Upland Game Bird Management Account Projects

Active Projects

CWA Badger Almond Public Hunt Program

California hunting license sales have dropped steadily from 767,149 in 1970 to 273,391 in 2016. A leading cause of this drop is the loss of hunting opportunities and access. To help reverse this trend and to recruit, retain, and reintroduce hunters to the field California Waterfowl Association (CWA) developed a program based upon the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s lottery system for hunting on public lands. Through CWA’s relationship with private landowners, the program has created access to private lands and has been identified as the California Waterfowl Hunt Program. The program has grown steadily over the past eight years and now includes over 40 individual properties encompassing over 50,000 acres. Since the inception, over 6,500 hunters have participated in the program with hundreds of landowners and volunteers providing in-kind services (hosting, guiding hunts, etc.) and access to high quality hunting opportunities to the general public. The program currently hosts waterfowl, pheasant, dove, turkey, and pig hunts. In addition to providing
opportunities to the general public, specialty hunts cater to families, youth (apprentice), women, mobility impaired hunters and veterans. Applicants have an extensive variety of hunts to choose from which include access to some of the most prestigious and exclusive hunting properties in the country. Hunt locations range from the Klamath Basin in northern California to San Jacinto Valley in southern California.

In the spring of 2014, through a Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) Grant, CWA acquired 2,200+ acres in Kern County. The acreage is made up of two separate properties known as the Houchin and the Badger Almond parcels and is collectively referred to as Goose Lake. The Badger Almond property is in need of habitat restoration and development of infrastructure before it can be fully utilized for waterfowl hunting, but has hosted successful dove hunts over the past three years.

Since 2014, 939 hunters have hunted on Badger Almond and Houchin. The proposal requests funding to help offset the substantial operating costs of running an upland game public hunt program on Badger Almond. We anticipate 200-400 people will enjoy time upland game hunting as part of the Badger Almond Hunt Program.

The proposed 2017/2018 project will fund a public pheasant hunting program at Badger Almond. We propose a stocking program of 700 pheasants from October through January. We will host 20 hunt days in the fall reaching up to 24 hunters per date. Hunters will be provided with a hunt map on specific hunt zones and past hunter success. During shoot days, hunters will be allowed to harvest dove (when in season) in addition to waterfowl and pheasants. The hunt will be advertised as a combo waterfowl, pheasant, and dove hunt with the main focus on waterfowl and pheasant.

CWA will handle reservations and liability waivers through the well-established CWA Hunting Heritage program. Hunters are chosen through a random lottery process administered by a third party. CWA provides professional staff, including a Hunt Program Coordinator and the necessary supervisory and support staff to administer all aspects of the hunt program, including but not limited to general correspondence, advertising, habitat management, hunting preparation, hosting hunts, accounting, invoicing, reporting, etc. CWA has a well established track record, fiscal policies and procedures to effectively administer and manage this very successful hunt program.

The hunt program at Badger Almond will consist of 20 hunt periods (Wednesday and Saturday) from October - January. Each hunt period will include 8 hunting parties of three (may consist of four hunters if one or more hunters are juniors). These hunt periods can reach more than 400 hunters.

Estimating Factors That Influence Population Vital Rates and Space Use Patterns of Pheasant in the Central Valley, California

Region: Northern, North Central, Bay Delta and Central (Regions 1-4)

The ring-necked pheasant is one of California’s most prized game birds, but hunter success and harvest has greatly declined. A comprehensive assessment of the pheasant population status and possible factors related to population trends in California has not been conducted in nearly 25 years. This information is needed to guide management of pheasant populations and their habitats in California.

This study involves field operations, data collection, and analytical approaches aimed at answering basic questions regarding upland game bird populations. On-the-ground monitoring will be carried out during the spring and summer seasons with less frequent monitoring during fall and winter.

