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Hunter Returns For Cali Deer After 30 Years Hard-Earned Sierra Buck Dove Preview



Sonoma Duo’s Wines Honor Sportsmen

Field Follies Misadventures Of A CDFW Biologist

Also Inside

Sierra Fall Trout Primer Clear, Otay Largemouth SoCal Dorado, Yellowtail


2 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 | | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman







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California Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 9 • Issue 12 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 Bill Adelman, Mark Fong, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, Todd Kline, Nancy Rodriguez, Bill Schaefer, Mike Stevens SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Mamie Griffin, Garn Kennedy, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS 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 CIRCULATION MANAGER Heidi Belew ADVERTISING INQUIRIES CORRESPONDENCE Email Twitter @CalSportsMan ON THE COVER Deer seasons throughout California are kicking off this month, and for Nancy Rodriguez, this buck that she harvested in the Sierra was the culmination of a rewarding five-day odyssey. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ)

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 •

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HIGH-CALIBER WINEMAKERS Andy Wahl and Bill Kerr grew up in totally different households, but their shared love for the outdoors and a vision to tell their stories through Sonoma County wine created the aptly named Ammunition brand of reds and whites they make with hunters and anglers in mind. As their business continues to grow, we check in with the two young entrepreneurs.


A GREAT AMERICAN SALMON RIVER While the Sacramento remains the king for catching salmon, you can also get your Chinook limit within the capital city’s American River, which features 23 miles of urban fishing joy. Shore anglers can have just as much success as boaters on the American, which Bill Adelman breaks down.


BUCKING THE ODDS For five grueling days, Nancy Rodriguez, her husband Joe and Joe’s dad Ray were hot on the heels of a four-point buck during a Sierra deer hunt. Nancy kept coming close to filling her special permit, but the fates had other ideas. Find out if she was able to notch her tag with the big deer she worked so hard for!


STAYING HOME TO HUNT Lead writer Tim Hovey has hunted deer throughout the West, but the Southern Californian has decided that after a 30-year hiatus, he’s once again going to chase his home state’s bucks. Taking lessons he’s learned from excursions to Wyoming and elsewhere, as well as what he’s learned hunting other California critters, Hovey shares what he’s doing to prepare for his first Golden State deer hunt since 1984.



Bass anglers have plenty of lakes in the state to fish for largemouth bass, but few options are as revered as Northern California’s Clear Lake, which features one of the most consistently solid fisheries for bass not just in the Golden State but nationally. Mark Fong picked the brain of longtime Clear Lake expert Andy Vierra (above) for tips.

DEPARTMENTS 13 27 27 31 33 53 83

The Editor’s Note Protecting Wild California: Sharks suffer through tragic summer Outdoor calendar Adventures of Todd Kline Photo contests winners Rig of the Month: Carolina rig for largies From Field to Fire: Dove hunting tips; sesame dove breast hors d’oeuvres

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 17 63 93 97 99 102

CDFW bio recalls field survey follies Gear up for Eastern Sierra browns Recognizing gun dog training’s teachable moments Stay close to shore for Pacific bounty San Diego bassin’ at Otay Lake Company profile: Redding hotel a perfect base for adventure seekers

CALIFORNIA SPORTSMAN GOES DIGITAL! Read California Sportsman on your desktop or mobile device. Only $1.89 an issue. Go to 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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With our factory-trained technicians for Yamaha, Suzuki, Mercury, Tohatsu and Honda motors, we can handle any project from electronic installs to complete boat and motor overhauls. Cheers, Bill Kerr (left) and Andy Wahl, whose Ammunition varietals have given California sportsmen and -women a wine designed for them. (AMMUNITION WINES)


hope in my journalism career I’ve at least sort of succeeded as a storyteller. If not, please accept my most humble apologies. I can remember the trigger that had me thinking about writing for a living. I was in high school, and our English teacher assigned us a rather morbid but fun option among fiction essays to write: a medieval couple whose wedding reception goblets of wine were poisoned. I thought that was a reasonable plot for a sinister tale, so I channeled my inner Mickey Spillane and started penning down the most evil way of killing off a new husband and wife as I was capable of at that age. A good friend of mine also went the wedding-to-funeral essay and we tried to outwrite each other. We both got pretty good grades on the assignment, from what I can remember, and I eventually studied journalism in college and became a grumpy sports reporter and an even more grumpy magazine editor. My buddy now sells wine in the Bay Area, which is a perfect segue to our September feature on business school graduates-turnedvintners Bill Kerr and Andy Wahl. When I visited their Sonoma headquarters, the guys told me how much they hoped their products could reflect a love for the outdoors and appeal to fellow hunters and anglers. Three-plus years into their growing venture, and it’s been satisfying. “It’s hard work to spend the time and effort to get something great in the bottle. And to see people appreciate it in a way that we couldn’t even imagine that it would be appreciated, that’s when I knew we had something,” Kerr said that day. “You see the people who you actually made this for enjoying that wine.” Now I know I probably wasn’t the best storyteller in the room that day. But I’ll do my best to keep sharing them. -Chris Cocoles

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Lyann Comrack, a California state ornithologist, surveys the situation shortly after she and author Tim Hovey were attacked by bees. They ended up needing help to get out of this stinging situation. (TIM E. HOVEY)



By Tim E. Hovey


he outside world is dangerous. I’ve always known that. However, that has never dissuaded me from enjoying the wilderness, and it certainly didn’t keep me from pursuing a career as a field biologist. During wilderness surveys, I’ve always made sure that I do all I can to keep myself and those who are with me safe. Typically, I’ll hold a safety briefing before we head afield to outline the basics. I’ll also explain to everyone exactly what he or she can expect on the hike physically. After that I’ll pass out

the waivers. I’m happy to say that with these limited precautions, for the most part my surveys have been relatively uneventful. That doesn’t mean the unexpected hasn’t happened.

BOULDER ROLL In 2003, fisheries science was all a buzz about a San Diego County discovery. For the first time in decades, Southern steelhead had been discovered again in the San Mateo Creek drainage. Preserved in perpetuity by the presence of the Marine’s Camp Pendleton, the creek ran unimpeded from its headwaters in the Cleveland National Forest to the Pacific, 14 miles downstream. With the discovery of a second-year fish near

the lagoon, biologists were certain that more fish existed upstream. Fellow fisheries biologist Darrin Bergen and I were deep in the backcountry eating lunch. We had discovered several trout swimming in a small pool in a tributary to the main creek. We had also collected a dead specimen on the hike in. As we prepared to walk back out, we were both excited at the new discoveries on the creek. We grabbed our gear and headed back down the mostly dry creek. Having spent much of our careers outside, Darrin and I had become experts on traveling quickly down a creek. We called it boulder hopping, something we were both good at it. Using long strides, we’d | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


Hovey and his friend Darrin Bergen were surveying Southern steelhead in this San Diego County stream when Bergen was pinned by a large boulder. (TIM E. HOVEY)

step to a rock in the creek and without hesitation we’d step to the next one, essentially fast-walking downstream. We were making good time and had 2 miles to go to get the truck. Darrin was in front of me and had just jumped from one large boulder to a smaller one when things went sideways. The small rock rolled under Darrin’s weight and a far larger rock shifted, catching his leg a few inches below the knee. I was sure his forward momentum would snap his leg, but he dropped his gear in one motion and stopped his fall. “OK, right now I’m fine!” he stated within seconds of his entrapment. The boulder was mostly round and probably weighed around 600 pounds. I pushed on the rock and nothing happened, so Darrin tried to pull his leg from the hole under the rock. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said. I could hear he was beginning to panic. For several minutes, we tried to work out his extraction. I looked around the creek and found a thick branch about 8 feet long and 3 inches thick. I grabbed the log and jammed it in a hole next to Darrin’s foot. I told him that I was going to need his help and he turned his body, plac18 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

ing both hands on the boulder to help push. I moved to the end of the lever, grabbed it and started to pull down with all my weight. The thick branch shifted once and then caught. As I pulled down, Darrin pushed. I didn’t feel the boulder move at all, but we loosened it enough for him to pull his leg free. “I’m out!” Darrin’s leg had scratches on both sides, and there was a sizeable bruise where the big rock had pinched him. He also told me that he had lost feeling in his foot almost instantly when it had happened. With no permanent damage, we made it safely back to the truck.

KILLER BEES We’ve all heard about the Africanized bees that have been making their way into the country from South America. The aggressive strain is known for stinging en masse with little provocation. Attacks have become almost commonplace in the news during the summer, when people are out and about here in California. A few years ago I was assisting in a bird survey with one of the state’s ornithologists, Lyann Comrack. Our plan was to access a state-owned parcel, | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman



hike further back and conduct birdpoint counts – walking known transect lengths and listening for birdcalls at each survey station. We were probably 100 yards from the truck down an old fire road when we unknowingly walked near a beehive. Without warning a bee flew right into my head, hitting me just above my eye. The bee fell to the ground and started struggling to fly again. Before I could say anything, two more hit me in the chest and fell to the ground. These insects were clearly demonstrating more aggressive behavior than your normal honeybee, and I realized we were in trouble. Lyann had noticed a bug had hit me, but she didn’t see what it was. “We’ve got to go!” I said. As we turned, she was hit in the

Safety is a key concern of the author as he leads surveys for steelhead, frogs and other rare SoCal fauna. (TIM E. HOVEY)

head as well and I felt two more hit me in the back. We ran back to the truck and quickly jumped inside. Several bees hit the windows and about 100 more swarmed outside the truck. Lyann said she had been hit several times on the run back to the vehicle but avoided any stings. A year later, I was on a solo survey in an urban area near the northern part

20 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

of our region. My goal was to locate an access path to a creek I was interested in surveying. I parked the truck and started down an old two-track when the same thing happened again. I was referencing my GPS when two bees slammed right into my forehead. This time, the attack actually hurt and I realized that one of the bees had stung me. I quickly turned around and raced | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman



back to the truck. Even though I was only 50 yards from the vehicle, I was hit a dozen more times in the back before I reached the safety of the cab. Bees aggressively slammed into the glass as I tended to my sting. I decided to wait there and see how long they remained interested in me. For 20 minutes bees slammed the windows of my truck before I decided to flee.

