Seventy percent of California Waterfowl’s work as an organization is restoring and improving waterfowl habitat all over the state. We increase waterfowl production by adding nesting areas and brood ponds, and we improve hunting by creating habitat that’s attractive to the millions of ducks and geese that come here for the winter.
This year, we’re doing projects on 5,313 acres of public land, 6,026 acres of private land and 512 acres of CWA-owned land, some of which is open to the public through our Hunt Program. What follows is a description of how our work on public and CWA land will affect hunters this season.
MODOC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Where: J Pond Unit
What: This summer we rebuilt failing levees, expanded the size of the hunt unit, installed new water control infrastructure for the wetland unit and associated flood plain, constructed meandering swales throughout the unit, and created potholes.
Impact this season: A lot of the unit will be barren this year following construction, but the new water control infrastructure will allow the establishment of excellent waterfowl habitat next spring. The larger configuration of the unit will allow for more hunting opportunities.
Where: West Hansen Unit
What: This year, we repaired channels, installed new water infrastructure and leveled a large wetland unit to promote water conservation.
Impact this season: Although the unit is currently not located in the refuge’s hunt zone, it’s located directly across from the hunt zone, and the improvements should provide hunters with increased chances at birds moving to and from the enhanced areas.
Where: Grandma Tract
What: Last year, we expanded pothole acreage on higher elevation units, built islands, planted trees along swales and created a future mobility-impaired hunt site.
Impact this season: The refuge hasn’t had the water to fill these units since they were built last year. Depending on supply they may or may not receive water this fall.
Where: Floodplain Unit
What: Last year, we filled deep holes and ditches and created potholes in previously dense tule areas. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also planted smartweed.
Impact this season: New smartweed growth took off and should be a great duck attractant this season.
TULE LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Where: 685 acres surrounding “D” spaced blinds
What: Last year, we expanded “Walking Wetland” acreage, where sections of land rotate from wetlands to crop lands, each improving the productivity of the other.
Impact this season: The area is entering its second year of agricultural rotation and, water permitting, should receive water this spring.
Where: 350 acres of “E” spaced blinds, numbers 15-20
What: We will be building on the “Walking Wetlands” project by building new perimeter levees and installing new water control infrastructure around the agricultural lease land. The area will be flooded to provide new wetland habitat during alternating years.
Impact this season: We will be working on this project in early November, so you might see us out working on the area. Blinds 15-20 may be closed to hunting while the project is under way, but should re-open following project completion.
ASH CREEK WILDLIFE AREA
Where: “CWA Ponds” out of parking lot 2
What: This year, we’re converting six small ponds to three larger wetland units, replacing a dilapidated water control structure, installing new pipeline and creating a new wetland unit to the west of existing ponds.
Impact this season: There will be a lot of barren ground this first year, but the volume of waterfowl food plants will greatly improve in the future. The new wetland unit will also increase huntable acreage on the wildlife area.
Where: West of Adin
What: CWA is partnering with the Pit Resource Conservation District on the third phase of a large-scale wet meadow/wetland improvement project. This year, we’ll fill channels and create 11 to 15 acres of new potholes. Hundreds of acres of wet meadow habitat and 15 acres of riparian habitat will also be restored.
Impact this season: New potholes and improved shallow water flood plain habitat will provide hunters with access to additional waterfowl hunting acreage.
Where: Incised channel areas to the northeast of the Pilot Butte Parking Lot
What: This year, we rehabilitated three seasonal runoff channels by installing rock grade control structures. We created 12 small potholes behind each rock channel plug, and two new 10- to 12-acre wetland units north of the Pilot Butte 1 unit.
Impact this season: If we get early season rains, look for the small potholes and new seasonal wetland units to provide some new hunting opportunities, as well as improved nesting habitat next spring.
Where: Pilot Butte 3 managed wetland unit
What: Last year, we created loafing islands and a meandering swale/pothole complex throughout the unit.
Impact this season: Water has been held throughout the summer in this unit, which has produced many duck broods, and also provided early fall water to migrants. A wetland seed mix will be planted in the unit next spring and should produce excellent feed for birds next year.
GRAY LODGE WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Field 40
What: This 40-acre field was dominated by annual rye grass and thistle with a low end that held water in heavy rains. We developed a brood pond, an upland food plot and upland nesting cover.
Impact this season: Hunters will see little benefit this season, but come fall 2016, hunting opportunity here should improve noticeably.
Where: Field 63
What: This summer, we reconfigured the wetland units to create two much larger units separated from an 18-acre food plot, which may be planted this fall.
