MDF Supports SB 1058

May 27, 2010
The Honorable Jared Huffman, Chair                                                                    

Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee

1020 N Street, Room 160

Sacramento, CA 95814

RE:     SB 1058 (Harman) – SUPPORT

 Dear Assembly Member Huffman:

 On behalf of The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), I am writing you to urge your support of SB 1058 (Harman), which would provide greater accountability and transparency over the use of hunting license tag and stamp revenues. MDF is a 501c3 tax exempt organization whose mission is to conserve mule and blacktail deer and their habitats.

 SB 1058 would require that hunting license tag and stamp monies, whether for deer, wild pigs, wild sheep, bear, elk, antelope or game birds, be used for certain game species conservation and related purposes.  In addition, the bill would require that conservation groups, like MDF, have an opportunity to review and provide comment on proposed projects funded with the monies—creating much-needed transparency and allowing for projects to be better tailored to fit the conservation needs of particular game species.

 It should also be noted that the bill consolidates the existing fiscal accounts for big game species into one single account which improves efficiencies in the use of the monies. SB 1058 would also facilitate greater assistance with habitat projects by nonprofits who specialize in game species conservation.

 SB 1058 ensures that hunting license tag and stamp monies are used for their intended game species conservation purposes.  Please support this bill when it is considered before your committee.


 Rich Fletcher

State Chair, The Mule Deer Foundation

CA Governor’s Race. Am I a Single-Issue Voter?

My voting record is very conservative, probably more conservative than my thinking.

Immigration, finances, taxation, they’re all very important to me. However, when I look at the California Governor election, one agenda item stands out strongly above the rest. Will the Governor stand up for hunters? appoint effective leadership for the Department of Fish and Game? Will he protect our rights to own firearms and will he provide appropriate funding for conservation programs?

No other elected official has the impact on the DFG that the Governor does. He appoints the Director of the Department  of Fish and Game (DFG) and Fish and Game Commission members. He oversees the budget and has veto power over bills that are necessary or harmful to the existence of the activity I am most passionate about.

Does this power over the future of hunting warrant electing a Governor based upon his position on one issue only?


Every hunter needs to think this over. We need a Governor who commits to supporting the California Department of Fish and Game. He must support the 2nd amendment. He must agree to appointing a Director of Fish and Game who supports hunting and the Governor must assure us that user fees collected specifically for conservation, will not be channeled away from DFG inappropriately.

How can we assure that a pro-hunting Governor will be elected? There is a way and we need to find it. If we don’t, we will one day wake up and find that our treasured pursuit is a thing of the past.

Along with that loss will come a loss of habitat that will change the face of California. There are many many people who have no idea how important hunting is to the existence of wildlife habitat and wild places.

Are you a single-issue voter?

Blacktail Tree Stand

Over the years I’ve hunted from a tree stand occasionally. The closest I’ve ever come to bagging a deer from a treestand came last summer from my current stand. A forked-horn buck walked past my stand and then turned towards me. He approached within four yards of my positon. He wasn’t a big buck, but at four yards, I decided it was about time I shot at something.

Previous to that blacktail encounter, I had never taken a shot from a tree. I once carried my stand into the National Forest in Idano for a few miles and set up near a beaver pond. A 7X7 herd bull came in to my bugle and stopped broadside at 15 yards. Unfortunately, there was a large fir tree between me and his vitals.

That same year, a spike bull came in to ten yards and fed around my stand, but I wanted something bigger. I believe I could have arrowed that bull. A nice bull moose also walked under my stand that year, but I wasn’t hunting moose.

While hunting from my tree stand near Anderson Flat, outside Yosemite, I had a mountain lion chase a deer past me.

However, until last summer I’d never loosed an arrow. From four yards I drew aimed and released. The arrow zipped over his back. I guess he was too close.

This summer I’ll try again. Here’s a photo of my stand.