The Primary study objectives include:

  1. Evaluate field methodology for capturing marking and monitoring individual pheasants using VHF telemetry.
  2. Evaluate methodology for estimating population vital rates (e.g., nest survival).
  3. Estimate nesting survival of pheasants and identify factors that influence survival probabilities.
  4. Estimate brood survival of pheasants and identify factors that influence survival probabilities.
  5. Identify movement patterns using GPS technology.
  6. Identify and analyze food habits for pheasants during the brood rearing period.
  7. Conduct preliminary invertebrate availability studies in locations where mosquito abatement, seasonal flooding and other management practices differ.
  8. Evaluate pheasant use of intensively managed habitats for brood rearing.
  9. Quantify territorial turkey behavior and interactions between turkey and pheasant using audio playbacks of crowing pheasant.

Habitat Development & Enhancement Projects at Gray Lodge WLA

Region: North Central (Region 2)

This project will improve approximately 149 acres of upland nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants and other upland wildlife species in Fields 78-80. The Contractor will conduct a complete topographic survey on the entire project site to capture all existing field grades, ditch elevations and existing structures. Based on this information, a design and construction drawings will be developed meeting the requirements of the Gray Lodge management staff. Based upon the final design, calculations and a materials list will be generated. A bid meeting will be held and then a selected contractor will start earthmoving activities to undertake the construction of the site.

Following construction of the major infrastructure, fields to be planted to perennial grasses will be prepared for planting. Prior to planting, herbicides will be applied following the first rains to ensure removal of sprouting annuals.  Then the grasses will be seeded. In the spring if thistle and/or mustard are an issue, another application of herbicides will be conducted as needed. Food plots could be planted in the fall for winter wheat if management desires.  In the spring safflower and sunflower will be planted. The contractor will prepare and submit an intermediate report by May 1, 2017. Any fields not planted in the fall of 2016 and spring of 2017 will be planted in the fall of 2017. The Contractor shall write a final report following the final planting and submit to the CDFW Contract Manager.

Knoxville WA Native Grassland Restoration

Region: North Central (Region 2)

Knoxville Wildlife Area consists of 21,000 acres dominated by oak woodlands with expansive stands of chaparral and is a very popular wildlife area for hunters targeting upland game birds. Several valleys lie throughout the wildlife area providing open grasslands. Under natural conditions these grasslands provide critical nesting, brooding, and foraging habitat for several upland game bird species including valley quail and wild turkeys. The tall grass also serves as forage and much needed fawning cover for the resident black-tailed deer herd. Unfortunately, as with many of California’s rural lands, the majority of these valley’s no longer contain natural grasslands, but instead are infested with invasive exotic plant species including yellow star-thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) and medusa head (Taeniatherum caputmedusae).

The specific goals and objectives of this project are to convert current unproductive and weed-infested public lands back into productive native grasslands for the benefit of upland game birds and upland game bird hunters.

Native Grass and Wildflower Restoration on the Sul Norte Unit SRNWR

Region: North Central (Region 2)

The Sacramento Valley has lost over 85% of its natural riparian ecosystem which provided habitat for a diverse number of plant and animal species along its reaches. In 1989 the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge (SRNWR) was formed by the authority provided under the Endangered Species Act, Emergency Wetlands Resources Act, and the Fish and Wildlife Act. Since SRNWR’s creation, it has been creating and implementing restoration projects along its 10,000 acres with the great help and guidance of its many dedicated partners, including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The proposed project will be a hunter opportunity project that consists of restoring 34 acres of invasive weed infested floodplain on the Sul Norte Unit of the Sacramento River NWR located along the Sacramento River in Glenn County. Yellow star-thistle, black mustard, milk thistle, and annual rip-gut grasses currently occupy the site, and provide little to no benefit for upland game bird species and other associated wildlife. The specific goals and objectives of this project is to convert current unproductive flood-prone agricultural lands to restored riparian habitats (including scrublands, forests, woodlands, savannas, herb lands, grasslands and marshes) along the Sacramento River for the benefit of upland game birds and upland game bird hunters.

Ruffed Grouse Trend Monitoring Design and Implementation

Region: Northern (Region 1)

Ruffed Grouse occur only in the far northwestern portion of California, a relatively mountainous, remote, and sparsely populated region. Ruffed Grouse were described as more widespread and fairly common locally by Grinnell and Miller (1944) but as an uncommon breeder by Yocum (1978). Habitat use of this species in California is only known from anecdotal or descriptive studies.

