By JIM MATTHEWS
The Mojave National Preserve, a unit of the National Park Service, will remain closed to deer hunters and other recreation users this weekend due to the federal shut-down. The D17 deer hunting zone is mostly contained within the Preserve boundaries, effectively shutting down hunting for 500 tag holders.
There has been some confusion about whether or not the Preserve was closed to hunting and other dispersed recreation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was sending out information as late as Thursday this week saying that “hunters may park on open, public roads and walk into the National Park and [National] Forest lands to hunt.”
Linda Slater, a spokesperson for the Mojave National Preserve, said Friday afternoon this was not the case. The Preserve is “closed to all recreational use, including hunting,” said Slater. The DFW had not done any official announcements telling hunters about the closures as of Friday evening.
Major thoroughfares through the Mojave Preserve remain open, but stopping or parking on these roads and recreational use is not allowed. Open routes for travel across and to private property within the Preserve include Kelbaker Road, Morningstar Mine Road, Kelso-Cima Road, Cedar Canyon Road, Essex Road, Lanfair Road, Ivanpah Road, and Black Canyon Road.
Travel on all dispersed dirt roads is closed and the National Park service staff has closed some of these well-traveled routes. Wild Horse Canyon Road and Kelso Dunes Road both have barricades and signs, but Slater said the myriad of dirt roads are not blocked off and the staff is relying on the public’s compliance in these cases.
While citations have been issued to recreational users violating the closure orders on other National Park units, Slater said the Preserve rangers, who remain on the job as essential employees, will be using an “informational and educational approach” with hunters and other users who many not realize the Preserve is closed.
“We’re all very disappointed with the closure as well. This isn’t something we like doing,” said Slater, who said the rationale for the blanket closure was so there was consistency across all National Park units.
Hunters are the most impacted group of users by the Mojave Preserve closure. Deer season opens this Saturday in this region and the quail and chukar hunting season opens the following Saturday, Oct. 19. The bird hunting opener is traditionally one of the busiest weekends of the year on the preserve.
The D17 deer season runs from Oct. 12 through Nov. 3 and the upland bird season is from Oct. 19 through January 26. Slater said that when the government shutdown ends, the preserve would immediately reopen.
Bureau of Land Management lands adjoining the Preserve remain open to deer hunting this weekend, effectively forcing all 500 tag holders into a small area north of the Preserve. This could have a tremendous impact on the small sub-population of the D17 deer herd that lives in this area. Yet, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife did not close the season until the government shut-down ends so this portion of the herd wasn’t overly impacted.
Other states have been granted the authority to open the National Park lands within their states using state funds, but Governor Jerry Brown announced Friday that would not be happening in California because the state doesn’t have the funds.
The state apparently didn’t even see what it would cost to keep the Mojave Preserve open for recreational users until the shut-down ends. If done on a limited basis that only included access to the lands and not opening any of the facilities, it likely could be done very inexpensively. This is because the Preserve is managed more like BLM or U.S. Forest Service properties than other National Park units. Both BLM and Forest Service lands remain open to public access during the shut-down, even though facilities like campgrounds, ranger stations, and offices are closed. The state didn’t see if it could “manage” the Mojave National Preserve this way until the shut-down ended.
As of Friday evening the DFW still had not notified D17 deer tag holders that their hunting zones was mostly closed because of the federal shut-down. The agency did post a fact sheet on the front page of its website announcing the closures of federal National Wildlife Refuges, most of which have state-run waterfowl hunting programs which have been cancelled. This was done earlier this week, and it issued a press release on these closures on Friday. But there was no information on how the federal closures would affect other hunters on federal public lands -- National Forest of Bureau of Land Management -- and nothing specific on Preserve closure’s impacts on D17 deer tag holders.
Here's a copy of my Monday letter to our DFW director, pleading with him to help keep "our" public lands open. Waiting for a reply.
Dear Mr. Bonham,
I'm here hunting hat in hand, asking you and Governor Jerry Brown to get involved in the selective federal government shutdown that is impacting hunters and other recreation users in major ways as long as the Obama Administration selectively targets public lands for needless federal closures. The closure will effectively eliminate the D-17 deer season slated to start this coming weekend. It has already stopped the special junior upland bird hunt that was on the books for this past weekend. Our general quail and chukar season opens Oct. 19, and one of the best and most popular hunting areas for Southern California -- the Mojave Preserve -- is currently closed to public access. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
There's no reason for any of these closures. It won't save the federal government one dime. This is a political vendetta to make the pain on the public dramatic in a effort to end the government shutdown.
It would be nice to see California rise about the political squabbling and work to get all National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and other closed public lands back open to lessen the suffering caused by the government shutdown.
Arizona and Wisconsin are working to keep their federal public lands open, yet the impact is greater in California than any other state for sportsmen.
Will you help? Make some points with sportsmen by fighting on their side.
