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FISHING • HUNTING • TRAVEL CALSPORTSMANMAG.COM

TOP WINTER CAST & BLASTS North Coast Steelhead • S.F. Bay Bounty Eureka Geese • Desert Songdogs SoCal Mud Marlin

Country Singer

CRAIG MORGAN Blends Music, Hunting, CA Wine Adventures In Asia! Kyrgyzstan Ibex

Mongolian Falconry

ALSO INSIDE

Sacramento ISE Show Preview Tips For Training Gunshy Pups

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North Star Outfitting

Providing whitetail deer hunts, mule deer hunts, black bear hunts, moose hunts and waterfowl hunts in Alberta for over 22 years In Aug 2017, we acquired another waterfowl area just across the border in Saskatchewan. This will give us the opportunity to take clients for sandhill cranes now!

At North Star Outfitting we personally guide whitetail deer hunts, mule deer hunts, black bear hunts, moose hunts and waterfowl hunts. When you book a hunt with us you will be accompanied by a professional hunter who is focused on the specific species you are hunting. We know what it takes to make your hunt successful and enjoyable. Our guides were born and raised in this area and know the hunting area and the behaviors and patterns of the animals we hunt. Our waterfowl hunts are either 3 or 4 day. You will enjoy goose hunts & duck hunts along the North Saskatchewan River in eastern Alberta. We are very fortunate that we have the North Saskatchewan River right next to us that holds the waterfowl until freeze up. Even on a dry year we always have the river to keep us in birds! All hunters stay in a lodge with all the amenities of home. We have full cell phone coverage, wireless internet, and satellite TV. In the evenings, we also have plenty of room to socialize while sitting around a bonfire. Call or visit our website for more information!

Book Your Next Hunting Trip In Alberta, Canada CALL NEIL: 780-808-0318 | EMAIL: neil@northstaroutfitting.com

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Sportsman

California Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 4 PUBLISHER James R. Baker GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw EXECUTIVE EDITOR Andy Walgamott EDITOR Chris Cocoles CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Brittany Boddington LEAD WRITER Tim E. Hovey CONTRIBUTORS Mark Fong, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, Bill Schaefer, Lisa Selner SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rick D’Alessandro, Nancy Ekse, Mamie Griffin, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS Kayla Mehring, Sam Rockwell, Jake Weipert PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Kelly Baker DIGITAL STRATEGIST Jon Hines OFFICE MANAGER/ACCOUNTING Audra Higgins ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Sauro INFORMATION SERVICES MANAGER Lois Sanborn ADVERTISING INQUIRIES ads@calsportsmanmag.com CORRESPONDENCE Email ccocoles@media-inc.com Twitter @CalSportsMan Facebook.com/californiasportsmanmagazine ON THE COVER Guide Tony Sepulveda is looking forward to good winter steelhead fishing on the Mad, Klamath, Eel, Chetco, Smith and other North Coast rivers. (GREENWATER FISHING ADVENTURES)

MEDIA INC PUBLISHING GROUP CALIFORNIA OFFICE 4517 District Blvd. • Bakersfield, CA 93313 (661) 381-7533 WASHINGTON OFFICE P.O. Box 24365 • Seattle, WA 98124-0365 14240 Interurban Ave. S., Suite 190 Tukwila, WA 98168 OREGON OFFICE 8116 SW Durham Rd • Tigard, OR 97224 (206) 382-9220 • (800) 332-1736 • Fax (206) 382-9437 media@media-inc.com • www.media-inc.com

8 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


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CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 4 (HAPPY HOOKER SPORTFISHING)

FEATURES 17

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE Country music is just one part of Craig Morgan’s life. He’s also the host of an Outdoor Channel TV series and his family farm in Tennessee is working on home projects made out of recycled materials. And now Morgan has also entered the wine business by putting his name on a tasty cabernet sauvignon varietal made from Paso Robles grapes. Get to know this busy sportsman.

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TALKIN’ STEELHEAD Wet winters have replenished Northern California’s rivers, so there is plenty of water to cover as these sea-run trout head upstream. Local guide Tony Sepulveda has fished the Smith, Eel, Chetco and more for years and provides some tips for catching big winter steelies.

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GET YOUR GEESE The Eureka Valley sees a lot of migrating Aleutian geese – 250,000 in some years – which is good and bad. The species’ remarkable recovery requires a special lateseason damage control hunt to prevent ranchers’ fields from being overgrazed. Our From Field to Fire columnist Scott Haugen shares intel from his hunts here, while his wife Tiffany serves up an Indianinspired goose dish!

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DESERT DOG DIGEST Hunters need not hibernate through winter. Tim Hovey keeps his guns warm in winter’s cooler weather by pursuing California’s plentiful desert coyotes. Join along as Hovey shares tips for solo songdog hunting.

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HOOK UP IN THE BAY!

Across three generations of Bay Area charter fishing experience, Happy Hookers Sportfishing’s Jim, Chris and Jonathon Smith cruise the waters of San Francisco and Suisun Bays, not to mention outside the Golden Gate, to get their clients, well, hooked up. Mark Fong profiles a local institution.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 45 75 87 93 95 99 125 139

Grass Valley teenager reflects on Alaska deckhand job Sacramento ISE Show preview Preaching patience for winter bass SoCal’s unappreciated bottom feeders La Paz, Mexico, fishing company profile Biologists use trail bikes to do wild trout surveys California woman explores falconry traditions in Mongolia How will your hunting dog react to gunshot sounds?

DEPARTMENTS 13 35 35 37 41 111

The Editor’s Note Protecting Wild California: Deer gets poached, mounted Outdoor calendar Adventures of Todd Kline: Amazon peacock bass Photo contest winners Urban Huntress: Kyrgyzstan, horses and ibex hunting (Part I)

CALIFORNIA SPORTSMAN GOES DIGITAL! Read California Sportsman on your desktop or mobile device. Only $1.89 an issue. Go to www.calsportsmanmag.com/digital California Sportsman is published monthly by Media Index Publishing Group, 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Send address changes to California Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124. Annual subscriptions are $29.95 (12 issues), 2-year subscription are $39.95 (24 issues). Send check or money order to Media Index Publishing Group, or call (206) 382-9220 with VISA or M/C. Back issues are available at Media Index Publishing Group offices at the cost of $5 plus shipping. Display Advertising. Call Media Index Publishing Group for a current rate card. Discounts for frequency advertising. All submitted materials become the property of Media Index Publishing Group and will not be returned. Copyright © 2016 Media Index Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A.

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THEEDITOR’SNOTE

A

dmittedly, I’m far more likely to order a Pilsner, lager, IPA or Hefeweizen than a merlot, pinot noir or red blend at dinner or a sports bar. But I have become a very amateur and low-level wine consumer in recent years. Perhaps my only recently found pleasure in a glass – or a bottle – of red or (sometimes) wine varietals was out of guilt 25 years after taking a The editor and a few friends enjoyed wine appreciation class sharing entertainer and outdoors show at my alma mater (Fresno host Craig Morgan’s bottle of Old Tattoo red wine. (CHRIS COCOLES) State is one of the select schools where future vintners can study enology and viticulture, and you can buy a bottle of wine produced by the school at the campus farm store). But I’ve also enjoyed some fantastic glasses and bottles on my worldwide travels, specifically in wine-centric destinations like Greece, Romania and New Zealand. Meanwhile, sportsmen and -women seem to be interested more and more in producing and drinking good wine. We have a feature story this month on Craig Morgan, a successful country singer and outdoors television show host who enjoys a glass of wine paired with wild game so much he decided to partner with a company called Lot 18 and Paso Robles-based vineyards to create Old Tattoo, a cabernet sauvignon that Morgan says is perfect to drink with everything from venison to duck to pheasant. As you’ll see in our profile, Morgan’s love for a nice glass of good wine after a hunt motivated his desire to get into the business. He was partially inspired by our friends at Ammunition Wines (California Sportsman, September 2017), dedicated hunters and anglers who created both reds and whites specifically for fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Combine those two business ventures with another diehard California sportsman and winemaker – Marc Mondavi of Divining Rod, who we introduced to you a year and a half ago (July 2016) – and it’s clear that hunters and fishermen love to create wine that you can perfectly enjoy with harvested game or fish. On a cold December Sunday night, while feasting on smoked brisket, I joined friends Meg, Sean and Natalie. We opened a bottle of Morgan’s Old Tattoo, each enjoyed our glass with dinner and all gave it a thumbs up. Morgan told me in simple terms how much his hectic lifestyle slows down a bit when he pulls the cork. “We have a place in Alaska, and every night, around either the fire outside or the stove inside, we relax with a glass of wine,” he said. “And it’s just a cool thing.” This beer drinker turned wine rookie agrees. -Chris Cocoles calsportsmanmag.com | JANUARY 2018 California Sportsman

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MIXED BAG

A DI‘VINE’ INTERVENTION COUNTRY SINGER, SPORTSMAN CRAIG MORGAN HELPS DESIGN CALIFORNIA WINE VARIETAL By Chris Cocoles “I like a good Cabernet from a Napa Valley vine.” – From Craig Morgan’s song, “A Whole Lot More To Me”

H

is hypothetical LinkedIn page would boast a lot of past and present job titles: country music singer/songwriter, outdoors TV host, business owner, U.S. Army and Army Reserves Veteran. “I’m not a sit-still kind of a guy,”

Country singer, Army veteran, outdoor TV host; Craig Morgan indeed has worn many hats in his career. But a love of good wine has prompted the 53-year-old to help create a cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles vineyards that’s known as Old Tattoo. (SEAN O’HALLORAN/SUB7) calsportsmanmag.com | JANUARY 2018 California Sportsman

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He might be a proud Tennessee hunter, but Morgan has enjoyed some memorable California experiences, including this wild turkey outing around the Bay Area. (CRAIG MORGAN) (Below) Old Tattoo’s bottle design is a take-off of patriotic body ink that adorns Morgan’s left arm. He’s a 17-year Army and Army Reserve veteran who works with many charitable causes for wounded warriors. (LOT 18)

53-year-old Craig Morgan says about his busy lifestyle. You can now add a wine connection to the resume, but Morgan’s affiliation with the label that bears his name is hardly a sign that he’ll soon join other celebrities turned vintners/winery owners like Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Andretti, Dave Matthews and Joe Montana. Yes, Morgan now has a cabernet sauvignon bearing his name and personalized label. No, Morgan is not about to trade his Tennessee farm for a Napa Valley vineyard anytime soon. “I just became a wine guy who loved wine about 20 years ago. And as my knowledge grew, so did my desire to be more involved,” he says of this grape-infused project. “Having said that, I never want to own a winery. I never want to be a winemaker or nothing like that.” Still, it’s difficult to not consider Morgan a bit of a wine savant. So when he 18 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


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MIXED BAG collaborated with a company called Lot 18 to create Old Tattoo, which is being released this winter, it only strengthened a passion for good wine, particularly enjoying a glass or two with some of the wild game this outdoorsman has harvested for years. Old Tattoo – its American flag logo matches the ink that adorns Morgan’s left arm – is flavored by grapes from Paso Robles, one of the Central Coast’s hidden gems for wine lovers. While Morgan helped in determining the cabernet’s flavors – “hints of coffee, cocoa, currant, dark cherry, graphite and plum,” the wine’s introductory press release explained – he was mostly in tasting mode as blends were tested. But the entire approach was based upon his name being attached to as close as vintners can come to producing an organic wine. And for someone who prefers to eat his own harvested game and fish, Morgan’s fascination with wine was one that was a more natural blend.

“One in particular that kind of started it was a wine called PlumpJack, which is a partner of the Cade Winery in Napa. The one thing that I loved about the PlumpJack was that it was organic,” he says. “It’s very rare that you find an organic wine against one that isn’t. And I just fell in love with it – a fabulous wine.” “If I did have a dream job and it was in that industry, I would much rather be the guy doing the tasting and putting my nose up to it than being the one who’s making it … I did a ton of tasting. I basically was able to say, ‘This is what I like.’ The surprising thing was, once we bottled it and I got the first bottle, I thought it was even better once it was bottled than when we did the initial tasting.” Morgan also took to heart the message of another of his favorite winemakers, Sonoma County residents and avid sportsmen Andy Wahl and Bill Kerr, whose red and white varietals of Ammunition Wines are catered to fellow anglers and hunters (California Sports-

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man, September 2017) and specifically targeted to pair with not just traditional dishes but also wild game like venison, duck and upland birds. While Morgan’s idea wasn’t to market his wine for a specific audience – “I just wanted to have a wine that at that price point ($22 a bottle) you would be super excited,” he says – it’s clear he wanted Old Tattoo to showcase who he is as a hunter and organic eater. It’s how he was raised.