The proposed project would generate a species distribution model (SDM), and conduct pilot field sampling and trend monitoring program design, covering the statewide distribution of Ruffed Grouse in California, in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, Trinity, Tehama, and Shasta Counties. The SDM will utilize presence-only data from Breeding Bird Survey routes, museum specimens, and filtered expert reports with species distribution modeling to generate a predictive model of the habitat suitability of Ruffed Grouse throughout their range in northwestern California (Objective 1). We would then use a stratified random procedure in conjunction with the SDM to generate a prospective set of representative 200 survey sites on public lands in northwestern California (Objective 2).

The project will collect a pilot season of drumming survey data collection using one senior field technician and two student assistants, monitoring at least 150 of the selected sites using Ruffed Grouse drumming surveys and establishing drumming phenology throughout the region to economize future monitoring efforts (Objective 3). We would then use these data to evaluate site selection, sampling variance, and ultimately, provide a prospective design for a long-term trend analysis program for trend detection (i.e. determine the final sample and design needed to achieve a desired power for trend monitoring; Objective 4).

Statewide Apprentice Pheasant Hunts

Project type: Hunter Opportunity / Hunter Retention

Region: Statewide

California hunting license sales dropped from 767,149 in 1970 to 273,391 in 2016. A study by Response Management (US FWS report “Fishing and Hunting Recruitment and Retention from 1990 to 2005”) showed that in 2005 the Pacific region only retained 27% of hunters which was a drop from 36% retention rate in 1990. The report highlights that over 70% of people who took a hunter education course are not continuing to hunt 5 years later. California Waterfowl Association (CWA) Hunting Heritage programs hosts beginning hunter skills camps and hunting opportunities, some of which include hunting mentors / guides. The Hunt Program currently provides high quality hunting opportunities including waterfowl, pheasant, dove, turkey, and pig hunts. We will incorporate FREE upland hunts for new hunters at private, licensed upland game bird clubs into 2017-18 Hunt program.

The specific goals of this project are to:

  1. Work to expand the list of participating licensed game bird clubs for the upland game bird coupons. Coupons will be for 2 hunters (new hunter plus guest) for pheasant, chukar or quail.
  2. Develop registration page and promote these opportunities.
  3. Manage hunt drawings, mail materials and answer questions from participants.

Statewide Habitat Fragmentation and Habitat Inventory Assessment for California, Gambel's and Mountain Quails

The three species of quails native to California (California, Gambel’s and Mountain quails) are iconic game birds of the American West. Each of these three species attracts the attention of upland game bird hunters, as well as birders across the state, yet each of these three species of quails faces threats related to loss of their habitats from the impacts of urbanization and industrial development, expanding agricultural land use, and changing forest and rangeland management.

The goal of this project is to provide a quantitative basis for prioritizing areas for quail population and habitat conservation on a state-wide basis for California. This proposal has three primary objectives for all three species of quails native to California: (1) quantify how changing land uses related to urban development, forest and rangeland management, and agricultural land uses have impacted broad-scale and localized population changes; (2) use broad-scale landscape databases to compile an inventory of habitats that have the potential to sustain populations of these three species of quails, and (3) develop predictive landscape-level models to identify how project increases in urbanization and development are likely to impact quail populations in California over the next 50 years.

Data compilation and analyses will take place at the Geospatial Technologies Laboratory at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University – Kingsville, in Kingsville, Texas and utilize geospatial data, including:

  • Breeding bird survey
  • US Census of Agriculture
  • Road network data
  • US population and housing
  • LANDSAT coverage
  • National Agriculture Imagery Program. Digital orthophoto quadrangles
  • Percent impervious surface and housing density projections

To achieve the goals of this project, we will use a hierarchical approach with three spatial scales: state,county, and home range to link the broad-scale population dynamics of three species of wild quail in California to statewide landscape metrics.