By JIM MATTHEWS
Since the federal government shutdown, we have learned that the Obama Administration has ordered the closure of all National Park Service units, including the Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree, and the Channel Islands here in Southern California. Since there’s a closure and all federal website were shut down (why?) and all offices are shuttered and employees at home, it’s pretty hard to find out any information on what’s really going on with National Forest lands, National Monuments, and Bureau of Land Management lands.
What’s open, what’s closed? Will the Inyo National Forest folks try to keep people from fishing Convict Lake? Who knows? National Park Service staff tried to tell anglers they couldn’t fish Biscayne Bay this week because it was within Everglades National Park. Citations were threatened.
The one shutdown that has raised the ire of people and received a little press is the closure of the World War II memorial in Washington D.C., just as a large number of the remaining survivors of that conflict were intending to visit. The Obama administration, instead granting a special permit to this group, actually brought on additional staff to enforce the WWII Monument closure. Why? There isn’t need for staffing for people to visit that monument. But to bring on extra staff to prevent people from visiting the monument….
A disgruntled park service employee in Washington was quoted as saying they were told to make the closures “as painful as possible to the public. It’s disgusting.”
Other closures: All pullouts to see Mt. Rushmore were closed and stopping not allowed. You could only drive through. Ditto for Yosemite. Local national forests closed all campgrounds and facilities, even though most of the major campgrounds are operated by volunteer “hosts” who collect the fees for the agency. Closing these campgrounds resulted in a net loss of revenue and only impacted campers. A Virginia park was closed because it sits on federal land, not because it received any funding from the feds. In fact, NPS law enforcement staff were sent to remove the state paid staff and volunteers. The list goes on and on.
In Arizona, an offer from Governor Jan Brewer to keep Grand Canyon National Park open with state funds was turned down by the Obama Administration. Did you know that? And why would Obama do that?
In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker defied the Obama mandate in his state and refused to close parks that received federal funding or facilities that were on federal lands, telling his wildlife and park agency staffs to remove barriers put up by the feds at some public boat launches on federal lands.
Of particular interest to hunters and fishermen, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is negotiating with federal agencies, mostly the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, to make sure those lands will be open to legal hunters and fishermen during ongoing seasons, saying the state had jurisdiction on these matters, not the feds and that the closure was arbitrary and completely not related to any federal funding or federal costs for keeping the lands open.
There’s been no backlash to these moronic federal closures in California government. Our Department of Fish and Wildlife is mute. Our governor Jerry Brown is mum.
California park units like the Mojave National Preserve, which has no entrance gates or daily use fees, is closed. If you wanted to go out and drive on a county road through the preserve, you can do that. (The park service staff learned early after the creation of a preserve that San Bernardino County would send out a battalion of sheriffs to arrest any federal ranger trying to close a designated county road.) But if you park your car along one of those roads to take a hike to, say, Tetonia Peak, you could get a citation and be fined something like $5,000. No, really. I can’t make up stupid stuff like this.
The closure of the main office in Barstow did not and should not affect your hike. The rangers are still working and considered “essential” staff, so there is really no difference in how users are affected, except that you can’t stop at an office or visitor center and ask questions or buy maps. The park lands are closed to the public simply to cause pain, not save money. This is an Obama Administration decision.
The special junior quail season was cancelled this weekend in the Mojave Preserve because the park service staff was directed to “close the park” by the Obama Administration.
The D-17 deer hunting season opens next weekend and hunters will be banned from the preserve as of today unless the DFW and governor get involved, and maybe even then. Thanks Obama.
The following weekend, Oct. 19, the quail and chukar hunting season opens in the Preserve. This is the busiest weekend of the year in the Preserve, with more visitors than at any other time. But Obama doesn’t care about hunters or those of us who still cling to God and guns. He’s made that clear.
I frankly don’t care how you feel about the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) or if you want to blame the Republicans or Democrats for the shutdown. I don’t care if you think this is the appropriate time to finally debate ACA (now that we know what’s in it) or not.
What I care about is this: We have a President who is arbitrarily picking and choosing government closures designed to inflict the most pain on the public to press his agenda. This is not about saving money. And the Senate Democrats are going along with this. Since I am most familiar with outdoor-related issues, I can tell you that Republicans in both the House and Senate offered partial funding bills that would have kept all National Parks and federal land agencies open and operating this week. They were summarily rejected by Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats. Obama’s staff has continued to direct federal land use agencies to enforce closures that don’t save a dime, but critically impact users.
It’s time to put the blame for this lunacy squarely where it belongs: On President Obama. He and his minions keep saying the Republicans need to negotiate. Well that’s bull. This is a problem Obama can solve on his own because it’s not related to ACA or any continuing resolution. If you see it otherwise, you have on partisan blinders. Wake up!
JIM MATTHEWS’ PICKS OF THE WEEK
1. Top pick is again the offshore fishing for the San Diego fleet. There are fewer giant bluefin, but schoolie bluefin to 40 pounds, yellowfin tuna to 30 pounds, dorado to 20 pounds, and limits of yellowtail from six to 12 pounds have been the rule for overnight and longer boats running out of San Diego. Even flat-calm seas are forecast for last this week and through the weekend. It simply can’t get any better. While weekend reservations are generally booked up for a couple of weeks, it’s still possible to jump on a trip mid-week with only one or two day’s notice. For updates or to book a trip, call Fisherman’s Landing at 619-221-8500, H&M Landing at 619-222-1144, Seaforth Sportfishing at 619-224-3383 or Point Loma at 619-223-1627.
