The bulk of California Waterfowl’s work as an organization is restoring and improving waterfowl habitat all over the state to increase waterfowl production and produce higher quality hunting, as well as much-needed nesting areas for our resident waterfowl. Here’s how our work on public land will look to hunters during the 2014-15 season:
MODOC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Where: Grandma Tract
What: This 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: More huntable shallow-water acreage in wetland and flooded grain units (provided water is available to flood the units).
Where: Floodplain Unit
What: This year, we filled deep holes and ditches and created potholes in previously dense tule areas.
Impact this season: You're less likely to float your hat! Check out the constructed potholes and swales that have opened up the unit. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has seeded the area with smartweed, which should provide great waterfowl feed for 2015-16.
TULE LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Where: Around “D” spaced blinds
What: This 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: Not much, because the area won’t get water until next spring at the earliest.
ASH CREEK WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Pilot Butte wetland units and wet meadow acreage west of the Pilot Butte parking lot.
What: Last year we installed a 2.5-mile pipeline and water delivery ditch system supplying the wetland and wet meadow units.
Impact this season: If we get early rain, look for potholes in the wet meadow acreage to flood. In the future, irrigation made possible by the pipeline and ditch system should promote waterfowl food growth.
Where: Pilot Butte 3 managed wetland unit
What: This year, we created loafing islands and created a meandering swale/pothole complex throughout the unit.
Impact this season: Look for increased pothole acreage on higher ground, and more waterfowl forage in 2015-16.
GRAY LODGE WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Fields 24-26
What: Following work in 2013, the wetland units now have considerable amounts of swamp timothy, a favorite of ducks.
Impact this season: These areas are now much more attractive to ducks, and easier for hunters to navigate.
Where: Field 29
What: Following work in 2013, the seasonal wetlands here have a healthy mosaic of watergrass and smartweed, and tule transplants are growing well.
Impact this season: Hunters will appreciate improved potholes that allow decoy placement close to islands.
Where: Fields 33-35
What: This year, we created new swale systems, potholes and islands, and we filled problematic deep areas. The fields went from four wetland units to three larger units, which will improve the way birds work the units.
Impact this season: Field 34 has been leveled, so there is little waterfowl food due to construction. Fields 33 and 35 have similar feed restrictions; however, hunters will have bigger water to hunt this coming season.
Where: Fields 37-38
What: This year, we reconstructed both units of Field 37, and both fields have new potholes and islands.
Impact this season: Because of the disking and fresh exposed dirt, it will be difficult to walk in Field 37. Field 38 has three potholes and islands, which will improve hunting locations. Also, some food remains within a portion of the unit.
Where: Fields 41-43
What: Following work in 2013, both fields have grown a lot of swamp timothy, and Field 41 has smartweed and watergrass as well. We did additional work in Field 42 this year, adding potholes and filling deep holes.
Impact this season: Despite the new work, Field 42 should be fine for walking this year. Field 43 is a brood pond with great cover, and also has small open pockets for a small spread of decoys. More food plants throughout these fields will attract ducks.
Where: Fields 50, 53
What: Following work in 2013, both fields have lots of swamp timothy and smartweed. Field 50 and Field 53 have watergrass as well.
Impact this season: Abundant waterfowl plant foods will attract ducks.
Where: Field 69
What: This 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 an 8-acre brood pond that will ultimately provide an excellent wood duck roost.
Impact this season: The soil will still be soft, and there will be large open water with two large upland blocks. The unit will have little feed this season.
Where: Field 86
What: This year, we renovated this field, adding a new swale system, pothole and island to the designated brood pond, and leveled uplands within two 10.5-acre units that will be used for food plots in the future. Seeding may take place this fall.
Impact this season: The brood pond has no cover and the ground will be soft, making walking difficult.
UPPER BUTTE BASIN WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Little Dry Creek blinds 1 and 2
What: This year, we removed deep and inconsistent areas, creating new potholes surrounding the blinds.
Impact this season: The earth around the blinds may be soft, but the surroundings should be easier to navigate. There was significant smartweed growth due to irrigation prior to construction.
Where: Howard Slough, unit 219
What: Last year, we constructed a new brood pond adjacent to the check station, refurbished the seasonal wetland just north of the check station and planted the upland areas with nesting cover.
Impact this season: Cover is marginal in the uplands due to a lack of spring rains. However, there are good pockets of cover in spots. The wetlands produced some brood this spring and will likely be flooded for fall.
YOLO BYPASS WILDLIFE AREA
Where: North East 5 & 7a
What: Last year we added islands, swales, potholes and tules.
