kid’s Day on January 30, 2016 from 6
a.m. to 2 p.m.! Children 10 years and under fish for free! Fun for all ages!
400 pounds of trout will be stocked into our kid’s pond– 1 fish per child. Some fish will be tagged and can be redeemed at the bait and tackle shop for prizes such as free camping week-
ends, and free boat rentals.
For those who are beginning fishermen, Fishing University class will be held at 10 a.m. at the Bait Shop taught by our educated rangers.
They’ll help you rig your poles and choose the best bait and tackle to fish Lake Jennings!
The lake will be CLOSED on Friday, January 29 in preparation for the event. Shoreline fishing below the campground will be available to registered campers only on the 29th.
Hermit Cove and Eagle Cove were prime locations for catching our Sierra ‘bows this week. They are hitting on night-
crawlers and PowerBait (garlic scented or salmon peach).
Next week will begin our weekly stockings for five weeks in a row! 1,000 pounds. will be added next week and a total of 7,500 pounds will be stocked by February 21!
The shoreline of cloister cove and the T-dock are the best places for bass fishing. The bait of choice is shiners.
CATFISH AND PANFISH
Bluegill have been hiding out along the Half Moon Cove shoreline. The best bait for catching panfish is nightcrawlers.
Like Lake Jennings at facebook.com/LakeJenningsRecreation
The following appears in the January issue of California Sportsman:
By Chris Cocoles
Not that low water conditions prevented his clients from scoring some nice steelhead in the last two years, but longtime North Coast guide Tony Sepulveda expects rivers to have a lot more water this season.
A series of rainstorms that swept through in late fall and December was sorely needed after the extended drought. The Smith River got enough water in December that it crested over flood stage, “the biggest we’ve seen in quite a few years,” says Sepulveda of Green Water Fishing Adventures (707-845-9588; greenwaterguides.com). “It’s been a wet December, so hopefully it keeps going.”
From a pure fishing standpoint, Sepulveda prefers lower water conditions when it comes to catching steelhead.
“I didn’t feel like it was a huge run last year, but the low water kept those fish spread out and they moved slow,” he says. “The year before that, we had really low water combined with a really big run of fish. Two years ago was the best steelhead fishing I’d seen in 20 years here.”
“Steelhead are interesting. They’ll sit where they want to sit and a lot of times there are spots that are really low, froggy spots they’ll like to sit in. These are big flats that go for 2 miles in either direction, and a lot of times with just a little bit of a substrate change and no perceivable change of current,” Sepulveda adds. “It just comes down to knowing a river and knowing where those fish want to sit.”
But the rainy season at the beginning of winter was much needed, so more water certainly won’t be frowned upon and can still make for a productive season. One of the only negatives in more rain is perhaps losing a few days to inclement conditions.
“The last couple winters I can count on one hand the number of days I lost to weather,” Sepulveda says. “I just think this year is going to be a different one in terms of conditions since we’ll be back with more normal weather.”
He will mostly focus his attention on three popular area rivers: the Smith, which empties into the Pacific just north of Crescent City; the Eel, south of Eureka; plus the Chetco, flowing just across the California border in Oregon. During the mostly sporadic rainfall of the last two years, Sepulveda primarily concentrated his efforts on the Eel.
“The Eel tidewater has kind of been my bread and butter,” he admits.
Depending on water conditions, he’ll also “bounce around” to smaller rivers and creeks this season, but the aforementioned three are his holy trinity during the winter steelie run this month and next.
“We’re really lucky here in Northern California; we get a really good progression in terms of the clearing time of all our rivers,” Sepulveda says.
“The Smith is the first one that comes into shape always; after a really big deluge, maybe 24 to 36 hours you can be back on that thing and fishing again. And the Chetco’s a little bit behind it. Then the Eel starts to come into shape on the upper stretches of the south fork, and you can follow a wave of green water for about 2½ weeks as you work your way down the south fork down into the main stem. I suppose the name of the game in winter steelhead fishing is following that progression and being ready to move as you need to.”
Each of the three has its own distinct personality and unique challenge in relation to the other.
“To break the differences down in real definitive fashion, we could write a novel,” jokes Sepulveda, who did his best to provide a CliffsNotes version of the best steelhead waters.
The Chetco can be a much simpler river to fish. If you see something that looks like good water you are likely to be in a good spot. The river bottom is also lots of smooth gravel, less susceptible to snagging and not super deep.
The Smith can be a totally different prospect and carries a higher degree of difficulty. Sepulveda tells clients who play golf that fishing the Smith can be equivalent to playing 18 holes at Spyglass Hill, the tricky course among the Pebble Beach links on the Monterey Peninsula.
“The fish there sit in peculiar waters a lot of times. It’s just a much harder river to get to your bait to run (on),” he says. “It’s snaggy if you’re fishing too heavy. And when it’s big and pushy it’s hard to get to your baits to drift without drag because there’s so much water flowing.”
The Eel’s south fork and main stem are different rivers in their own right in how they are fished. On the south fork, smaller and easy to read when it gets lower, fish will usually sit right in the heart of deeper buckets of water. But on the main stem you’re catching more fish when rolling over shallow breaks and little ripples.
What really isn’t different is the technique and tackle used from river to river.
“Steelhead fishing is steelhead fishing. We’re still rolling the same stuff most of the time. I’ll do a little bit of plug fishing here and there,” Sepulveda says. “For the most part we’re just rolling bait and drifting roe or even just a yarn ball. That part of it doesn’t change much. It’s just more about where I fish more than anything else.”
Drought? High real estate prices? The Sacramento Kings not only continue to play mediocre basketball but are a dysfunctional mess? Wolves don’t seem to care and continue to relocate to California in bunches.
Here’s more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Evidence of a wolf in Modoc County was reported today by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The 3-year-old male wolf, who is radio-collared and dubbed OR-25 by the state wildlife agency in Oregon, left his birthpack in northeastern Oregon in April, was in southwestern Oregon by December and recently crossed the border into California.
“California is clearly wolf country because they keep coming here from Oregon. This is a great moment to celebrate,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Perhaps they are following a scent trail from other wolves that have come here the past couple years but, whatever the reason, it makes it all the more necessary to ensure they have the protections needed to thrive once they get here.”
OR-25 was born into the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon, as was California’s first known wild wolf in 87 years, OR-7, who first came to California in 2011. OR-7 ranged across seven northeastern counties in California before returning to southwestern Oregon, where he found a mate and had litters of pups in 2014 and 2015. In August 2015, California’s first wolf family in nearly a century, the Shasta pack, was confirmed in Siskiyou County. The breeding female of that pack, which has five pups, is also related to the Imnaha pack.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife spotted first a single wolf and in Siskiyou County last summer. Later cameras revealed a mom and five wolf pups.
Our friends Drew and John at Caples Lake gave us a little peek into the Sierras and that snow is abundant in the high country. Here’s their update:
– 220 inches of Snow as of January 7th, 2016
– Eight Cabins & six lodge rooms with parking and sledding 50 feet from your door
– 1 sq. mile, Caples Lake is frozen with 15 inches of ice depth for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.
Caples Lake Resort