CALIFORNIA’S DROUGHT WOES COULD AFFECT CENTRAL VALLEY’S WATERFOWL HABITAT
By Patrick Kittle
When Filling out the federal paperwork at the time of purchasing your shotgun this year, don’t forget to write in the state of your residence as “arid.”
We have been reminded that, although waterfowl migrate here to winter grounds, California is considered an arid state and waterfowlers will be experiencing more of the same from last year. More of the same drought conditions would result in less planted rice ?elds.
The ground that has been taken out of production in Colusa County is around 40 percent; to the east towards the Sutter Butte Basin, the percentage of rice is reduced to nearly 60 percent. This results in less wintering food sources for the visiting waterfowl.
The Colusa National Wildlife Refuge has planted extra watergrass and other “duck” food just for this reason. Another fall with scant rainfall will mean less water available to ?ood hunting ?elds. Whether the ground is fallow, planted or in natural vegetation, a duck blind is rendered nearly useless without surrounding water. Most ducks prefer large areas of water to feed and rest. The open water is a protective barrier from four-legged land predators.
If the conditions continue to be dry, those hunting ?elds that do have water will have more of the same success they experienced last year. The lack of water concentrates the birds and helps the success rate. It also opens up opportunities for dryland goose hunting. The goose hunting de?nitely opened up last year, and those who put their time and material into it really capitalized on the larger daily bag limits.
The polar blast that swept through the majority of the nation last season certainly sent some of the migration to California in bigger groups earlier than normal. Another year of that would put a big positive on an expected dry season.
There is a rumor in the weather mill that El Niño is positioning itself to dump ?oodwaters starting as early as October on California. That would be a complete game-changer and all scenarios covered here would be all wet. Stay tuned as we close in on waterfowl seasons in October. CS
Editor’s note: Patrick Kittle is the general manager at Kittle’s Outdoor Sports in Colusa. Kittle’s preseason waterfowl and dove opener sale begins on Aug. 22 and will run through Aug. 31. For more information, call (530) 458-4868 or go to kittlesoutdoor.com.