CRAIG MORGAN GREER’S FAMILY made do with what it had in their Tennessee home. Kingston Springs is a don’t-blinkor-you’ll-miss-it town of about 2,000 along Interstate 40 west of Nashville. Craig’s family – like many in that part of the country – had a passion for hunting. But it was far more than just the sport of it that got his parents outside. “As much as they enjoyed it and that it was local and on public land, it was really for the meat,” Craig says. “My family and parents weren’t trophy hunting;


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MIXED BAG they were hunting for the meat.” “We were eating organic before organic was a term. But it was out of necessity more than a choice. When you’re born into a lower-middle-class income family, you have to do those kinds of things. So we grew up eating wild game or pork from pigs that we had raised ourselves. We had a better idea of what was going into our bodies than most.” That lifestyle never left Morgan’s mind as he progressed on his own path – first during 17 years in the Army, and then as his singing career elevated him into a fixture on the Nashville music scene. “Now I’m in a position in my life where I can afford to go buy what I want to eat, but I choose to hunt because I know the meat that I’m getting is going to be better for me,” he says. “It’s going to be cleaner. We try to use that term a lot in our house: eating clean. But it was very much a part of my life and still is, probably more so today than it was then.”

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“That show is one of my favorite things that we get to do,” Morgan says of his Outdoor Channel series that’s gone on for eight seasons. “What it mainly does is allow me to maintain a relationship with the outdoors to a much greater degree.” (SUB7)


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MIXED BAG

Of Craig Morgan’s many musical projects, one that he holds dear to his heart is a track he cut from his very first self-titled album in 2000. The song is titled “I Wish I Could See Bakersfield”, the Central Valley city of 375,000 that has a special place in the country music community. The “Bakersfield sound” is a segment of the country music scene that has produced or been influenced by several icons in the industry, including Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam. If California has an answer to Nashville’s place as the country music capital, it’s Bakersfield. “When people talk about the California country, they instantly think of that

Bakersfield sound, and a lot of guys in our world talk about that,” says Morgan, who has been working on a new album this winter. That’s what makes his tribute to Bakersfield so special: Haggard, a Country Music Hall of Famer and legend in the genre, performs guest vocals on the track. “It was more a tribute to a (Bakersfield) gentleman named Tommy Collins. Buddy Cannon, a good friend and producer-songwriter, had written that song as a tribute to Tommy Collins, who was one of Merle Haggard’s dearest friends and was a great songwriter and musician,” Morgan says. Collins, who died in 2000, is credited as one of the fathers of the Bakersfield sound, along with Haggard and the others. Haggard died in 2016 in Shasta County, but Morgan will never forget the cameo in his Bakersfield tribute.

“Looking back, people are always asking me about some of my coolest moments. I have a photo of Merle and Tommy from when he was in the hospital before he passed,” Morgan says of Collins. “And we were able play that song for Tommy. He was sitting with one earphone and Merle had the other earphone in.” Haggard’s recitation in his own personal tribute to his buddy Collins went like this: He said ‘You know, I used to be a wellknown country singer. Made my first record back in 1953. At one time Buck Owens was my lead guitar player. And ol’ Hag once wrote a song about me.’ Morgan then picks up with the tune’s chorus. I wish I could see Bakersfield. Where the oil wells are pumpin’. The oranges are bloomin’. CC

As his career took off, Morgan’s passion for hunting scored him a gig as host of Craig Morgan: All Access Outdoors, an Outdoor Channel series that chronicles

adventures from around the globe. Among the most memorable episodes was a California turkey hunt with friend and former major-league base-

ball player Ryan Klesko. “We donated a hunt with he and I to the (National Wild Turkey Federation), and I’ll never forget the lady who

HAVING BAKERSFIELD’S BACK

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MIXED BAG bought the hunt; she was so excited to be out hunting with Ryan and I,� Morgan says. “We all killed turkeys and it was just a phenomenal hunt (near San Francisco). It was awesome because we hunted for a few days and then got to visit all the wineries.� So yeah, Morgan has been quite busy from those early days of subsistence hunting with his family in rural Tennessee. Around the turn of the century, he cut his first album to kick off a successful career that’s included 17 singles that reached the Billboard country charts and a No. 1 hit, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,� in his discography. Ironically, making records, touring, hunting in exotic locales around the map and all the other perks that go with celebrity status have complicated life for Morgan, an avid family man. (He and Karen Greer, his wife of nearly 30 years, had four children but lost their son Jerry to a tragic swimming accident in 2016.) “I think at this point in my life I’ve been

Morgan’s music career has included 17 singles that reached the Billboard chart, including one that reached No. 1. While he considers music as something he’ll continue to perform for the rest of his life, it’s just a small part of who he is. (JOSEPH LLANES)

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MIXED BAG “I stay busy; whether I’m working or playing there’s always something going on. I’m not a sit-still kind of a guy.” (SUB7)

doing the music for 15 years and I know it’s something that I’ll probably do until I’m gone. But it’s only once facet of who I am and what I do in my life. My family is always going to come first and a lot of

people would question that, just because of the amount of time that I spend with them, which is so little,” he says. “But I tell my kids all the time that I make a choice as a dad to make certain

sacrifices in order that they and my wife and family are better off. And one of those choices was choosing this occupation, which requires me to be away from home a lot.”

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MIXED BAG kids, which is a real blessing.� And having so much access to the beauty of the outdoors has also been a blessing in that Morgan’s family has joined him on many of his outdoor adventures, both on camera and off. When asked about his favorite episodes of Craig Morgan: All Access Outdoors, while he’s enjoyed the tributes to veterans – Morgan’s Army background made it only natural that’s been heavily involved in giving back to the troops through charitable causes – his mind came racing back to his family. After all, that’s where his hunting passion’s roots grew from. “Probably my favorite hunts to do throughout the filming are the ones that I do with my family, in particular my kids. I’ve always loved spending time with them in the outdoors and trying to educate them on the process,� Morgan says. “And I have something that a lot of people that get to do that don’t, and that’s the footage of it. So I get to go back and re-experience that with my

ONE OF MORGAN’S FAVORITE getaway spots is his cabin deep in the Alaskan bush, which he tries to get up to a couple times a year to recharge, hunt big game nearby and yank trout, grayling and Arctic char from an adjacent lake. But despite how primitive the place is – a portable generator is the only source of electricity – the proprietor doesn’t sacrifice the luxury of a good glass of vino after a day of tramping through the wilderness far away from civilization. “There have been times when we hunted and didn’t harvest. But we had meat from a previous hunt, and there’s something super relaxing about setting up camp afterwards. And (in Alaska), every night, around either the fire outside or the stove inside, we relax with a glass of wine. And it’s just a cool thing,� Morgan says. The wine is just one business venture he’s partaking in these days. Back at their farm in Dickson, Tennessee,

about an hour west of Nashville, Craig, Karen and the kids have started to build various custom items from recyled, reclaimed and repurposed materials. UP TV has been filming a show that follows the family balancing their extremely busy schedule to make the business function. It’s hard to argue that Craig Morgan’s dabbling in the wine industry is more special, even if he sheepishly admits to one “wine snob� indulgence. “My kids and my friends make fun of me that even in Alaska I have a good cab glass or at least a glass of some kind (to drink the wine),� he says with a laugh. “It may be a tumbler, but how bad is it that I don’t want to drink the wine out of a Solo cup or styrofoam cup? It has to be a glass.� CS Editor’s note: For more on Craig Morgan, check out his website craigmorgan.com, follow on Twitter and Instagram (@cmorganmusic) and like at facebook.com/ craigmorganmusic.

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DEER WAS TAKEN OUT OF SEASON, MOUNTED ANYWAY

PROTECTING

WILD CALIFORNIA

By Chris Cocoles

I

t’s bad enough to shoot a deer two months after hunting season ends, but one Lodi man thought it prudent to make a memento of his poaching as well. Lodi resident John Frederick Kautz, 51, entered a plea of no contest after being charged with possessing an illegally taken deer and falsifying a deer tag following a three-month California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigation. In December 2016 Kautz killed the trophy-sized blacktail buck on private property in Wilton, just southeast of Sacramento near Elk Grove, a couple months after the conclusion of deer season in that zone. It was an unusually large deer for that region, a four-by-five with a 31-inch-wide antler spread. But the story only gets worse for Kautz. CDFW reported that he transported the animal into Nevada to get it mounted. True story: He also planned to have the buck scored and considered for Safari Club International record purposes. Of course, the animal was taken very illegally and thus was ineligible for

A 51-year-old Lodi man pled no contest after being charged with two misdemeanors following a lengthy investigation into the poaching of a very big blacktail (right) in 2016. (CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE)

SCI consideration. Wildlife officers Anthony Marrone and Sean Pirtle spearheaded the investigation based on a tip in September, and they worked with the California Highway Patrol’s Computer Crimes Unit and game wardens in Nevada, where Kautz’s taxidermy work was done. After CDFW instituted harsher penalties involving convictions of illegally killing “trophy-size” wild game (California Sportsman, November 2017) last summer, Kautz took a plea bargain and, according to a report from the state agency, “was sentenced to two days in county jail, placed on three years probation with a search and seizure clause,

ordered to surrender the mounted deer head and was prohibited by the court from hunting or accompanying anyone else who is hunting during his probation. The fine was set at $5,000.” David Bess, CDFW’s deputy director and law enforcement division chief, thanked those agencies that collaborated with his department in tracking down the suspect. “We are also pleased how the newly effective legislation and regulations package helped increase the penalties in this case to hopefully deter others from the same poaching behavior,” Bess said. “A case like this is exactly why this package was enacted.” CS

OUTDOOR CALENDAR JANUARY

1 1

2018 fishing and hunting license required Online harvest reporting begins for steelhead, sturgeon and North Coast salmon report cards 1-APRIL 15 Topaz Lake Fishing Derby; visitcarsonvalley .org/2018-topaz-lodge-fishing-derby 13 Opening of Humboldt Steelhead Days; humboldtsteelheaddays.com 18-21 Sacramento International Sportsmen’s Expo, Cal Expo; sportsexpos.com/attend/sacramento 29 Falconry-only season opener for rabbits and varying hares

FEBRUARY 3

3-4

Foundation Sportsman’s Sturgeon Derby, Sacramento River Delta; originalsturgeonderby.com 3-4 Youth waterfowl hunting days in most zones 10 Central Valley Anglers Trout Derby, Camanche Lake; centralvalleyanglers.com 10-14 Late-season white-fronted geese season opens in the Balance of State Zone 17 Start of North Coast late-season Canada geese season 22-24 Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery Steelhead Derby, Chetco (Oregon) and Smith Rivers; delnorte.org/event/ rowdy-creek-fish-hatchery-steelhead-derby 23-25 The Fly Fishing Show, Alameda County Fairgrounds, Pleasanton; flyfishingshow.com/pleasanton-ca

NorCal Trout Challenge, San Pablo Reservoir; anglerspress.com

Notes: A list of upcoming bass tournaments can also be found at nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FishingContests/default.aspx. For deer hunting zone information, go to nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=122314&inline. calsportsmanmag.com | JANUARY 2018 California Sportsman

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s e r u t n e v Ad We’re not ashamed to admit it: Todd Kline has the kind of life we wish we could experience. Kline’s a former professional surfer, a successful co-angler on the FLW Tour and a Southern California bass guide, plus he gets to travel the world as a commentator for the World Surf League’s telecasts. Todd has agreed to give us a peek on what he’s up to each month. For more on Todd or to book a guided fishing trip with him, check out toddkline.com, and you can follow him on Instagram at @toddokrine. –The Editor

One of our guides with a nice peacock bass taken on a Savage Gear Duck bait. (TODD KLINE) Another nice one that chomped an IMA Big Stick. There was nothing more spectacular than seeing these fish explode on the topwater baits. I’ll have more about this trip in a future issue. (TODD KLINE)

I recently spent seven days in the Amazon in South America aboard the Blackwater Express, which is owned and operated by Acute Angling. We were there fishing for peacock bass and filming for the TV show Stoked On Fishing. (TODD KLINE) In addition to the Amazon, we made a family trip from our Southern California home to the Grand Canyon. It is breathtaking. (TODD KLINE)

Another awesome view of the Grand Canyon. Happy new year, everyone! (TODD KLINE)


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40 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


PHOTO CONTEST

WINNERS!

Clay Hull is this issue’s Fishing Photo Contest winner, thanks to this pic of son William and his Columbia River Chinook. It wins him a pile of loot from the overstuffed office of our editor!

For the second issue in a row, a black bear pic is our Browning Photo Contest winner. This issue it’s Jarod Higginbotham’s shot of son Hunter and his bruin. It wins him a Browning hat.

For your shot at winning Browning and fishing products, send your photos and pertinent (who, what, when, where) details to ccocoles@ media-inc.com, or to California Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for our print or internet publications. calsportsmanmag.com | JANUARY 2018 California Sportsman

41


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MIXED BAG

MY ALASKAN DECKHAND ADVENTURE

Grass Valley teenager Justin Leonard (right) calls his experience on a Seward, Alaskabased sportfishing charter boat last summer “an opportunity of a lifetime.” The view from Leonard’s office was pretty good.