Impact this season: Hunters will see little benefit this season, but come spring, the food plot should provide nesting cover for ducks and other birds, and by fall 2016, the food plot should be attractive to upland gamebirds.
Where: Field 64
What: We evened out the lows and the highs, improving the ability to irrigate the unit, and we developed all new swales and potholes.
Impact this season: The new unit was not irrigated following construction, so hunters will see limited benefit this season. But there should be more birds here in the fall of 2016.
Where: Fields 71-74
What: This summer, we reconfigured the wetland units to make them much bigger with new swales and potholes and we improved irrigation capacity. The two new wetland units were irrigated following construction and produced some food plants. We also created two new irrigable food plots, and a fall planting is planned. These two units will improve resources for upland game bird species and allow for cover crops to produce spring nesting cover for production.
Impact this season: The vegetation filled in nicely, and these wetland units should produce much better results for hunters this year.
Where: Fields 33-35
What: Last year, we converted four wetland units to three larger units; created new swales, potholes and islands; and filled problematic deep areas.
Impact this season: The vegetation is filling in nicely, and these fields should produce much better results for hunters this year.
Where: Fields 37-38
What: Last year, we reconstructed both units of Field 37, adding potholes and islands.
Impact this season: Water was held late and the fields and cover growth developed impressively. The disked portions of the fields have settled in now, so walking will be much easier.
Where: Field 42
What: Last year, we added potholes and filled deep holes.
Impact this season: The northwestern unit held water this summer, so cover growth will be pretty impressive. The remainder of the unit had significant growth during the winter and spring, but with no irrigation this summer, food may be limited.
Where: Field 69
What: Last year, we combined most of the field’s two units to create a 62-acre wetland and filled in the deep areas to create ideal feeding conditions. We also added a brood pond.
Impact this season: The brood pond provided safe cover for hens and their broods this spring, which may have added to the local duck population. Disked soil has settled and cover has filled in. Watergrass and smartweed have taken over the majority of the unit, which should improve hunting conditions this year.
Where: Field 86
What: Last year, we renovated this field, adding a new swale system, pothole and island, and leveled uplands within two units for food plots.
Impact this season: Disked soil has settled and the brood pond unit has a fair amount of watergrass growth. Crops of sunflower and barley did extremely well and will offer great fall hunting opportunities for various species.
UPPER BUTTE BASIN WILDLIFE AREA, LITTLE DRY CREEK UNIT
Where: Field 125
What: We created a brood pond and an irrigable food plot, then planted 78 acres of perennial grasses.
Impact this season: Not much benefit for hunters this year, but check back in fall 2016.
Where: Blinds 1 and 2
What: Last year, we removed deep and inconsistent areas, creating new potholes surrounding the blinds.
Impact this season: Watergrass and smartweed growth was significant this summer, so ducks should find these blinds very attractive.
Where: Field 117
What: Last year, we seeded 110 acres of perennial grasses and developed a 25.5 acre brood pond. Multiple nests were found this spring and the perennial grass grew well, with pheasants regularly seen along its perimeters. The tule patches planted last summer have grown well this summer.
Impact this season: Hunters will find excellent upland cover this fall, but limited cover in the brood pond.
YOLO BYPASS WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Twin Lakes, Field 4
What: This year, we’re creating a new permanent pond and water delivery system, and adding swales, islands, potholes and tule transplants. The pond, along with adjacent upland habitat, will help brood production next year (see Fall Flight Forecast, p. 8, to learn why local duck production matters, unless you don’t like hunting mallards).
Impact this season: Early-season hunting opportunities here should be optimal next year, but this year the field will likely be barren. But if it floods early, that could help, so you might want to check it out.
Where: Slaviches Pond
What: Last year, we did a complete enhancement of this unit, including removing levees and relocating them for optimal water depth.
Impact this season: The project has matured this year, producing increased plant diversity and much more cover that will improve hunting.
GRIZZLY ISLAND WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Units 5-8
What: Last year, we burned and sprayed phragmites, but work had to stop when elk season began. This year we were unable to burn the remaining stands of phragmites due to uncooperative spring weather, so we postponed earthwork until next year. We treated about 100 acres of phragmites with herbicide, and it will be burned next spring.
Impact this season: Not much. More standing dead phragmites but there won’t be much other disturbance.
Where: Pond 20
What: We started a two-year earth moving project to improve habitat quality and management infrastructure – levees were blown out and half of the area had no drainage system.
Impact this season: More open water with large disturbed areas. Levees that are rebuilt will be very muddy after the first rains and will be difficult to access with bikes and carts.
