FRABBIT SEASON OPENS, BIGHORN WATER HAUL, BOB VERNOY — ONS-matthews – 27 June 2020 Compiled by Jim Matthews

Avid hunters know that cottontail
rabbit season opens Wednesday

Some of us live in dread of those days between the end of January and the first of July, and the longest day of the year in late June is sign the days of waiting are almost over. The days are already getting shorter and soon it will be fall. At heart, a few of us understand that we are hunters. Oh, there is a good chance we are still putting venison steaks on the barbecue or eating smoked goose sausage from last year, but by this point in the year we have artificially denied our very nature for five months while hunting seasons have been closed.

The cottontail rabbit season opens on July 1 each year, and the number of us who count the days has been dwindling over the years as fewer and fewer people recognize that mankind are hunters, by history, heritage, and genetic makeup. There is emptiness in that existence. Even among hunters, rabbit season is often overlooked as hunters plan for bigger or more romantic game. But those are often only two or three-times-a-year hunters, not those who still have hunting powerfully pulsing through their veins.

With less than 250,000 licensed hunters in California (according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife), surveys show that only around 10 percent of those take rabbit-specific hunting trips each year and far more are taken by bird hunters when rabbits happen to make an appearance. That’s fine with me because I doubt, I’ll see anyone Wednesday when I go out at dawn and dusk with a .22 rimfire hoping to bag the first fresh wild game meal of the year. But more importantly for those of us who will be going out, we can be hunting again.

Volunteers needed for bighorn
water haul to nearly-dry drinker

Volunteers are needed to haul water to a critical water source for bighorn sheep in the Mojave National Preserve on Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, according to Scott Gibson with the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS). Volunteers are needed for one or both days.

Summer monsoons have passed this area without any rainfall the last couple of years, and this has left the system low on water, according to Gibson. The drinker, known as the Vermin Wildlife Drinker, is critical to a substantial herd of sheep near Baker.

Volunteers will have two primary tasks: running about 3,000 feet of fire hose to the three drinker tanks (over a half mile), and hauling water to the remote site in water tanks and cubes that fit in the back of pickup trucks. It will be hot labor and volunteers will need to supply their own water and food. SCBS has water cubes and tanks that fit in the back of four-wheel drive trucks, but volunteers with suitable vehicles are needed. With enough volunteers, the water haul and pumping of the water up to the sheep drinker should be done on Saturday. If not, volunteers who want to stay through Sunday can help finished up the effort and clean up.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Scott Gibson with SCBS via e-mail at or via cell phone/text at 909-210-0548.

Bob Vernoy: One DFW’s last field, field biologists
Hunter/conservationists lost a champion earlier this year when 41-year Department of Fish and Wildlife veteran biologist Bob Vernoy passed away in early March at the age of 94.

Vernoy, who began his career with the Department of Fish and Game in 1949 after serving in World War II, started as an conservation aid and worked his way up in the agency with a wide variety of jobs before retiring as an associate wildlife biologist, the highest field-level position attainable. He was the biologist in the high desert for 20 years (1970 to 1990), and it was Vernoy’s job to maintain the 350 wildlife water developments (often referred to as quail guzzlers) in Mojave Desert from the southern Sierra Nevada to the Colorado River. According to Vern Bleich, a retired associate of Vernoy’s for many years, Bob once lamented to him that, “I was only able to inspect or make repairs to these units about once every other year,” which is an incredible track record.

Bleich said Vernoy was the consummate biologist who often worked 60 hour weeks as he conducted annual brood counts to assess quail and chukar production, dove surveys, raptor surveys, data collection and oversight of the mule deer hunting season in eastern San Bernardino County (now Zone D-17), participation in aerial surveys for bighorn sheep, and the burden of all the paperwork those field efforts mandated. He also was responsible to review and comment on the ever-increasing number of environmental documents in his area.

Vernoy was instrumental in working with his supervisors and fellow staff to help institute the state’s first bighorn sheep hunt in 1978 in two hunting zones. Through part of his tireless efforts, seven of 11 of today’s bighorn hunting zones are in the area under Vernoy’s responsibility and southern California’s best deer hunting zone, D-17, also fell under his jurisdiction.

“Bob was the wildlife biologist for the Desert Wildlife Management Unit (DWMU) when Dick Weaver [also a former DFW biologist] conducted the only in-depth and statewide assessment of bighorn sheep in California,” said Bleich. “Bob lent his expertise and knowledge to assist in that effort from 1970 to 1972. Following completion of that assessment and prior to Bob’s retirement, a total of 21 wildlife water developments were constructed specifically to help conserve and recover bighorn sheep numbers within the DWMU.”

Vernoy was pivotal in all of these efforts to maintain and expand wildlife populations throughout the region. Since 1990, only Vernoy’s efforts with bighorn sheep have been maintained by the DFW. All the repair and maintenance efforts – even of the sheep drinkers – has been taken over by volunteer groups as the DFW abdicated its responsibility and ownership of these drinkers and the job to keep them operational.

Sportsmen need to tip their cap to Bob Vernoy each time they check the water level on a desert guzzler or see a majestic bighorn sheep or mule deer. They are seeing the results of Bob Vernoy’s sweat equity.

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