2. On the eve of the annual Striper King Classic charity fund-raising striper tournament this Saturday at Diamond Valley Lake, the local striper anglers tend to get quiet. But the word has been leaking out that the bite is really starting to turn on for bait, trolling, and topwater anglers. This event usually takes place just when the fall bite breaks wide open. It looks like that will happen again this year. Trolling white flies is probably the best bet. For more information on the striper action or the tournament, call the marina at 951-926-7201 or Last Chance Bait and Tackle at 951-658-7410.
3. Cool evenings having you hankering for a little trout fishing? Well, the trout action at Green Valley Lake has been the best it has been all season and the crowds are thinning out. Limits are more the rule than the exception and fish to five-pounds have been caught this week. For more information on this action, call 909-867-2009 or go to the website at www.gvlfishing.com.
FRESHWATER HOT SPOTS
TROUT: Green Valley Lake, Big Bear Lake, and Lake Hemet are all improving with cooler weather and dropping water temperatures. Limits have been the rule at Green Valley. The Sierra remains very good throughout with water levels low everywhere, fishing pressure dwindling, and brown and brook trout entering the spawn. Top bets this week have been Crowley Lake for fly anglers, Twin Lakes (Bridgeport), Virginia Lakes, Silver Lake, and the whole Bishop Creek drainage (except South Lake). However, just about the whole region from the Bishop Creek drainage to the West Walker River drainage has been good. Fly anglers are also seeing very good fishing on both the East and West Walker rivers in the Eastern Sierra and the upper, upper Kern River in the Western Sierra is getting better with cooler water temperatures.
BLACK BASS: Overall fair late summer fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass with cooler evenings finally starting to shake things up a little. Still fair to good action in that morning and evening time-frame for topwater or crankbait fish at most lakes that have bass, but the mid-day stuff is still tough. Top bets this week are El Capitan, Lake Perris, Lower Otay, Sutherland, Skinner, Cachuma, Casitas, Castaic, Diamond Valley, Piru, and Isabella with Pyramid, Cachuma, Silverwood, and Hodges not far behind. The Central Coast waters of Margarita and Lopez are still pretty good, too. The Colorado River’s smallmouth and largemouth bites are fair to good in Havasu and the main river below the dam. The lower river backwaters are also pretty good early in the day. The bite is fair to good in Mohave and reservoirs further upriver. The lower Kern River around Bakersfield is a sleeper pick for its awesome bite on smallmouth and some largemouth. Most are small, but the action is hot as the water clears.
STRIPED BASS: San Antonio Lake on the Central Coast looked like it was breaking wide open, but lulled a little. It was still producing some quality fish from six to 12 pounds or better, but there was less topwater action this week. Other waters seemed to improve over the week. Diamond Valley Lake is a fair to good bet for anglers trolling white flies or fishing cut baits, and the bite has been better again this past week. Silverwood has been good on smaller fish under two pounds on anchovies. The surface bite at Skinner has been hit and miss, but it remains the top bet for trollers. Pyramid is very good on small fish two pounds or under and the surface bite is starting to take off on bigger fish. Castaic also good with some flurries of good topwater action early, but also mostly on smaller fish. On the Colorado River, the bites are mostly slow to fair. The Willow Beach stretch is pretty fair on quality fish.
PANFISH: The redear and/or bluegill bites remain the best bet in most waters where they occur. Top spots include Perris and Diamond Valley, but the bluegill bite is still fair to good throughout the southern half of the state, especially early and late in the day. The tilapia action at the Salton Sea continues to stink, and the crappie bites are mostly dead throughout the region, but the bite surged this week at Lake Isabella at the dam on live minnows.
CATFISH: The heavily planted lakes are in fine form with twice-weekly plants making Corona Lake and Santa Ana River Lakes top bets. Irvine Lake is also a good bet for the planted and holdover cats. For wild fish, the bites are now good with Isabella the top pick and Pyramid, Cachuma, Skinner, and Silverwood all decent bets. Silverwood cranked out a 24-plus, and produced a 17-pounder. There is also a good bite in the California aqueduct near Taft on catfish for anglers fishing wads of crickets on circle hooks. The Colorado River also has fair to good action on both channel catfish and flatheads just about everywhere. The fall bite on bigger flatheads is due to kick in anytime.
For our complete fishing report, including the water-by-water reports and our saltwater update, please go to our partners at FISHHOUND at this direct link:
By JIM MATTHEWS
I have long owned Labrador retrievers. By the time they are two years old, I’m convinced they can understand English better than my two boys. The current Lab, Duke, knows it’s almost hunting season because he has heard me talking on the phone. Normally, he sleeps on couch in the living room or on the bed, but of late he’s been laying by the chair in my office, not wanting to miss an opportunity to head for the truck, looking forward to tearing around in the field.
