It sucks to be a duck hunter in So. California


Unless you are rich and can afford a private club, you have 3 options - SJ, Kern, and Wister. SJ and Kern are very difficult to get drawn for a reservation. And, I would rather set myself on fire than sweatline at San Jacinto. So, Wister is the only real option if you want to hunt frequently. Sweatlining is not too bad. But, if you do the math, the season at Wister is really only 4-6 weeks max. It doesn't get good until December and is usually dead by mid January. If you factor in the slow death of the Salton Sea, things will only get worse as the years go by. Not to mention the poor management of Wister as a whole.

If you are a hunter in So. Commiefornia, life sucks.

I need to Shawshank out of this place.


Best part of being in a club, 48 scheduled hunt days, not including weather days like this Thursday. Part of the club is the pot lucks and party... The birds sure aren't thick right now.


Believe it or not, I'm not in a bad mood. It is just the sober realization that there are very real and tangible things that will always keep duck hunting as a extremely minor part of my life unless I move from this God forsaken hell hole.


I got ya. We are a special breed putting up with staring at blank sky and competing for positions for shitty habitat.


Comedian in training, at least on the internet
Does San Diego City lakes still have a waterfowl hunt program?


Well-Known Member
As a hunter that grew up in SoCal (San Fernando Valley), i agree 100 percent that it was tough.

Back in the 60’s, our option was really just Wister. Kern finally opened up and that gave us another option. It was wide open early on and never an issue getting on. That changed of course but still became our closest refuge.

We hunted Kern and Wister pretty hard, and added Mendota to the list as well.

Back then without as many highway options as now, it took about 4 hours to get to Wister or Mendota. We found that Mendota allowed hundreds (600 I believe) of hunters on and we went there knowing we could get on.

Made a weekend of it now and then.

Now, Living in NorCal, there are many more options for sure. But if I still lived in SoCal, I would likely be:

1. Praying for a ressie at Wister or Kern.
2. Planning more Sat/Sun combo day hunts.
3. Taking 1/2 day vacation days on as many Friday’s as possible, to get to refuges Friday evenings - versus arriving at 2 am.
4. Plan several central CA trips per season
5. Probably add in 1 or 2 guided hunts in NorCal based on cost. There are even some unguided hunts available which are more cost friendly.

I hunted as much as I could ‘back in the day’ and now as a retired guy, I definitely hunt more. But I wish I could tell my younger self to have used every option available.

And I would definitely tell myself to slow down, get out as often as possible regardless of the miles put on to get there. If I could only hunt a couple of times a season, I’d try to get the most out of them. Quality versus quantity.

And my definition of quality would include so much more than what was in the ‘bag’. Not sure I understood that as well as I do now.

I always applaud the SoCal hunters. I bring this area up to others as the epitome of a dedicated hunter.

Desert hunting is something special.... as well as frustrating.

I know what it takes, and my hats off to you guys! Keep at it. Stay involved with conservations groups (CWA, DU), and make your voices heard. I know I try to every chance I get.

Merry Christmas! And best of luck the rest of the way....


Well-Known Member
Living in SD for many of my 30+ years of duck hunting, we had Wister, the Salton Sea, SD City Lakes (Barrett, Otay and Sutherland), Henshaw, or the Colorado River (Cibola or Imperial NWRs). I have many good memories from them all, my avatar pic is from the river.
Now living in Nor Cal, lots of public opportunity, but I'm old and lazy, and I'm a ricer now. Good days and bad days, but enough good days to keep that fire burning. Prior to my move North I got tired of Wister, hunts just weren't as fun, always seemed to be surrounded by knuckleheads. The River was fun, but a 175 mile drive to go hunting. I do feel for you So Cal hunters!
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It's the price we pay for living in sunny SoCal. We live in one of the most populated areas of the state so the competition will always be there.


New Member
Maybe because I don't know better...I figured it was supposed to be hard!

That being said, we shot nearly a two man limit (mostly Cinnamon Teal) at San Jac on the opener. Wasn't so great a three weeks later and I had to miss my reservation this weekend because of family obligations but I'll keep hunting here as often as I can. I figure three reservations this season (all sub #25) is pretty good.

Hunted a private club in the SJ Delta a few weeks ago and it was just as hard. The weather (or lack of it) seems to be a major factor.

Keep telling everyone how much it sucks, it keeps the crowds down...;)

I guess that's why it's called hunting (not getting).
I grew up in the Northeast where I could hunt pretty much wherever I wanted and whenever. I never heard the term "skybusting" until I moved out here. I've been hunting in SoCal for a little over ten years now, and while I agree that it is difficult, there are some things I have come to appreciate.

The opportunities in CA compared to other states, not just for waterfowl but big game and upland as well are tremendous. But since CA is such a big state you have to be willing to drive. When the migration gets going, the variety of birds that we get especially in SoCal is pretty spectacular. So even if things slow down after the resident birds are all shot out, there are plenty other hunting opportunities to occupy my time.

The reservation system for the refuges is tough to rely on. I finally drew a Sunday at Wister for Jan 12th which was my first draw this year. If I relied on reservations, I'd never get to hunt. That being said, some of my best hunts have been from the sweat line. With social media these days, it's easy to meet other hunters and make new friends, and when you get a few guys together it seems like somebody is always getting a draw somewhere. Some of my regular hunting partners have been made in this way, and I've met great guys from this site as well that I would hunt with in a heartbeat.

Last year was my first year in a duck club down near Westmorland. It's more expensive than putting in for reservations and paying for wildlife area passes, but as others have said, the ability to unwind, have a good meal, shoot the shit and get a good sleep is worth the price of admission. Again I've made met some great guys hunting the club, and it's nice when you can rely on the blinds around you to let birds work. And to be honest, the price isn't too bad if you plan for it. I think we have at least a couple spots open for next year, so if anybody is interested shoot me a message.


Well-Known Member
Great outlook Ben! It's easy to think the grass is greener somewhere else, and it may be, but the diversity you mentioned helps when what we are pursuing isn't easily found. The opportunities to hunt other animals are out there, however, it is a reality that where we can hunt has been greatly reduced over the years. It comes down to attitude & expectations. Those are the only things in our control.

Glad you found a spot Ben. Would love to hear about it. I'll be down on the 12th as well.


New Member
There are more options. For instance that big salty lake next to Wister, Finney-Ramer, jump shooting canals, Colorado River. Only had one Saturday draw this year for my group of 6. Yet hunted multiple times. No sweat lining either. .


have to agree with you, on that HWF, I grew up hunting the sea, and to this day it's my favorite way to hunt down there. I go on Friday and set on the sea, watch where the birds wanted to fly out of Wister, set up in the old trees (which I am sure are long gone by now) towards the end of me hunting down there 2 to 3 times a week.
We would build blinds on the shore or 50 to 100 yards out. we always did well, but we would have tough days too but that's hunting,

My favorite place on the sea to hunt was at the North in, we would put in at Johnson st. walk our skiffs or kayaks out tell they floated and would find a spot and to this day still my favorite spot. but it can not get hunted a lot. (every other weekend worked out the best)
otherwise, the birds will get high before they came over the sea. and when the new birds came in... it was on like donkey kong.

anyway if you need some recon ideas, been going there since my mom was pregnant with me.... and now an old man now but did just retire and have time on my hands.