Our results will provide spatially-explicit information on places throughout the state where stewardship of these populations and for other grasslandshrubland birds will most likely be successful. Our results will also provide upland game bird hunters with spatially-explicit information on places where they are most likely to maximize their chances of hunting success and satisfaction.

UBBWA Llano Seco Unit Upland Restoration, Free Roam Phase 1

Region: North Central (Region 2)

The proposed restoration effort will improve 92 acres of upland nesting cover on the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area’s Llano Seco Unit. The restoration effort will develop a robust stand of dependable perennial grasses associated with the remaining historic sloughs which are inundated throughout the year. The area is dominated by star thistle and short stature annual grasses, which provide limited cover and resources for upland nesting and foraging bird species. The ability to develop a complex of perennial grasses establishing desirable year-round cover will increase the nesting potential and production of desired upland bird species. The perennial grasses will also provide improved fall and winter thermal cover thus helping elevate survival.

This identified free roam area provides roughly 60% of the upland game bird hunting opportunities for the public on the Llano Seco Unit. The last four seasons averaged ±2,400 public hunters at the Llano Seco Unit. The hunters who only selected to hunt upland bird species numbered ±74, with an estimated +300 hunting both waterfowl and upland game species at the same time. Dove hunters during this same time averaged 183 participants. Improvements to habitat conditions will help to improve hunting conditions for the general public on this acreage.

Upland Game Bird Habitat Development

Region: Inland Deserts (Region 6)

In this project, 1,773 acres of farm land distributed in the north end of Imperial Valley will be made available for public hunting opportunities. To minimize expense and water use, only strips will be planted with a grain crop (wheat) in each field. Of the 1,773 acres, approximately 177 acres will be farmed with a grain crop to provide game bird habitat.

Over the years, we have developed important game bird hunting opportunities in the Imperial Valley which have made this area more popular with hunters, many of whom come from coastal metropolitan areas of the state.

During opening day of dove season, these acreages accommodate between 2,500 and 4,000 hunters and over the course of the season, between 15,000 and 20,000 hunters take advantage of the hunting opportunity that this project provides.

Upper Pine Creek Guzzler Renovation

Mt. Laguna is located at the eastern edge of the Descanso Ranger District in the Cleveland National Forest and hosts several upland game bird species including wild turkey, California quail, mourning dove and band-tailed pigeons. With an average precipitation amount of 12.2 inches per year, water can become a limiting factor for the many wildlife species inhabiting its ranges, especially during the peak dry months of summer and into fall. This lack of water has been compounded by the severe drought that California has been experiencing over the last 4 years. A natural spring along Pine Creek Rd on Mt. Laguna was tapped into several decades ago but the fill pipe from the spring has since become disconnected. The proposed project would renovate the guzzler by repairing/installing a new 500 gallon full-ramp guzzler with a float system by Rainmaker Wildlife Water Guzzlers and Escape Ramps, providing a source of water during prolonged drought, which will in turn benefit upland game birds and upland game bird hunters.

Completed Projects

A Two Year Reconnaissance Study into Population Vital Rates and Space Use of Pheasants in the Central Valley, California

We propose financial support for a reconnaissance study that is critical to developing a longer term in-depth investigation of factors that influence pheasant and turkey populations in the Central Valley, California. This study will include field operations, data collection, and analytical approaches aimed at answering basic questions regarding upland game bird populations. On-the-ground monitoring will be carried out during the spring and summer seasons with less frequent monitoring during fall and winter. Details of the monitoring and analyses are listed below. The objective of this proposal is to develop collaboration between CDFW, USGS and other partners to carry out a pilot effort for field monitoring and research aimed at guiding effective management of pheasant and turkey populations in California.

