CALIFORNIA’S WISTER UNIT POSTS LOW AVERAGE OF BIRDS ON OPENING DAY – Is a bad day in the blind really better than not going to work? Duck hunters who went to the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area were trying to figure out the answer to that question on opening weekend.
The California Duck population was already said to be 14% below the long-term average as of July 2019. But duck numbers for Wister were 77.62% lower this year than they were last year. Last year on opening day, Wister posted an average of 6.3 waterfowl per person. On October 19, 2019, the Wister Unit posted an abnormally low opening day average of 1.41 waterfowl per hunter.
Wister is typically slow to see the average go above two (2) birds per person. This is due to where it is located. It sits next to the Salton Sea in Imperial County, and just a short drive from the Mexican border. The unit will stay hot with no water for most of the fall. Last year Wister finally had a two (2) bird per person average on December 5, 2018. A 1.4 average or below is typically reserved for week two of Duck Season, not opening day. On top of the low number of birds there was a lower number of hunters who showed up for opener. Only 66 of 105 (62.8%) reservations showed up as well as a lot of hunters had scouted the area during dove opener and saw the low water levels.
The low water levels and overall duck numbers for opening day indicate a lack of effort by management. Scott Sewell manages the Wister Unit and came under a lot of fire from local hunters over the weekend in a Facebook group (See SoCal Waterfowlers). Mr. Sewell did say Wister is “80-85% full” which is “higher than the majority of [Wildlife Areas] in the State in the flooding to acreage ratio.”
Hunters are not only upset over an apparent lack of water for the majority of blinds, but also that the toilets had not been cleaned since the end of last season (January 2019). Scott does have a smaller crew than normal. He is looking to hire three (3) more people to help maintain the Wister Unit. They are doing the best they can with only 3 guys to help. The Wister Unit is a tough one to maintain and retain good employees. This is due to where it is located and the living conditions of the staff. As of now, the 2019 season doesn’t look promising for duck season at the Wister unit. The water levels in the blinds appear lower than what is required to maintain a solid waterfowl population. These latent problems will likely not help the harvest numbers any time before December.
Hunters can express their concern to the Department of Fish and Wildlife by emailing the director (fill out the form here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Explore/Director/Email) or contacting the DFW at (916) 445-0411.
Let us know what you think of the Wister Unit in the comments below!