Tree Stand

 There’s a pond about 75 yards down hill from the stand and in the summer heat, bucks like to drink from the pond and then walk up to the patch of trees to bed in the shade. I’m hoping to break my tree-stand drought this summer. Last month I set up my 3D target and practiced shooting from the stand. On my third shot, the limb of my bow hit the safety bar. It made a huge clank, and sent my arrow off line. So much for the safety bar.

It is a little scarry for me when shooting down at close targets, but I have a good harness and safety system. I’m not as stable as I once was, but I’ll be looking for about a fifteen yard shot and that’s a range where they are most likely to pass. I’m better prepared this year.

 These deer are feeding under the trees next to where my stand is currently located. I’ll be ready if a nice buck arrives this July.

Do Coyotes Eat Ants?

Pair of coyote tracks

The pair of coyote tracks in the above photo was pointed out to me by my brother, Rob, during one of our reptile surveys. He had already figured out what was going on, before telling me about them. The tracks were the front feet of a coyote. They were deeply groved into the soft dirt, an indication that the dog had stood in one place, moving his head and forcing the tracks into the ground deeper than usual. The size of the tracks was just right for a coyote, but I wouldn’t rule out a gray fox.

Two feet in front of the tracks was a bush that completely blocked the view in his front vision. He wouldn’t have been looking ahead of him as he could only see about one foot. Yet he had stood in this position for more than a brief moment.  About a foot in front of the track, ants were traveling in and out of an ant hole. The coyote had stopped at this spot to feast on a few ants before moving on.

Tracks and ant hole outlined

With a little assistance, the picture is made more clear.

Here are the ants.

ants circled

I wonder how many ants a coyote can eat.

COHA: A Huge Agenda for CA Hunters

The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA) held its annual meeting for members last week. The program showed that they are seemingly involved in every facit of California wildlife conservation. A non-profit 501 c4 organization, COHA, has the ability to lobby the state legislature in support of legislation that benefits hunters and fishermen as well as lobby against legislation that damages their members.

Here are a few of the areas where COHA is active:


State Legislature: Lobbies in support of and opposition to legislation affecting hunters.

State Resource Agencies: Created the SHARE program creating additional hunting opportunity for California sportsmen. Supports public hunting on Refuges and Wildlife Areas

California Fish and Game Commission: Routinely appears before the F&G Commission on behalf of hunters. Works with F&G Commission subcommittees such as the Al Tausher Committee. 


U. S. Congress


Willow Creek Mutual Water District – Lambertville, Black Point Sports Club – Sonoma County, Suisun Marsh – Bay/Delta, Grasslands – San Joaquin Valley, Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area – Southern San Joaquin Valley, Mystic Lake – Riverside County, Klamath Basin

Political Action: COHA raises funds in support of pro-conservation candidates for the California legislature. COHA meets with candidates to develop support for the California Department of Fish and Game for the benefit of hunters and fishermen.

COHA obtains much of its funding via donations from conservation organizations such as the Mule Deer Foundation, California Waterfowl Association, California Deer Association, National Wild Turkey Association, Delta Waterfowl Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Funding is also obtained by individual donors, the Outdoor Industry, Hunting and Shooting Clubs.

COHA organizes a few events each year to generate funding without competing with other conservation groups. COHA also lends a hand to other organizations to assist them with fundraising.

COHA plays a private sector role in organizing and promoting the California Legislative Outdoor Sporting Caucus. Activities include a dinner, trap shoot and tours to help educate Caucus members and their staff on hunting related issues of importance.

Here’s a link to the COHA website where you can obtain more details about COHA and find out how you can support their efforts:

COHA staff, director and members posed for a group picture before departing from the Members Meeting last week. (L to R) MDF Regional Director – Randy Morrison, COHA Member and Wilderness Unlimited Manager – Rick Copeland, COHA Vice President for Legislative Affairs – Mark Hennelly, MDF President/CEO and COHA director – Miles Moretti, and COHA Directors of Development – Rick Bulloch and Gretchen Heffler.

