Readers may remember me mentioning in a past column about the times I was in high school and would leave after school on Friday and head out to hunt waterfowl the next morning north of Sacramento on one of the refuges in that area.
My cousin, Jimmy Barnes, would usually go, along with one or two other guys. We would all pile into one vehicle and take off on Highway 99. You must realize that the road in those days was not a great freeway like today. It took you through every small town all the way to our destination north of Sacramento.
If we left about three in the afternoon, we would get in at about 10 or 11 at night after a 350 mile drive. We would then sleep in the car until the refuge opened some two hours before shooting time. After checking in, I normally would just park in one of the designated areas and start watching for ducks working certain spots on the refuge that were not getting shot.
We would then head for that area, set our decoys out, and commence with the hunt. Usually, we were done by noon time, and would load up and head back to Bakersfield, arriving worn out but very happy if we had bagged a good number of birds.
Today, the Sacramento National Wildlife Complex consists of nine wildlife refuges or management areas. The best for waterfowl hunting are Sacramento, Delevan, Colusa, Sutter, and Butte Sinks. These are the same refuges I hunted years ago, and the whole complex provides nearly 70,000 acres of wetland, grassland, and riparian habitats for a wide array of waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, waterbirds, songbirds, reptiles, and mammals. The complex currently supports nearly 300 species of birds.
The largest refuge is the Sacramento National Wildlife, and it is headquarters for the entire complex. Between November and January it usually hosts between 500,000 and 750,000 ducks, and up to 200,000 geese.
It is virtually a waterfowl hunter's heaven. All hunters need an entry permit to hunt the Sacramento National Wildlife Area. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife issues entry permits at the Check Station. To get one, you either need a reservation, have a lottery number or get an entry permit through the waiting list.
You can go online 17 days before your shoot date and try to get a reservation. The lottery entries are the night before your shoot date. Last resort is a first-come, first-serve waiting line at the refuge.
If you really want to do this right, you should consider a weekend trip to the area and plan on hunting two days. There are numerous motels in the area in towns like Williams, Butte City, and Willows. Because of California's generous bag and possession limits, this is a great idea.
A boat is very useful, and as many decoys as you can handle does not hurt either. It's a terrific getaway hunt for two or three guys during the season. You can go online to get all the useful information for a hunt like this, and I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with the results after returning home.
KCGC youth program
The Kern County Gun Club is one of the premier target shooting facilities in the west, featuring trap, skeet, and sporting clays with a perfect background of nothing but sky.
Located on the north side of the Buena Vista Lake Recreational Area, it is an easy 25 minute drive from Bakersfield. The club has a great Youth Program going with assistance from the National Rifle Association and private donors. It is for girls and boys between age 12 and high school. They meet on six monthly Saturdays a year and the kids get two rounds of target shooting with instructions from club members, lunch, and lessons in gun safety.
Some of their past students have gone on to win Junior World Championships. If you are interested in this event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.