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DFW gives wrong information to dove hunters on hunting near guzzlers – again


If you don’t think the Fish and Game Code and its mish-mash of hunting and fishing rules and regulations is a quagmire, you have never tried to muddle your way through any of the regulation booklets or the code itself.

The Department of current Fish and Wildlife staff can’t even figure them out.

In a recent press release from the DFW on the dove opener this coming Saturday, the agency was listing some of the rules hunters should know and wrote:

"It is illegal to hunt within 200 yards of an artificial water source for wildlife."

This is absolutely incorrect.

Back in 2015 we went through this when DFW staffer Carrie Wilson said the same thing in her regular column answering hunting, fishing, and wildlife questions. Wilson was told that was the rule by a number of DFW staff who tried to figure out the law. It was never retracted or fixed, but I wrote about it in a number of outlets correcting the error. (As a note, Wilson’s useful and valuable column was used in many outlets until May this year when Wilson was basically removed from her public relations function for no publicly stated reasons, and she had to take medical leave from the work stress. Welcome to the new DFW.)

This time around the DFW removed the line from the story on-line until they could iron it out with their Office of General Counsel, their staff attorneys. (OK, another note: When I first started covering the DFG in the early 1970s, they had use of one attorney in the state AG’s office for half of his time. They had half an attorney. Now they have over 20 attorneys on DFW payroll, if you count the appointed staff – like director Chuck Bonham – who are also attorneys. A sad testimony on what the agency has become.)

But the pre-corrected press release was widely distributed and published, so here is the truth.

First, here is the section from the Fish and Game Code:

§730. Camping Near or Occupying Wildlife Watering Places.

(a) Camping/Occupying Defined. For purposes of this Section, camping/occupying is defined as establishing or inhabiting a camp; resting; picnicking; sleeping; parking or inhabiting any motor vehicle or trailer; hunting; or engaging in any other recreational activity for a period of more than thirty (30) minutes at a given location.

(b) Wildlife Watering Places Defined. For purposes of this Section, wildlife watering places are defined as waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.

(c) Prohibitions.

(1) Camping/Occupying is prohibited within 200 yards of the following:

(A) Any guzzler or horizontal well for wildlife on public land within the State of California.

(B) Any of the wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area as depicted on the Bureau of Land Management maps of "Calif. Federal Public Lands Responsibility," "Calif. Desert Conservation Area” and the new “Desert District, B.L.M."

Let me explain what this code means for hunters: Section (a) defines "camping/occupying" as including hunting. So it effectively says "anyone hunting for a period of more than 30 minutes" at one of these Wildlife Water Places -- which is also defined in Section (b) — is prohibited in the conditions under section (1). So to rewrite this in English, it would read like this:

"Hunting within 200 yards of a guzzler is prohibited if you do it longer than 30 minutes." The same is true for the other restrictions. “Resting within 200 yards of a guzzler is prohibited for more than 30 minutes.” “Parking within 200 yards of a guzzler or well is prohibited for more than 30 minutes.”

This is what the statute means. It DOES NOT mean it is illegal to ever hunt within 200 yards of a wildlife water source or guzzler.

If the state didn't want you to ever hunt within 200 yards, the time specification of 30 minutes would not have been included in defining what is later banned. That means you can hunt up to and around any guzzler, even stand on the apron and shoot a flushing bird. But you cannot set up a lawn chair and sit there for hours and wait for doves to show up to what may be the only water source for wildlife for miles. You will get a citation for that.

This makes sense from both a sporting and resource standpoint. With the heat, you are keeping wildlife from using those important water sources by sitting or parking at them for extended periods of time.

DOVE NUMBERS STABLE IN WESTERN STATES: On the eve of this year’s dove season opener Saturday, September 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports dove numbers are stable across the country.

In the Western States, dove numbers have declined slightly since last year, according to the recently-released USFWS’ annual report, Mourning Dove Population Status. Overall, the population has remained relatively stable since the Service has been collecting data that allows them to estimate total abundance over the past decade, with about 50 million doves in the West.

Nationwide, the dove population is estimated to be 243 million doves, the most populous bird in North America. The comprehensive data also shows there were over 700,000 hunters nationwide in 2017, and they shot about 4.5 million doves last season.

RAAHAUGES PHEASANT CLUB PERMANENTLY CLOSES: There was a sad Facebook post this week from Tony Hendy, who has been running Raahauge’s Pheasant Hunting Club for the past decade. It simply said the public pheasant hunting club was closing permanently. The Orange County Water District did not renew the club’s lease on the land it was using in Prado Basin.

Linc Raahauge and his son Mike started the club in 1971, after having a popular operation in Northern California (which is still in operating in Dunnigan, northwest of Sacramento, and still run by the Raahauge family). The Southern California club had been operating nearly continuously since it opened (although there was no hunting one year when Newcastle disease led to the loss of the year’s entire pheasant production at the club). The closure marks the end of an era for Southern California hunters.


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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