New “Alameda” Tule Elk Zone gets One Bull Tag


The Department of Fish and Game has recognized the Alameda and San Joaquin County tule elk herd by creating a new elk zone and allocating one tag for the 2010 season. The zone is bounded by I580, I5, the San Joaquin-Stanislaus County line, the Alameda-Santa Clara County line and I680.

Here’s the map:

Alameda County Elk Unit

There is no public land in this unit, so you may want to ask around to see about getting permission. On the other hand, if you draw the tag, there won’t be much competition.

The Homesteaders

Wooden cross at John Rodriguez's cabin.

Our hill ranch has given me a new sense of appreciation for history. I’ve recently been investigating the history of our property for reasons that I’ll explain in later posts. It turns out that the first owners of our ranch were immigrants that purchased land created by the Homestead Act of 1862. Before that, it was owned by the U.S. Government. 

I’ve still got a way to go, but here is some of the information I’ve learned. Our ranch is section land and section land was created by government survey. In this case, the survey of Township 4 South, Range 2 East was recorded in May of 1875. The survey was started by a surveyor named Sherman Day in 1853 and it was completed by a surveyor named W.H. Carlton. In between it was worked on for many years by E.H. Dyer. 

A Township is 6 miles square and most Townships have 36 sections. In our Township, nearly a third of the land is Rancho Land, which means that it was created by a grant of the Mexican Government prior to California statehood and it was then blessed by a U.S. Government Land Commission in 1863. The remainder of the Township was subject to Homestead Acts. It was deeded out by the Bureau of Land Management as Land Patents. Some of these created warrants which helped the government pay of its debt to soldiers. Some of these debts remained from service during the War of 1812. 

Land Patents authorized under the Homestead Act of 1862 were most common, along with land given to railroad companies to incentivize them to build railroads. One of our Sections (27)was railroad land owned by Western Pacific Railroad. 

Some of our quarter sections are refered to by the names of former owners and a few of these were the original homesteaders. For example a quarter section in Section 26 is often called “The Logan” for the individual who purchased the original homestead. 

One of the homesteaders in Section 34 was Antonio Silva. According to the Land Patent, he purchased his parcel on September 10, 1886. Then he built on a north-facing slope under a group of large white oaks overlooking a stream later named LaCosta Creek, but only called “deep canyon” on the original survey map. Directly across the canyon was a huge rock bluff where the Ohlone Indians sat and pounded acorns. They also created bowls on the rocks with the stone pedestals used to crush the acorns. The top of the rock bluff is a pleasant place to spend time, especially when doing simple work. Oak trees shade the rocks and the view is inspiring. 

The cabin and barn on the quarter section homesteaded by Marcelino Maciel.

The next quarter section downstream was purchased by Marcelino Maciel on November 4, 1889. Maciel’s parcel is where Fritz’s cabin sits today. The building records state that it was built in 1908. Myron Harris purchased the property from the estate of Dick Marciel in 1954 or 55. Somewhere along the line, the name must have evolved from Maciel to Marciel. 

Local folk-lore is that a Portuguese immigrant named John Rodriguez appeared at Antonio Silva’s cabin one night. I have no way of knowing what year it was. Rodriguez had worked in a blacksmith shop in Mission San Jose, which was a major hub of commerce. When a man spit on him, Rodriguez went to his boss to ask what it meant. His boss explained that this was a sign of disrespect. The man later returned and spit on him a second time. Rodriguez buried the axe, he had been sharpening, in his tormentor’s chest. 

Then, knowing he was in trouble, Rodriguez fled to the hills and ended up at Antonio Silva’s cabin. Later, Silva went to town and located Rodriguez’s relatives. Apparently they helped him build a cabin and barn on the NE quarter of Section 28, another parcel we now own. His nieces purchased the property and Rodriguez apparently lived out his life there. The cabin was burned down when he died, but a cross sits in a dead oak tree next to the spot where his cabin stood.  All that remains is a rusted box spring and shell of an ancient Wedgewood stove. 

Wedgwood Stove at the Rodriguez cabin site.

