The Demand for Public Hunting Grounds
World War II was responsible for a mass migration of people into California to work in the state’s war industries. After the war, the state’s population continued to grow at a tremendous rate. During one ten-year period alone, from 1946 to 1956, it increased by over 40 percent. This unprecedented increase in population was accompanied by a proportionate increase in sportsmen (Torre, 1993b). Since waterfowl habitat was shrinking, there were fewer places left to hunt. This resulted in an intense demand for additional waterfowl hunting areas available to the public.
The California Fish and Game Commission determined that waterfowl management areas could provide relief for both the state’s farmers and its sportsmen. Such areas had been previously developed to serve primarily as refuges. During the late 1940s and early 1950s these areas were extensively redeveloped to better meet the state’s current priorities. During this time many new waterfowl management areas were purchased and developed. Thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act, funding was available for these projects.
Throughout the 1950s, an emphasis was placed on growing cereal grain crops for the purpose of attracting waterfowl away from the rice fields and farmlands. According to the DFG Monthly Progress Report for May 1955, “Farming was the major activity on most waterfowl management areas during the month. Grain grown is left as feed for the ducks and geese to hold them off agricultural crops…and prevent depredation.”
The feeding program proved quite successful. The 44th Biennial Report, issued by the DFG for the years 1954-56, states “During the period of this report, waterfowl depredations have been at an all time low, evidence that waterfowl management areas play a major role in the control of crop damage.”
In order to satisfy the demand for waterfowl hunting areas, portions of all state management areas were operated as seasonal public hunting grounds. The DFG, in cooperation with the USFWS, also operated public hunting grounds on many federal waterfowl management areas located within California (see Figure 9).
All told, the number of public hunting areas was increased from three in 1948 to thirteen by 1954. During this time the total acreage open to public hunting was increased from 7,730 to 48,410 (Program Review and Analysis of the Department of Fish and Game, July 27, 1956). Of particular interest to stamp collectors are the public hunting grounds which were operated at the Honey Lake and Madeline Plains waterfowl management areas in northeastern California.