Feb 28, 2023

Advocacy: 2023-24 waterfowl regulations, proposed regulation changes, reintroduced taxes and more

By Mark Hennelly, Vice President for Advocacy 

Presented by Federal Premium ® Ammunition

(Originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of California Waterfowl.)

2023-24 waterfowl regulations discussions begin

The California Fish and Game Commission, in coordination with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), has started its waterfowl regulation process for the 2023-24 seasons and bag limits.

While official CWA recommendations will not be determined until both our Regulations and Traditions Committee and Board meet in March, we have participated in these Commission meetings and provided input on a number of proposed regulations. Final Commission adoption will be held at its April 18-19 meeting in the Fresno-Bakersfield area.

Most significantly, California Waterfowl expressed concerns about a proposal to combine the youth and veterans/active military duty hunts on the same weekend, especially as it relates to hunting on Type A wildlife areas (WAs) and refuges in the Sacramento Valley and northeastern California, which already receive considerable hunter pressure on the youth hunt.

Mixing in adult hunters who could compete with kids on the youth hunt may compromise the experience. In fact, the youth hunt has always been intended to focus solely on the needs of kids and not adults. Combining these hunts would be especially difficult at places like Modoc Refuge, where last fall there were too many kids applying for an available hunting spot on the youth weekend. Also, at places like Little Dry Creek WA and Colusa Refuge, the combined total number of hunters from the 2022 youth and veterans hunts actually exceeded the hunt quota for those areas, according to CDFW’s own data.

California Waterfowl believes that at the very least, Type A and B wildlife areas in the Sacramento Valley and Northeast California that are currently closed during the youth hunts should be opened up to spread hunters out. This would include Howard Slough and Llano Seco WAs in Butte County and Willow Creek WA in Lassen County.

CWA also expressed initial support for a proposal put forth by local hunters and landowners to modify the season dates for the North Coast Aleutian goose season in an effort to enhance hunter opportunity and help address ongoing depredation issues. The proposed season dates would be for the Regular Season to start on the first Saturday in October and continue for 77 days, and the Late Season to start 30 days before March 10.

F&G Commission considers changes to wildlife area regulations

The California Fish and Game Commission has identified a number of proposed regulation changes that affect hunting on state wildlife areas (WAs) and ecological reserves managed by CDFW, including new or expanded hunting opportunities. The regulatory package includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Prohibiting the use of e-bikes or drones on all CDFW-managed lands, including WAs
  • Putting into regulation a policy of WAs after 3 p.m.
  • Establishing three new WAs that will be open to public hunting. These are:
    1. Big Springs Ranch WA (Type A or B) in Siskiyou County, which will allow hunting of waterfowl, upland game and junior hunting opportunities.
    2. El Dorado WA (Type C) in El Dorado County, which will allow hunting opportunities yet to be identified.
    3. Peace Valley Ecological Reserve in Los Angeles County, which will allow hunting opportunities yet to be identified. The property also provides access to other public lands (e.g. Angeles National Forest) that allow hunting.
  • Putting restrictions on dog training or field trials at Los Banos, North Grasslands and O’Neill Forebay WAs to avoid conflicts with proposed deer hunting opportunities
  • Providing new dog training opportunity at Napa-Sonoma Marsh WA
  • Making changes to camping at Mendota and Upper Butte Basin WAs, including for hunting purposes
  • Prohibiting hunting from shore or within 150 yards of water control gates or fishing piers at Clifton Court Forebay
  • Putting into regulation a policy that restricts pheasant hunting at Gray Lodge WA to waterfowl hunt days only
  • Prohibiting archery hunting at Los Banos WA, including for pheasants
  • Allowing quail hunting at Upper Butte Basin, Los Banos, Mendota and North Grasslands WAs
  • Allowing deer hunting at Los Banos, North Grasslands and O’Neill Forebay WAs

In its testimony at the Commission’s January 12 Wildlife Resources Committee meeting, CWA supported the establishment of the new WAs and ecological reserve, plus the additional quail hunting opportunities at Upper Butte Basin and other WAs. We opposed the proposal to prohibit archery hunting at Los Banos WA, which is the only Type A WA left that allows that option for pheasant hunting.

CWA is still reviewing all the proposed changes for their impact on hunter opportunity and for the need, if any, of amendment or deletion.

The Commission’s final adoption of this public lands regulatory package is not expected until at least the spring of 2023.

Gun and ammo tax reintroduced in state Legislature

Not surprisingly, a new measure to place significant taxes on the sale of firearms and ammunition has been reintroduced in the state Legislature.

AB 28, by Assembly member Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), would “state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would enact a tax to fund measures to protect against gun violence on firearms and ammunition."

While the exact bill proposal is yet unclear, CWA expects it to be highly similar to last year’s AB 1227 (Marc Levine, D-Marin County), which would have placed an 11% excise tax on the sale of long guns and ammunition and a 10% tax on handgun purchases. In effect, it would have largely mirrored the Federal Pittman-Robertson Act, with the difference being that revenues would have funded gun violence prevention programs rather than wildlife conservation work.

Fortunately, CWA and its sporting partners — with help from thousands of hunters and other gun owners who contacted their local representatives — were able to kill AB 1227 on the Senate Floor.

However, with new members in the state Legislature and gun control issues once again gaining traction, expect the fight over AB 28 to be a close one. As a tax measure, the bill would require a 2/3 vote of both houses, but with Democrats retaining or even increasing their supermajorities, AB 28 could still pass on a party-line vote.

AB 28 will likely be first heard in the Assembly Public Safety Committee in March or April.

On a related note, additional gun control legislation has been introduced to require all gun owners to purchase liability insurance (SB 8, Skinner and Blakespear). A similar bill was introduced last year but failed late in the Session. CWA will continue to fight against this type of misguided legislation, which not only would create a further disincentive to hunt, but also effectively constitutes harassment of legal gun owners.

California Legislature Outdoor Sporting Caucus seeks new members

The California State Legislature has a variety of different caucuses that focus on various issues of interest to its members. This includes the California Legislature Outdoor Sporting Caucus, which currently seeks new members and is devoted to protecting hunting, fishing and recreational shooting activities as well as wildlife conservation.

The Caucus has existed for over 15 years and includes members of both parties and houses. Assembly member Marie Waldron (R-Escondido), Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton), and Senators Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Brian Jones (R-El Cajon) currently chair the Caucus.

The Caucus serves primarily as a vehicle to educate members and staff about outdoor and wildlife conservation issues. It includes annual tours of wildlife habitat, fishing events, a trap and skeet shoot and a reception. CWA and several other hunting and fishing groups help to sponsor these events.

For more information, visit outdoorsportingcaucus.legislature. ca.gov.