DENVERTON (CWA-owned property)
Where: Throughout the hunt area.
What: Last year, we had a major reconstruction effort: We installed three new tank blinds and filled in deep spots that kept people from hunting in some areas. This year’s work focused on finishing up areas that were too wet and/or soft last year to finish properly. Additional wading hazards were addressed as well. Tule transplants are scheduled to be completed in early October immediately before fall floodup. One of the blinds that was installed last year will be reset.
Impact this season: A little more open water in areas that were disturbed. The large areas of open water last year are now mostly full of waterfowl food and should provide significantly better habitat.
GRIZZLY RANCH (CWA-owned property)
Where: Throughout the hunt area.
What: This year, we are replacing one of our better two-man blinds, C1, with a four-man blind to increase opportunity, repairing and redesigning blind cover systems, increasing cover around blinds to keep them better hidden, and disking around top-producing blinds to keep them productive.
Impact this year: The disking will make walking more difficult this season, but it’s necessary to keep ponds in good shape. Blind improvements should be immediately noticeable.
NORTH GRASSLANDS WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Gadwall Unit, Field 6
What: This year, we’re replacing piping on two of the four low-lift pumps in this area. Located at the south end of Field 6, they’re employed to re-use water in the area.
Impact this season: The new piping should help maximize flooded acreage, and therefore maximize hunter opportunity.
Where: China Island Unit
What: This year, we’re rehabbing pumps that provide groundwater supplies to the wetlands.
Impact this season: Ground water should supplement reduced surface water supplies, and more flooded wetlands means more hunter opportunity.
LOS BANOS WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Island units
What: Last year, we re-graded an upland unit to be planted with safflower.
Impact this season: The safflower field should be a great dove attractant come Sept. 1.
GOOSE LAKE (CWA-owned property)
Where: Houchin Unit
What: This year, we planted watergrass and swamp timothy – great waterfowl food plants – as well as winter wheat in the 30-acre upland unit. We moved Blinds 7 and 8 from Unit 6 into Unit 2, which will now be a hunting unit, and replaced one stand-up blind with a wheelchair-accessible floating blind. We added gravel paths to address mud problems. And we reconstructed wetland Units 4 and 5 to make them water efficient and manageable – we can now recycle our wetland water with the newly installed lift pump in the return system, which should help keep down costs.
Impact this season: The winter wheat field provided spring nesting habitat that added mallards to the local duck population, and it should make for an excellent dove season. The wetlands should be much better this year compared with last season, when we had virtually no vegetation.
Where: Badger Almond Unit
What: We completed a massive restoration, converting 320 acres of previously farmed land to 295 acres of wetlands and 25 acres of uplands. The project included a very efficient water delivery and recirculation system to make the most of the limited amount of available water.
Impact this season: None because it won’t be hunted, but our goal is to incorporate this property into the Hunt Program in the future. CWA will be seeking funds to develop hunter access components such as all-weather access roads, parking areas, bathrooms and hunting blinds. We hope to open the unit to waterfowl hunting during the 2016-17 waterfowl season.
KERN NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Where: Unit 1
What: We created a new swale for wetland drawdown to recapture otherwise unrecoverable water.
Impact this season: This work should help abate undesirable plant growth and aid in irrigation of other wetland units.
MENDOTA WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Field 20-4
What: Last year, we developed a swale and levees to contain spring and summer drain water.
Impact this season: The areas we disked last year have settled in, so walking should be easier. And, as planned, the new swale has helped abate overly dense vegetation.
IMPERIAL VALLEY WILDLIFE AREA – WISTER UNIT
Where: Field 114A
What: We removed levees to develop large hunting units with islands.
Impact this season: New islands to hunt from in large units filled with healthy stands of swamp timothy.
Where: Old Fish Pond Unit
What: This year, we removed fish hatchery infrastructure and buildings, removed levees, leveled the fish unit and combined it with Unit 413 to expand the wetland hunting acreage.
Impact this season: New wetland acreage will be bare for 2014-15, but much better next year.
Where: Field 413 A/B
What: This year, we burned rank cattails and salt cedar, built swales and islands and removed levees to combine units within A and B.
Impact this season: Bare this season, but plenty of waterfowl food next year.
Where: Fields W11B, W11D, Y16D, 312C, 514, 515, 114A (next to HQ)
What: Last year, we removed levees, leveled units, developed swales, removed salt cedar and made islands.
Impact this season: Excellent swamp timothy fields, adequate water depths and great islands. Look for the new riparian habitat in 114A next to the HQ.