The Sacramento Bee’s Ryan Sabalow literally waded into the weeds over the weekend with an in depth story on how the massive California drought is affecting duck hunters in the Central Valley. And as imagined, things are tough as the state struggles to find water. Refugees and rice farmers have less water to flood their property, which trickles down to hunters in the form of smaller quotas and limited access, in addition to higher costs for blinds.
As land available to hunters shrinks, there’s more at stake than increased competition for access to remaining wetlands. State officials point to implications for the state’s rural economy – and ultimately for waterfowl.
Duck hunting is a tradition ingrained in California’s Central Valley and northeastern reaches. In these rural areas, hunters provide a seasonal economic boost to gas stations, motels and diners during waterfowl season, which generally runs from October through January. Because rice farmers often lease hunting blinds to duck hunters, they also receive a financial benefit – one that helps motivate them to flood their fields, creating tens of thousands of acres of surrogate waterfowl habitat.
That’s part of the reason that some conservationists say a decline in duck hunting actually could spell bad news for the ducks.
Waterfowl hunters are a critical source of habitat funding, said Dan Yparraguirre, a deputy director at the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“It’s the hunters that are paying the freight,” he said.