Woman dressed warmly in camouflage and standing in marsh reeds aims a shotgun into the air

Hunting is a traditional use of renewable natural resources deeply rooted in America’s heritage, and it can be an important wildlife management tool. The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, other laws, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s policy permit hunting on a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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when it is compatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established.

Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Waterfowl Hunt Regulations 2023-24

The Humboldt Bay NWR waterfowl hunt program is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, but is subject to all pertinent California hunting regulations. Hunters should refer to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Waterfowl Hunting regulations and the Humboldt Bay NWRC Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

For current hunt results and gate opening times, please call the Waterfowl Hunter Update 707-733-5518

Permits, Rules, Regulations & Fees

Hunters must have: CA Hunting License, HIP Validation, CA Waterfowl Validation, and Federal Duck Stamp 

Hunting Hours

Hunting hours will coincide with California State Regulations, except on the Salmon Creek Unit.

-Teal Island, Egret Island and Hookton Slough– Boat-in access only, and consistent with CA Fish and Game Code Section 3681, open for hunting on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays, and holidays and the opening and closing days during the prescribed open season. Only non-motorized boats may be launched from the Hookton Slough boat dock, additionally no firearms are allowed at this trailhead or dock.  

-Jacoby Creek, Eureka Slough and Table Bluff Units- Jacoby Creek and Eureka Slough Units are designated as boat-in access only. The portions of these units adjacent to the shoreline are open daily for hunting during the California waterfowl season. Those portions within 100 yards of any roadway are retrieval zones only. Table Bluff Unit can be accessed by boat or by walking in.

-Salmon Creek Unit Controlled Waterfowl Hunt Permit Area, located at 1020 Ranch Road, Loleta, CA is open Tuesdays and Saturdays only, from mid-late October until late January. This unit is closed on Federal Holidays. The Refuge check station opens 2 hours before legal shoot time. A random drawing for available permits will take place at the check station 1 1/2 hours prior to shoot time before each daily hunt. Hunters must be present to be eligible for the draw.

Check Out - Cease fire is at 3:00pm. Hunters must return their harvest report card at the check station by 4:30pm.

Permit Fees

The Refuge’s controlled waterfowl hunt is operated under the Federal Recreation User Program.  The fee for hunters between the ages of 18 and 61 is $10.00 for paired, or $20.00 for single, with a maximum of four persons per hunting party.

Junior Hunters

There is no fee for junior hunters (under the age of 18), but they must be accompanied by an adult. Any person hunting under the authority of a junior hunting license is not required to have a CA duck validation. However, all hunters must have a HIP validation, and hunters older than 16 are required to have a Federal Duck Stamp

Holders of Golden Age (62 and older) or Golden Access (disabled) Passports pay half price.

Species - Hunting of geese, ducks, coots and snipe is permitted. 

Ammunition and Firearms

Hunters may possess and use, while in the field, no more than 25 shells per day.  Non-Toxic shot is required on all refuge units, consistent with California state regulations. Firearms must be unloaded while being transported between parking areas and the blind sites.

Dogs - Trained retrievers are strongly encouraged while hunting, in order to minimize lost birds. When not hunting, dogs must be in vehicles or on a leash and kept under control at all times. Dogs are not allowed to enter closed areas for any reason.

Parking - Vehicle parking is permitted only in designated areas.  

Littering - Hunters must remove all decoys, shot shell casings and other personal equipment from the refuge following each day’s hunt.  Littering is unlawful. Pack out litter.

Lottery Draw Procedures

This information is intended to give waterfowl hunters a better understanding of the lottery draw system at the Salmon Creek Unit check station.

Procedures

Waterfowl hunters or groups of hunters are required to sign-in at the check station in order to participate in that days hunt.  To sign in, put the first and last names of all persons in your hunting party (up to four people) on the provided 3X5 card and turn the card into the check station attendant. When the card is turned in, hunters will be given a corresponding number which will be used in the random lottery draw for available hunting blinds. Hunters must be present in order to participate in the lottery draw.