Ranch Ponds in Spring

During March, April and May, the ranch ponds come alive. The early breeders are tiger salamanders, tree frogs and newts. Shortly thereafter come the red-legged frogs. Although you seldom see the adults in winter, their eggs appear each March.

The red-legged frog eggs are well developed.

California newts breed in the ponds and are particularly abundant in ponds that hold water throughout the year.

 As early as December, the tiger salamanders lay their individual eggs on grass stems and small branches. By May, the larvae are sometimes visible in ponds. On a good year like this, the ponds blossom in tadpoles and insects. The salamanders grow rapidly.

When they're abundant and the water's clear, you can sometimes spot the larvae.

By April, the garter snakes arrive and chase down tadpoles and salamander. They are impressive swimmers.

When the garter snakes find the ponds, they feed voraciously.

“Barn Carvings” Follow-up

A while back, I posted some photos of carvings on a barn at the south end of our ranch. The following comment was posted earlier today by Douglas Vierra. Here’s what he had to say.

An old (40 years ago) friend of mine sent me a copy of your blog on “Barn Carvings Near Sunol”.  He did so because of the time I took him up to see my old friend “Fritz” Schield.  My family was related to Manuel Silva, who owned and lived at/on the next ranch up the road.  I spent a lot of time there as a young boy/man growing up in the 1950’s.
  As my Uncle Manuel reached into his 90s I was sent up there to live with him for a year or so  – I believe the years were 1972-’73.  Manuel was born on the ranch in (I think) 1888, and it was there that he wanted to die.  The only other permenant resident back in those remote hills, was our neighbor “Fritz” Shield, about 5 miles down the road from us, whom I visited often.
    After Manuel Silva died (at 96 or 97) I continued to visit with Fritz and later lived with him for awhile while he was going through eye surgery.  So between the two of them (Fritz Shield & Manuel Silva) I learned quite a bit about the early history of the region – too much to go into here.  But if anyone is interested, drop me a line.
    Quick note:  Fritz was a native of Switzerland, who immigrated here in 1922.  And Fritz’s (Dick Marciel) cabin was originally built across the valley by an early homesteader.  When the homesteader was bought out, the cabin was hauled (skids and horses) down the valley to the creek crossing, and then up to the present site.

This is a great lead and I plan to get in touch with Douglas to learn more about the history of the ranch.

Fritz's cabin as it looks from the road overlooking LaCosta Creek

Turkey Season ends on Low Note, but First Hunt Still a Success

When I invited my young cousins to come turkey hunting, I knew it might be slim pickens. However, being their first hunt of any kind, I figured it would be worthwhile training.

A couple of weeks ago, I retook the hunter safety course along with my cousins, Orion and Max, 13 and 15 respectively. I was a little surprised that they were willing to invest the time – being urban youths from Berkeley, a concrete and asphalt town where skateboarding is king.

I was pleasantly surprised that they took a liking to the curriculum. The course was all about the right stuff and the boys ate it up. A follow-up turkey hunt was in order. I don’t know if it was what they expected or if they had any idea of what to expect, but we prepared by patterning the shotguns and making sure they could kill a turkey if the opportunity arose.

The hunt fell flat. We didn’t hear a single gobble or see a turkey or turkey track for that matter, but we gave it our all. Along the way we did see a few rattlers and other wildlife. The boys managed to catch a few bluebellies and knock off a couple ground squirrels with the .22. We had one of them for dinner – not too bad.

On Saturday afternoon we visited the site of a known rattlesnake den. Sure enough this is what we found – a Pacific rattlesnake. Earlier in the say we found a very young rattler. Notice the difference in appearance.

Young Pacific Rattlesnakes have diamonds like a diamondback rattlesnake

The boys shot plenty of clays with shotgun, .22 rifle and even my .22 revolver. I think they had a pretty good weekend. But, it was hard to tell on Sunday afternoon as they slept in my car in route home. After getting up at 4:30 AM, we were all pooped out including myself.

Turned out Orion was left eye dominant. He switched to left handed and shot well.