The primary study objectives include:

  1. Investigate the nesting success of both Pheasants and Turkeys using video-monitoring.
  2. Investigate the brood success of both Pheasants and Turkeys and assess field methodology for capturing marking and monitoring individual pheasants using VHF telemetry.
  3. Evaluate methodologies for estimation of population vital rates (nest, brood, juvenile, and adult survival) and identify potential influential factors on those vital rates.
  4. Identify movement patterns using GPS technology.
  5. Identify and analyze food habits for both pheasants and turkeys during the brood rearing period.
  6. Conduct preliminary invertebrate availability studies in locations where mosquito abatement, seasonal flooding and other management practices differ.
  7. Evaluate pheasant and turkey use of intensively managed habitats for brood rearing.
  8. Quantify territorial turkey behavior and interactions between turkey and pheasant using audio playbacks of crowing pheasant.

Camp Cady Wildlife Area Upland Game Bird Solar Well

Region: Inland Deserts (Region 6)

This project consists of installing a solar well to access artesian water within 9-10 feet of surface elevation at Camp Cady Wildlife Area. The solar well will be used to establish a small game guzzler and to establish riparian and upland habitats using drip irrigation which will provide nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat as much as a mile away from the well site.

The establishment of this solar well project will allow for the development of a permanent water source for upland game species, as well as provide for additional habitat, forage, water, and more hunting opportunities as much as a mile away from the well site. In addition, the well may be used to help establish a nursery for the development of cottonwoods and willows to revegetate the Mojave River. Establishment of new riparian vegetation will allow for the formation of additional understory which will provide for new habitat, forage, and hunting opportunities.

Camp Cady Wildlife Area Upland Game Crop Planting

Region: Inland Deserts (Region 6)

This project consists of planting approximately 80 acres of upland food plots on public lands at the CDFW Camp Cady Wildlife Area.  This project will help maintain and increase upland wildlife communities at Camp Cady by providing essential food for upland game species.  Camp Cady Wildlife Area will contract to have the food plots planted, irrigated, and manipulated. These plantings will facilitate an increased population of upland species, quantity and quality of habitat, and increase and provide additional special hunt opportunities for junior and family pheasant hunts at the Wildlife Area. The past success of this program has been proven by hunter and Departmental surveys and its continued success relies on funding from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Quail Forever.

Cleveland-Icehouse Forest Health Project

The Eldorado National Forest has engaged in a 10-year Stewardship Agreement with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) to help implement and administer the Cleveland-Icehouse Forest Health Project. The Eldorado National Forest is one of the most popular forests for wild turkey hunters in California, and the Cleveland-Icehouse Forest Health Project will enhance upland game bird habitat on 481 acres of public hunting land within that landscape. The NWTF will oversee contractor administration, treatment design, implementation, and project financing in conjunction with the project lead from the USDA Forest Service. Implementation of the project will continue to grow as funds are acquired throughout the life of the agreement.

The Cleveland-Icehouse Forest Health Project is a 2,976 acre forest thinning project, broken up into 90 separate units. The individual units will be commercially thinned with he objective of decreasing stand densities to attain a residual basal area that would vary from approximately 60 to 100 ft2/ acre. Some units will be hand thinned while others will treated with mechanical mastication, focused on increasing residual tree health, stand heterogeneity, and rearranging fuels to decrease fuel ladders and canopy continuity.

The award of a 2017-18 Upland Game Bird Account Grant to this project will allow for the treatment of 50 additional acres through mechanical mastication.

Benefits will include the increased production of shrubs, along with annual grasses and forbs, which are all important spring and summer food resources for wild turkeys and mountain quail. The growth of herbaceous plants that will occur post-treatment will create beneficial nesting cover for wild turkeys, who prefer lateral cover up to 1 meter in height. Stand diversity will increase through the reduction of ponderosa pine encroachment on hardwood species, which will also maintain acorn production.

Once treated, these stands will be much more resilient to landscape level disturbance events, such as catastrophic wildfire, and large scale insect and disease infestation. The project area will be able to be managed in the future through prescribed fire, where low-severity fire conditions will help to set back overgrown understory succession, and enhance the quality of forage for upland game birds.