All of my Labs have been wonderful dogs most of the year, but then hunting season comes along and they expect me to take them along on my trips. Since that is the excuse I use to have the animals, it is assumed I will take them along. I can’t be honest and say I don’t want to take them along because they ruin my hunting trips as effectively as they’ve ruined the backyard. That would not fly well around the Matthews’ house.
It’s not that my charming wife, Becky, doesn’t like dogs, but she would like to have a nice backyard, too, and could do without the dogs being in the house all the time and leaving big dollops of hair all over the carpet, family room couch, and pillows on the bed. So it weighs heavily in the dogs’ favor for them to be my prized hunting dogs. Even if “prized” is really a slight exaggeration. Well, maybe a pretty gross exaggeration.
As I said, I’ve had Labs for over 30 years and they have always been my buddies. I think. Duke may have spent too much time with my two sons because he shows me about as much respect. Oh, we get along pretty well here around the office when everyone else is away. I talk to Duke and he listens attentively. He likes to sort through hunting and fishing tackle with me. He steers me to his treats in the kitchen whenever I get up from the desk.
But when we actually go hunting, I’ve come to realize that Duke thinks I’m a less of a hunting partner than the driver of the party bus. The first four seasons we hunted together, I only knew where he was by the sight of birds flushing in the distance. He would find me when he needed a drink. I’m hoping that as he ages, I might actually be close enough to get a shot or two before the quail or chukar fly into the next drainage. There have been a few times where a bird mistakenly flushed toward me and I shot it, only to find out that Duke has what dog people call a “hard mouth.” My field-dressed quail or doves frequently look more like Salisbury steak than mini-chickens.
Duke has a great nose and loves to retrieve. If he’s within sight, he even follows hand-signals really well. He minds really well when I have treats. So I’m thinking he will be a good old field dog as he slows down with age.
I fancy myself as a pretty decent amateur dog trainer, having been mentored by a great trainer. With my first Lab, the late Mike Mathiot and I trained together every day for six months. Joe, the first Lab, was a gem. So I’ve chalked up the behavior of my Labs since that dog to questionable genetics.
A long-time hunting buddy and I were driving home from an excursion last fall. After spending a day with me and Duke, the friend noted that Duke was as quirky and trained about as well as most of my other Labs. He remembered Sandy, my first yellow female Lab. He noted that she growled at him, pretended she was deaf, and ate snipe. He remembered Tanka, the second female, who didn’t discover she had a nose until she was 10 but was a heck of a sight retriever who liked to be on your lap whenever you sat down. The two females weren’t big on actually retrieving birds, but they would find them and put their paw on them until you arrived. This meant you frequently had to pounce on wounded birds while the dog watched. And he remembered Jack, my big black male, who had one bad hip and a bad knee. Becky called him “Goldmine,” short for “our vet’s goldmine.” Jack didn’t like water because of the bad legs and I didn’t let him climb around in rough terrain. My buddy said he never remembered us getting into birds with Jack along because we always hunted mostly flat cover, and then he snarkily added that he never saw Jack limp or not be able to jump up into the back of the truck.
Then my buddy sort of got misty eyed. He also knew my first Labrador, Joe, who was the epitome of hunting Labs. Joe would sit quietly in the duck blind and watch the sky and perk his ears when he saw ducks, quartered in shotgun range while searching for upland birds, followed hand signals beautifully, and would do 200-yard blind retrieves in water or on land. He had a gentle mouth, retrieved to hand, and would walk himself at heel. He liked everyone and minded everyone.
“Joe was a wonderful dog. Who trained Joe?” he asked last fall, while watching Duke chew into my vest’s back pocket to get at my sandwich.
I’m not sure what he was getting at.
(About the photo: I took this shot of Duke because it was one of two times I saw him closer than 50 yards away on our chukar hunt in the desert around Victorville. He wanted a drink both times.)
Deer tags are still available
for most SoCal deer zones
Deer tags remain available for most Southern California deer zones on the eve of this year’s rifle hunting season openers.
Deer seasons open this Saturday, Sept. 28, in all of the Western Sierra Nevada deer zones (D-3 through D-10). It will open Oct. 5 in D-19 (San Jacinto Mountains), and on Oct. 12 for most of the remaining deer hunting zones in Southern California, including D-11, D-13, D-14, D-15, and D-17. The San Diego zone D-16 and the desert zone D-12 and the do not open until Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, respectively.
As of Wednesday morning, there were still 2,069 tags available for D-8, 222 tags for D-10, 3,080 tags for D-11, 2,052 tags for D-13, 462 tags for D-14, and 926 tags for D-15. All other Southern California zones have their tag quotas filled. These left-over tags may be ordered through all license vendors or on-line at the DFW website (www.dfg.ca.gov).
Four more public land quail
and chukar seminars slated
Looking or information on where to hunt upland birds on public land? There’s a seminar for that.