Leonard (front) also deckhands in California but plans to return to Alaska in May for another summer on the water.

Photos by Justin Leonard ustin Leonard loves to fish. And the Grass Valley teenager and recent Bear River High School grad enjoyed a summer fishing romance as a deckhand in Seward, Alaska. “After graduating high school I got the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Alaska and work on charter boats deckhanding. It has always been a dream of mine to go to Alaska to fish, and lucky for me, I got to do it every day for three months,” Leonard says. “I was in Seward working for Puffin Charters (907-278-3346; puffincharters.com). We have a fleet of four boats that fish for halibut, lingcod, king salmon, sil-

J

The deckhand’s boat caught everything from salmon to salmon sharks, like this 200-pound beast.

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MIXED BAG

Happy customers with a yelloweye each means a day’s work well done.

“Here’s one of several glaciers we got to see every day,” Leonard says.

Even though the boats couldn’t fish for halibut on Wednesdays, loading up with silver salmon and bottomfish instead helped make everyone happy. Salmon sharks don’t just eat Chinook!

ver salmon and rockfish. It was a lot different from deckhanding on the rivers here in Northern California. I absolutely loved the opportunity I had and what I got to experience. It was so great that I am headed back up in May to do it all over again,” he says. “It’s not easy work, considering we range from 14- to 18-hour days,” Leonard adds. “An average day for us was getting to the dock at 5 a.m. and getting the boat ready, going to the office at 5:45 to meet everyone at 6, and then taking our group down to the boat. We like to try and be leaving the dock by 6:30 a.m.” “From there we start our journey out of Resurrection Bay and enjoy the very scenic boat ride. It is also not uncommon to see whales breaching on calm days on our ride out. We try and get back to the dock between 5 and 6 p.m. to ensure a full day on the water. It is an amazing experience for anyone and I would highly recommend it to everyone!” Leonard says. CS 46 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


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ALASKA SPORTFISHING EXPEDITIONS There is just something about spending a relaxing day fishing the pristine waters of Alaska, with little to worry about but what you have on the hook and the topic of conversation. Time on the boat trolling or fly-fishing an elevated lake is time spent relaxing and reconnecting with friends, family and nature. It doesn’t matter if you are saltwater fishing along Alaska’s Inside Passage, freshwater fishing on a nearby stream, or fly-fishing one of the state’s three million lakes, sharing the experience of landing that king salmon or halibut with family and friends is worth more than the gold Alaska is famous for. This is not the place to come for those who are looking to combat fish - standing shoulder to shoulder with other anglers, casting over one another’s lines. Get away from

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NORCAL

ON THE REBOUND STEELHEAD PROSPECTS SEEM TO BE ON THE RISE ALONG THE NORCAL COAST

By Chris Cocoles

V

eteran steelhead angler Tony Sepulveda usually tries to avoid stressing out over winter and spring fishing prospects along the North Coast’s rivers. “Our steelhead fishing is less cyclical than our salmon fishing,” says Sepulveda, of Green Water Fishing Adventures (707-845-9588; greenwaterguides.com). “And there are years when there are more fish and some with less fish.” “But in my 20 years in Humboldt County, I’ve never seen a steelhead season that I would call a disaster. On the years that are a little slower and when you’re pinned down

It’s that time of year on North Coast rivers when steelhead begin making their spawning runs. Guide Tony Sepulveda (inset) expects a period of solid fishing after two winters of steady to heavy rain. (GREENWATER FISHING ADVENTURES)

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NORCAL On rivers like the Chetco and Smith, “It’s mostly a side-drift world,” Sepulveda says. A little piece of roe, a Mad River Fish Pill and some yarn is a popular set-up. (GREENWATER FISHING ADVENTURES)

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by some rough drought conditions leading into it or scenarios like that, it’s still good.” And with rivers at healthy levels after an extremely wet season, there is already plenty of fishable water from the Chetco just across the border in Oregon to the Smith and Eel Rivers in the northern tip of California. The top half of the state is now at two consecutive years with either steady (2015-16) or heavy (201617) rainfall. The early stages of winter 2017-18 would suggest more rain is on the way, which might not affect the run significantly either way – “The best steelhead seasons that I’ve ever seen here on the North Coast are the drought years, particularly when there were good conditions three years before,” Sepulveda says – but at least provides reason for optimism. “I don’t think it’s going to be a huge year, but I don’t think it’s going to be a bad year either," Sepulveda says. “Coming off the drought


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NORCAL

HUMBOLDT STEELHEAD DAYS RETURNS Humboldt Steelhead Days is more than just a fishing contest – it’s a winter celebration of all things steelhead. The ever-evolving event is entering its fifth year and will continue to host an array of watershed-related activities throughout Humboldt County. The goal of Humboldt Steelhead Days is to inspire community awareness, promote river restoration and the recovery of Humboldt’s iconic wild winter steelhead populations. Humboldt’s only annual signature wintertime event, HSD looks to build on its popularity with both local and out-of-area anglers. During January and February, there are more steelhead in our North Coast rivers than anywhere else in California. “I’m looking forward to the fifth an-

nual HSD competition,” said angler and Arcata resident Charlie Holthaus. “Last year’s rainy weather made for tough conditions, with muddy water persisting nearly the entire season. This year the outlook is promising: The Trinity River has been fishing good already, and the Mad River hatchery released plenty of young steelhead three years ago. There will be steelhead to catch in both rivers this winter. All we need is clear skies and favorable water conditions.” This year, Humboldt Steelhead Days will run from Saturday, Jan. 13, to Saturday, Feb. 17. Licensed anglers can participate in the contest by registering online on humboldtsteelheaddays. com. Once registered, anglers will be eligible to win several prize packages. Anglers who catch the three biggest

cycle we were in for a few years, I think this is going to be a bounceback year into very normal steelhead fishing again.” The added water from the drought-busting rainy seasons the past two winters should pay off in future runs. In other words, steelhead fishing appears to be on the upswing.

hatchery steelhead on either the Mad and Trinity Rivers will be notified prior to the Steelhead Awards Ceremony on Feb. 17 at the Mad River Brewing Co. Tap Room. The featured prize package will include a Douglas steelhead spinning rod donated by rod builder and designer Fred Contaoi. Anglers can also attend a Steelhead Expo on Jan. 20, with clinics and seminars brought to you in part by the City of Blue Lake, several Pints for Nonprofits brewery mixers, and a showing of the documentary film A River’s Last Chance: A Story of Salmon, Timber, Weed and Wine along California’s Mighty Eel River, directed by former Humboldt State student Shane Anderson. The screening is slated for Feb. 10 at Lost Coast Brewing Company. CS

Some big fish are waiting for anglers on the North Coast. Steelhead season here can last as long as four months. (GREENWATER FISHING ADVENTURES)

FINDING FISH When he heads out on the water with his Cousins Tackle rods, Sepulveda, who’s based in Eureka, prefers the Chetco and Smith, two known quantities for churning out quality steelies. “Those are going to be really solid bets. The Mad has really good bank fishing and is one of the few rivers in California that still has a really nice hatchery run on it,” Sepulveda says. “So for guys looking to keep a fish, that’s a good option.” “And if things dry out, then the southern rivers (Eel, Mattole, etc.) are going to be in play.” The Smith and Chetco and to a lesser extent the Eel are part of the “side-drift world” as Sepulveda calls it. “There’s plug fishing that hap-

pens,” he says, “but you have to pick your spots, especially if things are crowded. It’s a little hard to put plugs in the water. So it’s mostly a side-drift scene these days – a little piece of roe, a (Mad River) Fish Pill, little bit of yarn and drifting them on 10-pound fluorocarbon is the name of the game.” Sepulveda also targets Klamath kings later in the year, but winter steelhead, though not super hungry,

54 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

are far more aggressive biters. “I don’t know how much winter steelhead ‘feed.’ I don’t know if they’re hungry, per se; you never find much in their stomach,” Sepulveda says. “They’re actually not really eating much … Who knows what their intentions are. And I don’t know if they’re necessarily trying to find food and swallow things, but they’re grabby, especially when they’re not pressured.” CS


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NORCAL

FROM FIELD ...

TACKLING CACKLERS EUREKA AREA IS PRIME MIDWINTER HUNTING GROUNDS FOR ALEUTIAN GOOSE SPECIES By Scott Haugen

I

was so focused on the thick, white ring around the neck of the approaching Aleutian cackling goose that I began to shake. His neck was outstretched, his feet down, and anticipation mounted as he hovered over the decoys. “Take ’em!” John Corbett shouted over the incessant chatter of the more than 300 geese in the flock, all of which were landing in our spread. I quickly took a bead on the prized bird, dropped it and swung on another, followed by a third. As quickly as my Weatherby Element could cycle, three birds were down. But it wasn’t over. There were

so many geese that I had time to get off two more shots and drop a fourth goose before missing a fifth. My pudelpointer Echo was already on the move and the first bird she brought to my layout blind was that initial bird. It was in perfect shape and was my first Aleutian goose, a species I’d always dreamed of hunting. Combined with Echo’s perfect retrieve, it meant that this bird was going on the wall to preserve the special moment.

A BAG OF BIRDS By morning’s end I’d secure a limit, thanks to the expertise of Corbett and the fine staff at Pacific Outfitters (pacificoutfitters.com; 844-926-

Aleutian cackling geese funnel into an outfitter's decoy spread during author Scott Haugen’s February damagecontrol hunt near Eureka. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

6566). This special late-season hunt took place last February. Because upwards of 250,000 geese stage in the Eureka Valley this time of year before heading across the Pacific to their nesting grounds on Alaska’s Aleutian Islands chain, grazing damage on area cattle ranches is extreme. Thus, a late-season damage control hunt was put into place, which can make this hunt nothing short of spectacular. The special season runs just shy of a month, running from mid-February to mid-March. “This is strictly a private-land hunt,” Corbett says. “And it’s a pretty tight deal, meaning if you don’t know someone or have land access, it’s tough to just show up and find a place to hunt. It’s not like the general season in the fall with public land hunting available.” That’s precisely why I booked my

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NORCAL

Make your goose breast more exotic by cooking it in an oven bag with curry paste and other spices and then garnish it with cilantro. (TIFFANY HAUGEN)

... TO FIRE GIVE WATERFOWL A TASTE OF INDIA By Tiffany Haugen

S

lathering wild game in spices is a great way to give them deep flavor and keep the moisture in. This Indian-inspired dish produces a rich, creamy sauce, and roasting it all in the oven bag ensures a delectable end product. We’ve enjoyed all types of waterfowl using this method, as well as upland game birds. Oven bags are a foolproof way to keep waterfowl moist, especially if they have been skinned. Other flavors of curry paste can be substituted in this recipe. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared red, green or yellow curry paste in place of the curry powder, coriander, cumin and pepper. 2 Aleutian cacklers, dressed YELLOW CURRY PASTE ½ onion, chopped 4 cloves garlic Juice and zest of ½ lemon 2 teaspoons curry powder 2 teaspoons coriander 2 teaspoons brown sugar 1 teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon white pepper One 14-ounce can coconut milk ½ bunch chopped fresh cilantro for garnish Using a food processor or mini-chopper, blend all curry paste ingredients until smooth. Place goose or ducks into an oven roasting bag and place the bag into an ovenproof casserole pan. Coat the birds with the curry mixture, then pour coconut milk in bag. Seal bag and make several slits on the top for steam to escape. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree

oven for 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 140 to 160 degrees. To brown birds, carefully slice open the bag down the center, tucking into the sides of the pan during the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes. Serve birds over rice with curry sauce from the bag; garnish with cilantro. Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany Haugen’s popular cookbook, Cooking Game Birds, send a check for $20 (free

58 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or order online at scotthaugen.com. Follow Tiffany on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and watch for her on the online series Cook With Cabela’s, The Sporting Chef TV show and Netflix’s The Hunt.


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NORCAL Large decoy spreads greatly increase the odds of pulling in birds. This special late-season hunt is restricted to private land, so knocking on doors for permission or hiring a local guide are the only options. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

hunt with Pacific Outfitters. Corbett grew up hunting this area, has been guiding it for decades and has access to the best ranches. Toss in the fact that we set out over 20 dozen special decoys that I didn’t have and the decision to book a hunt was easy.

BIRDS EVERYWHERE With a 10-bird daily limit, Aleutian geese often decoy in big flocks. Seeing and hearing thousands of geese funnel into the decoys is something to behold. Single flocks can number up to 10,000 birds this time of year. It’s pretty amazing when you reflect on where the species’ numbers once were; there were less than a few hundred breeding pairs back in the 1960s. Aleutian goose numbers plummeted due to predation by foxes on the nesting grounds in the Aleutian Islands. Thanks to trapping and predator control programs, the geese began to flourish. This, along with restricted hunting, has led to one of the greatest conservation success stories in waterfowl history.