Development of a Survey Protocol for Quail and Doves in Relation to Landscape Level Habitat Assessments

Region: Inland Deserts (Region 6)

Gamebird population surveys are used to assess population size, trends, and distribution and to provide management agencies with critical information to manage populations and develop hunting regulations. Survey methods to obtain information about populations vary from visual counts of individuals, auditory or call-counts, hunter harvest surveys, and advanced methods including radio-telemetry or banding studies. Such surveys may be focused on individual species or whole taxa and are implemented at local, regional, or continental scales. Data generated during these surveys are then analyzed using a similarly variable set of statistical analyses to infer population demographic rates, population age-structure, or develop indices to or estimates of abundance.

We propose to develop a monitoring strategy and implementation plan for gamebird species of the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts of California. We will limit the scope of our survey development to quail and dove species residing in the Sonoran, Colorado, and Mohave Deserts, the Great Basin and other arid highland ecosystems where large scale habitat monitoring programs (AIM and NRI) are operational. This project will consist of three objectives:

  1. Conduct a literature review detailing pros and cons and suitability of survey methods used to investigate population abundance, trends, and distribution of quail and dove species.
  2. Develop and conduct pilot investigation of a survey protocol for quail and dove that integrates and coordinates with the large scale habitat monitoring programs administered by the BLM (AIM) and NRCS (NRI).
  3. Develop methods to integrate survey analysis protocol with local, regional, and continental bird survey programs (e.g., Mourning Dove Call-Count Survey, Breeding Bird Survey, Christmas Bird Count). We intend to utilize the AIM pilot program and the data points BLM established as part of the Riverside East, Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) Project. The one hundred AIM points put on the ground by BLM were established to try and explore the utility of the program in analyzing the 147,000 acres solar development in eastern Riverside Co. We plan to use at least ten of these sites as reference points to develop the proposed protocols for our designated gamebirds.

Gray Lodge Field 40 Enhancement

Region: North Central (Region 2)

Pheasant harvest at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area has plummeted from a high of 2,752 birds in 1983 to a mere 250 birds in 2010, which is far below the long term average of 1,160 birds.  From 2003 to 2010, Dove hunter numbers have ranged from about 200 to nearly 900 hunters, but have recently fallen well below the long term average of 490 hunters. In 2010, only 205 people hunted doves.  We hope to reverse these extremely negative trends by improving habitat conditions throughout the wildlife area.

Field 40 at Gray Lodge currently provides relatively poor quality nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants, doves, turkeys, quail and other wildlife. The vegetative complex is dominated by annual plants that provide little structure or food value during critical nesting and over wintering periods.Existing irrigation capabilities do not exist.

This project will develop and implement a comprehensive habitat enhancement plan for roughly 50 acres. A topographic and existing conditions survey will be completed to gather information necessary to properly grade the field and construct an irrigation system that will provide managers full control over independently managed units. The field will be divided into thirds using the diversified upland habitat unit (DUHU) concept that is currently being implemented throughout the wildlife area. A perennial grass mix will be planted over roughly 1/3 of the acreage, while the remaining 2/3 of the acreage will be planted to food plots. The field will be designed so that crop types can be rotated on an annual or semi-annual basis. Areas planted to perennial grass will remain productive for 3-5 years before it’s necessary to set back succession.Expected benefits are improved nesting, foraging, and over wintering habitat, which should result in higher pheasant, turkey, dove, and quail populations and ultimately more hunter opportunity.

Grizzly Island Wildlife Area Field 10 Enhancement

Region: Bay Delta (Region 3)

This project will improve upland nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants and other wildlife in a field that is currently providing poor quality habitat and hunting opportunity. Field 10 at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area has unrealized potential for providing quality nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants as well as other ground nesting birds. CWA and GIWA staff completed a small Upland Game Bird grant-funded project in Field 10 earlier this year intended to improve upland habitat quality. In general, the project was a success. However, during implementation of the project, several issues were discovered which, along with an extremely dry winter, diminished the overall benefit. We will adapt our strategy with future management, which will increase the value of the proposed project.