I'm holding four sessions over the next week on the eve of the general quail and chukar opener Oct. 19. The classes are all two hours long and cover basic information on public land maps, city and county shooting ordinances, and hunting tips and tactics so hunters can find legal places to hunt. But the seminars go to the next step by covering detailed information on good spots to hunt throughout Southern California.
Each person who attends the class also receives a two-issue trial subscription to the Western Birds newsletter, a detailed bird hunter’s scouting report, and the cost is $50 per person (with all members of the immediate family included in that price). Seating is very limited at the Turner’s locations, so pre-registration is suggested.
Dates and times for the added sessions are:
10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 28, at Turner’s Outdoorsman, San Marcos;
2-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at the new Turner’s Outdoorsman, Temecula;
6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the Turner’s Outdoorsman, Fountain Valley;
7-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, at Bass Pro Shops, Rancho Cucamonga.
By JIM MATTHEWS
A pet peeve of mine is that many big game hunters shoot poorly in the field. With most California deer seasons set to open few weeks, there will be a lot of hunters who are ill-prepared hiking our ridges who haven’t prepared adequately. Over the years, I have heard stories from hunting chums and guides about how too many of us don’t shoot very well when those fleeting opportunities arrive.
The malady is something that affects seemingly everyone at various times and some hunters all the time. Overcoming excitement, adrenaline, and a quick climb up a steep hillside are maladies that will attack all hunters at one time or another and affect how well we shoot when we spot a buck. The consistent inability to make shots in the field is the result of one thing: lack of practice. And I don't mean practice at the range, off a benchrest, I mean lots of field practice -- or at least simulated field practice.
Most of the good bird shooters I know are pretty competent shots at clay targets and they pop a lot of caps over the course of the year. Clay target games are patterned after real bird shooting. Yet, most of the big game hunters I know may not shoot more than five or 10 rounds out their old .30-06 a year -- and all of those are at the range to make sure ol’ Betsy is still shooting the same place it was last year. Range shooting for rifle shooters bears no resemblance to field shooting. We don't have running game target ranges like they do all over Europe. We don't have shooting games where you have to climb up a steep hill and then try to find a steady rest and then make a 125-yard shot on a slowly moving target the size of a paper plate while your pulse rate is 140. As a consequence, we have a lot of shots on big game botched each year.
How can we improve our field shooting skills?
First, you need to adopt for yourself the golden rule: Don't take a shot in the field if you are not confident you can make it. It is better to let a head of game get away (perhaps unspooked so you can stalk closer or catch your breath) than to wound the animal or spook it out of the country. Don't let the egging on a hunting chum or a guide cloud your judgment about what you can or can't do. Know your limitations and stick to them.
Second, you need to practice. I know that time limitations really do restrict how much time many of us can spend in the field shooting. So you need to make the most of your practice time at the range, and use the shooting aids that can improve your chances for success in the field.
Virtually all of the hunters I know do sight-in their guns in each year. Since you're at the range anyway, bring along a .22 rimfire and plan to shoot 200 rounds from a variety of positions. It'll just take an extra hour or two. I suppose you could use your big game rifle, but why suffer the ammo expense and recoil? Use the .22.
First, made sure the big game rifle is sighted in where and how you want it (and I frankly recommend dead-on at 100 yards, since most of us can't make shots much past 150 or 175 yards in the field anyway, at least if we're honest with ourselves). Second, take out the .22 rimfire and shoot 25 rounds offhand, 25 kneeling, 25 sitting, and another 25 rounds prone. Shoot at 100 yards. For some of your shots, go out and jog around the parking lot before you shoot. Make sure the pulse rate is up. Then see how many of your 100 shots would have been in a deer's vital area? I would bet you that darn few of your offhand shots will fall inside a 10-inch circle at 100 yards, and only slightly more from your kneeling and sitting positions, but hopefully most of your prone shots will be there.
Most of us will shoot poorly from unsteady positions. We are not trained target shooters who shoot thousands of rounds and learn breath control and how to break shots when the sight picture is perfect. So how can we get better?
Take the next 100 rounds of .22 rimfire ammo and do the same thing again. Only this time improvise like you would (or should) in the field. A few years ago when my oldest son was still a teenager, I challenged him at the range to an offhand shooting competition. He hates to shoot offhand, and I swelled with pride as he sidled over a pole that was supporting the roof over our station. He braced himself against the pole and grinned. He was using it just like a good field shooter would use a tree in the woods. It’s darn near benchrest-solid. When we shoot from a sitting or kneeling position, we lean against the benchrest, stuffing a jacket or hat under the gun to pad the rest. Again, stability goes up. Add a bipod to the front of your rifle or carry shooting sticks like the buffalo hunters did, and you will gain confidence with those second 100 shots through the rimfire.
As part of those rounds, practice shooting a quick second shot, so you can become familiar with operating the action of your rifle. If your rimfire rifle has a different type action than your big game rifle, you can still practice getting familiar with your big rifle by dry-firing the gun with dummy rounds. As a reloader, I always make a set of dummy rounds for this kind of practice, which I can do in the backyard. It is always amazing to me how many hunters, in the excitement of the moment, short-stroke their bolt-action, lever, or pump-action rifle when they need to make a quick follow-up shot. (Semi-autos don’t have that problem.) They either end up jamming the gun or dropping the firing pin on an empty chamber.