JESSE’S FALL Many of my lengthy surveys in the backcountry are conducted with the help of volunteers for safety reasons. I also like to contact other agency biologists to see if they’re available to assist. During a summer survey of Littlerock Creek to assess the native frog population, we were making our way on a section of Pacific Crest Trail to access the

During a native frog survey on Littlerock Creek one of the biologists fell hard to the ground, only to declare himself well enough to continue with his duties. Give these folks credit for their toughness and resiliency. (TIM E. HOVEY)

study area. On previous surveys we had located a quick, albeit steep access area to where we needed to be. A large dead tree provided something to hold onto as we eased off the manicured trail and carefully dropped into the creek. All of us had done the

22 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |


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dicey descent before, and after I told everyone to be careful, I slowly hiked to the creek bottom. Once in the creek, I started getting the gear ready for the survey. As individuals made their way down, they took a break and waited for the rest of the team. I was tending to a backpack e-shocker that we’d be using in the creek when I happened to glance up at one of the volunteers. She was sitting on a boulder watching the others descend when her expression changed abruptly. The horror I saw on her face had me turning my head quickly. What I saw made my blood run cold instantly. Jesse, a biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a veteran of several of these surveys, was in midair 15 feet above the creek bottom and upside down. His head was directly over a large rock and to this day, I have no idea how he missed it when he landed. He had somehow lost his grip on the dead tree, lost his balance and stumbled off the crude trail. He landed on his shoulder and back and rolled roughly to a stop only a few feet from where I stood. For a few moments he was still and I was already convinced the last part of his day would involve a helicopter ride. A few seconds later he started to try and get up. I leaned down and told him to stay put. He explained how he had lost his balance and that despite the hard fall, he had not lost consciousness. He said that he took most of the impact on his shoulder and back in the softer leaf litter on the bank, and that he was fine to continue. After waiting 30 minutes, he convinced us that he was sore but fine, so we went ahead with the survey. It really doesn’t matter how careful you are; accidents will always happen. That’s why they call them accidents. These incidents illustrate that being prepared in the outdoors helps, but I’ve discovered that the best thing you can do is to remain calm. I will always enjoy my time outside and the occasional bee sting or a forest tumble won’t ever change that. CS 24 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

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By Chris Cocoles


ith so much human hatred, tension, ignorance – plus signs of dysfunctional leadership – clogging up the news cycle these days, how about a little cruelty to animals for a change of pace? Just when you think we couldn’t be any more terrible as human beings, a juvenile great white shark that was seen thrashing in the waters of Monterey Bay – likely due to being struck by a boat out at sea – eventually succumbed to its injury and washed ashore near Santa Cruz. That should be the end of the story – unfortunate accident claims the life of an apex predator, social media briefly mourns and moves on to the next viral moment. But what happened next was disgusting. The shark’s dorsal fin was hacked off and some of its teeth were extracted. The bandit or bandits may have seen potential profit, as shark fins mean big bucks on the black market, considering shark fin soup is considered a controversial – if not illegal – delicacy. A representative of the Santa Cruz-based Pelagic Shark Research Foundation theorized to the San Francisco Chronicle that the vandals were proba-

The carcass of a great white shark fatally injured at sea and which washed ashore in Santa Cruz was vandalized by bandits. (SHARKDIVER.COM/WIKIMEDIA)

bly seeking a trophy rather than cashing in on the body parts, but either way it was a stomach-churning moment. Further north, biologists have offered suggestions about why San Francisco Bay leopard sharks were being found dead by the hundreds throughout the summer. Experts informed various Bay Area media outlets that pathogens were inflicting brain trauma on the sharks,

and California Department of Fish and Wildlife fish pathologist Mark Okihiro concluded that deadly parasites had fatally infected the sharks. Recent reports indicate the shark deaths were decreasing by mid-August. So you can understand if sharks are even more irritable than usual, especially if they found out that one among their brethren was given a rather cowardly eulogy on a beach in Central California. CS



Annett’s Mono Village Labor Day Fishing Derby, Upper Twin Lakes, Bridgeport; 1-15 Early dove hunting season 2 Free Fishing Day; 2 June Lake Loop Big Trout Tournament; junelakeloop .org/contact 4 Start of Ambush at the Lake Fall Fishing Derby, Convict Lake; 6 Several elk hunting seasons open 9 Shaver Lake Team Kokanee Derby; 9 Start of Zone Q-1 mountain quail season 9-10 Big Bear Lake Troutfest; 16 Deer hunting opener in most Zone B and C areas and D-6 and D-7 23 Deer hunting opener in most Zone D areas 30 Start of Zone Q-3 quail hunting season

Duck, scaup and goose season opener in Northeastern Zone 7 Deer season opener in most Zone X areas 11 Deer season opener for Zones D-11, D-13, D-14 and D-15 14-15 Shasta Lake Trout Derby; 21 Duck and goose season opener in San Joaquin, Southern California and Balance of State Zones 21 Deer season opener in Zone X-9C 21 Quail season opener in Q-1 and Q-3 Zones 21 Chukar statewide season opener 21 Snipe statewide season opener 27-29 Morrison’s Bonus Derby Weekend, Convict Lake;



Notes: A list of upcoming bass tournaments can also be found at nrm.dfg. For deer hunting zone information, go to | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


28 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 | | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


30 Cal California a ifo al iifffo or rn rni niia S n Sportsman po por p or ortsm ts t sm man an SSEPT SEPTEMBER SE EPT EPTTEMBE EM EMB MB R 2 MB MBE 2017 017 017 7 | ca lsportsm lspo rts tsm ts tsm s anma anmag g com

This month we had an epic jig bite at Lake Skinner in Riverside County. Parker Wright and I caught 25 pounds of bass on this day. Not bad for summertime. (TODD KLINE)

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, and you can follow him on Instagram at @toddokrine. –The Editor

The best surfers in the world are inducted each year into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach. This year I was honored to host the induction for three-time world champion Mick Fanning, as well as Bethany Hamilton, who as a teenager survived a shark attack in which she lost her left arm but became a champion in her own right as a professional surfer. (TODD KLINE)

I competed in my first team tournament in a few years and was happy I did. Parker Wright was my partner and we fished a National Bass West night tournament at San Vicente Reservoir near San Diego. We had a blast and were fortunate to win. (TODD KLINE)

I had the pleasure of fishing in the first annual Paul George Celebrity Bass Fishing Tournament at Castaic Lake. George (second from left), who hails from nearby Palmdale and played college basketball at Fresno State, is a four-time NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist who was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason. I fished with BJ Shaw and we finished in second place in the charity event. I’m here with Jacob Wheeler (far left), George, myself and Shaw. (TODD KLINE) | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


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Les Logsdon’s photo of wife Bertha and her stringer of rainbows is this issue’s Fishing Photo Contest winner! It wins him a pile of loot from the overstuffed office of our editor!

Jim Testin’s pic of himself and his 2016 British Columbia grizzly bear is this issue’s Browning Photo Contest winner. It wins the Washington hunter a Browning hat.

For your shot at winning Browning and fishing products, send your photos and pertinent (who, what, when, where) details to ccocoles@, 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. | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


34 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |



SONOMA—Andy Wahl and Bill Kerr wanted to tell a story. Not with words, but with wine. They hail from two places that couldn’t be any different from each other, their families believing in completely different ideologies. But what Wahl, 32, and Kerr, 37, had in common was a bonafide love for and connection with the outdoors. So what better way to start a business and tell their stories than through the bottles of wine they hoped to sell to fellow sportsmen and -women across the country. So here’s a story within the story from 2014 that would become Wahl’s and Kerr’s Sonoma-based company with the nontraditional name – at least relatively speaking for the historically buttoned-up wine industry – Ammunition (707-938-8322). “This guy in (Austin) Texas, where we kicked off this brand, calls me and says, ‘Are you guys in Texas yet?’ I said, ‘No. We launched just two weeks ago.’ And he said, ‘I live in the country with my wine and my guns. I have to get Ammunition.’ It turns out he’s an ex-Marine,” recalls Wahl, who was thrilled the man offered to buy a case of red wine, with plans to keep some for himself and give others to coworkers, family and friends. Wahl was happy to oblige. “He said, ‘Well, hell, throw in a few business cards and I’ll give it the old college try’” to see if anyone else is interested. “He picked up three accounts – restaurants in his city based off of him bringing in wine that he bought

Bill Kerr (left) and Andy Wahl grew up in Nebraska and Sonoma County, respectively, with very little in common except a love for the outdoors. They’ve teamed up to create a wine brand, Ammunition, that appeals to California sportsmen. (CHRIS COCOLES)

from us and giving them our business card. Because he had a personal connection with the wine. He said, ‘This wine was made for me.’ And it was. That’s the story we wanted to tell.” Fast forward about three years, and Ammunition – “Wines of the Highest Caliber” – has evolved into a still-growing company here in

the Sonoma Valley, every bit the world-class locale for vintners as the neighboring (and more celebrated Napa Valley). With five major varietals, Ammunition went from 150 cases sold in fall 2014, to 2,000 the following year, to 6,000 in 2016. So it’s that kind of uptick in success that’s made this venture quite satis- | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


BAY AREA fying for two newbies to winemaking and weren’t sure what to expect. “We’re looking at about 15,000 (cases) this year,” Wahl forecasts. Sharing the same market with Sonoma County wine giants like Kendall-Jackson, Sebastiani, Alexander Valley and others, Ammunition doesn’t aspire to be the biggest dog on the block. But as it’s now available in almost 40 states, hunters, anglers, adrenaline seekers and those who appreciate fine wine at a good price point are becoming more and more happy to buy into the messages about family, the outdoors and the memories Wahl and Kerr share. “If we tell great stories about our childhood, our upbringing and how it matters to us, other people will see something in themselves in that brand,” Kerr says during an interview at their warehouse in Sonoma. “And if we make the wine kick ass, they’ll keep coming back.”