This proposal will enhance approximately 60 acres of upland nesting and foraging habitat within field 10. The entire project area will be rid of noxious weeds with herbicide before the ground is disturbed. After the herbicide application has taken effect, the area will be burned, mowed and heavily disked. Once the fields are clean of duff, a mosaic of nesting cover (annual grasses, perennial grasses and forbs) and forage (cereal-grains and legumes) will be planted throughout the area. The actual layout and planting design will be determined at the time of planting by CDFW staff with assistance from CWA staff. CDFW staff will provide equipment and labor to apply the herbicide. The field preparation and seed planting will be contracted.

Grizzly Island Wildlife Area Field 14 Enhancement

Region: Bay Delta (Region 3)

Fields 13 and 14 of Grizzly Island Wildlife Area (GIWA) encompass approximately 1,500 acres of upland habitat that is divided into a series of sub-fields by a system of conveyance ditches. Field 14 is approximately 950 acres and Field 13 is approximately 550 acres. These fields support a large diversity of ground nesting birds, including pheasants and waterfowl. They are also very popular for public pheasant hunters however, the current habitat conditions in these fields are poor due to the dominance of noxious weeds and invasive annual grasses.

In this project, herbicides will be used to control all non-desirable plants before the ground is disturbed. DFW and CWA staff will provide equipment and labor to apply the herbicide. After the herbicide application has taken effect, the area will be mowed, plowed and/or disced. Observations of planting efforts in adjacent fields suggest there may be significant local variability in soil fertility. Soil samples will be collected, analyzed and used to determine if any fertilization is needed.

Once the fields are clean, a seed mix designed to provide quality spring nesting cover and fall forage (grains, annual grasses, perennial grasses and forbs) will be planted. If needed, fertilizer will be applied as recommended by a local agricultural advisor. The enhanced upland habitat should support a higher density of nesting pheasants and provide better brood rearing conditions which will increase natural pheasant recruitment. The increase in pheasant recruitment should subsequently improve hunting success in the project area and nearby fields.

Guzzler Inspection, Maintenance and Repair

Region: Central (Region 4)

This project will inspect and maintain existing gallinaceous guzzlers throughout Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties on public lands. Inspection will consist of site inspection, photographing the condition, and completing a report form to be input into the Central Region guzzler database. Repairs will be completed as required to catch and hold water. Inspection and repairs will be completed with the help of Regional staff and volunteers. We will target 40 guzzlers to be inspected and maintained.

This work will benefit quail, chukar and other wildlife by maintaining and repairing existing guzzlers to provide a permanent water source in extremely arid areas within Region 4 where water is a limiting resource.

Habitat distribution modeling for the Sooty Grouse at its southern limit on the north coast of California

Region: Northern, North Central and Bay Delta (Regions 1-3)

Historically, the Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus f. fuliginosus) occurred along California’s Coast Ranges as far south as the Russian River in central Sonoma County. The species’ distribution and status have not been duly assessed south of Humboldt and Trinity counties. It is important to inventory breeding sites of the Sooty Grouse because, where the species occurs at low density, it breeds communally, gathering year after year at the same sites. These are core habitats, and identifying them is essential for managing local populations of Sooty Grouse.

Sooty Grouse populations in California's northern Coast Ranges are a southern peninsular extension of the species’ continental range and this species appears to be vulnerable to extirpation in peninsular habitats, perhaps because habitat conditions become increasingly marginal toward the tip of the peninsula

In this project, Game Bird Research Group proposes to:

  1. Attain accurate coordinate locations for a sample of territorial male Sooty Grouse throughout Mendocino, Glenn, Lake, and Sonoma counties.
  2. Create a habitat suitability model that predicts the locations of additional breeding sites throughout the region.

Maintenance for CDFW Guzzler Nos. 3, 15, 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 31, 36 & 37; Angeles National Forest

Region: South Coast (Region 5)

Southern California has experienced a severe drought over the past three years that has resulted in a recent declaration by the Governor of an emergency state-wide water shortage. Quail populations within the project area have been in steady decline over the past 30 years and have reached record lows during the recent period of extended drought. Artificial wildlife watering devices are essential to maintaining quail reproduction in this semiarid environment, particularly during periods of extended drought.