For the second of our two-day hunt, Corbett suggested we move to another ranch he had access to. After getting our birds on day one, we drove and looked for flocks of geese working farm fields. It worked, and the next day’s shoot was productive and exciting. Our hunting was done from layout blinds, which means the geese are right on top of you come time to shoot. Super-magnum loads aren’t necessary for this style of close-up shooting, and the Aleutians, like all cacklers, are small and easy to bring down. My load of choice is Browning’s 12-gauge 3-inch BXD with size 2 shot, a high-performance option I’ve used

goose hunting throughout the West – specifically in Canada and Alaska.

ON DOGS AND GEAR If you bring your dog, make sure he or she is comfortable inside the layout blind with you or in its own dog blind next to you. While there are lots of geese around, they’re not dumb, so hunting smart and keeping movement to a minimum is vital for success. Bring a cooler, as you’ll want to transport every bird home to eat. I’ve eaten a lot of geese over the years and rank these Aleutians right up there with spring snow geese and black brant as the best of the best in

A SOLID LODGING OPTION On this hunt I stayed at Eureka's Red Lion Hotel (707-445-0844), which, if you’re bringing your hunting dog, is pet friendly and offers great seasonal rates. The hotel is within walking distance of many good restaurants and has a friendly and helpful staff. The hotel is located a few minutes’ walk from places to run your dog and a few minutes’ drive to ocean beaches. There’s a lot to do this time of year, including bird watching, touring the redwoods and taking in the culture of nearby coastal towns. SH

60 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


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NORCAL terms of table fare. As I picked up the big spread of decoys on the final day of our hunt, I couldn’t help but reflect on the great time we had had. Echo hadn’t retrieved so many geese in her life and I hadn’t seen such big flocks of cacklers pour into the decoys. In the distance, the incessant, highpitched calls of cacklers could be heard. Flocks sporadically circled to find fields in which to feed. On my drive home, geese grazed along Highway 101 by the thousands. I vowed then and there to return to Eureka, to again hunt with Pacific Outfitters, and to relive some of the best goose hunting action I’d ever seen. CS Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular cookbook, Cooking Game Birds, visit scotthaugen.com. Haugen is the host of The Hunt on Netflix. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The author with a 10-bird limit of Aleutian cacklers, some of the best-tasting geese around. Haugen hunted with Eureka-based Pacific Outfitters, which has access to prime private land. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

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BAY AREA

Three generations of Bay Area fishermen form Happy Hooker Sportfishing. With two boats in its fleet, there are multiple options for anglers and plenty of fish in the sea – plus the bays – for anglers to catch, including California halibut. (HAPPY HOOKER SPORTFISHING)

THEY’RE HOOKED ON FISHING MULTIGENERATIONAL FISHING FAMILY A STAPLE ON SF BAY By Mark Fong

F

or over 35 years, the sportfishing charter boat operation Happy Hooker has provided San Francisco Bay Area fishermen with the finest saltwater fishing experiences.

The story of the Happy Hooker (510-223-5388; happyhookersportfishing.com) begins with its iconic Northern California captain. Jim Smith, who retired last year after nearly a half decade as a charter boat skipper, raised a fishing family. Today, his three sons Steve, Chris and James are all fixtures in the sportfishing industry. When Capt. Jim left the wheelhouse, he passed the responsi-

bility of carrying on the family business to his middle son Chris, himself a veteran charter boat captain. “I am really excited to have the opportunity to carry on the family legacy and to share this experience with my son Jonathon,” Chris Smith says. “We look at the Happy Hooker as a member of the family; this boat has so many fond memories. Look at how many people we have met

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BAY AREA

and how many friendships we have made over the years – some of our customers have been fishing on this boat as long as I have.” “We work hard to provide the highquality fishing experience and hospitality our customers can count on. We are always looking for new ways to make the experience just that much more enjoyable and memorable.” Sharing the duties behind the wheel with Chris is his son Jonathon, who started his fishing career as a deckhand

At different times of the year, clients can fish for stripers (shown here with Capt. Jonathon Smith) and take home pots full of crab. (HAPPY HOOKER SPORTFISHING)

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BAY AREA Author Mark Fong (left) and the middleman of this family, Capt. Chris Smith, with a Pacific Ocean lingcod. (HAPPY HOOKER SPORTFISHING)

on the Happy Hooker with his grandfather during summer breaks at the age of 13. Since then he has spent extended

periods of time working on a commercial crab boat and captaining six-pack charter boats in the Bay Area.

68 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

THE FLEET Happy Hooker Sportfishing is comprised of the namesake vessel,


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BAY AREA the Happy Hooker, and its six-pack boat, the Defiant. The Happy Hooker is 56 feet in length and carries a full load of 36 passengers. For a more personalized fishing experience with one-on-one instruction, the Defiant is a 34-foot catamaran that will accommodate up to six anglers. Both boats are available for private charter, corporate events, and open-load fishing. With Happy Hooker Sportfishing, the choice is yours.

ON THE WATER FOR STURGEON Fishing season kicks off at the beginning of the calendar year. January is a month of transition. After spending the previous eight months operating out of the Berkeley Marina, the Smiths move their boats to the Martinez Marina in preparation for sturgeon season. Winter is prime time for target-

ing sturgeon, with Martinez’s Carquinez Strait location the ideal spot from which to base operations. The fish can be found throughout the San Francisco Bay system, but the Martinez area is truly sturgeon central, as San Pablo Bay lies just to the west and Suisun Bay is a short boat ride to the east. “We have some great things planned this winter on the Happy Hooker,” says Jonathon Smith. “We are going to be running light loads – eight to 12 anglers. There will be plenty of room to spread out and fish. The big boat has a heated cabin, TV and we will have hot coffee and a pot of chili on the stove.”

SPRING FORWARD By mid-April, the boats return to the Berkeley Marina and the focus shifts to potluck fishing with live bait for the highly prized California halibut and striped bass in San Francisco Bay. In addition, the

KERN RIVER VALLEY

Who says the fishing isn’t great on the Kern River in the offseason? Not Braydon Ege of Lake Isabella, and he caught an 8-pound trout to prove it. Braydon made his catch on the lower Kern River just below the Lake Isabella Dam. Now that the local California Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery at Kernville has reopened, the entire Kern River is being restocked with ample trout for everyone. And while the Kern River valley and Lake Isabella are an exceptional place to visit anytime of the year, there are some great activities coming up in early spring. First on the list is Kernville’s historic Whisky Flats Days. Planned around Presidents’ Day Weekend, this “fun for the whole family” event is nearing its 60th anniversary. Call the Kernville Chamber of Commerce for more information. Not to be left out, the chamber follows up with one of the nation’s biggest fishing derbies. This event began over 25 years ago and becomes more popular every year. It offers a great weekend prior to the traditional Easter week vacation to get out and enjoy the outdoors, plus offers a chance to win real money and prizes just for fishing. Get out this offseason and enjoy the outdoors! It’s all right at your doorstep in the Kern River valley! Contact the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce (760-379-5236; kernrivervalley.com) for all the latest information.

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Smith family plans to run midweek salmon trolling trips. And as summer progresses towards the fall, rockfish and lingcod will take center stage. “Traditionally the sport crab season opens the first Saturday in November,” Capt. Jonathon says. “The crab/rockfish combo trips are very popular.” It is not often that anglers get the opportunity to fish for rock cod and to pull a string of crab traps all in the same day. The reward more often than not is a cooler full of tasty crab and rockfish fillets just in time for the holidays. If you would like to get in on some of the hottest fishing in the West with one of the best charter boats in the business, Happy Hooker Sportfishing has generations of family tradition behind it. CS Editor’s note: Like Happy Hooker Sportfishing at facebook.com/DHmike1


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CENTRAL VALLEY

Hunting demonstrations and some outstanding taxidermy work are just part of the attractions at this month’s International Sportsmen’s Exposition in Sacramento. (SPORTSEXPOS.COM)

SACRAMENTO ISE SHOW RETURNS THIS MONTH By Staff

S

portsmen and -women in California have the benefit of mostly good weather yearround to take advantage of the state’s fishing and hunting opportunities. Still, January is generally a quiet time, unless you’re a waterfowl hunter or steelhead angler in the northern part of the state. So this month is a great time to get a glimpse at the newest in outdoor gear, as well as pick the brains of industry experts. Yes, it’s California sportsman show season, and for Sacramento and Central Valley residents, it doesn’t get better than the 31st annual International Sportsmen’s Exposition, Jan. 18-21 at Cal Expo. This year, 630-plus companies will fill five separate buildings and outside space. Among those attending will include lodges and resorts, state and federal agencies such as

the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, outfitters and guides, fishing and hunting retail and other various outdoor gear and plenty of boats, trailers and accessories. “This is California’s biggest presentation of travel destinations, plus fishing, hunting, offroading and outdoor products,” the show announced in a press release. “It is also a giant boat show. Attendees come from throughout northern California, Nevada and Oregon.” Many of the usual exhibits and attractions will be back this year, including the outdoor product show-

case, sporting dog area, fly-fishing theater, tying how-to center and a fly-casting pond. There’s also the popular youth fair that caters to the kids. New features this year include a wilderness camp exhibit, a wilderness archery shoot-off demonstration, a trophy deer attraction courtesy of Eastmans’, and a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Great Elk Tour display. Tickets are $16 for adults, with kids under 15 and active military personnel (with ID) free. For more info, go to sportsexpos.com. CS

SACRAMENTO ISE SHOW WHAT WHEN HOURS ADMISSION WHERE INFO

31st annual Sacramento International Sportsmen’s Exposition January 18-21 Thursday and Friday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7p.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $16 for adults; youths 15 and under and active military (with ID) get in free Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento, 95815 sportsexpos.com; facebook.com/sportsexpos calsportsmanmag.com | JANUARY 2018 California Sportsman

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SOCAL

SOLO FOR SONGDOGS HAVE A SHOTGUN OR RIFLE AND AN ELECTRONIC CALL? YOU’RE READY TO HUNT CALIFORNIA COYOTES

By Tim E. Hovey

W

hen the weather starts to cool, my hunting interests begin to shift. Deer season is over and I’ve pushed myself through the hills and valleys chasing quail and cottontail rabbits until I was whipped. While most hunters are cleaning their firearms and putting them up for the season, I’m changing out shotgun chokes and dusting off my small-caliber rifles. To me, the late season’s cold weather means it’s time to start hunting predators. I’ve been calling predators for over 20 years; without a doubt it is one of my favorite things to do in the

outdoors. I love fooling the top predator of the wild, and I believe that being proficient at coyote hunting will make you a better hunter.

LATE IN 2017 I headed out solo on a two-day calling trip. The plan was to hunt my way out to meet my buddy Rito and his son at their campsite in the evening, camp there and then hunt my way home the next day. An hour from home I pulled into my first calling spot and noticed a hint of wind. By the time I was leaving my first empty stand, it was blowing close to 20 mph and I knew calling predators would be tough. My second stand was a regular

In areas like Southern California’s high desert, author Tim Hovey loves breaking out his rifles and calls to bring in predators such as coyotes. (TIM E. HOVEY/ROBERT WALDRON, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE)

spot and has produced so many critters that my daughter Alyssa calls it the vending machine. I parked and made the short hike to where we usually sit and got ready to start calling. The wind was howling, so I opt-

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SOCAL These brushy areas are prime coyote calling territory. (TIM E. HOVEY)

ed to use my e-caller. As I sat and got started, I had zero confidence that anything would show. I’ll admit it: I was daydreaming and not paying attention when I got surprised. A coyote appeared and raced towards the call only 20 feet to my left. I swung the rifle over, but he was too close and moving too fast. After he passed the call, the coyote dropped into a ravine, took a quick right and was gone. I stood up disgusted. I knew better. When I started getting into predator hunting years ago, I came up with a set of tried-and-true steps that I used to increase my calling success. At the top of that list was to pay attention. Despite the windy conditions, the coyote had had no trouble hearing the call. Had I been alert, I would’ve loaded him into the back of the truck. It would not happen again.

I GATHERED MY GEAR, headed to the next stand, hiked nearly 400 yards to the top of a ridge and set up while looking over a huge dry creek bed. I started calling and, with renewed concentration, began searching the terrain. Five minutes later I spotted movement to my right at the bottom of the ridge. A coyote was running to the call and stopped briefly to zero in on the sound about 150 yards out. I had him in the scope before he stopped and decided to take him

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there. The shot came and the coyote fell over. I was back on track. I loaded up the gear and the coyote and decided to drive closer towards the camping site. Rito and his son Andrew were busy fishing the Owens River and didn’t expect me until dinnertime, but I wanted to make my way further out before it got too late. I also wanted to call some areas closer to where they were camping. After a few empty stands, I pulled into an area I hadn’t been to in years.