Whether it’s catching tuna off Cabo, netting trout while fly fishing near Park City, Utah, or rock climbing in New Zealand, Wahl is most at peace in the outdoors. (ANDY WAHL)

IT’S A LONG WAY between Hastings, Nebraska, and Santa Rosa, California. Google Maps says it’s 1,543 miles, and it feels even further considering Bill Kerr’s and Andy Wahl’s backstories. Kerr is a proud Nebraskan who grew up in a conservative household that worshipped Cornhusker football (how the University of Nebraska fares on fall Saturdays is the state’s beating heart) and hunting. Kerr joined family and friends on countless hunts in America’s Heartland and beyond. Hastings (population, 24,000) is located in southcentral Nebraska, and his family owned a hunting lodge to the south in Red Cloud, not far from the Kansas border. “I grew up in a family of outdoorsmen; my dad’s a competitive trap shooter. My fondest memories of being a kid were when my dad taught me to shoot a .22, which was the rite of passage,” Kerr says. “A lot of bird hunting – pheasant, turkey. Whitetail deer hunting is huge.” He and his dad, who spends part of his time in Tucson, Arizona, once

shared a memorable hunting adventure in Africa. Arduous tracking for a zebra finally hit paydirt, though the animal made its way into a pond before falling in 5 feet of water. And then came a moment of equal parts excitement and fear that only outdoorsmen can relate to. “Everything that you hit in Africa can run. The PH, my dad and me wandered into the water, and we were to going to pull that zebra out,” he says. “And there’s a 4-meter-long croc sitting across the way just hanging out. As we’re about hip deep, that thing goes under the water. And I’m like, ‘Done!’ Ultimately we got back in there and pulled that zebra out. So I had to do the leap of faith.” Over in the San Francisco Bay Area north of the Golden Gate, Andy

36 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

Wahl grew up the son of a Novato firefighter who left Southern California to be close to the redwoods and settled in with the family in a pastoral setting in the Sonoma County seat of Santa Rosa. Wahl’s childhood, while still connected to the outdoors, was every bit not the experience of his future friend and business cofounder. “The complete opposite of my family,” Kerr says. His dad’s schedule at the firehouse meant a series of days on and then up to a week at a time off, which meant fishing and camping getaways to Bodega Bay, Point Reyes, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. (He proposed to his wife Sarah, who handles the company’s marketing, during a fishing trip to Cabo.) But hunting? | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


BAY AREA AMMUNITION’S MAGAZINE OF WINES “My parents were always, no guns. My mom and dad were kind of hippie parents from Southern California who wanted to get into that open space. My dad had a big wooly beard,” Wahl says. The Wahls lived in a gorgeous rural setting (the area around their home was a favorite go-to filming location for director Alfred Hitchcock). So there was plenty of room for Andy and his brothers to get their hands dirty and play, though Andy would have to sneak in some opportunities to shoot a gun at a young age. “We became scouts and went to Cimarron, New Mexico, where we learned about fly fishing and how to shoot muskets,” he says. “So here I had my parents tell me I couldn’t shoot guns and I’d purposely fail my shotgun merit badge every year so I could just take it again and shoot some more. And I never got the merit badge.” Still, Wahl didn’t get his first hunting license until three years ago. “I was the only one who went that route. But we all grew up fishing.” And drinking wine. Sort of. “I grew up tasting wine but usually being the designated driver for my brothers and my mom. ‘You’re 16 and got your license? Guess what? You’re driving us around to the wineries.’ It was so interesting to me when I’m 16 and not drinking and perceiving how people engage in a winery atmosphere.” But after studying business at Cal

VARIETAL “The Equalizer” red blend (merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon) ABOUT “Medium to full-bodied with a fruit-forward character … Its nose has plenty of blackberry, black cherry, baking spice and vanilla notes that are both intense yet elegant.” WILD GAME TO PAIR WITH Most big game. Also, skirt steak, carne asada and blackened or spicy dishes.

VARIETAL Chardonnay ABOUT “Light golden in color, this medium-bodied Chardonnay is vibrant and fresh with a creamy texture from the barrel fermentation. Baked apples and pears with a hint of citrus dominate the palate.” WILD GAME TO PAIR WITH Salmon, ducks, upland birds. A great choice with chicken.

VARIETAL Pinot noir ABOUT “Sweet plum and cherry flavors with subtle oak tones that are wrapped [in] smooth silky tannins make this a wine that is enjoyable now, but will continue to improve for several years.” WILD GAME TO PAIR WITH Wild turkey, and just about everything else, including aged cheeses.

VARIETAL Badgerhound zinfandel ABOUT “The 2015 vintage presents appealing aromas of crushed raspberries and blackberries framed by vanilla and cigar box notes. This wine shows sweet concentrated fruit in the mouth with plenty of oak, tannins and acidity to balance the ripeness.” WILD GAME TO PAIR WITH Wild pig. The zin matches wonderfully with classic barbecue.

VARIETAL Cabernet sauvignon ABOUT “Ripe bright cherries and complex tannins highlight this medium- to full-bodied wine. Long mouth feel through the midpalate and pops with cherries and hints of spice.”

WILD GAME TO PAIR WITH Venison. Any red meat is delicious with this wine. CS Poly San Luis Obispo and working as an accountant, little did he know that he and a Cornhusker would eventually create their own harvest.


Unlike his friend and business partner, shooting and hunting were a big part of Kerr’s life growing up in Hastings, Nebraska. “My fondest memories of being a kid were when my dad taught me to shoot a .22, which was a rite of passage.” (BILL KERR)

studied business, but he had a knack for graphic design and moved to San Francisco to make a living at it. Kerr still works with companies to help them create or redesign logos and labels, including wine and spirits companies. But when a mutual friend introduced him to Wahl, they both decided to invest into something totally new together. “I happened to be back having dinner with my dad and some friends

38 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

and we’re sitting around a table. He’s ordering the wine at the table at a steakhouse and looking at the wine list, and I can see that nothing’s kind of resonating with him and sticking,” Kerr says. “And I realized really quickly that, My god, nobody’s making a legitimately premium wine brand with this guy in mind.” When they began talking seriously about making wine, Wahl, a history buff, was already pondering telling stories that would be reflected in the product. He first pitched a former U.S. presidents’ theme. Wahl suggested a George Washington-inspired cherry- and cola-flavored cabernet to honor the legend of the | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman



Badgerhound is one of the guys’ favorite labels. This zinfandel features a caricature of Alfie, Kerr’s dachshund. (CHRIS COCOLES)

tree-chopping story. But they also realized their shared love for Mother Nature and the role it had on shaping their childhood. “If you’re in Oklahoma or Kansas, why do you buy a (specific) wine? What’s your tiebreaker? Why do you buy wine? Is it 100 percent price? Is it because there’s a story related to it? And I want to tell a story,” says Wahl, who along with Kerr knew they needed to strike the right chords

with the label that would adorn the bottle. “Bill showed me some initial designs that he had for over a year. And I’m thinking that this is perfect. We actually took the first wine that we wanted to do and made the concept of what we wanted to do was a picture – just of the label and the design. And we went back to his home state, Nebraska, and said this is what we’re thinking about doing. And the distributor said, ‘This is gold.’” Ammunition’s main concept logo features not a gun-toting hunter but a majestic bald eagle clutching a cluster of wine grapes (a colleague of Kerr’s designed it). “You don’t see camouflage all over our packaging. It’s based after vintage Remington advertising, which had a classic American strength to it,” Kerr says. And there are signature touches on some of their other primary varietals. Badgerhound, a crisp zinfandel, is named for the English transla-

40 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

tion of the German word dachshund, the “weiner dog” breed of which Kerr and his wife own two, Alfie and Winnie. Alfie was the model for the canine logo, brandishing a wine bottle in one paw, a stick in the other. “I was watching a mobster movie marathon one weekend and there was a Godfather saga showing (an extended version of the first two films shown together),” Kerr says. “There’s a scene where Michael Corleone is hiding in Italy and the car pulls up with the two henchmen behind it. He’s got a stick and a bottle of wine. That’s how we drew my dog. He’s protecting the barrel.” Then there’s Trollop, a chardonnay. Like Badgerhound, there’s a story to tell with this wine dating back to Kerr’s Nebraska home. (Trollop) is an antiquated word for a salacious woman,” Kerr says. “My grandmother actually called someone that when I was a kid; she was like 4-foot-10 German grandmother in

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BAY AREA Nebraska. I asked my mom, ‘What’s trollop?’ And my mom’s like, ‘Nothing.’ Women love that brand, because it’s saying something a little saucy. But we’ve modeled it after the saloon girls of the Old West.”