CDFW initiated a wildlife guzzler construction program, completing many projects throughout California during the 1950’s through the 1970’s however, during the past 40 years or more, CDFW, USFS and others have failed to maintain the guzzlers installed in the Los Angeles District for various reasons, including lack of funding and lost records. Santa Clarita Chapter of Valley Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (SCVQUWF) has recently undertaken a volunteer project to locate and assess all of the existing DFW guzzlers and has already located over 20 of the DFW guzzler units in the Los Angeles District, all of which are in need of repair.

The primary products of the project are:

  1. Reestablish 10 DFW wildlife guzzlers to once again provide necessary water sources for quail and other upland game animals.
  2. Install game cameras on selected guzzlers during nesting season to monitor the effectiveness of the project. Manual bird counts by volunteer observation are also planned.
  3. Provide a long-term study basis for documenting the positive effect of artificial water sources and usage of free-standing water sources by wildlife as recommended by Simpson, et. al. of CDFW Wildlife Investigations Laboratory (2011, California Fish and Game 97(4):190-209)
  4. Provide important “leaping points” on remote divides between known natural watering holes in order to help support biodiversity in the face of climate change.
  5. To study the effectiveness of providing artificial water sources for upland game animals within areas of public lands designated for off-highway vehicular recreational use (Selected Guzzler Nos. 25, 27, 30, and 31 will provide this unique opportunity)

Pilot Project for Pheasant Habitat Development in a Drought Impacted Landscape

Region: North Central (Region 2)

The current historic drought and ongoing water shortage issues have resulted in unprecedented fallowing of previously intensively farmed lands in the name of water conservation. Couple this landscape change with a human population that has effectively doubled since the last big drought period in the mid to late 1970’s, and water shortages have become the new reality.

To date there has been little work and research into the types of vegetation which could provide optimum habitat for upland species in this changing landscape of water shortage and much of the existing work has centered on providing nesting habitat for ducks. While beneficial for nesting ducks, many of these practices have had reduced value for upland species and some of the current direction toward grass planting may actually be a detriment to pheasants as chicks which find great difficulty in foraging in a grass under-story as opposed to more of a forb related structure. Grasses also fail to provide the microclimate that produces moisture and associated insect populations.

This project will establish a sixty-six acre demonstration site to test the viability of certain plant species as well as the wildlife response over a three year period. Plantings include mixes of forbs, with some limited grasses in various combinations to simulate the various season scenarios which might be experienced under water transfer or idling programs.

Tests of efficient methods for assessing Mountain Quail abundance and habitat

Region: Central (Region 4)

Drought and increased wildfire severity have altered the structure, composition, and distribution of chaparral habitats in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, relative to pre-fire suppression conditions. These trends will likely continue in the future due to climate change, yet their impact on Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus) is essentially unknown. Assessment of Mountain Quail abundance and critical habitat is hindered by the lack of practical and efficient methods for counting birds and measuring dense, frequently impenetrable, chaparral vegetation. The Game Bird Research Group proposes to quantify the temporal patterns of Mountain Quail vocalizations that underpin abundance estimates derived from call counts.

The Ring-necked Pheasant (Pasianus colchicus) in California: Assessing Status and Factors Related to Population Trends

Upland Game Developed Water Structure Maintenance

Regions: Central, South Coast and Inland Deserts (Regions 4-6)

Carrying capacity for upland game species and other wildlife is heavily dependent upon water in arid environments. The objective of this effort is to systematically visit developed water sites throughout the southern Regions of the state to insure that they are functioning in an optimum fashion. While many of these sites are entirely man-made many are often seep and spring improvements.

A dedicated group of volunteers uses their own equipment, time and whatever financial resources they can raise, to visit desert and forest watering sites on most weekends in an effort to improve conditions for wildlife by maintaining these sites. The purpose of this grant is to help these individual with materials to help them do this important work and will ensure future generations will be able to enjoy enhanced hunting opportunities.

This project requests funds for materials while private parties and non-profits provide the fuel, vehicles and manpower to restore and in some cases replace existing watering structures in Department of Fish and Wildlife Regions: 4, 5, and 6.