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SOCAL I drove an old two-track for as far as I felt comfortable and then hiked a little to get into a good position. The sun was at my back and I had left the wind behind. I found an elevated sand dune and sat in the shadow of a huge bush perched at the top. I had a commanding view of a lot of good-looking territory, where any approaching predators would be looking right into the sun. When I’m focusing on calling predators, elevation – no matter how little – is what I look for. I started calling and waited. This spot was one of the most favorable areas I had called all day. With the sun setting, it was going to be my last stand. The AR-15 rifle I had built earlier last year was cradled on my shooting sticks and I was ready. Eight minutes in, I was searching the right side when a flash of fur cutting through the sage below me caught my eye. The coyote popped out no more than 20 yards from me and trotting towards the call. He stopped, nose in the air, trying to sense any danger; it was too late and I dropped him there. Since the terrain looked so good, I decided to keep calling. Two minutes later a second coyote came in from the left. He walked slowly, almost like he was stalking the call. I lifted the sticks and rifle and quietly swung them to intercept the coyote. With very little effort, I found him in the scope out at 30 yards and dropped him there. Neither animal had any idea I was there.

away from my position. This will direct approaching predators’ attention towards the caller and away from me. Lastly and, at least to me, more importantly, I am very familiar with my gear and have been using shooting sticks for over two decades now. I can get my rifle on the approaching target and crosshairs on fur very quickly. I believe anyone can easily call coyotes. However, the difference between seeing coyotes leave and loading them into the truck is being able to acquire the target quickly and being able to shoot well.

IN MY OPINION, CALLING predators solo has its challenges. With only one set of eyes to detect approaching animals, you definitely have to pay attention. I try and set up so I can see as much of the terrain as possible, and always make a note of which way the wind is blowing on a stand. That way, I can focus much of my attention downwind, the direction coyotes usually approach. I use an e-caller to tip the odds in my favor and to move the sound 82 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

The FoxPro calling device did its job in helping Hovey get a coyote down. (TIM E. HOVEY)

Three coyotes – sharp teeth and all – taken on a successful hunt. The author pursues most species in California, but he really enjoys the winter challenges of predator hunts. (TIM E. HOVEY)


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SOCAL I MET UP WITH Rito and Andrew at their campsite near the base of the Alabama Mountains. Rito had towed his trailer up the day before so he and his son could spend a few days hunting and fishing the local area. Even though Rito had offered up a spare bed in the trailer, I set up my one-man tent and opted to enjoy the stars. We ended the evening with an awesome steak dinner and conversation around the campfire. Anxious to wake early and look for quail, we called it a night shortly after dinner. The next morning, I woke early and headed out to do some more calling. Rito and Andrew were going to hang out at camp for a bit and then meet me at one of our quail spots later. After a blank stand, I headed to a spot I’ve called many times before. With very limited visibility and thick cover, this stand called for the shotgun.

I placed the caller 20 feet in front of me and sat on a dirt mound, giving me a slightly elevated perch. As with rifle stands, I have some pretty specific tactics when it comes to shotgun stands. Before I start calling, I shoulder the shotgun tightly and rest my left hand, cradling the fore stock on my left knee. This allows me to be ready for a shot quickly; all I have to do is raise the front of the shotgun and aim. During shotgun stands, things can happen quickly and close. If your shotgun is not shouldered, you likely will miss opportunities. I also believe that animals are far more comfortable in the thick cover and will approach a prey-in-distress call more readily. I place the call close so that anything coming in will approach within shotgun range. My call had been screaming like an anguished animal for over 10 minutes when I received a text from Rito. He mentioned that they were chasing quail only a quarter-mile away. I

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heard a few shots off in the distance coming from his direction. I was hopeful they were getting into birds. At the 12-minute mark I decided no one was home and was just about to get up when I caught a flash of brown fur 20 feet to my left. The coyote had snuck in and stopped in the only shooting lane I had. A single shot put him down. I met up with Rito and Andrew and we chased quail for a bit, then headed into town for lunch. After that, we parted ways and I headed home. Without a doubt, this had been a successful hunting trip, but not for the reasons you might think. I was certainly effective chasing predators, but when heading out to hunt I don’t measure my success by seeing an animal or if I pull the trigger. My enjoyment of the outdoors comes from just being there. Meeting up with good friends was a bonus, and our time sharing a campfire was well worth the drive. CS

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86 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


SOCAL

STOCK BIG BAITS, PATIENCE

WINTER BASS CAN BE HAD FOR ANGLERS WHO TAKE A METHODICAL APPROACH

By Bill Schaefer

J

anuary and February can make for tough largemouth fishing and frustrated bass anglers in Southern California. But if you are patient, you should get to set the hook a few times and land some nice fish. The bass are usually a little deeper in winter, making it harder to get them to bite. As lake waters cool, the metabolism of the bass starts to slow. They don’t feed as much as in the summer, for example, and want an easy big meal to tide them over till the next one passes by. Bass want the most food they can chase down in the shortest distance. They do not want to use any more energy than they have to running something down. This time of year they want their meals on a silver platter. The best way to fish bass in the winter is to slow way down. Drag that worm or jig as slow as you think you should, then slow down even more. Cover as much bottom as you can and thoroughly fan-cast any area you are fishing, working it until you just can’t stand it anymore. The bass are there; they just need the bait to pass close by them. Or you need to present your bait over and over until you make them mad enough to eat it. Every plastic bait, whether worm or creature type, will work this time of year. Split-shot or Carolina- or Bubba-rigged, the key

Anglers with patience can score lunker winter largies like author Bill Schaefer did. (BILL SCHAEFER)

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again is to just slow down and cover the most bottom possible. The pig and jig is also a great bait in the winter. Bass know that they can get a lot of energy and protein from crawdads, which is what you are trying to copy with all these baits. When fishing with worms, the bigger the better. Some fishermen really swear by this old adage, using plastics between 8 and 16 inches. Again, in the winter you’ll want to work those worms as slow as you can, and then slow down even more. The slow quivering of the bait drives big bass crazy! Creep that big worm through a school of largemouth and it will definitely trigger one of them to strike. Most of the local lakes plant trout in the winter; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife releases them, and some of the lakes supplement those plants by buying direct from hatcheries. The trend has been to plant larger trout in the 4- to 8-pound range lately to keep the big bass from eating them all up. However, the bulk of these planted trout is in the 1- to 2-pound range, and those fish make tasty morsels for large bass. That is why one of the baits that bass anglers start fishing with this time of year imitates rainbows – colorful swimbaits and hard baits. They come in all shapes, colors and sizes, so it can be in your favor to carry an assortment in the tackle box. Trout-resembling hard or soft baits are the lures that have scored countless giant bass and snagged many lake records in the Southland. Get out there and stay in tune for 2018 by fishing through the winter. It’s almost time for the season to take off. The next month or two right before and during the spawn is the time of year when you can score a lot of fish – maybe even that wall-hanger you’ve dreamed of! Don’t let it pass you by. CS


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SOCAL

MASTERING ‘MUD MARLIN’

SOCAL BAYS ARE FULL OF RAYS, AS WELL AS SHARKS By Capt. Bill Schaefer

T

he bays of Southern California are filled with a lot of other species to chase besides the bass and halibut that live there. There are giant bat rays, guitarfish, and assorted sharks such as leopard and dog sharks. Many times the larger rays will take to the air. This acrobatic display is just one more reason this fishing is so popular and exciting. The battle will be a real test of the gear and your own strength. Some call them “mud marlin” because of their great strength, fighting ability and their occasional leaps into the air. All of these species will pull some serious drag on light- to medium-heavy ocean equipment, the same gear you might take when you head out on a sport boat for a halfday of fishing. Going lighter can also be fun too, but sometimes it ends in a spooled reel. Any of the points that face the main larger bodies of the bay are best from shore; from a boat it’s any of the main channels followed by the tide. I find a medium tide of about 3½ to 4 feet of total movement seems best, but as long as the tide is moving, the sharks and rays are actively feeding. You can catch them in some of the smaller back bays, but the most activity is going on in the main body of the bay, and that’s where the big boys live. I usually use a medium-heavy 7-foot Daiwa casting rod with a me-

Bat rays – some locals call them “mud marlin” – are a fun species for Southern California saltwater anglers to pursue, along with ubiquitous leopard and dog sharks. (BILL SCHAEFER)

dium-size conventional ocean reel, such as a Daiwa Sealine, loaded with 20- to 30-pound-test Maxima Ultragreen. You can also try Maxima or Daiwa braid. The mainline is passed through an egg sinker from ¾ to 1½ ounces – depending on the size of the tide – and tied to a 3/0 to 5/0 Mustad circle hook.

WHAT THEY’LL BITE ON For bait, it depends on whether you want to catch any size rays and sharks or just want to chase the big ones! For smaller sharks and rays and more hookups, you can go with lighter tackle, although the set-up is the same with the exception of may-

be a smaller hook. Anything from ghost shrimp to cut anchovies will do. Light tackle and more hookups will make it a more fun day for the kids if you have them with you. When chasing the giants, I like to use a whole mackerel if it’s less than a pound, and a half of one if it’s larger. This larger chunk of bait will let the little fish pick at it and still leave a large enough piece to attract the larger rays or sharks. It is better for the bait to stay in one place rather than drift with the tide. The fish will find it. Make some slices in the bait to let out some juice and lob it out as far as you can and something may take a bite. CS

calsportsmanmag.com | JANUARY 2018 California Sportsman

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osquito Fleet has been providing world-class sportfishing in La Paz, Mexico, since 1984, longer than any other local fishing fleet. We have offered to our clients the ultimate in service and quality; we also have the most knowledgeable captains and finest crew to make your trip the most enjoyable in Baja. Please surf our website (bajamosquitofleet.com) and take a look at the crew, boats and fish reports that are available to assist you in having the most rewarding fishing trip

possible. Our goal is to get you to the best fishing grounds, as well as have the best fishing tackle available for the job so you can land the big ones. The Mosquito Fleet boasts the largest and best-maintained fleet in Baja, with a range of 22- and 26-foot Super Pangas and cruisers from 28 to 106 feet. And the fishing is some of the best in Mexico with dorado, blue and striped marlin, yellowtail and wahoo among the summer fish we target. The Mosquito Fleet is also proud to offer an exciting new way to get

you to the best fishing in the Sea of Cortez – the all-new San Evaristo Fish Camp. San Evaristo is a remote fishing village to the east of San Jose Island that is ideal for fishing in the winter months because it is so well protected. We fish both in the early morning and return for lunch to the camp and then head back out in the early afternoon to local sites. You may also kayak fish in the late afternoons and evenings, as well as enjoy the serenity and beauty of the night sky illuminated by the stars. CS

calsportsmanmag.com | JANUARY 2018 California Sportsman

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TALES OF A BIOLOGIST

TOUR DE TROUT BRRRP-BRRRRRP! TRAIL BIKES HELP FISHERY BIOLOGISTS SURVEY BACKCOUNTRY STREAM By Tim E. Hovey

I

zoomed in on the Google Earth image and found the creek. Using the cursor, I traced an old Forest Service road to the target area on the screen and found a path to the survey spot. The road hadn’t been maintained in years, and in several places it just disappeared on the satellite view. It was also 5 miles from the nearest parking area. Getting there wouldn’t be easy. Matt Lucera, our new wild trout biologist, needed to survey a remote drainage in the Los Padres National

A long trip into the Los Padres National Forest to survey trout waters required trail bikes. They allowed author Tim Hovey and fellow state fish biologist Matt Lucera to cover more ground in winter’s shorter daylight hours. (TIM E. HOVEY) calsportsmanmag.com | JANUARY 2018 California Sportsman

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TALES OF A BIOLOGIST

Lucera (right) and Hovey ready for a ride ... (TIM E. HOVEY)

Forest, which covers parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, among others. Part of our fisheries group is dedicated to monitoring the scattered wild trout populations here in Southern California. These are usually groups of fish that may have been stocked at one time, but the trout now persist on their own due to natural reproduction. Matt had heard from some hikers that some of the backcountry drainages had gone dry, putting some long-standing wild trout populations at risk. Naturally, to confirm the reports we needed to see the creeks for ourselves. Unfortunately, with the shorter winter days and the long distance, hiking in wasn’t the best option. We had to get creative. Mat called me a week later to discuss the survey. During the course of the conversation, he asked me if I had a trail bike. In 2009 I’d been looking to expand my hunting area and picked up

a used Honda CRX 100 trail bike. I’d load the motorcycle in the truck and spend hours exploring new areas and hunting remote spots I knew had received little pressure. I usually try and get out a few times a season to hunt off the bike. By the end of the call, Matt and I made plans to use the trail bikes to get back to the remote creek.