WINE CUSTOMERS HAVE NO shortage of options when perusing the wine aisle at Costco or the neighborhood grocery store. The Ammunition guys’ target – get it! – audience is outdoorsmen and -women. So why not pair some of their wines with wild game and fish (see sidebar)? Generally, the market test for most vintners is how the wine will pair with beef, lamb or chicken, but Wahl and Kerr wanted to go a step further. One of their most most versatile wines is the Equalizer, a red blend that is a natural fit with your average beef fillet seared on the grill. But hunters and anglers will have a better idea of what game pairs with which

Ammunition varietal. Early in the process of creating the wine (using grapes from various local vineyards), one of Kerr’s buddies brought him some backstrap from a deer harvested in Michigan. After the venison was cooked up in the smoker, they washed it down with a test bottle of what would become Equalizer red blend. “I think the greatest timing with this is that it’s kind of a hipster revolution, and you look at the chefs, it’s the farmto-table revolution,” Wahl says. “And a lot of people don’t realize that it’s either an arrow or a gun that’s actually taking that and putting it into the chef’s hands and then cutting it up. A lot of our wines are pretty versatile.” And getting more and more popular. Wahl and Kerr made their first batches late in 2014. “We lost money on every bottle we sold for the first vintage,” Kerr recalls. Wahl adds, “I’m no quitter, but there was a point where I was

42 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

like, ‘We need to close this thing down.’ In every business there’s a point where you’re thinking, ‘What the @#$% were we thinking? This is not smart for us from a finance standpoint and our home lives.’” “And then, probably the beginning of 2015, my whole strategy was, ‘Let’s go to these states where we’re going to be wanted: Texas and Arizona.’ That’s where I wanted to go. And I ended up connecting with these sales guys across the country saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have to hire a national sales rep, but I live here in North Carolina and can get you distribution.’ And that’s where I thought I’ve got feet on the ground. And then it went boom, boom, boom, and within eight months we had opened up 15 states. Holy crap.” Ammunition’s wines are reasonably priced (most bottles go for $23, and the company’s wine club program can also provide some great deals). Their growth has made it | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


BAY AREA clear this is a business that should continue for a while. They’d like to eventually open a “saloon-style” tasting room where wine and whiskey can be sampled “in kind of a cigar bar atmosphere,” Wahl says. Kerr knew something was up while visiting his parents in Arizona. At dinner, he saw and ordered a bottle of Ammunition from the wine list. When he told the server he was part of the team responsible for the wine, she replied, “Get out of here.” In 2015 when he really wasn’t sure if the concept was sustainable for the long haul, Wahl was pouring wine for a potential distributor and guests in Huntsville, Alabama. An ex-general who lived in the area was so impressed and told him, “You’ve got something I’ve never seen before and you guys are sitting on a gold mine here.” Gold, silver or bronze, it’s all about finding a niche with potential customers who can relate.

Kerr (right) says this about the evolution of he and Wahl’s company: “The big thing is it recognizes people like hunters and outdoorsmen. That’s a big part of it. We can make an ultra-premium wine and people will appreciate that we made it for them.” (CHRIS COCOLES)

“I love wine, I love drinking wine and I love telling stories,” Wahl says. “So I just want to keep on doing that, moving onto the next vintages and keep on growing it.” CS

Editor’s note: For more, go to and follow on Instagram (@ammunitionwines) and Twitter (@ ammunitionwine). Like at ammunitionwines.

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lack bass anglers in Northern California are blessed to have one of the finest fisheries in the nation in their very own backyard. Lake County’s Clear Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake situated entirely within the Golden State, and it is home to many warmwater species, including catfish, crappie and bluegill. However, Clear Lake’s drawing card is its largemouth, earning it the moniker “Bass Capital of the West,” and for good reason. While it is recognized for its stellar springtime fishing, many look past the fact that Clear Lake is a tremendous late-summer and fall fishery. One angler who frequents the lake during the warmer months is Andy Vierra of West Sacramento. He is not only an avid tournament angler but also the owner of Safe and Easy Boat Care Products (safeandeasyboatcare .com), as well as a sales representative for some of the top companies in the fishing industry. “The summer bite on Clear Lake can be fantastic,” Vierra says. “You can literally have 100-fish days. The fish will school up on the outside reefs and rockpiles. You can have a couple hundred fish just swimming around a single reef. You might catch 20 of them, and then move to another spot and catch another 10 or 15 of them over there.”

CONSISTENT FISHING Andy Vierra knows the hottest spots at Clear Lake, considered one of the state’s if not the nation’s premier largemouth bass fisheries. (ANDY VIERRA)

Most anglers associate Clear Lake with trophy largemouth. While it is | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


NORCAL possible to catch a big bass at any time and on any cast, during the summer the majority of fish will range between 1½ to 3 pounds, with a few better ones mixed in for good measure. One of the fun things about summer fishing at Clear Lake is that you can catch bass on almost anything you want to throw. If you like topwater baits, buzzbaits like the Evolution Grass Burner and Strike King Frog are good choices. If you like to fish crankbaits, you can throw lipless vibration baits or you can deep crank with a Strike King 10XD. The choice is yours – and don’t forget about jigs and swimbaits either. If you choose to play the numbers game, Vierra recommends using soft plastic baits. A drop-shot rig with a Fat Baby Finesse Worm or a Dream Shot is a good option. More recently, he has been fishing the brand-new Frenzy Baits Wack-A-Sack Jig. “You can basically tip it with almost any plastic you want,” Vierra says. “Just nose-hook it, let it get down and drag it along the bottom.” Vierra relies on a medium-action spinning rod and reel when fishing Finesse Fishing soft plastics. He says that using braided line will help you feel the light biters and catch more fish. Vierra uses FINS 15-pound 40G braid with a 10-pound Gamma Edge

Vierra works the Rattlesnake Arm. “The summer bite on Clear Lake can be fantastic,” he says. “You can literally have 100-fish days. (MARK FONG)

fluorocarbon leader connected with an FG knot.

LOTS OF LAKE Anglers who are unfamiliar with

Clear Lake can be intimidated by its sheer size. On top of this, the lake looks just plain “fishy.” With mile after mile of docks, tule banks and weedbeds, the big question is,

Mount Konocti rises above Clear Lake, California’s largest natural freshwater lake located entirely within the state’s borders. (MARK FONG) 48 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |



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NORCAL “Where should I start?” Vierra recommends launching from the south end of lake. ”I would start in the Red Bud Arm and slowly work my way up toward the narrows. Many of the shoals and rock piles are marked on the new electronic fish finder/GPS mapping units,” he says. “Always use caution and watch your depth, because water levels fluctuate and there are a lot of unmarked hazards as well. You can find fish on almost all of those rock piles if you just take your time and slowly work them. Sometimes, you’ll go out there and throw your bait out, let it sink to 15 or 20 feet and there will be fish on the end of it before you go to reel up the slack. You’ll know that if you do that, you’re in the right spot. Stay there.” As summer winds down and cooler nighttime temperatures begin to drop water temps, the bite

begins to change. “If you feel like you need a sweatshirt or a light jacket when you launch the boat in the morning just to stay warm, if it’s crisp, then that is when I start to follow the baitfish,” says Vierra. “The bait will start moving up shallow early in the morning. The bass will follow the bait right up into the coves. When this starts to happen that is when things really start to light up. You can throw spinnerbaits, an underspin with a Rage Swimmer or a shallow-running square-bill crank.” According to Vierra, as the day progresses, don’t be afraid to back out of the coves and pockets and fish the end of docks or points in the grass lines. If you enjoy bass fishing and are looking to capitalize on some hot fishing action, Clear Lake should be high on your list of bassin’ destinations. CS

When the bass are hungry at Clear Lake, anglers can throw a variety of options and catch and release a lot of fish over the course of a day. (ANDY VIERRA)

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Sometimes lost among larger and more popular area waters, the American River runs for 23 miles through the Sacramento area and provides some solid king salmon fishing during the fall run. (FISHWITHJD.COM)



his publication has historically covered salmon fishing from every direction, both in saltand freshwater. Northern coastal rivers fit this bill, as does the main salmon supplier in Central California, the mighty Sacramento. Anglers do have smaller-water options, though. There’s the Feather River, which feeds the Sac at Verona, about 20 miles upstream from downtown, and its trib, the Yuba, which joins the Feather in Marysville. Angling opportunities for salmon in these smaller waterways vary great-

ly. The most productive approach in the upper reaches of the Feather and the Yuba is utilizing a drift boat. Unless you hire a guide, most anglers are restricted to a walk/wade trip. The lower Feather can be successfully fished from a boat with an outboard, as long as the operator is acutely aware of river flows. Launch ramps in Marysville and Yuba City offer access to this section.

GO AMERICAN Now, consider the 23-mile-long American River, which runs from Nimbus Basin right through Sacramento, where it feeds the Sac River

at Discovery Park, where there also is a launch ramp. A smattering of salmon was expected to arrive in the American about mid-August, but look towards September through November as prime time to catch a king. There are areas where smaller boats can be launched, though fishing opportunities are limited to slower water between often very shallow rapids. I attempted to determine if fourstroke engines are required but could not get a definitive response. The 5 mph speed limit sort of prohibits jet boats, yet a few work the river every season.

