Honey Lake is centered within a valley that bears the same name. Honey Lake Valley is located at the western edge of the Great Basin near the California-Nevada border, approximately 60 miles north of Reno. The surrounding countryside is rugged and picturesque, consisting of forest and desert mountain ranges. The area is relatively isolated and has always been sparsely populated. Honey Lake is unusual in that although covering nearly 100 square miles, the average depth rarely exceeds two feet (Holmes, 1993). This characteristic provides for much of the lake’s beauty and mystique (see Figure 10).
In the early morning calm, it appears as though a sheet of polished glass has been laid among the jagged peaks. Later in the day, sunlight reflects off the yellow-amber lake bed and the lake occasionally appears to glow. Legend has it that the area’s first settlers observed this color from atop a nearby mountain and gave the lake its name (Holmes, 1993). According to another story, the name was given by settlers who encountered a sweet-tasting substance on surrounding vegetation (Purdy, 1983).
Although distant from the prime agricultural areas of the state, Honey Lake is otherwise strategically located just to the southeast of the Tule Lake – Lower Klamath Lake concentration area of the Pacific Flyway. Along with providing resting and feeding areas for migrating waterfowl, Honey Lake has always served as one of the state’s major nesting areas (Kozlik, 1955). In recent years the primary management objective of the area has been, in fact, to provide nesting habitat for waterfowl (Honey Lake Wildlife Area, 1987). Canada geese, mallards, pintails and gadwall are among the waterfowl which nest on the area.
The state waterfowl management area is located at the northern edge of the lake, near the small town of Wendel. Most of the present day 7,843 acres were purchased with Pittman-Robertson funds between 1942 and 1950. The management area is comprised of two distinct units, Fleming and Dakin, which are separated by approximately five miles.
The Fleming Ranch, consisting of 2,092 acres, was purchased in 1942 at a cost of $60,000. The Dakin Ranch (see Figure 11), consisting of 980 acres, was purchased in 1944 at a cost of $22,050 (DFG Game Management Branch Handbook, 1954). Surrounding tracts of land were acquired and merged with the two ranches as they became available. By the mid 1950s the Fleming and Dakin units totaled 5,500 acres (Kozlik, 1955).
Grain has always been grown on portions of both units to provide feed for nesting and migrating waterfowl. The post-war emphasis on growing cereal grain crops resulted in nearly 1,000 acres being devoted to this endeavor by 1956 (DFG News Release, September 7, 1956). These included winter wheat, barley and rye. After statewide waterfowl depredations were brought under control, cereal grain crop production was reduced to 300 to 400 acres annually (Holmes, 1994).
Very little hunting occurred at the Honey Lake Waterfowl Management Area (HLWMA) until the late 1940s, despite the fact that half of the area’s acreage was open to public hunting from the beginning. This can be attributed to at least three factors: the remoteness of the area, U.S. involvement in World War II and the fact that very few improvements were made to the area before 1951 (Mall, 1958).
With the increased demand for public hunting areas following the war, the DFG initiated a ponding program at the HLWMA to upgrade hunting conditions. The ponds combined with the increased production of cereal grain crops to attract large numbers of migrating waterfowl. The number of hunters using the area soared from 558 during the 1949-50 season to 1,003 for 1950-51 and 3,611 for 1951-52 (41st Biennial Report for the Years 1948-50; Kozlik, 1955).
Every state waterfowl management area has a “daily shooter capacity.” During the 1950s, 150 persons a day were allowed to shoot at the HLWMA—100 at Fleming and 50 at Dakin. Persons intending to hunt on the area, as with all state-operated hunting areas, had to mail a completed application to DFG Headquarters in Sacramento to reserve a date. Validated reservations were then mailed to successful applicants ten days in advance of the reserved shooting date. If any vacancies remained they were filled on a first-come, first-served basis at the area’s checking stations (Advance Registration, 1955).
Primarily due to the isolated nature of the area, Lassen County residents accounted for 79 percent of the hunters using the HLWMA during the peak years of 1951-52 and 1952-53 (Mall, 1958). Following the 1952-53 season, local economic conditions took a downturn and the number of hunters began to decline (see Table I).
The acceleration of this decline reached a high point in 1955 for two reasons. First, local unemployment reached an all-time high during the year. Second, in order to help defray the cost of the public hunting program at the HLWMA, a $2 daily hunting fee was imposed for the 1955-56 season. Area Manager Rolf E. Mall compiled a hunting trend analysis for the HLWMA in 1958. According to an excerpt from the report, “In 1955, the inauguration of a two dollar daily fee…placed an additional economic restraint on the already depleted work force of Lassen County.” Consequently, Lassen County contributed only 44 percent of the hunters using the HLWMA during the 1955-56 season. This resulted in the total number of hunters falling from 2,237 in 1954-55 to 742 (44th Biennial Report for the Years 1954-56).
It should be noted that previous to the 1955-56 season all other state-operated areas, with the exception of near-by Madeline Plains, charged persons 16 years of age or older the $2 fee (Fine Public Shooting, 1955). Basically, the DFG had been giving Lassen County residents a break that was no longer feasible. A generic $2 daily permit in card form was used statewide (see Figure 12).
By the late 1950s, use of the cards was discontinued and the sportsman’s state hunting license was validated with a rubber stamp (See Figures 10a and b).