ON THE MORNING OF the survey, Matt picked me up at my place. We loaded my trail bike next to his in the back of the truck, tied it down and headed out. On the drive, I told Matt that I had had to rebuild the carburetor on the little Honda because I had let it sit for too long. While I was working on it, I also took the opportunity to change the oil and air filter, and essentially tune it up. Matt mentioned that he’d had to do the same. After some adjustments on both bikes, they were running perfectly. We followed the old fire road as

100 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

far as we could and parked. The road degraded into a brush-filled trail, and we really couldn’t go any further with the truck. We offloaded the bikes, got our gear ready, and after I squeezed my head into one of the spare helmets Matt had brought, we started up the motorcycles. Matt referenced his GPS and pointed out our route on a paper map. Both bikes were purring as we locked up the truck and headed out. I followed Matt since he knew the way. We traveled the old fire road for the first mile. The road was in fairly good shape and the only time we needed to slow down was to cross the creek. Unfortunately, after that first mile the road degraded considerably. I was bringing up the rear when I rounded a corner and saw Matt stopped in the road. Either from flooding or just lack of consistent maintenance, the path had suddenly stopped.


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TALES OF A BIOLOGIST

WE PARKED THE BIKES and referenced the map. The creek had cut through the road and we had a tough time finding where it continued. After a few minutes of walking the creek, we realized that the road continued 50 yards upstream of where the creek first crossed. We started up the bikes and carefully rode in the dry creek, dodging deep sand and boulders, until we headed up the bank and back on the road. The further we went, the more the road degraded. A few times we actually had to essentially walk the running bikes through the creek and get around boulders and fallen trees. A little over 5 miles from the truck, we reached the end of the road and our destination. We had heard reports that much of the drainage in this section of

... And what a rough ride it was. More than once the biologists had to dodge deep sand and boulders. (TIM E. HOVEY)

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TALES OF A BIOLOGIST

the national forest was unseasonably dry. This would, of course, impact the trout population. With the exception of the three wetted crossings we encountered near the truck, the entire drainage had been dry. Matt grabbed his survey gear and we hiked a little upstream. We heard trickling water a short distance from where we left the bikes. A tributary to the drainage we had been following was running with a good flow. We found a huge pool less than 100 yards from the end of the road. Darting around in the deeper portions were several wild trout. We took photographs and recorded the water temperature in the tributary. Matt and I sat at the water’s edge and tried to get an idea of trout size. A

Among the biologists’ discoveries that day were the remains of a deer – likely attacked by a cougar – and huge black bear tracks. (TIM E. HOVEY)

healthy trout population will have several sizes of fish represented. Within minutes, we were able to spot several trout of various lengths in the clear pool. To get a better idea of how well the

104 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

tributary was wetted, we hiked close to a mile upstream. Matt was interested in seeing if this particular drainage was fed by a spring close to where it met up with the dry drainage.


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TALES OF A BIOLOGIST

During the hike, we rounded the base of a huge tree and found the decaying bones of a deer; its carcass had been ripped apart and partially covered with old needles from the pine tree. The bite marks on the skull and covered bones told of a cougar kill. I knelt down and grabbed the lower jaw and looked at the teeth. The animal looked mature. The bones had been picked clean and the area had been disrupted. Other predators had found the cache and taken their share. We returned to where we’d parked the bikes and had a late lunch. Because the hike had taken longer than we had anticipated, and with the short winter days in play, we needed to get back on the trail to the truck. We packed up our gear and got back on the bikes. Now that the successful survey was completed and knowing the way back, we opened up the bikes and enjoyed the ride back.

AS USUAL, I WAS bringing up the rear when I spotted Matt stopped in the middle of the trail. He was looking down in the soft dirt. I rode up slowly and Matt pointed to the ground. In the soft dirt of the trail were two huge black bear prints. We were clearly not alone out in the backcountry. After an hour of riding and walking the rough areas, we made it back to the truck with time to spare. Matt and I discussed that without the bikes, we probably would’ve had to camp back in the wilderness and we were both too busy to get that done. Using the motorcycles cut the travel time enough to get the survey done completely in less than a day. We loaded up the bikes, tied them down and started the drive back home. It had been a great day in the wild and it was awesome to figure out a way to get the job done. Matt thanked me for coming along and I thanked him for the invite. Winding

A biologist’s destination is not always so easy to get to, but it’s well worth the trip when they can collect data on Southern California’s wild trout populations. (TIM E. HOVEY)

our way out of the canyon, I started to think about how unique our jobs were. When I started down the fisheries road almost 25 years ago, I had no idea it would lead me to riding a motorcycle in the backcountry looking for trout. Truthfully, I had a hard time believing that studying native fish could, in fact, be a career. All I know is that most of the time,

106 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

my job is fun; some days, it’s really fun! CS Editor’s note: The Southern California Thomas Fire had prompted several closures within the Los Padres National Forest around press time. Check out the forest’s official website (fs.usda.gov/lpnf) for more information.


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CALIFORNIA GUN OWNERS: WHAT TO KNOW COURTESY OF

Living in California and being a gun owner is increasingly difficult in our current political climate. As law-abiding citizens, it’s hard to understand why they pass these laws, considering that they often have little or no effect on crime rates. Unfortunately, these laws are now a reality and regardless of the clarity of the regulations (of which there is little), it is still our job to understand how to comply with the laws as they are passed. When it comes to the AR portion of the law, the Department of Justice (DOJ) causes even more confusion by releasing and then retracting the regulations over and over again. With all the back and forth, we could all use a little clarity, so here are the facts: The law has passed. Regardless of the regulations, by law you must either: 1) Register your AR as an “assault weapon” with the DOJ; 2) Retrofit your AR to be “featureless” and lose all your favorite features including your pistol grip, adjustable stock and flash suppressor; or 3) Go with a “fixed magazine” solution. The law defines a fixed magazine to mean an ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action (see leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB880 for more detailed information on the law). So that’s it. You have three options. While we personally believe that registration is a bad option (ahem … Australia), it is an option, although very cumbersome for everyone in your household. We will not go into all the details here but recommend you do some research before you decide on this option. Needless to say, the DOJ had so much trouble creating the site that they had to extend the deadline for registration from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. Please keep in mind that in the meantime, they are still arresting people and confiscating noncompliant ARs. Featureless is option two and is a great way. You lose a lot of your favorite features, but rest assured – your AR will be legal for the foreseeable future. If you are hoping to go this route and still want to keep your adjustable stock, the Cross Armory Stock Lock is a great option. For the third option, we at Cross Armory have dedicated the entirety of the last year and a half to designing solutions for fixed magazines. Our belief is that your AR does not have to suck, even though the laws do. The combination of our Safe Mag – the lock that is designed so that your magazine “cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action” – plus Quick Pins and the Pin Pal/Flop Stop is designed so that you can reload as fast, if not faster than before, with the least amount of wear and tear on your AR, and minimal movement between your two receivers. With Safe Mag, Quick Pins and combo installed Pin Pal/Flop Stop, your fixed magazine problem goes away. Safe Mag locks your magazine into place until you have disassembled the firearm action. This action would normally be achieved by removing your rear takedown pin. Quick Pins solve your irritating slow, rear takedown pin problem by replacing it. With a quick, two-finger squeeze, Quick Pins releases your two receivers and allows Safe Mag to automatically drop the magazine (no button required). This is where the Pin Pal/Flop Stop combo comes into place. With the continued action of separating your two receivers, the normal front takedown pin, which is made of steel, will eventually wear on your upper receiver, causing a lot of slop movement during the pivot. Pin Pal replaces your front takedown pin and transfers the rotational wear to a steel pin bearing on a prelubricated Mil-Spec metal bearing, keeping your gun as tight as it was from the factory. Flop Stop then attaches to the Pin Pal to catch the “flop” as your upper receiver pivots forward. The distance of separation of the two receivers needed for the Safe Mag to drop the magazine is minimal. Flop Stop will catch your upper and solves the little problem we like to call “limp barrel syndrome.” It will also save you from pinching a finger in the reloading process. That is really all there is to it. Squeeze your Quick Pins, Safe Mag drops the magazine, flick your wrist to reattach the two receivers that were caught and protected by Flop Stop and Pin Pal, and insert your next magazine. Reload in a couple seconds. Want to see for yourself? A picture (or video in the case) is worth a thousand words, so we recommend that you search for Cross Armory on your favorite social media platform or go to crossarmory.com to get a better idea of exactly what we are talking about. We think you will be pleasantly surprised at how simple the install and reloading process is. We also work with some of the best gun shops in the state. Chances are your favorite gun shop sells our products and can show you exactly how it works. We should note that Pin Pal and Flop Stop were both requests from our Quick Pins and Safe Mag users. Our clients have been incredibly helpful as we continue to strive to make our products better. Thank you for your feedback and support. On another note, we believe that everything should be as easy as shopping on Amazon. With that goal, we guarantee 100 percent satisfaction and strive to make all exchanges and returns as easy as possible. We hope you love our products as much as we do, but if not, we will make it right. Regardless of whether or not you buy Cross Armory products, please take the time to understand your options under the new law. We have seen arrests and confiscations already and we would hate to see that happen to anyone else. There are many webinars online that will go through all the details of the registration process, as well as what constitutes featureless and fixed magazine. It is definitely worth your time and effort in research.

For more: go to crossarmory.com; like at facebook.com/crossarmory, and follow on Twitter and Instagram (@crossarmory). 108 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


Fixed magazine? No problem.

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110 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


SADDLING UP IN CENTRAL ASIA

The steep, rocky mountains of Kyrgyzstan aren’t exactly a destination for American tourists, but Los Angeles-based Brittany Boddington wanted a new challenge and found it on horseback while hunting ibex in this former Soviet republic in Central Asia. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

A HUNT FOR IBEX TAKES BRITTANY TO REMOTE, MOUNTAINOUS KYRGYZSTAN – PART ONE OF TWO By Brittany Boddington

I

like the idea of pushing my limitations to try and see how far I can go and how much I can learn when I book my hunts. But hunting in the country of Kyrgyzstan was by far the most adventurous hunt I have ever done. Hunting in Asia takes patience and the ability to go with the flow because the plan is always sort of up in the air. Fortunately, the people

were nice, which made it easier to roll with the punches.

A MYSTERIOUS, FARAWAY LAND Kyrgyzstan is often confused with Kazakhstan, its neighbor to the north, but Kyrgyzstan will make you feel much more like you’re in Asia. The Kyrgyz people remind me of my friends from Mongolia. Since China is just to the east, Kyrgyzstan was once part of the famous Silk Road trade route. And although the coun-

try gained independence as the Iron Curtain fell in 1991, because it was part of the former Soviet Union for so long, cities there still show the signs of Soviet domination. The culture of Kyrgyzstan has remained intact and traditional over the years because the mountains keep the country mostly isolated. Not only did we soak in the culture in a place few Americans have ever been or will likely travel to, we experienced hunting there as well.

OFF TO THE HIGH COUNTRY We flew into the capital city of Bishkek and were greeted with VIP

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When their van broke down, the Kyrgyz guides provided strong yet gentle horses to traverse the mountainsides – along with a warning what to do when the steeds inevitably would fall. (BRITTANY

signs, then were taken to a nice little lounge where we had coffee with my friend Bryan Martin, who set up the hunt for us. My boyfriend Brad and I landed around 5 a.m. and waited three hours for our cameraman Bill to arrive around 8. After all the gun paperwork was finished we headed off with a translator, a cook, a guide and another hunter who also flew in that morning. At some point on our 12-hour drive we stopped and picked up our guide. He didn’t speak any English but he always had a smile on his face, so that helped with the language barrier. When we got to base camp we were told that we would stay the night there and check the guns in the morning before heading off to go set up a spike camp. The translator soon joined us, which was a huge relief.

BODDINGTON)

112 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


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Steadying himself on the loose soil and rocks of a steep mountainside, a cameraman lines up the shot. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

We left the next morning after checking the guns and making some adjustments to acclimate ourselves to the altitude. We packed up everything we would need for a few days in spike camp – I was shooting a 6.5 Creedmoor by CZ with Sig-Sauer optics – and loaded it into the modified van that we’d driven into base camp, then started off into the mountains. It was like the van was on steroids – it contained every modification you could think of in order to be an offroad mountain vehicle. It was even Line-X coated! Unfortunately, even with all the work they had put into this thing, the rough roads got the upper hand and we broke down about halfway to where the guys wanted us to camp. After a few tries at fixing the van, it was apparent that it wasn’t going to be an easy job.