The simple field rule I follow in the field is to get in the most stable position possible. It is alarming how many times the only position you can use is offhand (kneeling or sitting down lowers you so much you can see the game for whatever reason). If the game is past 75 yards, I simply won't take that shot. Give me a tree, however, and I can whack a deer out to 150 with that additional brace. Let me drop into a prone position where I can rest my rifle over a log padded with my jacket, and I'll shoot out to 250 yards.
Confidence is the key. But it is only practice that will give you that confidence. It's best if you can get that confidence shooting at game in the field, but you can learn the same skills at the rifle range with some imagination and diligence. What you’ll learn is how to improve your field skills. More importantly, you realize your limitations so you don't make mistakes when opportunities present themselves in the field. Knowing your limitations shows respect for the game and yourself.
By JIM MATTHEWS
ONTARIO – Stereotypes become stereotypes because they tend to tell important things about members of a group. For example, fly-fishermen gravitate toward the artistic and creative side of the fishing spectrum. They like fine wines, have debates about what insect is hatching, and buy or tie box-fulls of flies to imitate specific insects. They only fish for trout and release all their fish, and most are toying with becoming vegetarians, if not vegans. They probably vote Democratic and have government white collar jobs, or they live in old hippy enclaves throughout the Rockies painting commercially unviable art or writing bad fiction. Well, isn’t that the stereotype?
Ceramicist and fly-fisherman Damian Ross breaks that mold, if you pardon the pun. He’s a blue-collar guy who works for a living, but ended up going back to school at 42 to get a master’s degree so he could teach art at the high school level and college level. He still has a regular job, and his trout-themed ceramics sell really well with the stereotypic fly-fishing crowd. Don’t tell those guys he’s a not-so-delicate redneck who likes beer, and don’t bring up Obama or you’ll see his Ross’ eyes roll into the back of his head. Don’t push him into any stereotypical boxes because he likes having his hands in clay or around the grip of a fly-rod.
Ross might have been an electrician or engineer if it weren’t for the art and fishing. They are part of his bloodline. He lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a toddler and caught his first fish at four with a branch and cat-gut leader and then started fishing the bays of Lake Superior. The passion stuck and he’s been a fisherman ever since. Two other things impacted his life in those early years.
“I started drinking beer about then,” said Ross, letting that sink in. “And I always was drawing as a child. My sister could draw better, and we always competed and I got better.” His father and grandfather were both accomplished painters and draftsmen who encouraged the drawing.
Then came the family move to Southern California and a friend at Claremont High School introduced Ross to pottery, and it was the same kind of absorbing passion he felt when he was fly-fishing local trout streams. Then life happened in a lot of intervening years. You get married, have kids and then grand kids, work at jobs and start businesses. You don’t get to fish as much as you once did and you might even give up pottery for a while because you became “discouraged with the world outside,” but then the stars realign, parallel track merge, and your life begins to revolve around your passions again.
On track one, Ross began slowly honing his love of fly-fishing, beginning with fly-tying in the 1980s, and then a fanatical fishing friend introduced him to the Sierra Nevada’s trout waters in the 1990s, and his world expanded from the small local trout streams to bigger waters and tall peaks. Fly-fishing started looming large in his life.
On track two, and about the same time, Ross started adding artwork to his pottery and ceramic sculptures, and the art work always seemed to be about trout and fly-fishing. Before this time, Ross had dabbled in trying to sell his traditional pottery and sculptures at fairs and shows around the state. He built kilns and pottery wheels commercially, and he even created pottery commercially for a while, sort of a one-man mass production shop. That was when the burnout set out and he just quit for five or six years. You might even argue it was the fishing that brought him back to the ceramics and pottery, and then the two merged.
Today, the 60-year-old Ontario angler’s fly-fishing based ceramic work is not just acclaimed, it’s commercially successful. There are more than fly-fishermen waiting in line to buy commissioned pots and sculptures, and Ross really doesn’t keep up with the demand, preferring to work on pieces and ideas that come to him, knowing they will find good homes today.
And he’s teaching. It wasn’t exactly the teaching job he envisioned when he went after the master’s degree, but it’s what he’d rather be doing. He’s teaching a fly-fishing class that has been ongoing for 12 years at Claremont Men’s College, and he’s taught college level ceramics for more than 10 years at Mt. San Antonio College, Chaffey College, Fullerton College, and at Cal State University, San Bernardino.
“My own ceramics have been mostly pottery of late, many painted porcelain pieces. The main subject I use to decorate my work is trout. Some have said, ‘Oh, so you’re that fish guy.’ Ah, there’s nothing like being pigeon-holed,” laughs Ross.