KNOW THE RULES There are five sets of regulations on | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman



Boats are not as common on the American River, but shore anglers throwing spinners and lures can score nice Chinook. (FISHWITHJD.COM)

the American River. It’s best to just go to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website ( and sort them out for yourself, depending on which section you prefer to fish. Night fishing is legal on this river, and the sections have different regulations – some even require barbless hooks. This area is referred to as the American River Parkway, which follows a bicycle and walking path, picnic areas along the river, access points for fishermen, unimproved launch areas and a nature trail near the hatchery, around the Hazel just below Nimbus Dam, which does not provide a fish ladder. This is a fee-use area, with two fees required: a vehicle fee of $5 and a $3 boat fee. Many anglers hit

one area, say, Hazel Avenue at first light, then move to Sunrise later in the morning (you don’t have to pay again since your dated receipt is proof of daily payment).

OPTIONS FOR ANGLERS Most opportunities will be afforded to the foot angler, and many of those bring two rods, not just because of the available two-rod stamp but because they are rigged differently and save a lot of time. Casting for salmon is generally best with spinners, using the acrossand-down technique. Extra weight isn’t needed since you’ll seldom fish water over 6 feet. Allow the current to work the action of the blade. Where the flow is too slow, you’ll have to activate the blade by utilizing a retrieve speed that gives a per-

56 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

fect presentation. For lures, the Wee Wart, Hot Shot and many other hard baits can be used; pay close attention to the presentation to determine which speed best activates the action of a lure. In the softer flows, salmon will slowly approach a lure, not attack it like they do in bigger water. The American is so clear you can often see salmon prior to casting for them, so being stealthy is the key. As flows pick up speed through tailouts, salmon will sit there to maximize oxygen intake, as well as to rest. Under these conditions it’s more difficult to control lures from the bank.

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CENTRAL VALLEY com/watch?v=qlXpEFfZ26w). After setting it up, put it in place above the rapid where the water picks up speed. As it moves through the heavier flow into the tailout, this is when salmon will smash it. Our best success with a planer was always a Hot Shot with a rattle. It still has to hit the fish right on the nose, but this system allows for resetting it in many different “lines.” Where there is a longer flow with moderately moving water, place it in a certain spot and just walk it downriver, walking at almost the same speed as the flow dictates. A smaller Wee Wart, Kwikfish or FlatFish can also be successfully fished on a side planer. When the salmon attacks, reel up the slackline post haste.

THE BEAD AND YARN APPROACH The most controversial approach is the bead and yarn. You’re either all in or all out. There aren’t too many fishermen in the middle. The “outs” consider this legal snagging, while the “ins” consider it a productive technique. Resting salmon, mostly in the area below the hatchery, will open and close their mouths while stationary. If the 8to 9-foot leader slides into an open mouth, it doesn’t take long for the hook to be pulled into the mouth as well, or get caught just outside the mouth. Then it’s fish on.

CH-CH-CHANGES The high flows of 2017 changed a few sections in the river. Where there used to be gravel bars, they’re now gone. Where there weren’t bars, now there are. When you choose a section to fish, just work it out. Howe Avenue is a prime example of a completely changed flow. The river can be accessed at Sailor Bar, almost right at the hatchery, then downstream to Sunrise, Sacramento Bar, Rossmoor, Ancil Hoffman, River Bend (which used to be called Goethe Park), Gristmill, Watt and Howe Avenues, Paradise Park, River-

One technique for landing American River kings is to use a Luhr-Jensen-made side planer, a device that allows shore anglers to fish with plugs. Local guide JD Richey has a detailed description of how to fish with a side planer at (FISHWITHJD.COM)

front and finally, Discovery Park. The more open and softer water will be closer to the mouth, and as you move upstream, flows get quicker and rapids become more prevalent. There are many guides who work these waters. One who I not only

58 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

recommend but also fish with is JD Richey, who has studied the American in a drift boat for over 20 years. Reach him at or directly at (916) 952-1554. Good luck and tight lines this salmon season. CS

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BEST OF LAKE ISABELLA CROSSROADS MINI MART AT LAKE ISABELLA The Kern River Valley offers a tremendous variety of recreation for the whole family. On the Kern River itself, the tremendous runoff of spring has finally subsided to the relief of most everyone, but not too much to affect the best whitewater rafting season anyone can remember. There is still lots of space for trips, ranging from half-hour teasers to week-long trips of a lifetime. Check the chamber website for links to rafters. One big advantage of lower water levels of course is the Kern River is now fishable. Stocking has resumed and this summer’s water levels and fishing opportunities are perfect. From fly fishing in the catchand-release section to leisurely drowning a worm in the Riverside Park section, there's fishing for everyone. Lake Isabella fishing is just now set to take off, with bass, catfish and an occasional trout all providing anglers with good production. This is a great kid- and family-friendly fishing, boating and camping destination.

Contact the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce (760-379-5236; for all the latest information.

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By Mike Stevens

With the calendar nearing its transition to fall, Eastern Sierra anglers are beginning to prepare for brown trout fishing opportunities, of which there should be plenty. (ROBERT WALDRON/CDFW)

BRIDGEPORT—Simply planning a fall fishing trip to the Eastern Sierra is going to result in more brown trout being caught than during any of your summer outings. The fish are simply more active all over the region in still- as well as moving waters. There are some easy tweaks to your regular game plan for targeting browns for numbers, and more again for getting after big ones. Smaller trout in the 10- to 14-inch range are going to be all over your standard lures like Thomas Buoyants, Kastmasters, Rooster Tails and Panther Martins. Save the spoons for the lakes – though Buoyants do work well in the Owens River – and stick to natural colors for everything. Sierra Slammers mini-jigs and swimbaits will also fool German browns. The smaller Tasmanian Devils are also sleepers as casting lures and will often attract browns mixed in with

schools of stocked rainbows. For bait fishing, it’s time to shelve the PowerBait and stick to nightcrawlers if you’re targeting browns. To get started “brown bagging” this autumn, get into your bass gear for a finesse spinning outfit loaded with 6- or 8-pound line. For this, I have fallen in love with Seaguar’s new Finesse Fluorocarbon, which comes in wacky sizes, including 5.2-, 6.2-, 7.3and 8-pound test. Your drop-shotting set-up is perfect. Next, dig into your bass box for jerkbaits, minnow baits – anything with a diving lip. Good ones include products from Yo-Zuri, Smithwick, etc. Just have a variety of sinkers, floaters and suspenders. Smaller minnows intended for trout and lighter gear will work, but the big fish dial in on these as they fatten up for the coming winter. For numbers, work through any

popular creeks with the aforementioned spinners, jigs and trout swimbaits. I’ve smoked them right through campgrounds – now largely deserted if not closed – that I’d never dream of fishing in summer when they are full of people. In lakes, your favorite summer rainbow trout spots can be just as good in fall for small browns. For brown bagging, throw the bigger stuff around creek inlets and outlets (you don’t have to be right on top of them either, just on their corner/ end of the lake) and shallow areas, especially those with deep access. Creeks can produce if there is a good amount of water running through them (and there should be), and you can always troll the minnow-type baits and Tasmanian Devils on leadcore line in the big lakes. Bridgeport, Crowley and waters like June, Silver, Mary and Convict can be sleepers in this department. CS | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman



By Nancy Rodriguez


hump, thump, thump! With every adrenaline-filled heartbeat my crosshairs float over my target – a beautiful three-point mule deer buck. Instead of pulling the trigger, I ask myself, “Is this the buck you want to take off this mountain?” I slowly lower my rifle and let the buck walk. It’s opening morning, after all, and I have plenty of hunting days ahead.

64 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

SIERRA I am high in the backcountry of California. I have drawn a mule deer buck tag in a great unit for mature animals. This can be a grueling hunt. My husband Joe, father-in-law Ray and I have backpacked in 8 miles with all of our gear on our backs. We don’t have any other means of getting into the area we prefer to hunt, so it’s good old-fashioned leg power for us. It’s also a high-elevation hunt and we have to purify and transport all of our water to our dry camp. On top of that, winter’s first storms can set in at any time during the season, so we always have to be prepared for the worst. These challenges make pulling any buck out of these mountains very rewarding. Through preseason scouting, we know there are a few nice bucks in the area. I know the only way to successfully harvest a big buck is to pass on the smaller ones. Passing on an animal is not in my nature, because the meat is one of the main reasons I hunt. But I have also dreamt about harvesting a nice four-point mule deer in these rugged mountains for many years. So this year I’m on a quest, and I’m up for the challenge.


Over five long, frustrating, glorious and satisfying days high in California’s backcountry, author Nancy Rodriquez (above), accompanied by her husband and father-in-law, chased an enormous four-point mule deer, Nancy’s dream buck. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ)

numerous shots and see plenty of hunters. This much hunting pressure is unusual for this area. With the extra pressure, my quest will certainly be a bit more challenging. The decision to pass on that three-pointer begins to haunt me, and I ask myself if I made the right choice. Then I remember the rule: You can’t tag a big buck if you shoot a smaller one first. But, still I wonder … Is one more point on the buck’s antlers that important to me? The first day of the season comes to an end and I find myself staring at the ceiling of the tent replaying the day’s encounters. I had passed on two more three-pointers, leaving me unsure about my decision. I wonder if I am being greedy for wanting a bigger buck. Hopefully, Mother | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


SIERRA Nature will see that I have paid my dues in these mountains and bless me with the buck I am after.

