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Why do we only have permit-hunts on DFW’s Carrizo and Canebrake areas?


Why does the state only offer a limited number of hunting opportunities on the Canebrake and Carrizo Plain Ecological Reserves?

There is no sensible explanation.

Both are part of the Department of Fish and Wildlife-owned lands system, and both of these large tracts of relatively remote land could and should be opened to all general season hunting.

The Carrizo Plain Ecological Reserve sits just north of Highway 166 adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument between Bakersfield and Pismo Beach. It is 38,900 acres – over 40 square miles to give you a better visual of its size – and has a good dirt road right through the middle of the property that connects it to Highway 166 on the south and Soda Lake on the north. That road is closed to the public. There is only foot access allowed from a parking area on Highway 166 at mile marked 42.

The area is divided into four units – the north and south Chimineas Ranch units, the American unit, and the Panorama unit – and walk-in is allowed only for upland birds and small game Sept. 1-15, and Dec. 1-Jan. 31, and only on Wednesdays and Saturday. You have to download a permit application in advance and have it in your possession while hunting. No hunting is allowed for deer, coyotes, or ground squirrels.

If you go to the Department of Fish and Wildlife website, it will take you about an hour to ferret out this information. You will have to download a 95 page document and read thought it, and then make some calculated guesses on what is exactly open and closed. Most people give up. In spite of excellent hunting opportunity on this publically-owned land, we are basically excluded from most of it. We can’t even use it to access the federal forest service or monument lands that are open to hunting outside of those narrow parameters.

Oh, there are some permit hunts on the property that open up the roads for a handful of weekends a year just to those permit holders, but why is the whole place closed and the roads not open to public access? The best answers I could get from the DFW staff were that they were concerned about road damage and disturbance of the tule elk herds that live on the property. Really? No one could give me a rationale answer why coyote and ground squirrels were closed to hunting, when hunters are allowed to hunt them on the adjacent federal lands. And why isn’t the area included in the general deer zone, like all the surrounding public lands? The answer was simply that there aren’t a lot of deer on the property. So? That makes it like most of the adjacent hunting areas open.

Management of the 7,200-acre (over 10 square miles) Canebrake Ecological Reserve is even worse. This area is located on the South Fork of the Kern River along Highway 178 east of Lake Isabella. Several miles of the river and Canebrake Creek run right through the property. Here hunting is simply not allowed at all except for a couple of special application hunts for juniors and family, but basically the whole area is closed to hunting.

No one could give me a reason for the closure that made any sense, especially when all of the adjacent federal Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands are open to hunting. Ironically, hunters can use the trails through the ecological reserve to access these federal lands. The closure probably makes the least sense on Scodie Canyon Unit of the area. This unit is well away from the Kern River and south of Highway 178 in the arid habitat in the foothills of the Scodie Mountains. The only people who might use this part of the area are hunters looking for quail and chukar.

But there you have it. These are two great pieces of state-owned property that get almost no use from hunters – or anyone else – because the DFW has locked the gates and manages them in baffling ways, ways that are inconsistent with wildlife management and use of public lands.


A Hautman brother wins the federal

duck stamp art competition yet again

For the 13th time one of Minnesota’s three Hautman brothers has won the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bob Hautman, who lives in Delano, Minn., painted a pair of mallards that won the competition during final judging on Saturday, beating over 200 of the nation’s finest wildlife artists. His artwork will appear on the 2018-19 federal duck stamp, which must be purchased by all waterfowl hunters. Collectors and conservationists also snap up the stamp.

The annual stamp costs $25 and raises nearly $40 million each year to provide funds used entirely to conserve and protect wetland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The artist doesn’t get a dime from the federal government for his artwork – and the government keeps the painting. But the artist retains the right to sell reproductions of his work, and it is said that winning is worth over $1 million in print sales. The elevation of the artist’s stature is also instant and beyond calculation.

Bob Hautman has won the competition two other times, while his brothers Jim and Joe have won the contest five times each. The three are avid hunters.

Federal Duck Stamps are available at many national wildlife refuges, sporting goods stores and many art retailers, through the U.S. Postal Service, or online at

You can see a gallery of the 215 entries for the 2017 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest at:


[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.]

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