Impact this season: These two units are holding broods and molting waterfowl, with more cover created during construction.
Unit: Twin Lakes 73a
What: Last year, we added a new brood pond/permanent wetland in the western third of the existing pond to establish a permanent wetland; previously, it lacked a summer water source.
Impact this season: This pond is holding many broods and molting ducks with an increase in diversity of habitat.
Unit: Northeast blind area 3a & 3b
What: This year, we’re doing tule transplants and dividing the pond to achieve optimal water depth. Two blinds will be moved within the units to help improve hunting conditions.
Impact this season: Traditionally an open-water unit, this will remain pretty much the same, but with more tules and one new road.
Unit: Slaviches Pond
What: This year, we’re removing levees and relocating them for optimal water depth, which should help the hunting.
Impact this season: This unit is traditionally grazed before the season, so changes will be minimal in the interior.
GRIZZLY ISLAND WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Units 6a and 8b
What: This year, we burned and sprayed phragmites, but work had to stop when elk season began.
Impact this season: There will be about 20 percent more open water.
Where: Ponds 6A, 8B and 5
What: We’re removing unnecessary levees and improving existing levees.
Impact this season: The path you take to your hunting spots may have changed, and some roads will get very muddy after the first rains.
Where: Island Slough WA
What: Work in previous years is starting to pay off, with bulrush coming in and very little cocklebur coming back.
Impact this season: The places that look best are little out-of-the-way spots, ready to reward explorers.
DENVERTON (CWA-owned property)
Where: Throughout the hunt area.
What: Massive reconstruction: We installed three new tank blinds and filled in deep spots that kept people from hunting in some areas.
Impact this season: There are still plenty of food plants to attract waterfowl, but about 80 percent of the standing cover from last season is gone. We expect to see the payoff next year.
GRIZZLY RANCH (CWA-owned property)
Where: Hunt area
What: This year, we added two new blinds (E0 and G4), and replaced two standup blinds with floating blinds, G3 and G4, which are wheelchair accessible.
Impact this season: Hunters should enjoy the improved blinds.
NORTH GRASSLANDS WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Salt Slough Unit, Field 50
What we did: Last year, we increased the pond area and filled in excessive deep spots to make hunting much easier.
Impact this season: Vegetation has grown in and the soil is much firmer, so the hunting experience should be much better this year.
Where: Gadwall Unit Expansion
What we did: This year, we restored uplands by de-leveling and seeding native vegetation.
Impact this season: The upland area will be at its best next spring, when there should be excellent cover for ground nesting birds including pheasants and waterfowl.
Where: Gadwall and China Island units
What: This year, we’re providing security fencing around pumps in the area because vandalism has been a major problem.
Impact this season: Deep well and lift pumps that supply water to wetlands throughout the area should remain operational.
LOS BANOS WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Island units
What: This year, we are re-grading an upland unit that will be planted with safflower, and working on a public use trail.
Impact this season: Public access trails should be up and running during the fall/winter time period, but safflower won’t be planted until next March.
GOOSE LAKE (CWA-owned property open to the public through the Hunt Program)
What: This year, we reconstructed the wetland units to make them water efficient and manageable, installed eight blinds and created two 15-acre upland units to be planted with winter wheat and safflower.
Impact this season: Hunters will have a new place to go for quality hunting.
KERN NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Where: Units 1A, 4 and 5
What: This year, we built islands in the spaced blind hunting area in Units 4 and 5, as well as the free roam area in unit 1A.
Impact this season: There will be new islands to hunt from and an abundance of timothy and watergrass.
Where: Unit 7B
What: Major reconstruction. We removed small and large levees, old piping and infrastructure, salt cedar trees and other debris in this old research unit to build an additional 180 acres of water efficient moist-soil wetlands.
Impact this season: More huntable wetland acreage, provided water is available to flood the unit.
Where: Unit 14
What we did: Last year, we added new levees to divide the large units.
Impact this season: The reduction in unit size means it will take less water to flood (provided water is available to flood the unit).
MENDOTA WILDLIFE AREA
Where: Fields 15, 16, 20, 21
What: This year, we developed swales, island/loafing bars and levees.
Impact this season: These units will remain pretty much the same, but improved infrastructure and management capabilities will increase feed in future years.
Where: Field 20-4
What: This year, we developed a swale and levees to contain spring and summer drain water.
Impact this season: The disking we did means tough walking, but the new swale will help abate overly dense vegetation in the future.
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.