AS DUSK APPROACHES ON the second day, we are creeping ever so slowly when Joe whispers, “Huge buck through the trees!” Suddenly, my regret turns into determination and I am looking at one of the biggest four-point muley bucks I have ever seen – and he’s only 150 yards away! While Joe can see the buck clearly, I have a tree in my way. I slowly move over as quietly as I can to get set up for the shot. I place my gun on the tripod and slowly move the tripod over to clear a shooting lane. As I do this, I make a costly mistake. The resulting squeak of the tripod leg on rock alerts the buck to our presence. The buck’s head spins instantly and he has us pegged. I try to get lined up as quickly as possible, but it’s too late. Poof! The grey ghost disappears into thin air. My head drops as I realize I will probably never see that giant again. That night I feel sick as I replay the tripod squeak over and over. I think of all the things I could have

Time at camp included purifying water and taking a break from the constant hiking and glassing for bucks. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ)

done differently. All the what if’s swirling inside keep me up most of the night. Maybe Mother Nature is not happy with my early decisions and she is reminding me of my place. I tell myself this is hunting, and the ups and downs are what keep me coming back for more.

THE EVENING OF THE third day finds us set up on a huge rock glassing the pine-filled draw that the giant calls home. As the sun starts to set Joe whispers, “I’ve got him!” He ranges him and he’s at the edge of my shooting range. My crosshairs are steady on the buck of my dreams, my scope turrets are adjusted for the distance and I slowly put tension on the trigger. Before the trigger breaks, I decide the risk is too great. With the distance, I couldn’t ethically take the shot. The thought of wounding this mountain monarch is more than I can bear. The giant feeds back into the trees as darkness falls. Mother Nature has humbled us again. ON THE FOURTH DAY, I find myself feel-

Enjoying the wilderness of California is part of the experience for these hunters. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ) 66 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

ing much differently. At sunrise we are glassing a beautiful basin that glows with golden aspens and orange and green foliage sprinkled about. I lay back and realize this has already been an amazing hunt. I have had the opportunity at multiple deer, including one of the biggest bucks I’ve ever seen, and I’m enjoying the awe-inspiring beauty of the backcountry.

SIERRA As this unfolds, we come up with our evening plan. We decide to head back to the giant’s draw and see what happens. I tell Joe, “If I see a buck on the way down, I’m going to try and take him.” He asks, “Even if it’s a three-pointer?” “Yep! I’ll be happy with any buck.” It’s early afternoon and the three of us slowly start to head down through the scattered trees to the giant’s lair. After two hours of creeping through the trees glassing every shade patch in search of a bedded buck, Joe whispers, “I think I see an antler through that screen of trees.” I glass and confirm it’s a buck – and it’s a good one. It’s not the giant, but a four-pointer is a four-pointer! All we can see is his head and antlers through the trees, so we wait. We are on a little rise about 80 yards away from him and we see the rear end of another buck move through the trees, but we can’t con-

firm its size. The four-point finally rises and starts to feed. My rifle follows his every step as he walks in and out of the trees. As he steps behind a large pine, I glance in the direction he’s feeding and see a small opening. He enters the clearing with his head down as he continues to feed. He turns uphill toward me. At this steep angle, I can see the tip of an antler, the base of his neck, shoulders and along the top of his back. I place my crosshairs between his shoulder blades and slowly squeeze the trigger. BOOM! He drops in his tracks and out of my line of sight. The other buck runs off, but I don’t see him clearly. Yet I am smiling from ear to ear. We finally have the mature four-point buck we have been after. We have paid our dues and Mother Nature has rewarded us – with a bit of a twist. I make my way down to the buck and I am bewildered. I realize the

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buck I have just shot is a two-point. I look back at Joe and Ray and say, “He’s a forkie!” I think to myself, How is this possible? I followed that four-point through my scope from the time he stood until I shot. Then I think back to the moment he stepped behind the pine and I glanced to the opening he would eventually enter. In those seconds behind the tree and out of my sight, something changed. As the four-point walked behind the pine, the buck we had seen earlier must have already been feeding behind it only to be pushed out into my line of sight. At that moment I was sure Mother Nature was smiling!

I MUST ADMIT, A split second of disappointment courses through me. But it vanishes instantly as I kneel down, put my hand on the buck’s neck and look into his eyes. He has died instantly and I am thankful for that. My eyes well up with grateful admiration, and I am completely hum-

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SIERRA bled by the experience. A life is a life, whether his antlers have two points or four points. His wonderful, organic meat will feed my family. It’s very hard to explain the feeling of taking a life, but if you are an ethical hunter I hope you can relate. It’s not the kill that captivates us; it’s the hunt itself. I say my prayer of thanks – like I always do with every animal I harvest – and place a blade of grass in his mouth. The following day we get an early start and pack out our camp and quarry. We cover these 8 grueling miles with 70-pound packs on our backs, and the entire time we have smiles on our faces! This buck becomes one of my most memorable. I learn a lot of valuable lessons on this hunt. I can still have hunting goals, but no matter what, I will be grateful for every animal I take. It will be a few years before we can hunt these mountains

The script doesn’t always play out as written. The four-point monster that walked behind a tree came out the other side a two-pointer – in reality, a different, smaller buck – but Rodriguez, her husband Joe and father-in-law Ray are all smiles with her fine animal. (NANCY RODRIGUEZ)

again and we know Mother Nature will be looking forward to our visit. Maybe that will be the year she decides we have paid our dues! CS Editor’s note: Nancy Rodriguez lives in

70 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

Cool (El Dorado County), with her husband Joe. She is an outdoor enthusiast who loves to fish, hunt and backpack. Nancy is on the hunt staff for Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women and enjoys inspiring women to get outdoors.

72 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |




noon. I had seen a doe and a fawn, and counted 14 fellow hunters afield during that brief outing. That was the last time I hunted deer in California.

BACK IN THE FOLD In the 30-plus years since that hunt I’ve chased every animal available to a California hunter. When it comes to deer, however, I usually head out of state to

By Tim E. Hovey


ack in 1984, I went on my first solo deer hunt in the foothills of Santa Barbara County. I had a popular Zone A tag in my pocket and my trusty Marlin lever-action rifle over my shoulder. I didn’t let the dozen trucks parked at the trailhead on opening morning dampen my excitement. Yes, the sight of other hunters hiking the hills where I had planned to hunt soured me a bit, but I moved on. Shots in the distance, and one not so distant, however, unnerved me enough to hike back out before

Author Tim Hovey (glassing) has hunted deer for three-plus decades, but not in his home state since 1984. That’s about to change: He plans on getting a tag for Southern California zones near his home. (TIM E. HOVEY/RITO ESCAMILLA) | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


HUNTING fill my freezer with venison. The heavy hunting pressure has always turned me off when it comes to chasing deer here in the Golden State. This season, I decided to give it another shot. I plan on picking up an over-thecounter Zone D-11 (covering Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties) tag and hunting close to home. The great thing about this tag is that it’s also good in two other Southern California zones – D-13 and D-15 – which widens my hunting area considerably. With much more hunting experience under my belt, I plan to approach this year’s deer season far differently than how I did it that first time. Having successful hunted big game in many Western states, I’m going to apply much of what I’ve learned there to the deer that roam the rolling hills near my home.

PRESEASON SCOUTING I have always been into preseason

There’s a reason deer use certain trails – they’re typically the most efficient way for them to get between water, feeding and bedding areas. Find game paths and then consider how best to hunt them. (TIM E. HOVEY)

scouting. Whether the game is small or big, feathered or furred, I make it a point to hike into the areas I’ll be hunting to see how the animals are utilizing the habitat prior to the season. If I can get out to these areas a couple of times before the opener, I know that I will have a significant advantage over others who don’t.

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For big game, I pay close attention to game trails. When large animals find an easy way in and out of an area, they stick with it. I check water sources and look for prints. All animals need water, so checking out the damp mud around the local watering hole is a great way to see what species are in the area. Examining the size | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


HUNTING and freshness of the prints will yield information on how popular or unpopular the spot is. When it comes to scouting, I start with a water source. During scouting trips, I pack light and bring binoculars, a GPS and some water. I like to get to the hunting area early so I can spend the day observing animal movements during peak daylight hours. I follow tracks and look for areas where animals bed or spend most of their time. Finding game trails helps me decide how to hunt a particular spot. I also look for human activity. Has the road in been recently used? Is there trash in the area? Do I see hikers or day campers in the hunting area? All these things will give me a better idea of how popular the spot is and if I need to re-evaluate and find another area to hunt.

HUNT WHERE OTHERS WON’T Whether I’m hunting or just hiking

When scouting, look for tracks and make mental notes of where these animals might be once deer season begins. (TIM E. HOVEY)

the hills, I like to challenge myself and see as much of the terrain as I can. I’m always curious about what’s over the next hill or down the next canyon. This desire to see as much as I can has taught me that if I can get into areas that see very little human traffic, my chances of running into animals are a lot higher. In short, I try and find places where others

76 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

won’t hunt. For deer, I like to seek out steep canyons with thick vegetation. I glass the terrain, and if I find tight spots filled with brush I zero in and look for game trails into these areas. I know these out-of-the-way spots are where deer feel comfortable waiting out the heat of the day. Once I find where I want to be, I | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


HUNTING Ground like this in Zone D-11 (covering Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties) is where Hovey will be looking for bucks – terrain that other hunters will dismiss as too rugged or out of the way to bother with. (TIM E. HOVEY/RITO ESCAMILLA)

figure out a way to approach with the wind in my favor. My preferred position is to sit above these areas but off to the side to avoid issues

with changing winds during the day. If I find a spot, I’ll hike in and determine the easiest and quietest way to approach.

I’ll even hike through bedding areas looking for sign. I do all this before the season so that I am confident about where I want to be and how I want to hunt the area when the time comes.