When the lottery draw is complete and the numbers are posted in the order they were drawn, the check station attendant will begin filling blinds and checking in hunters in the order of the lottery draw. These numbers will also be used to prioritize re-filling blinds.

Joining up

The first fourteen (14) lottery numbers drawn may join with any other of the first fourteen (14) draws as long as there are no more than four (4) hunters per blind. Groups must wait until their number is up in the order to elect to join with another group.

Waterfowl hunters or groups of hunters chosen after the first fourteen (14) must wait until their number is called in order to pair with other hunters.

The check station attendant will continue to call numbers until all blinds are occupied. Once all blinds are occupied, the remaining numbers will be called to establish the re-draw order.


At 10:00AM the check station attendant will assign priority numbers for re-filling available blinds based on the morning random draw and those present. You must be present in order to maintain your position from the morning draw.  If you were not present at the morning draw see the “sign in procedures” above for directions on signing in.  You will be given a re-fill number after those ahead of you.

When a blind has been vacated by all hunters and those hunters have checked in at the check station, the blind is available to be re-filled. Priority one has the option of taking the blind or not taking the blind without losing position in line. If priority one does not take an available blind, the choice goes to priority two with the same options, so on and so forth.

The re-filling of available blinds ends at noon (12:00).  

This information is for a basic understanding of the lottery draw system and does not try to address the many different scenarios presented by the hunters.

Mobility Impaired Hunting

 A "mobility impaired hunter” is defined as a person who has been issued one of the following:

A Department of Motor Vehicles Mobility Impaired License Plate

A Permanent Parking Placard Identification Card

A “Mobility Impaired Veteran” License Plate

A valid “Mobility Impaired Persons Motor Vehicle Hunting License” (FG Form 1460).

 The blue plastic “Mobility Impaired Parking Placard” may not be substituted for the required identification which bears the name of the mobility impaired person. Mobility impaired hunters must provide the registration certificate for DMV issued mobility impaired license plates

Hunt Area Maps & Blind Descriptions

Spaced Blinds- Hunting on the Salmon Creek unit is from designated blind zones only. Free roam hunting is not allowed. Hunters are required to remain within designated blind zones except while retrieving downed birds. Hunting is not allowed while retrieving birds outside the blind zone.  Party size is limited to 4 individuals per site. Blind availability is determined by habitat conditions.  A descriptive list and map is available here and at the check station and refuge office.

Temporary Blinds- Hunters may use only portable blinds or temporary blinds constructed of natural materials. Hunters must dismantle or remove all blinds from the refuge after each days hunt.

Junior Hunt

The Humboldt Bay Refuge provides two additional Junior Hunts on the Salmon Creek Unit. The first Junior Hunt usually occurs in the last week of December on Thursday. However, this can change, so please contact the refuge for details. The second Junior Hunt corresponds with the California Junior hunt weekend which occurs the weekend following the end of the waterfowl hunting season. All regulations and hunt selection processes’ are consistent with the rest of the season on Junior Hunt days. 

Permit Revoking

Who issues refuge (hunting) permits?

50 CFR § 25.41: We authorize the refuge manager (or designee) of the facility where an activity is to take place to issue permits required by this subchapter C unless the regulations in this subchapter C require the applicant to obtain the applicable permit from the Director or Secretary. In those situations, the refuge manager (or designee) will so inform the applicant, giving the applicant all necessary information as to how and where to apply.

Who may terminate or revoke a (refuge hunting) permit and why?

50 CFR § 25.43: The refuge manager (or designee) may terminate or revoke a permit at any time for noncompliance with the terms of the permit or of the regulations in this subchapter C; for nonuse; for violation of any law, regulation, or order applicable to the refuge; or to protect public health or safety or the resources of a national wildlife refuge.