Department of Fish and Game
September 9, 2003
Lorna Bernard, Information Officer, (916) 653-0991
Dan Yparraguirre, Senior Wildlife Biologist, (916) 445-3685
Melanie Weaver, Wildlife Biologist, (916) 445-3717
Hunters Can Expect Longer Waterfowl Season, Increased Bag Limits, But
Delayed Start in Some Areas; Impact of Budget Cuts Is Still Unknown
The California Fish and Game Commission has adopted a 99-day split waterfowl
season for most of the state that again allows the use of spinning wing
decoys during the second part of the season. The regulations also include
youth-only hunting days for each zone.
The bag limit for ducks is seven per day, 14 in possession, which is an
increase over last year for all zones except the Colorado River Zone. The
bag can contain a maximum of two mallard hens, two redheads, one canvasback,
one pintail and four scaup. The goose bag limit varies by zone, and is
detailed below. For ducks and geese, the possession limit is double the
The Commission had considered a motion to ban spinning wing decoys at its
Aug. 28 meeting in Santa Rosa. After a lengthy debate the motion was
defeated 3-2, leaving in place the existing regulation, which reads:
"Electronic or mechanically-operated calling or sound-reproducing devices
are prohibited when attempting to take migratory game birds. It is unlawful
to use electronic or mechanically-operated spinning blade devices or
spinning wing decoys when attempting to take waterfowl between the start of
waterfowl season and November 30. For the purposes of this regulation,
wind-powered spinning blade devices and kites are not prohibited."
"Most duck populations were up over last year, and this year's wet spring is
expected to result in better than average production of young ducks," said
Dan Yparraguirre, the DFG's Waterfowl Program Coordinator. He also pointed
out the shorter pintail season length which is similar to last year's
regulation. "Although pintail populations were up significantly over last
year, they remain far below their goal. As a result, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service elected to depart from its Interim Harvest Strategy which
would have allowed a full season with a daily bag limit of one bird."
Hunters in the Northeastern California Zone will enjoy a 105-day duck season
that runs Oct. 11 - Dec. 9, and Dec. 12 - Jan. 25. Spinning wing decoys are
only allowed after Nov. 30. Pintails can be hunted only during a 60-day
split season that runs from Oct. 11 - Nov. 30, and from Jan. 17 - Jan. 25,
2004. The canvasback season runs 60 straight days, from Oct. 11 - Dec. 9.
Youth hunting days are Sept. 27 - 28, 2003.
The goose season runs Oct. 11, 2003 - Jan. 18, 2004. The bag limit is three
per day, with no more than two dark geese, one of which can be a small
The Balance of the State Zone and Southern San Joaquin Valley Zone run 99
days, from Oct. 18 - Nov . 19. The season reopens on Nov. 21 and runs
through Jan. 25, 2004. Spinning wing decoys are only allowed after Nov. 30.
Pintails can be harvested from Oct. 18 - Oct. 26, and from Dec. 6, 2003 -
Jan. 25, 2004. The canvasback season runs Nov. 27, 2003 - Jan. 25, 2004.
Youth hunting days are Jan. 31 - Feb. 1, 2004.
The goose season runs Nov. 1, 2003 - Jan. 25, 2004. The limit is three per
day, with no more than two dark geese - one of which can be a small Canada
The Southern California Zone runs 100 days, from Oct. 18, 2003 - Jan. 25,
2004. Spinning wing decoys are only allowed after Nov. 30. The harvest of
canvasbacks and pintails are allowed only under separate, 60-day seasons
that run from Nov. 27, 2003 - Jan. 25, 2004. Youth hunting days are Jan. 31
- Feb. 1, 2004.
The goose season is from Oct. 18, 2003 - Jan. 25, 2004. The limit is five
per day, including no more than three white geese and three dark geese, one
of which can be a small Canada goose.
The Colorado River Zone runs 101 days, from Oct. 17, 2003 - Jan. 25, 2004.
Spinning wing decoys are only allowed after Nov. 30. The pintail and
canvasback seasons run from Nov. 27, 2003 - Jan. 25, 2004. There is one
youth hunting day, on Jan. 31, 2004.
The goose season runs Oct. 17, 2003 - Jan. 25, 2004. The limit is six per
day, including no more than three white geese and three dark geese.
A summary of the 2003/2004 waterfowl hunting regulations w ill be available
at DFG offices and license vendors statewide, and on the DFG home page at
While the late spring rains were a boon to waterfowl, they caused northern
California rice crops to get off to a late start. Consequently, some state
and federal areas in the Sacramento Valley will remain closed during the
first two weeks of the waterfowl season to allow rice farmers to complete
their crop harvest. According to Andrew Atkinson, (Department of Fish and
Game Wildlife Habitat Supervisor), the delayed opening of the wildlife
refuges is consistent with their original dual purpose of providing winter
habitat while at the same time providing relief from depredation of
agricultural crops. "Given the persistent spring rains, late rice plantings
and resulting delays in harvest, crop depredation is a significant concern
this year. The rice industry, through the Sacramento Rice Advisory Committee
(SRAC), requested that we delay the duck season on selected public hunting
areas until after significant portions of the rice crop are harvested," said
The following areas will open to public hunting on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003:
State Areas Federal Areas
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Colusa National Wildlife Refuge
Gray Lodge Wildlife Area Sutter National Wildlife Refuge
Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area Delevan National Wildlife Refuge
1) Little Dry Creek Unit Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
2) Howard Slough Unit
3) Llano Seco Unit
Still unknown is what impact the DFG's extreme budget constraints will have
on waterfowl hunters at the state's wildlife areas. According to John
Carlson, chief of the DFG's Wildlife Programs Branch, the challenge is to
come up with ways to reduce operating costs without sacrificing hunter
opportunity. "While there may be a reduction in some services we typically
provide at the wildlife areas, we are doing everything we can to avoid
actions that would reduce hunter opportunity, such as closing wildlife
areas," said Carlson. Wildlife area managers are considering sending staff
home during off-peak hours and instead making some wildlife areas "self
serve," and discontinuing on-site sales of two-day permits to avoid the
expense of meeting the state's staffing requirements for handling cash.
The DFG will announce any budget-related changes in service prior to the
opening of waterfowl season via its Web site, located at http://www.dfg.ca.gov.
The DFG Newsroom is live! Check our all of the latest news, issues and
information geared specifically to the media at
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