LATE-SEASON PURSUIT I have personally participated in over 100 opening-day hunts for various species. I’ve braved the early season crowds, and over the years I’ve observed that the opener of any season, by far, is the most active time for hunters. Many only hunt opening day. For those of us who like to squeeze as much as we can out of each season, hunting a few weeks after the opener may be better than you think. As the season unfolds, the number of hunters drops dramatically. Later on, the fields and hills calm after the initial onslaught of activity, and animals and their behaviors slowly return to normal. Working off of that 30-year-old memory of a crowded wilderness, I plan to wait out the opener and focus most of my hunting efforts towards the end of the month-long season. Using my preseason scouting information, I’ll spend an entire day 78 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |


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perched in my chosen spot. While my initial hope is that deer will be where I observed activity, I will be glassing distant areas to see if the early hunting pressure has pushed animals elsewhere. If I determine that the pattern of movement and resting areas has changed, I’ll formulate Plan B and adjust accordingly. Two-Unit Float Lodge $1M - Thorne Bay

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BE PREPARED In sharp contrast to the light pack I carry during scouting, once I’m ready to hunt my pack is stocked with everything I need should I be successful. I pack food and water to sustain myself throughout the day, as well as all the gear I’ll need to part out a deer and pack out the meat. I also hike where it’s safe.I understand that four quarters, two backstraps and the head of a California deer may weigh close to 100 pounds. So when I’m tired and weighed down, I do everything I can to make sure I stay safe and keep on level ground or solid trails. Gone are the days of bushwhacking my own path back to the truck. Along with hunting smarter, I also try to hike smarter. We all have someone who cares about us back at home. If I’m hunting solo, I make sure my family knows where I’ll be hunting, where I’ll park my truck and a general time of when I’ll return. In today’s techfilled world, it’s easy to do and will give everyone, even the solo hunter field-dressing a deer 3 miles from the truck at dusk, peace of mind.

ANTICIPATION BUILDING I’m excited for this year’s deer hunt in my local area. I look back at that new hunter in 1984 and feel so much more prepared now. I’ve learned a lot in over 30 years of hunting, and despite the dwindling deer numbers, I feel my chances here in California are far better this season. I will definitely put all I’ve learned over the years to good use. And hopefully I can put some California venison in the freezer. Wish me luck! CS 80 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 | | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


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By Scott Haugen


hile I sat in a field, across it came a fast-flying mourning dove that quickly closed the gap. It was headed right for me and maintained a straight, speedy flight path, making the shot easier than most I’d had that day. After a quick retrieve by my pup we were soon admiring our 10th dove of the day. It was one of many wonderful times we spent together last dove season, and we’re excited to repeat the action this year as the first fall season in California kicks off this month. With mourning dove populations flourishing, there are many options when it comes to hunting them. Here’s what to look for:


When properly positioned, dove decoys can be very effective tools for helping bring birds within shooting range. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

Each morning after leaving the roost, mourning doves go to feed. They’ll often leave the roost at first light, sometimes reaching the feeding grounds before legal shooting light. Sometimes they’ll go right to feeding, and other times they’ll survey the feeding grounds from nearby trees to make sure all is safe. Whether they are feeding in grain fields, grassy meadows or along streams, figuring out where doves are actively gathering food is key to bagging them. To find a place to hunt, drive country roads through farmland. Take your binoculars to help locate where doves are feeding and estimate how many birds are using the area. | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman






e it doves, pigeons, grouse or quail, sometimes you end up with just a few birds in the pack. If you bring home a small number and it’s not enough for dinner, whip up these tasty morsels as an appetizer. Serve them on their own or in a lettuce wrap. Toss the legs and thighs in a slow cooker and let it take its time, but always enjoy that breast meat that’s cooked up hot and fast.

Six to eight dove breasts (any smaller game bird will work well) ¼ cup soy sauce One apple, cored 1 tablespoon sesame oil Three to four cloves garlic, chopped 1 to 2 inches fresh ginger, chopped 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon butter

meat with a sharp knife or fork in several places. Cover breast meat with apple slurry and marinate 12 hours in the refrigerator. Younger birds may need less time in the marinade. Before pan-frying, bring meat to room temperature. Remove from apple mixture. In a skillet, heat olive oil and butter on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, sear breasts, cooking only one to three minutes on each side. Let rest five minutes before slicing or serve whole breast with a lettuce leaf as a wrapper. Serve with dipping sauce and garnish with sesame seeds and chives if desired. For smaller portions, meat can be sliced thinly and then marinated only two hours. Quickly sauté two to three minutes and serve with a lettuce leaf. Any upland game bird breasts can be used in this recipe.

DIPPING SAUCE In a high-speed blender or food processor, puree soy sauce, unpeeled apple, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Poke breast

¼ cup fresh lime or lemon juice 2 tablespoons honey 1 tablespoon soy sauce

84 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

Sometimes you don’t bring home a bag full of upland birds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t whip up an epic appetizer like the one author Tiffany Haugen loves to serve. (TIFFANY HAUGEN) 1 tablespoon white or rice vinegar Two garlic cloves, minced ½ teaspoon red chili paste or red pepper flakes In a small bowl or jar, whisk all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany Haugen’s popular cookbook, Cooking Game Birds, send a check for $20 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489 or order online at Follow Tiffany on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and watch for her on the online series Cook With Cabela’s, as well as The Sporting Chef TV show. | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


HUNTING Finding a feeding area where doves gather all morning long and again in the afternoon ensures lots of birds will keep arriving once the shooting starts. Setting up in the field itself or along an edge are good bets; let the amount of cover and bird movement dictate exactly where you set up.

WATER HOLES Doves need to drink water and gather grit every day. Oftentimes they will achieve both of these objectives in one stop. Rivers and creeks with rocky shorelines provide not only water that’s easy for doves to access but grit to help grind their food. Like all of our game birds, doves can’t chew their food. So, they have to gather grit to store in their gizzard that helps grind the food for them. Since doves are such small birds, the grit they gather is also tiny – often the size of coarse sand grains. Doves will frequent watering areas later in the morning once they’re done feeding. They’ll also hit drinking and grit-laden areas before heading to roost for the night. Hunting these areas can be as good, if not even better, than hitting food sources, especially on dry years where birds are forced to congregate around limited water.

Mourning doves are flourishing throughout the West, and this month is prime for experiencing just how fun and challenging hunting these gray bombers can be. (SCOTT HAUGEN) The author and his 12-week-old pup, Kona, with a great afternoon of dove hunting behind them. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

ROOST SITES Dove-roosting sites can be effectively hunted at various times of the day. Mind you, you’re actually intercepting doves as they move to roosting areas and not literally shooting them from the roost. The key to hunting these locales is knowing both how many birds gather in a roost area and what their daily pattern is like. One of my favorite roost sites to hunt is where birds spend the night. But they leave the area too early in the morning and arrive too late in the evening to shoot. However, they often return to the area to roost in the middle of the day, after they’ve fed, drank and

gathered grit. Hunting near midday roost sites can be very productive, especially on hot days. Doves will often get their fill then fly to shaded trees to rest during the day, before heading out to feed again late in the afternoon or early evening. Setting up to shoot these birds as they head to and/or from the roosting area can be effective.

DECOY OPTIONS In each of the above scenarios, don’t overlook the value of decoys. Decoys work well on waterfowl and turkeys, and they also work on doves. When placing dove decoys, opti-

86 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

mize their visibility. You want decoys that can be seen from a distance. If hunting fields, clip six to 12 on fence posts, wire and nearby trees. If hunting near watering areas, along hillsides and shorelines of rivers or creeks, gravel bars can be excellent places to hunt. Find some dead limbs to put the decoys on. Because foliage still has leaves during dove season, search for dead trees, brush or gather fallen branches to put the decoys on so they can be seen. If a slight breeze is blowing, this can be added value, as it gets the decoys moving, which allows them to be easily spotted by approaching birds. | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


WATERFOWL THE SHELLS Shots at doves are usually fairly close range. A 20-gauge shotgun with a payload of number 7½ shot is an effective combination, though a 12-gauge with size 8 shot will give you a higher pellet count. However, due to the speed with which doves fly and their ability to instantly change direction, they can be among our toughest game birds to hit. Be sure to put in some range time on clay pigeons before the season opens in order to brush up on those shooting skills. When on the hunt and when busting clay birds, consider giving Winchester’s new AA loads such as orange TrAAcker Wad Technology a try. On overcast days or when shooting against a dark backdrop like a hillside, it’s easy to see the track of your orange wad that verifies where you’re shooting. On sunny days, the black TrAAcker wads are easily visible. Such shooting aids will help you quickly figure out where you’re hitting – or not – thereby allowing for quick adjustments. If shooting doves that may be a bit farther out, you want bigger pellets with more speed to knock birds down. I’ve been very impressed with the performance of Browning’s BXD Extra Distance in size 6 shot. Moving at a whopping 1,485 feet per second, this speedy load cuts down your lead and increases punching power, meaning more hits with exceptional penetration. Not only are dove numbers booming, they’re also a blast to hunt and are some of the best-eating game birds out there. The great thing about doves is that they are small and you need a lot of them to make a meal for the family, which means more shooting for everyone. CS Editor’s note: For some great dove recipes and signed copies of Scott and Tiffany Haugen’s popular cookbook, Cooking Game Birds, send a check for $20 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489 or order online at





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92 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |


Recognizing Teachable Moments By Scott Haugen


p to this point in this monthly series that began in the February issue, we’ve looked at basic training tips for your pup. These tips have focused on teaching the dog restraint and basic instruction, while at the same time developing a valuable bond between the two of you. As the pup matures, you can teach it more and more. A pup’s brain is like a sponge, and for some things, the optimal learning window is relatively brief, with behavioral habits and socialization taking place within the first four months. Once you have the basic commands down, and the pup is responding to them, you can continue progressing in your training.

