2011 Letter to the Livermore-Pleasanton Chapter of MDF

In March of 1992, The Mule Deer Foundation had approximately 2,500 members. It appeared to be an organization with a good mission, so a group of Livermore conservationists formed a chapter and held a fundraising banquet. 

You may have been one of the 194 people who attended the first banquet, held at the Springtown Community Center. We were quite proud to raise $14,000 for MDF. Since that time we’ve had seventeen additional banquets, making eighteen in total. This year is our nineteenth and 2012 will make it twenty.

 In 1992 the mission was “To preserve and protect mule and blacktail deer and their habitat.” Since that time, the mission has evolved. The mission is now stated a little differently; “To ensure the future of mule deer, blacktail deer and their habitat.” The words are slightly different, but the meaning is the same.

 Beyond the mission is a set of goals. The goals are:

  • To restore, improve and protect mule deer habitat (including land and easement acquisitions) resulting in self-sustaining, healthy, free ranging and huntable deer populations;
  • To encourage and support responsible wildlife management with government agencies, private organizations and landowners;
  • To promote public education and scientific research related to mule deer and wildlife management;
  • To support and encourage responsible and ethical behavior and awareness of issues among those whose actions affect mule deer;
  • Acknowledge regulated hunting as a viable component of mule and black-tailed deer conservation.

Although MDF goals have been in place since inception, they too have evolved as the organization matured. Initially the word hunting was omitted. In about 1997, the MDF board of directors very deliberately added the fifth goal. We are an organization of hunters, and conservation includes hunting as a key component.

Goal number three addresses public education. In an effort to education our local youth, the Livermore-Pleasanton Chapter of MDF has held several youth days over the years and many local children have been introduced to conservation and also firearms, an important component of hunting.

This year, MDF will begin a new era of youth education and its fair to say that the Livermore-Pleasanton model will be part of the baseline for establishing a program that not only will have many volunteers, but also significant funding from Larry Potterfield of Midway USA.

In this year’s program, you will find a .243 youth rifle (donated by Potterfield) and the proceeds from the sale of this rifle will directly benefit MDF’s new youth program.

Thanks Larry Potterfield, we appreciate your business.

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.

A First-Duck-Hunt Jackpot


Youth hunts are supposed to be a good opportunity, but this was ridiculous.

Fourteen year old Robbie was on his first duck hunt and he must have been impressed as we headed for the pond. Thousands of ducks and geese were rising from the marsh as we approached.

Snow geese were exploding from the water with a roar of wings. Pintail, wigeon and teal were zipping about. White front geese were making their signature yodel calls.

Our first set-up didn’t work out, so we moved a little closer to the grind and Robbie made the first attempts of his life to bring down a duck. Lola and I were there to retrieve the birds and set up in the cattails behind Robbie, his grandfather Ron Spradlin and my brother Rob. After the first shot I remember hearing some chuckling as Robbie got his first appreciation for the speed which ducks travel.

And, at the same time waterfowl went airborne in all directions. Spring, teal, wigeon, they were everywhere.

Now there were plenty of targets. After four or five whiffs in short order, I began to wonder how long it would take Robbie to get the hang of it. Then a flock of ducks came in low in front of us and down came a hen sprig. Lola did her work and we were on our way.

I think he hit three in a row including a greenhead that came to our calling. After a miss, he downed another greenhead. Impressive for a first duck hunt.

As the birds thinned out, we could see that quite a few wigeon were working another part of the pond a about 150 yards away so we shifted. On the way a flock of specs appeared and headed directly for us. We ducked into the cattails and Robbie reloaded.

On his first shot at a goose he connected and now were were cooking. Shortly after arriving at the next setup, several huge flocks of snow geese appeared on the horizon. The low-flying geese passed directly overhead and with three shots Robbie downed two.

A few minutes later severl groups of Ross’s Geese decended upon us and with that Robbie had six geese. Lola and I spend about a half hour rounding up snow geese which seemed to be dropping all over the pond.

At about 11:00 AM, Ron declared that he and Robbie had enough and we headed back to camp for sandwiches. What a day. In the end Robbie had fired almost two boxes of shells and had collected four ducks and six geese. What a first duck hunt.

Climb the Mountain, Catch the Fish, Utilize the Outdoor Classroom

A couple weeks ago, I spent a week with three friends hutning deer in the Hoover Wilderness. Although my initial efforts were focused on bringing home a bragging buck, the mountain quickly humbled my attitude and in the end, my trophy buck was only a young three-point.  It was still a trophy to me.

The altitude, the steep slopes and my no-longer-young body forced me to accept reality. However, during many of the rest stops required to make it to the top of the mountain, I was continually invigorated by the spectacular landscape surrounding me.

Many times I thought about the experience, available to most, but utilized by few, and how much people miss by not entering the outdoors. Hunting and fishing is a physical and spiritual experience that feeds my spirit and lifts me to be a more fulfilled, more fit and more spiritual individual.

However, in California today, the entire hunting and fishing culture is on the verge of collapse. The end of hunting and fishing won’t be by decree, ballot measure or lack of resource, it will just sneak up on us like global warming.

However, there is a great need for the outdoor experience and it has never been more important than today. Urban and inter-city youth need the outdoors. It’s a match like kids and dogs. A partnership between youth leaders in urban areas and those who manage California’s outdoor resources could produce a pipeline to transport a new generation of outdoorsmen and women to outdoor classrooms around the state.

This has been done before by many groups on small scale. It’s time to gear up. Without hunters and fishermen, California’s outdoor resources will become underutilized and underfunded. Without the outdoors, our youth will be denied the opportunity to be the best they can be.