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23 Hunters Are Cited for Baiting


While dove hunters bagged birds, game wardens were bagging some dove hunters for illegal baiting at a railroad yard in the Mojave Desert when the California season opened this week.

Three wardens from the California Department of Fish and Game, in the presence of two agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wednesday cited 23 hunters near the Union Pacific Railroad yard at Yermo, six miles east of Barstow.

The California Code of Regulations and the state Fish and Game Code prohibit shooting within 400 yards of a bait source. It was not immediately clear whether the hunters also will be prosecuted for violating federal laws involving migratory birds.

In past years, birds have been attracted by grain dropping from railroad cars passing through the yard, but authorities have permitted hunters to shoot at the site. However, when the placing of the grain appeared to be deliberate this week, authorities stepped in.

DFG Lt. Phil Gaskins said, "There were sections of grain four feet long and one inch deep spread along 200 yards of track--a whole lot more than in recent years."

The cited hunters were not identified. Gaskins said most had the limit of 10 doves each, which they were allowed to keep. The site then was posted as closed to dove hunting for the rest of the season, which ends Sept. 15, then reopens Nov. 13 to Dec. 27.

Otherwise, the opening of the season met high expectations--and the closer to the Mexican border the better. The birds apparently were pushed south by an isolated storm that raked the upper Imperial Valley earlier in the week, but limits of 10 were common.

Jason Jackson of El Centro said he and three companions all had their limits within 2 1/2 hours.

"I think there are a lot more birds than last year, and they're a lot fatter, too," Jackson said.

He added that he saw more hunters than expected for a midweek opening.

"It was almost dangerous down at the river bottom, there were so many people shooting," Jackson said.

Success was mixed in other areas. In the Antelope Valley, DFG Warden Marty Markham said the 80 hunters he checked averaged about six birds on opening day and that the best area seemed to be west of Highway 14 from Palmdale to Fairmont.

In the Coachella Valley, warden Darrell Stephenson said shooting was spotty, with some limits.

Farther out in the Mojave, Gaskins said there were "lots of limits, and everyone I saw had at least five."

The best spots, Gaskins said--away from the railroad yard, that is--were along the Mojave River near Lenwood west of Barstow and near Black Mountain at Harper Dry Lake northwest of Barstow.

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