FOR THE FIRST few months my training sessions are short. I play a lot with my pups, both inside and out. I get them into as many different environments as possible, and get them around as many people as I can. Getting your eight- to 10-week-old pup around a half-dozen people a day – of all ages, sizes and ethnic backgrounds – is ideal. Avoid taking pups to dog parks, as you don’t want them coming into contact with dogs that may not be up to date on vaccinations. While I’ll spend a few hours a day playing with my pup, my actual training time is only about six to eight minutes, broken into three sessions. When I’m training, I want the pup’s full attention, and I don’t teach unless I have it. Time is valuable, as is consistency. You’re the boss; make sure the pup knows it. There’s a saying among many trainers that a cheap dog is an expensive dog to train, so keep that in

A trainer’s consistent communication and even temperament are key to gaining a pup’s trust. This will help get the most out of your training sessions and optimize the dog’s overall performance. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

mind when investing in a dog. Also, remember that when the training starts, time is valuable. A lot of trainers will also tell you that before they can even start training a dog for someone, they spend a lot of time fixing it. This is because owners aren’t spending time with their pup, not like they used to. If the basic commands are not taught early – starting at seven or eight weeks of age – then it’s going to be challenging for anyone to teach your pup restraint and disciplined commands as it grows. Persistence, patience and socialization are keys to getting your pup into a consistent learning mode.

Spending time with a pup gets it bonding with you – a must to be able to effectively teach it as it matures.

WATCH YOUR PUP closely and get to know its behaviors as you continue teaching it. I never attempt to teach pups anything unless their eyes are on me and their ears are back, or perked up. If their head is tilted slightly forward with the ears down, they are not focused on me. They are thinking of something else, like wanting food, wanting to run, or wanting to play with something in sight that may be distracting them. It’s up to you to get the pup’s full attention before trying to teach it anything. | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


HUNTING Short, simple verbal commands and consistent eye contact is all it takes to get a pup to watch you closely. Stay positive with your facial expressions and voice, making the learning experience fun for the dog. Be careful not to get too negative or overbearing or the pup won’t respect you or will tune you out, and certainly won’t reach its optimal level of performance. By four months of age many pups are already reading your demeanor, voice inflection and facial cues. They know when you furrow your brows they’ve done something wrong and could be in trouble. They can see a smile in your eyes, and their tails will start wagging and they’ll want to please you. They can read a smile and raised eyebrows, and know all is good. When a dog can predict your temperament, and you treat it nice, it will be eager to please you. This is when optimal learning takes place, learning that will continue for years.

BY BEING CONSISTENT and communicating with your dog on many levels, you’re on the way to gaining its trust and respect. When a dog respects and trusts you, the amount of training they absorb is mind boggling. As they mature into adulthood, dogs that respect you will do anything you ask of them. Such strong bonds start forming now, the day a pup comes home, so don’t wait, and don’t overdo it with militant training. Puppies are smart, they just have to be taught a lot of basic things, including the difference between right and wrong. By maintaining a calm, positive demeanor, and a consistent training schedule, you’re on the way to building the ideal gun dog. CS Editor’s note: To watch some dog training tips, check out Scott Haugen’s series of short videos on his website, scotthaugen. com. Also, watch his TV show, The Hunt, now on Netflix. 94 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

When a pup is looking you in the eye, ears perked or laying back, they are focused and ready to learn. This is the teachable moment you’re looking for. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

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408.279.4009 885 Delmas Ave San Jose, CA 95125 | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


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96 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |






outhern California saltwater fishing is really taking off right now, with the kelp beds turning out a ton of calico bass and small yellowtail. Further offshore there are bluefin and yellowfin tuna, but they are about 50 to 60 miles out. If you are aching for some offshore action but don’t have the boat to make it out that far, you can stay closer to home and still enjoy fun fishing. Hit the kelp paddies floating offshore right now for dorado and yellowtail. Most of the paddies are out about 8 to 15 miles, so most boats can handle the trip – just make sure your boat is ready. One bit of advice is to let your boat idle while fishing; that way you don’t have to worry about it starting up again. Once you spot a paddy, you can troll by it or just slide up on it and throw bait in the water. I like to troll by and throw a handful of bait as we pass and watch for boils. When you decide to slide up on it, don’t run the motor but pull upwind and float with the wind past it while staying a cast’s distance away. Most of the time your bait will swim to the cover of the paddy, and if dorado – which can be line shy – and yellowtail are there, you will know quickly. Set-ups for fishing the paddies can range from light to heavy, and many anglers are now fishing with spinning gear. I myself have been using a Daiwa Proteus spinning rod with a Saltist 6000 reel. I’m loaded up with

You can stay relatively close to shore and still score big fish like Jeff King’s dorado. He found it only about 10 miles off San Diego. (BILL SCHAEFER)

Maxima 50-pound braid and run a 20- to 40-pound leader of fluorocarbon. On the business end is a Mustad No. 7691 bait hook, though some anglers prefer a circle for that perfect corner-of-the-mouth hookup. Of course, regular tackle from light to heavy works as well. But don’t just grab that old rod you haven’t used in years and run out af-

ter these fish. You must check your drags, respool and tie on a new hook. The points on hooks do deteriorate – even just sitting in a package if they have been near the salt air. They are so sharp the point can rust away easily. Better to invest in a new pack of hooks than keep wondering why you get bit and don’t catch that fish of a lifetime. CS | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman



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98 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |




By Capt. Bill Schaefer


ake Otay has been one of the hottest lakes in the San Diego area this year, featuring creel counts well above most other lakes in and around the city. Granted, the staff at Otay is a little better at checking fishermen’s catch counts, so this may add to the numbers, but catching is still catching and this lake is hot. Over this season, Otay has produced a good spawn as well as larger fish in the 5- to 10-pound range, with a few even bigger. Some big bass hunters keep their catches to themselves, only sharing a picture on Facebook here or there. So you’ll have to experience it for yourself.

TIPS AND TECHNIQUES The water is way up at Otay and less than a couple feet from spill. It’s allowed small ponds to form behind all the tules, mostly in the Harvey Arm. These backwater areas are fun to attack as long as you don’t mind tule-stomping and scratching your boat to get back into them. Bass have been biting everything from frogs to Senkos to various topwater baits and buzzbaits. And don’t forget your flipping stick, if you can still remember where it is and how to use it. Indeed, it’s been a while since Southern California has had water in the tules to flip. Creature baits and jigs will do well in these scenarios. There is topwater action early in the morning, especially if the wind

With water levels up at Lake Otay, anglers are able to flip baits along the tules to nail the popular San Diego County fishery’s trophy largemouth. (BILL SCHAEFER)

stays down to a breeze. Breaking fish can be found all over the lake but especially in the back of Harvey Arm. Various topwater baits – both of the popping and gliding varieties – will work. One trick has been to throw flukes on the breaking fish. As the days warm up – and they usually do in this inland valley – worm fishing can do very well. Dropshot, split-shot or regular Texas rigs will work here. As the weeds grow into the shallows, Senkos will take over as the hot bait; toss them weightless in the holes of the weeds that start to choke the shallows. If you know where they are or can find the offshore rock piles, other

rigs like Carolina-rigged creature bait plastics will score. Regular jigs can do well at this lake also.

GEAR CHECK For casting distance, I use a 7½foot Daiwa Tatula rod combo with 20-pound Maxima braid. The braid has the diameter of 4- to 6-pound test and less drag, so you can really throw that bait out there to those fish that always seem to pop up far away from you. Sometimes you just have to get close to them to get a strike. It’s hot out there – both literally and figuratively – and now is the time to hit up Lake Otay and score some of its bounty. CS | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


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100 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 | | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman



HILTON GARDEN INN COMPANY NAME Hilton Garden Inn LOCATION Redding WHAT THEY DO Hotel located near the Sacramento River in one of the state’s best outdoor areas CONTACT (530) 226-5111;

California Sportsman Can you give us a history of the Hilton Garden Inn in Redding? Director of Sales Kasey Danielson We opened in 2004 and boast an ideal location on a plateau overlooking the Sacramento River, with freeway access connecting us to travelers on the I-5 corridor. We underwent a complete lobby/room renovation in 2015-2016. We are owned and operated by the Redding Rancheria.

CS How much has Redding’s outdoors opportunities impacted the hotel?

KD Redding is abundant with outdoor activities and we welcome guests from all over the country looking to experience the fishing, hunting, hiking, biking and water sports that our area is known for.

CS Do you get a lot of hunters and anglers who stay at the Hilton Garden Inn? KD Many hunters and anglers frequent our hotel; its prime location adjacent to the Sacramento River makes it an ideal location for those coming to the area to utilize the many guided hunting or fishing trips.

CS What makes Redding such an attractive destination for sportsmen and -women? KD Redding is one of the top fish-

ing destinations in the country, and whether you are experienced enough to set out on your own or you’d prefer to utilize the expertise of one of the many local guides, Redding has something for you.

CS If someone wants to take a trip to Redding and take advantage of the area’s outdoor opportunities, what would you recommend that they do? KD Boasting two lakes, a river and

102 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

many creeks and streams in one location, Redding gives travelers looking to take advantage of the outdoors a lot of opportunities in this area. We have an extensive trail system for those interested in hiking or mountain biking and many other outdoor attractions like the Whiskeytown Falls or a day at Shasta Caverns, located on Shasta Lake. The possibilities are really endless. CS | SEPTEMBER 2017 California Sportsman


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 40 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…$1875.00 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: 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!

104 California Sportsman SEPTEMBER 2017 |

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