Anglers can see examples of “that fish guy’s” work at two fly-fishing shops in the region, The Fisherman’s Spot in Van Nuys and Sierra Trout Magnet in Bishop. His pieces range in price from $50 for cups, $300 to $600 for pots, and his sculptures start at $400 and go up. Some samples of his work are on his website at www.damiansclaywork.com. For special pieces, you can call Ross at 909-988-7557.
AB 711: DFW required to waive lead ban
if Feds ban hunting ammo as armor-piercing
The Department of Fish and Wildlife's proposed amendments to AB 711, the bill that would ban lead hunting ammunition statewide, were accepted by the bill's author and written into the legislation last week.
The first amendment to AB 711 would extend the possible implementation of the statewide ban by one year (2017 to 2018), but the reality is that most of the ban could and likely would be applied by the Fish and Game Commission before the 2018 deadline.
The second, and far more important amendment, would mandate the DFW waive the non-lead requirement if the federal government deemed non-lead ammunition used for hunting was "armor-piercing" and banned under federal law for use by the public, effectively banning all non-lead ammunition. The feds have been dancing around this issue for some time, and it has many of the anti-AB 711 groups rightly claiming that if the federal ban went into affect, it would effectively ban most rifle hunting in California. This amendment was written into the bill last week, and the bill is likely to now pass the legislature.
While this offers some solace for hunters, the bill is still bad legislation that will have serious impacts on hunting and hunters in California and the DFW's budget. The DFW, by advancing these amendments, made a bad bill better. But the agency also effectively said the science to ban lead ammunition for all hunting was sound, and nothing could be further from the truth. There is no scientific data that suggests wildlife is threatened by hunter's spend lead ammunition in an ecosystem-wide manner, and even scavenging birds and animals -- other than condors -- do not appear to be seriously (or even marginally) impacted by hunter lead except in a few isolated, individual cases. Power lines, windmills, and road kills have bigger negative impacts on wildlife than hunter lead. There is also no evidence that hunter lead is a danger to hunters eating game they shot in the field. The DFW could and should have argued the bill was not based on science and it would not support it. It should also have pointed out that the Fish and Game Commission, and not the legislature was the correct venue for this matter to be discussed based on the best-available science.
This bill is expected to be passed by the legislature this week.
JIM MATTHEWS’ PICKS OF THE WEEK
1. The bluefin tuna fishing is simply epic. The best it has been in decades, if not ever, for ocean anglers in this region. The overnight to two-day boats out of San Diego have been seeing both excellent volumn and quality on the bluefin with fish to 135 pounds reported this week. Add in yellowtail, dorado, and more and more yellowfin tuna, and you have the best bite of the year and probably the decade. If you go, be sure to bring some 60- to 80-pound class gear to handle the bigger fish. For updates or to book a trip, call Fisherman’s Landing at 619-221-8500, H&M Landing at 619-222-1144, Seaforth Sportfishing at 619-224-3383 or Point Loma at 619-223-1627. Many boats are still booked two weeks out, but this bite is not close to coming to a close.
2. The Cortez Bank is also having excellent fishing right now for the Los Angeles and Orange county-based boats making this overnight run. There are bluefin tuna (a slightly smaller grade than the San Diego boats are seeing), but the yellowtail are 25 to 40 pounds, and this action has only been slowed by winds that can plague the Cortez. For information on trips and fishing updates, check with Pierpoint Landing, Long Beach, at 562-983-9300 or Davey’s Locker, Newport Beach, at 949-673-1434.
3. Striper bites are really pretty good throughout Southern California and it’s really a coin toss where to fish right now, but Diamond Valley Lake probably has a bigger average size (five pounds) along with a shot for bigger fish from 15 to 25 pounds for anglers trolling white flies through balls of bait. There is some good surface action early in the day and deep bait fishing late in the day, but trolling is the best bet. For fishing updates, call the marina at 951-926-7201 or Last Chance Bait and Tackle at 951-658-7410.
FRESHWATER HOT SPOTS
TROUT: Lake Hemet, Big Bear Lake, and Green Valley Lake are all fair to good bets locally, with Green Valley at the top of the list. Jess Ranch, while tough, is still producing limits for dedicated anglers. The Sierra remains very good throughout with water levels low everywhere. Top bets this week have been Crowley Lake for fly anglers, Twin Lakes (Bridgeport), Virginia Lakes, Silver Lake, and South Lake but just about the whole region from the Bishop Creek drainage to the West Walker River drainage has been good. Fly anglers are also seeing very good fishing on the West Walker River in the Eastern Sierra and the upper, upper Kern River in the Western Sierra, but there are very low flows in the Kern.
BLACK BASS: Overall fair summer fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Still fair to good action in that narrow window at dawn and dusk for topwater at most lakes that have bass, but the mid-day stuff is tough. Top bets this week are El Capitan, Lake Perris, Lower Otay, Sutherland, Skinner, Cachuma, Casitas, Castaic, Diamond Valley, Piru, and Isabella with Pyramid, Cachuma, Silverwood, and Hodges not far behind. The Central Coast waters of Margarita and Lopez are still pretty good, too. The Colorado River’s smallmouth and largemouth bites are fair to good in Havasu and the main river below the dam. The lower river backwaters are also pretty good early in the day. The bite is fair to good in Mohave and reservoirs further upriver. The lower Kern River around Bakersfield is a sleeper pick for its awesome bite on smallmouth and some largemouth. Most are small, but the action is hot.
