Youth hunters have a special opportunity coming up the weekend of Feb. 4-5. Youth Waterfowl Days will provide young licensed hunters an extra weekend to hunt after the regular season ends. Each year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) opens many of their wildlife areas for these special hunt days, as allowed under federal regulations.
Last year an estimated 2,000 youth hunters took to the field to try their luck waterfowl hunting on state, federal and private lands.
Federal regulations require that hunters must be 17 years of age or younger and accompanied by a non-hunting adult 18 years of age or older. All hunters must have a valid license and stamps as required by state and federal law. The daily bag and possession limits apply along with all other waterfowl regulations for the 2016-17 waterfowl season. The regulations can be found online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.
This year, some state and federal areas normally open for the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days may be closed due to flooding. The main portion of Grizzly Island Wildlife Area is closed, though the Island Slough and Gold Hills units remain open. Some refuges may limit the number of young hunters being admitted for each day of hunting. Many private clubs normally hosting youths on this hunt also face water problems. For updated information on state and federal land closures, please see www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/area-alerts.
“This is a great opportunity for young hunters to have the fields and marshes to themselves, learn skills and techniques from their mentors and share a wonderful experience,” said Melanie Weaver, CDFW Waterfowl Program biologist.
This is only one of the special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days and Junior Waterfowl Hunts held during the 2016-17 season. The Northeastern Zone Federal Youth Waterfowl Hunt days were held Sept. 24-25, and Sacramento and Delevan National Wildlife Refuges have held special junior hunts where all blinds were reserved for junior hunters. Private organizations like the California Waterfowl Association, chapters of Ducks Unlimited and private clubs provide special youth hunting opportunities throughout the season.
“Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days are something California Waterfowl really looks forward to as a chance to pass on the tradition of waterfowl hunting to another generation,” said the California Waterfowl Association’s Vice President of Conservation Jake Messerli.
In the Central Valley, Delevan, Colusa and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuges are scheduled to be open for the youth hunt days while Sutter National Wildlife Refuge will remain closed. Gray Lodge Wildlife Area will be completely open. Little Dry Creek will have a limited quota if no new flooding occurs. Each of these hunt areas are part of the CDFW reservation system and may fill for the opening Saturday. Gray Lodge Wildlife Area is not expected to fill by reservation and will offer walk-on opportunities. Last year at Gray Lodge, 55 young hunters averaged four ducks each.