Q and A | Waterfowl Reservations, Sharing Fish and Javelin Hunting

Each month Carrie Wilson, a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, answers questions sent in by outdoorsmen on a wide range of hunting and fishing topics. This month, Carrie tackles a range of questions including one about the process used to choose hunters for waterfowl reservations, a question about trading fish parts and even one inquiry on using a javelin when hunting.

Q: How are waterfowl reservations picked and how are they kept random? There seems to be something wrong with the system because it doesn’t seem to be randomly selecting people. Several of my neighbors and I have put in for the season draw for multiple refuges for the last few years without much success. One person has not been drawn in the past two years. Some people may get drawn only once while other people are getting drawn quite a bit. Can you please shed some light on this for us? — Rod H.

A: Unfortunately, the competition for waterfowl reservations is enormous! More than 750,000 hunt choices have been submitted for the 2011/2012 season so far. Some areas are extremely difficult to draw. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) License Program Analyst Glenn Underwood, reservations are issued by random drawings. Each drawing is independent and does not affect the outcome of any other drawing. The likelihood of being drawn does not increase when if you are not drawn for a previous hunt. Odds are determined solely by the number of applicants who apply for an area on that date.

In a series of random drawings, some people are likely to be drawn more than once, and some may not be drawn at all. The results should look somewhat like half of a bell curve.

Here’s an example: For a drawing for the San Jacinto Wildlife Area January 18 hunt, we received 27,310 submitted hunt choices for 1,300 reservations issued. Of these:

â–ª 2,827 hunters received no reservations

â–ª 746 hunters received one reservation

â–ª 206 hunters received two reservations

â–ª 42 hunters received three reservations

â–ª 4 hunters received four reservations

Keep in mind that some hunters may apply for only one hunt day and others have applied for every hunt day.

We realize how important receiving a reservation is to each hunter and want hunters to know how difficult it is to draw a reservation. For this reason, Underwood publishes the drawing statistics online and mails them to hunters each year with the Waterfowl Season Update. He also posts the drawing results online for the convenience of hunters. While posting the results online occasionally inspires a phone call to Underwood from a frustrated hunter who sees another who has been drawn more frequently, Underwood is happy to provide this service and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the results with hunters.

Beginning with the 2011 season, reservation drawings are performed through the Automated License Data System (ALDS) and drawing results are still posted online, though are only viewable by the individual after logging in to ALDS. Underwood says he is still happy to provide statistics to those who are interested.

The computerized drawing systems used for big-game tags and waterfowl reservations have pre-draw and post-draw audit logs that record all the steps in the drawing and awarding of tags and reservations. We could not influence the drawing if we wanted to. If you would like to see how a reservation drawing is performed, please contact Glenn Underwood at [email protected] and he will be happy to give you a quick demonstration using an actual drawing. Fair warning — the computerized drawing process is quite boring.

Hopefully, your luck will turn around soon, but if it doesn’t, don’t let that stop you. You can still hunt using the local lottery or first-come, first-served line.

Q: I want the spinal cord from a legally caught white sturgeon that was taken from a pier by a sport fisherman. I also want to smoke a good portion of the meat in exchange for some of the smoked fish. Is it legal for my friend to give me the spinal cord? Is it legal to smoke the fish in exchange for a portion of the fish? — Catharine S.

A: There is no law prohibiting your friend from giving you the spinal cord or any other part of a legally possessed fish, so long as all other laws are followed. However, fish caught under the authority of a sport fishing license cannot be bought, sold, traded or bartered in any manner. This includes any type of trade or barter of even parts with the expectation of receiving something in return.

Q: I just tried javelin throwing for the first time and it sparked an idea that I could hunt with this for big-game mammals. But I can’t find it specified anywhere in the mammal hunting regulations booklet. Does this mean that since it isn’t mentioned it’s illegal to use to take down an animal? — Brent L.

A: You are correct. Hunting by spear or javelin is not a legal method of take.

If you have a question you’d like to send to the DFG, visit or email it to [email protected].

Carrie Wilson
Carrie Wilson is a 30-year CDFW veteran and an avid outdoor enthusiast, angler and hunter. She is a marine biologist with a strong background of profe...