STRIPED BASS: Diamond Valley Lake slowed a little over the busy haliday, but it’s still pretty good for anglers trolling white flies or fishing cut baits. Silverwood has been good on smaller fish under two pounds on anchovies. The surface bite broke open at Skinner three weeks ago, slowed, and then looked to be coming back on this week. Pyramid is also pretty good on small fish two pounds or under. Castaic also fair with some flurries of good topwater action early, but also mostly on smaller fish. On the Colorado River, the bites are mostly slow to fair. The Willow Beach stretch is pretty fair on quality fish.
PANFISH: The redear and/or bluegill bites remain the best bet in most waters where they occur. Top spots include Skinner, Perris, and Diamond Valley, but the bluegill bite is good throughout the southern half of the state, especially early and late in the day. The tilapia action at the Salton Sea continues to stink, and the crappie bites have shut down throughout the region.
CATFISH: The heavily planted lakes are in fine form with twice-weekly plants Corona Lake, but Santa Ana River Lakes was temporarily and unexpectedly closed three weeks ago and remains closed. Irvine Lake is also a good. For wild fish, the bites are now pretty good with Isabella, Diamond Valley, Castaic, Pyramid, Cachuma, and Silverwood all decent bets. The Colorado River also has fair to good action on both channel catfish and flatheads just about everywhere now. Flatheads topping 30 pounds are reported every week in the lower river.
By JIM MATTHEWS
BRAWLEY – The 2013 dove season hunting opener was better than the past couple of seasons in spite of desert monsoon rains in the days before the Sunday, Sept. 1 kickoff to the state’s most popular hunting season.
While tropical rains are reported to run off birds, hunters throughout the Imperial Valley, along the Colorado River from Yuma to Blythe, and at scattered locations across the rest of Southern California generally reported much better hunting than the previous two years, and many had 10 bird limits in less than an hour.
Ryan Nielsen of San Bernardino hunted the public fields in the Niland region in the Imperial Valley and said it was “epic.”
“There were probably 200-plus people around the field and nearly everyone bagged limits. I haven’t seen birds like that there in years,” said Nielsen.
Leon Lessica with Desert Wildlife Unlimited in the Imperial Valley said all of the public fields his group prepares for hunting with Department of Fish and Wildlife money were holding far more birds than recent seasons. Lessica said the most popular field complex was on the east side of Highway 111 (where Nielsen hunted) just north of the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area. It had over 150 vehicles parked around it and there were at least 250 hunters. Hunters on the east side of this four-field complex and along the southwest corner did the best, with most reporting limits of mixed most mouring doves with a decent number of whitewing doves along with a few bonus Eurasian doves (which don’t count as part of the 10 bird daily limit).
In the Blythe region, the Palo Verde Ecologic Preserve, dismal the past two years because no grain crops were planted for birds, was perhaps one of the top spots in the southern half of the state.
“It was fantastic,” said David Baker with the Department of Fish and Wildlife in Blythe. “It was bumper to bumper up there, with people waiting in line for hunters to fill their limit so they could take their spot. The spot is still producing limits. I’ve been seeing 10 to 15 cars up there every morning and evening since the opener.”
Baker said three storms the week before the opening weekend chased most of the whitewing doves that had been using the area south.
“It was terrific and we lost 80 percent of our birds that were there. If we didn’t have those storms, it would have looked like Argentina,” said Baker.
That sentiment was echoed across Dovedom this week. Lessica said he was surprised at the volume of birds still in the Imperial Valley after drenching storms early the week before the opener.
“There were quite a few birds – not as many as a week and a half ago, but still a lot of birds,” laughed Lessica.
At the San Jacinto Wildlife Area in western Riverside County, the DFW’s Tom Trakes reported there were about 250 hunters at the area opening morning and that they averaged about a bird or two each – about double what has been taken in recent seasons. While some hunters were skunked, the hunters who took the time to pre-scout the flyways and feeding areas on the wildlife area had better hunting. Kevin Banford of El Toro had seven birds opening morning before calling it a day and heading out of the heat.
“Overall, it wasn’t a bad day,” said Trakes. “A lot of good times were reported.”
In the upper desert regions, hunting was difficult in the areas around Apple Valley to Barstow, but hunters at the Camp Cady Wildlife Area east of Barstow found fair hunting along the Mojave River wash winding through the area. There were even a couple of limits reported.
The first half of the dove season continues through Sept. 15, and the limit is 10 birds per day. After the third day of the season, hunters may have 30 birds in possession, but still cannot shoot more than 10 birds per day. There is no limit of Eurasian collared doves, but they can only be hunted during the regular dove season, except in Imperial County, which is now open year-around for Eurasians. The second half of the split dove season will run from Nov. 9 through Dec. 23.