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HORSES TO THE RESCUE Fortunately, the guide and the translator had gone ahead of us on horseback that morning and had started to worry that we had not arrived, so they came looking for us. They brought horses and we started to pare down our gear to pack up on the animals. The guides said camp was only a few hours’ ride from where the van was stuck. We left the hard cases in the truck, got our camera and hunting gear into the saddle bags and loaded up our backpacks with as much as we could fit. This was the first time I had been on a horse in the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan; the experience was breathtaking. The mountains seem to be painted in greens and browns, and they go on forever. To say that we were in a remote area was almost a laughable understatement. We were near the border of China in an area that looked like no humans had touched it. That night we slept at a Soviet-era military base. I’m not sure when the plan to spike camp changed; the translator was also confused but we welcomed the shelter. We were not allowed to take photos of the base but it was extremely interesting and pretty creepy at night. The next morning we headed out to hunt in the dark. It was freezing and pitch black when we mounted the horses. I have never ridden a horse in the dark like that before and it was a little nerve-racking. Thank goodness Brad is good with horses because, sadly, I am not very experienced in the saddle. My grandfather fancied himself a cowboy and I rode a lot with him on visits as a child, but I really haven’t saddled up much as an adult. My horse was stubborn and slow as can be, but also very careful and I came to love it for that. The terrain was treacherous and the rid-

Kyrgystan is about 80 percent mountains, earning it the moniker of the Switzerland of Asia. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

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ing was much more technical than anything I was prepared for. The horses in Kyrgyzstan are tall and strong, but above all fearless and nimble. They weave up and down those incredibly steep mountains as gracefully as possible. The translator told me the first morning that when my horse fell, I needed to pull the reins back sharply to keep my mount from going down completely. The word “when” stuck out to me. He didn’t say “if your horse falls;” it was “when your horse falls.” Those words echoed in my head the rest of the trip. And sure enough, all the horses fell at some point.

TREACHEROUS CLIMBING That first morning we covered a massive amount of ground before the sun came up. We climbed over mountains and through valleys, and

crossed frozen streams and icy rocks before reaching a massively steep mountainside. The guide and the translator jumped off the horses and started cinching down the saddles. They asked us to get off and did the same to our horses. They pulled those saddles as tight as they could and I took this to be a bad sign of what we were about to climb. It looked impossible to me; I wondered if I could have even climbed that hill on foot because it was so steep and the rocks all were loose. But they instructed us to get on the horses and my worried murmurs dissolved. We started up – straight up. The horses would go in bursts of energy while bounding upward. In really steep spots the horses would zigzag, switching back on themselves so tightly that at times they would have to hop to get their feet to the other side. Some horses would fal-

ter and trip but pick themselves up and keep going. My adrenaline was through the roof and while I was thinking of pulling the plug most of the way up, the thought of going down was far scarier than continuing up, so I kept my mouth shut and hung on. I kept hearing my grandfather’s advice about keeping my weight in my stirrups and I leaned forward as much as possible. But there were times that I was sure I was going to go rolling down the hill with my horse.

IBEX IN RANGE At the top things got better and we cruised along the mountain ridge, peeking around each corner. It was morning now and the sun was starting to shine. We came around one corner and I heard a commotion from the guide and the translator. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but they were excited. The translator

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Taking the majestic ibex in a setting like this had the author a bit emotional. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

told me that there were ibex around but were all small. I rode up and looked around the corner and was surprised because they didn’t look

small to me at all. I looked through my binoculars and was sure they were big. The guide got very excited and jumped

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off of his horse. All of a sudden all I could hear was the word “shoot” being chanted over and over. I got off my horse and tried to calm ev-


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eryone while Brad and Bill got off their horses and Bill got the camera set up. Brad ranged the group of ibex at around 400 yards, but they were moving up the mountain. Undoubtedly the shouting of “shoot, shoot, shoot” was scaring them. I got settled in the prone position and picked a nice big male that was very pretty and was standing clear of the other ibex. There were bigger trophy males in the group but they were all bunched up. I could tell that they wouldn’t stand still for long. Brad ranged the ibex I had my crosshairs on at 425 yards. I adjusted accordingly, took a deep breath, exhaled halfway and fired. I heard it hit. I have never been so sure of a shot in my life. The ibex was hit hard and it took a tumble down the hill. It stood up again and I finished the job. We watched to make sure it wouldn’t get up again, then started to head up the hill on the horses. It was all rocks and shale from where we were to where the ibex was and the horses were sliding and tripping a lot. I finally got to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore, jumped off the horse and decided to go up on foot. It was a bad decision. The altitude totally kicked my butt and I had to sit and breathe every few yards, but I finally made it up to my beautiful ibex. They are built like bulldogs and packed with solid muscle. They are the largest of the ibex and, to me, the most beautiful. I teared up when I got to the animal, which is something I never do, but for me this was the hunt of a lifetime and the top of my wish list for animals. It was surreal realizing such a faroff dream. My hunt was incredible and Brad was up next on the gun, but I’ll save his adventure for later. CS Editor’s note: Look for part two in next month’s issue. Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more, check out brittanyboddington.com and facebook.com/brittanyboddington. 122 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


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HUNTING

BIRDS OF PREY CALIFORNIA WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST SOARS WITH MONGOLIAN EAGLE HUNTERS By Lisa Selner

A

s an avid outdoorswoman, I’ve devoted my life to a career as a wildlife biologist. I have been working with wildlife since my college years, with multitudes of experience gained through work with federal and state agencies, tribal programs, and private entities throughout the United States. I have many outdoor-related hobbies, including hunting, fishing, falconry, and so forth, so some of my most memorable moments have been spent with bears, birds of prey, bison, coyotes, elk, mountain lions and wild horses. I’ve had opportunities to explore remote and rugged areas and have engaged in experiences filled with culture, history and outdoor adventure. Over the years, I had come across falconry-related topics in passing. But it wasn’t until I moved to California in 2010 that I took an interest in pursuing the sport myself. Not long after I moved, I contacted the local falconry club, became a member and arranged to tag along with a group of falconers and their Harris’s hawks in Southern California. Harris’s hawks are a popular falconry bird because they are easy to train and are very social. Unlike other birds of prey that usually lead solitary lives and hunt alone – except during the breeding season – Harris’s hawks hunt in family groups (or packs) in the wild, hunting cooperatively with a social hierarchy like wolves. My first hunting trip with this group was quite impressive. Everybody, both

Camarillo-based wildlife biologist Lisa Selner experienced the majestic high country of Mongolia and joined local Kazakh hunters who adhere to traditions of falconry to harvest wild game like fox and rabbit. (LISA SELNER)

birds and humans, worked as a team, and together they brought home quite the catch of desert cottontail rabbits! And so began the sparks that ignited my newfound love of falconry. The sound of falconry bells as a hawk passes by overhead, circles about and then swoops in for a landing on a gloved fist is truly a soul-stirring moment. My interest in falconry lies with being able to hunt in partnership with a wild bird of prey and to become more knowledgeable about these creatures that temporarily share their lives with me. It is an opportunity for me to continue learning and growing as a wildlife professional. Becoming a falconer has added newfound knowledge to my wildlife repertoire, and I was a part of a remarkable experience on the other side of the world.

MY EXCURSION IN MONGOLIA was a pursuit many would call the epitome

of falconry adventures. Bringing a multitude of passions for wildlife and the outdoors to a whole new level, I combined my interests in falconry, hunting, horseback riding, working with pelts, and exploration of rugged and beautiful terrain by engaging in an expedition of a lifetime! Following Kazakh hunters on horseback in the remote Altai Mountains in pursuit of fox and rabbit was a life-changing opportunity. Living in the landlocked Asian nation of about three million people surrounded by Russia and China, and in one of the coldest and harshest places on earth, the Kazakhs continue to follow their traditional ways as they did in ancient times, hunting for sustenance using trained wild golden eagles, one of the largest and most powerful of all the raptor species, to subdue their prey. Hunting of furbearing game is done only in winter, when pelts are of best quality.

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HUNTING It was a wonderful opportunity to witness an ancient tradition in modern times. Many of us have all but forgotten the bonds we once shared with wildlife, and the difficulties of surviving in the wilderness, in our current fast-paced and technologically advancing society. This encounter was a much-appreciated and eye-opening glimpse into the past, as practiced in the present and, hopefully, to continue into the future. It was spectacular to see the connection between a hunter and his eagle. As a team, the eagle is helping the hunter survive in one of the harshest places on earth. Together they travel on horseback for long distances and over tough terrain during a hunt. Man uses the power of one of the deadliest aerial predators in the animal kingdom to help him survive in one of the harshest environments. The eagle is fully capable of killing a human as well, and it is only an arm’s length away. Other aspects of the trip included meeting the families of these hunters and their eagles, and learning skills involved in the capture, training, and use of their eagles as hunters. In Kazakh culture, the eagle is said to have magical powers. Hunting with a golden eagle is one of the most unique hunting methods in the world. The Kazakhs carry with pride their tradition of hunting using birds of prey, one that stretches back to the days of Genghis Khan, who is said to have had over 5,000 eagle riders in his personal guard. The Kazakhs of Mongolia are a semi-nomadic people who have roamed the mountains and valleys of western Mongolia with their herds since the 19th century. They are some of the last nomadic people on earth. Like their brothers in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China and Russia, they are descendants of Turkic, Mongolic, Indo-Iranian tribes, and Huns who populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea. They originated from the northern parts of Central

Predator is prey in Mongolia – an eagle was used to kill this fox, whose fur is used for clothing. (LISA SELNER)

Asia, and can trace their roots to the 15th century. They rely greatly on their clans and herds for survival. For Kazakh families in the countryside, continuing to live as their semi-nomadic ancestors once did, daily life involves an endless cycle of chores. The nomadic and herding lifestyle is a very hard life. People are dependent on one another for survival because of the remoteness and harshness of their environment. Basic survival comes first, and mobility is the key to that. Many Kazakh families move several times a year with their herds between fixed seasonal settlements. Those with smaller herds stay closer to their winter home during the summer, but will set up gers (yurts) during this time. The winter home usually consists of a one-room cabin made of mud-plastered logs with a dirt roof, no telephone, no running water, minimal electricity, and no bathrooms. Domestic animals are important to the livelihood of those Kazakhs roaming the remote and mountainous region of western Mongolia. Survival is only made possible because of the domestication of animals. Their herds of goats and, especially, sheep are revered as prized possessions. Goats and sheep are raised for their wool, meat, and milk for cheese. After dark, these herds are vulnerable to attack by gray wolves. Many

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herders will move their animals to large stone wall enclosures at night for safety, with dogs standing guard diligently against the appearance of a wolf or wolves. Camels, yaks, and horses are also relied on for food, clothing, and transportation, and have been for hundreds of years. Mutton and horsemeat are the preferred meats. There is a common practice of salting and drying meat to preserve it, and a preference for sour milk, since it is easier to store and better suits the nomadic lifestyle. Many Kazakhs are also skilled in The rugged Altai Mountains (the word is translated as gold in Mongolia) are in the western part of this landlocked nation bordered by Russia and China and near eastern Kazakhstan. (LISA SELNER)


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HUNTING Bactrian camels have been domesticated by the Kazakhs and are used for food, milk and as general work animals. Goats are also valuable in this remote Asian outpost. (LISA SELNER)

the performance of traditional music. Wrestling, archery, and horse racing are all huge sporting avenues for Kazakh men. Mongolians in general are known as some of the best riders in the world, with horse jockeys as young as five years old competing in horse races.

WE SPENT LONG DAYS hunting on horseback and cold nights sleeping on a dirt floor – inside our sleeping bags – at the hunter’s cabin, along with his family. Anything liquid – think water, toothpaste, etc. – stayed frozen the entire trip, even while indoors unless propped against the stove. From the cabin, we had a wonderful view of the remote mountains of Blue Goat National Park. Bayan-Olgii province is home to several national parks and protected areas, encompassing some of the most beautiful landscapes in Mongolia. These areas are rich in wildlife, nomadic herders and archeological sites. Rare animals such as the snow leopard and endangered bird species reside in Blue Goat. Hunting days usually started shortly after sunrise and ended shortly before sunset. The ride to and from each of the hunting areas was made swiftly. Weather-wise, November in Mongolia did not feel that cold to me. Though warmer than usual for that time of year and representing a slight heat wave, daily highs must have been in the teens and 20s, while overnight temps reached below zero. I absolutely love the cold weather! While partaking in the hunts each day, the eagle needs to be up high. We followed the hunter to the very tops of the mountains, until you couldn’t go

any further. If making it to the top was too difficult by horse, we got off the horses and walked the rest of the way. On the very top we perched and looked below for the slightest of movements. Sometimes the guides acted as runners down below while trying to flush game out into the open, and sometimes they moved alongside the mountain throwing rocks to make noise to scare possible prey animals out from under the rocky slopes. Sometimes the slopes are so steep and with loose rock that it is not always safe to be on them on horseback. We would have to get off and walk in certain areas while tugging our reluctant horses behind us. In areas where it was faster to move on foot to get to the bottom of

the mountain, I wasn’t as surefooted on my own two feet as the wranglers were. My legs were lengthy in comparison, and I seemed to walk about more awkwardly and clumsily, perhaps from not being used to trekking through this type of terrain. But I made the best of it and learned quickly that if I got down on my behind – after handing my horse over to one of the wranglers – and slid down the mountain, I could make it to the bottom just as quickly as those who maneuvered on foot. Having snow-covered hillsides seemed to make the slide a bit easier, and fun! I did have one instance where the horse I was riding for most of the trip slid along a slippery ledge up in the mountains. When I realized he was going down, I tried to throw myself out of the way. But my foot got hung

ALL ABOUT FALCONRY Falconry is an ancient art involving the taking of wild game with the aid of a trained bird of prey, also known as a raptor. In earlier times, falconry served as a status symbol among esteemed noblemen of Europe, the Middle East and Mongolia. It was also practiced by nomadic societies as a way of providing meat during the winter months. It is the oldest field sport known to mankind. This ancient art is a very demanding endeavor, requiring a serious dedication of time and energy from the falconer. In modern times, falconry is not only a leisure sport but also a valuable professional tool (proven and highly effective) for controlling pest birds and animals in agricultural areas, at airports, in cities, at landfills, and so forth. Since World War II, falconry has dramatically increased in popularity in the United States and is legal in every state except Hawaii. Falconers have played a major role in the recovery of the peregrine falcon to North America, which was probably the most significant endangered species recovery of the 20th century. In general, falconers have a very positive impact on conservation efforts regarding birds of prey, and offer much knowledge about their behavior, ecology, habitat, and natural history. As a sport, falconry is very demanding, and requires a great deal of time and energy. You must have a deep passion for wildlife, the outdoors, and hunting to appreciate such an endeavor, as you are sharing your life with a wild animal that is also a skilled predator. This predator is doing, in cooperation with a human, what it already does best on its own. LS

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HUNTING

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO

up in the stirrup and the horse stepped on the inside of my upper ankle while trying to get back on all fours again. It dragged me a small way, but when I managed to pop my foot out, I got up quickly with a big smile on my face and said I was OK. My horse did fall, but it was fine too. At times, we traversed across a frozen riverbed to get to another set of mountains across from the hunter’s cabin. The horses were a bit skittish when we crossed, but we usually made it without any difficulty. It was a bit difficult to see how critters could make a living out of such a sparse habitat, but they left evidence of their presence almost everywhere. Each day we hunted, game was always plentiful. You could tell from all the tracks and the droppings that rabbits and fox were both abundant in this area. Though the eagles can take down prey as large as wolves, we didn’t come across any sign of

HUNTING

For anyone interested in partaking in such an adventure to a country like Mongolia, I highly recommend both you and any travel companions who tag along know what they’re really getting into. You must be able to ride a horse, tolerate the cold, be comfortable in rugged mountain terrain, and be open-minded and considerate to the Kazakh lifestyle, as you are a guest in their home and participating in their way of life. Don’t expect many luxuries either. The facilities were outside either in a rundown outhouse, or anyplace along the frozen ground. A solar panel propped against the side of the house does recharge a battery, and will light a lightbulb placed in the kitchen for use after dark. Animal dung is burned for fuel since wood and trees are scarce. Both summer and winter homes are furnished with richly embroidered felt and woven textiles. The Kazakhs are known for their unconditional hospitality. And would I recommend this trip to others? Yes. It would be a shame not to experience this way of life before it completely disappears. It was every bit as interesting as I had hoped – the ultimate adventure for the ultimate adventurer. LS them where we hunted. But we still saw many game animals each day. The best hunt of the trip was after we had fresh snowfall the night before, and we could follow fresh tracks straight to the actual fox! The meat from both rabbits and fox was used to feed the eagle, while the hides were

made into clothing or falconry lures. As with any type of hunting, sometimes you bring home game and sometimes you do not. But we could pursue many rabbits and fox throughout the trip. The times we met up with other hunters while in the mountains, we witnessed two eagles pursuing game

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HUNTING

Selner (left) takes a break in the local outhouse, “which was pretty much the typical bathroom here,” she says. “Folks don’t use toilet paper out either. It’s just a hole in the ground surrounded by some rocks and you’re on your own. Sometimes a passing yak will stop by and check you out.” Her hosts the Kazakhs are an Asiatic Turkic-speaking people who trace their roots to the 15th century. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, most Kazakh people live in Kazakhstan and the Uighur Autonomous Region of Sinkiang in China. There are about 200,000 Kazakhs in Mongolia. (LISA SELNER)

at the same time. Sometimes, especially with the larger game, it is easier if more than one bird assists with the capturing. It can be too much of a struggle for only one bird while waiting for the hunter to lend a helping hand with dispatching the animal.

At other times it was difficult to catch up with the eagle after it dropped out of sight while in pursuit of prey. The hunter swiftly ran after his bird, almost as if he was in flight as well, yet we were quick to lose sight of him, too. There are instances when the eagle

HASSLE-FREE HUNTING FOR HUNTERS OF ALL LEVELS

seemed disappointed in its miss; she landed atop a nearby butte and was unresponsive to the hunter’s summoning calls. Once the hunter finally retrieved his bird, we were off to the next mountain in search of more game. When an eagle missed a fox, it sure was some-

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HUNTING

Kazakh hunter Uni (left) welcomed Selner into his winter home. As the author writes, “Daily life involves an endless cycle of chores. The nomadic and herding lifestyle is a very hard life. People are dependent on one another for survival because of the remoteness and harshness of their environment.” But they’re not alone in the struggle. “The Kazakh have managed to survive in these dangerous conditions by creating a hunting partnership with golden eagles,” Selner writes. “My journey to western Mongolia allowed me the opportunity to bond with the Kazakh hunters and their families.” (LISA SELNER)

thing to see how fast the fox would run across the open and head for hidden crevasses in the mountainside to escape the eagle. (When we did inspect these foxes first hand, the coats on these animals were simply amazing! They are equipped with the thickest, most luxu-

rious fur I’ve ever seen.)

MY TRIP TO MONGOLIA made a lasting impression. It was more than just an exciting hunting trip involving falconry; it was truly a trip of a lifetime! More than the promise of adven-

ture, it was a journey across cultures. Where else can one currently go and be with people who are still nomadic, still following their flocks most of the year, and be there as a guest rather than a tourist? This modern-day adventure was also reminiscent of times

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past, a venture back in history. It is a life-changing opportunity. The return home came with new perspectives about my own life. I was presented with new ideas and beliefs that we’re not exposed to in America. We take a lot for granted. This trip, one that felt back in time, was exactly what I needed at this point in my life in more ways than I could have imagined. My journey to western Mongolia allowed me the opportunity to bond with the Kazakh hunters and their families, drink fermented milk, ride through freezing-cold temperatures on horseback while hunting with the golden eagles, learn some of the skills involved in the capture, training, and use of the eagles, and awaken each morning to frozen toothpaste. All along the way, I met some of the warmest people in the world in one of the coldest places on earth while taking in the Altai Mountains. These mountains stretch a thousand miles, with a sprawling land almost barren of life in the winter, where sometimes temperatures can plummet to -40 degrees Fahrenheit at night, and buffeting blizzards can kill anything in their way. The Kazakh have managed to survive in these dangerous conditions by creating a hunting partnership with golden eagles. To join these hunters on the most extreme journey I’ve undergone to hunt for fur is an experience like no other. Fortunately, the trip didn’t whoop my behind as much as I thought it would, and I enjoyed every minute of it! I imagine it would be challenging and uncomfortable at times for most. I wasn’t able to bathe, brush my teeth, or change my clothes the entire trip), but these were some of my happiest moments. The people were amazing, and the experience was very eye-opening in many ways. CS Editor’s note: Lisa Selner is a Camarillo-based hunter, author and longtime wildlife biologist. For more, including information on her book on this Mongolia experience, A Hunt In Flight, check out buffaloannie.com.


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138 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com


HUNTING Introducing gunshots to pups should happen in a progressive manner, one that’s dictated by the pup’s behavior. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

GUNSHOT TRAINING

By Scott Haugen

A

s soon as you bring a puppy home, it’s time to start preparing it for gunshot training. I like doing this by first introducing it to sounds it’s going to commonly hear around the house for the rest of its life. Doing this at eight weeks of age is not too soon. Sounds such as people walking on wooden floors in the house, garage doors opening, vacuum cleaners, doors closing, lawn mowers running and more should be introduced to a dog soon after they are home. If your puppy is shy of such sounds, hold them while someone makes the noises or runs the machines, so you can assure them that the noises are safe. The more comfortable your pup becomes to these random sounds, the closer they’re getting to gunshot train-

ing. In order to comfort them in their first days and weeks at home, speak in a soothing, consistent voice, rub their ears and give them treats; make life fun and predictable for them.

THE FIRST GUNSHOT sounds I like introducing to a puppy are from a BB gun or air rifle. These guns simply move air, so there’s no powerful “boom” you get from instantaneous shell powder combustion. These mellow-sounding gunshots can be introduced at a distance of 10 yards or more, with someone else shooting while you have the puppy on lead. I don’t like holding a puppy when introducing gunshots, as I don’t want to baby them through the process and make them think I’ll always be holding them when guns are fired. After all, they are gun dogs. The pup may instantly show inter-

est in the shooting, as early as nine weeks of age, desiring to be closer to the gun. When this happens, progress to a .22. The crack of a .22 still isn’t overly loud, and is a great stepping stone to the next gun. Introduce the .22 sounds from a distance of 10 or 20 yards, and fire it directly away from the pup. This will ensure the sharp sound isn’t too intense. Having someone fire the .22 while you have the dog on a leash is wise, as it allows you to closely monitor the pup’s reaction. Next comes the shotgun. Use low-power field loads for this training, as they’re not as costly nor as loud as hunting loads. With the pup, stand 20 to 30 yards behind the shooter. With the shooter in position, have them load the shotgun, making noise when activating the action. This should catch the attention of the pup, alerting it that something is about to happen.

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HUNTING Building a hunting dog that’s not gun shy starts early with some very basic steps. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

This will also condition them so that when they are older, they’ll know it’s game time once that action closes. If the pup is interested and shows no fear of the shotgun being fired,

move 10 yards closer. This is a good time to integrate the sit and stay commands we talked about in the June 2017 issue’s Gun Dog column. Keep moving closer, right up to the

140 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

shooter if the pup allows. But if the pup does show any sign of fear, stop and come back in a day or two with airgun and .22 shots, then progress to the shotgun. The last thing you


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142 California Sportsman JANUARY 2018 | calsportsmanmag.com

gunshots to your pup? That depends how your bonding goes with them, and how they’re reacting to the other sounds we talked about. I’ve introduced airgun fire to pups anywhere from eight and a half to 14 weeks of age, depending on their readiness and behavior. Usually, by 14 weeks they’re ready to at least start the introduction, but again, how quickly they progress comes down to individual pup behavior. Just because your pup may not be crazy about gunfire at, say, 14 weeks of age, don’t dismiss it as being a “bad” pup. It may simply mature a bit later than other pups. If this happens, be sure you’re getting it used to as many loud sounds as possible and spending important bonding time together. Once a pup takes to gunfire, the process can happen fast, so stay positive. If your pup is independent, take advantage of it. Let them run free, behind you, as you prepare to shoot the gun. They might be playing with a bone or toy while you’re shooting, which helps distract their attention and gives them comfort. After the shot, see how the pup reacts. If they show no anxiety, take another shot or two, then call it good. If they run to you after the first shot, praise them. If they run away, call them back, reassure them all is OK and resume training another day. The better you get to know your pup, the more you’ll be able to gauge your gun training sessions to fit its development. In the end, if properly trained, a gun-shy dog will be the least of your worries. NS Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is host of The Hunt, on Netflix. To watch his series of puppy training videos, visit scotthaugen. com. Follow Scott on Instragram, Facebook and Twitter.


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Come and Join our 6th Annual Halibut Express!!

Our area offers some of the very finest Halibut and Ling Cod fishing on the whole BC Coast, including Alaska. We are offering a special early season COMBO Halibut and Ling Cod package for the 2018 season. The dates we have selected for our 2018 Halibut Express are from May 1st to May 5th, May 5th to May 9th, May 9th to May 13th, May 13th to May 17th, May 17th to May 21st, May 21st to May 25th, May 25th to May 29th, May 29th to June 2nd, June 2nd to June 6th, June 6th to June 10th, June 10th to June 14th, June 14th to June 18th and June 18th to June 22nd 2018. This will be a 4 night/5 day package and will include up to 30 hours of guided fishing, all meals and 4 nights accommodations. An added bonus will be that the VACUUM PACKING and FLASH FREEZING of your fish are included in this pricing. This is a heck of a good deal and this package would make a wonderful gift for the fisherman in your family. We will also have our fly-in service available from Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, BC for these dates. You will also have the opportunity to target the early runs of CHINOOK and COHO that will be coming through our waters at the time of the season. The pricing for this exciting package is as follows: Party of 2 fishing, 2 per boat…$1975.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 3 fishing, 3 per boat…$1675.00 PP + 5% tax. Party of 4 fishing, 4 per boat…$1475 PP + 5% tax. To make your reservations or for more information please give us a call at 1-800-429-5288 or send an email to: rodgersfishinglodge@yahoo.com Best regards, Doug Rodgers PS: With Halibut selling for upwards of $25.00 per pound at your local fish market, you should easily be able to pay for your trip. You are allowed up to 6 Halibut, new for 2018, 4 Ling Cod and 8 Salmon in possession per angler. The biggest Ling Cod this past season was a 60 pounder. Come and fill your freezers!

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Cs 1 18 web