Merced National Wildlife Refuge

USFWSFor this Refuge and its Units, you’ll find:

  1. General information about the Refuge and its Units
  2. Authorized activities (e.g. waterfowl hunting)
  3. Summaries of general and Refuge-specific rules and regulations
  4. Links to Unit-specific rules and regulations
  5. Maps of the blinds, closed zones, driving directions, parking lots, the Refuge, etc.
  6. Links to other useful summaries (e.g. regulations for archery, hunting with dogs, “Type A” areas, as well as definitions, seasons, daily bag limits, possession limits, and shoot times)
  7. Links to government webpages (USFWS, CDFW, the San Luis NWR Complex, and the Refuge)

General Info:

  • Activities: hunting for geese, ducks, coots & moorhens
  • Administrator: Cal. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (“CDFW“)
  • CDFW Region: Region 4 (Central California)
  • Complex:  San Luis NWR Complex
  • County: Merced County

  • Directions: link to our Google map to the Check Station
  • Owner: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS“)
  • Phone Numbers:  209-826-3508 (FWS) or 209-826-0463 (CDFW)
  • Recreational Use: Type A
  • Units: Lonetree and Merced Units
  • Waterfowl zone: Balance of State WF Zone (determines season and limits, which are summarized by CDFW)
  • Website: Merced NWR

    I. Regulatory Summary

A. General Regulations

California rules and regulations for hunting ducks, geese, scaup, brant, Canada geese, dark geese, snow geese, white-fronted geese, specklebellies, white geese, and migratory game birds on national wildlife refuges, California wildlife areas, and California ecological reserves

Waterfowl hunting

The Merced NWR is one of ten National Wildlife Refuges operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  There are both federal and State rules and regulations that apply generally to this Refuge and its Units, which are summarized in a separate page:

B. Refuge- and Unit-Specific Regulations

Beginning with Par. II below, you’ll find an alphabetical summary of legal topics that combine Refuge-specific rules and regulations from the following sources:

California rules and regulations for the use of boats while on national wildlife refuges, California state wildlife areas, and California ecological reserves while hunting for ducks and geese (scaup, brant, Canada geese, dark geese, snow geese, white-fronted geese, specklebellies, white geese); migratory game birds (doves, pigeon, snipe, waterfowl) resident small game birds (grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, quail, turkey), resident small game (jackrabbit, rabbit, squirrel), big game (antelope, bear, deer, elk, pig, sheep), non-game (coyotes, crow, fox, raccoon) and fishing (bullfrogging, commercial fishing, crayfishing, crawfishing and sport fishing)

CA. Hunting Rules & Regulations

 Warning shot!!! There are Unit-specific rules located on the Unit Hunt Maps (link from our Menu or Par. III, “Hunting Units).  There may be additional rules at Refuge and/or Units (e.g. check station, maps, signs).


II. Authorized Activities

Duck hunting in California

Duck Hunting

Goose hunting in California

Goose Hunting

American Coot hunting in California

Coot Hunting

Moorhen hunting in California

Moorhen Hunting


III.  Hunting Regulations

California rules and regulations for using bikes or bicycles on national wildlife refuges, State wildlife areas, and State ecological reserves while while hunting for ducks and geese (scaup, brant, Canada geese, dark geese, snow geese, white-fronted geese, specklebellies, white geese); migratory game birds (doves, pigeon, snipe, waterfowl) resident small game birds (grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, quail, turkey), resident small game (jackrabbit, rabbit, squirrel), big game (antelope, bear, deer, elk, pig, sheep), non-game (coyotes, crow, fox, raccoon), and/or fishing (bullfrogging, commercial fishing, crayfishing, crawfishing and sport fishing)

Use of bikes

ADA: see “Blinds” below

Bicycles: allowed

Blinds:

      1. Disabled persons: there is a three-person blind reserved for the mobility-impaired
      2. General: there are fourteen (14) double blinds and three (3) triple blinds including two goose pits
      3. Hunt area: ONLY from assigned blind except to (a) place/remove decoys or (b) retrieve downed birds.  Warning shot!!! (b) NO shooting outside of your assigned blind
      4. Lonetree Unit: the goose pits will NOT open until the 3rd Saturday in November

Camping and trailers: NOT allowed

Check Station: located at the Merced Unit off Sandy Mush Road (Google map)

      1. Check-in: NO one will be checked in after shoot time begins
      2. Checkout: by 1:30 p.m.
      3. Entry Permits: issued to reservation holders starting two (2) hours before shooting time, followed by lottery participants, and then from the fill-in list. See “Reservations,” “Lottery” and “Permits” and “Waiting list” below
Dog and pet restrictions

Use of dogs

Dogs: control at all times

Hunt Days: Saturdays and Wednesdays

Hunt Maps:

Merced national wildlife refuge in California

Merced Unit Spaced blinds

Merced national wildlife refuge, Lonetree Uniit Hunt Map

Lonetree Unit Hunt Map


Juniors: may enter the Lottery if accompanied by a responsible adult (see below)

Lottery: Hunters without reservations may register for a random drawing to establish the order of issuance of permits to fill vacancies after Reservations are called on the morning of the hunt-

      1. Disqualification: Warning shot!!! Register ONLY once or be disqualified from the drawing and ineligible to hunt that day
      2. Juniors: may enter the lottery if accompanied by a responsible adult
      3. Location: Los Banos Wildlife Area (Google map)
      4. Parties: size is determined by the capacity of any available blind or designated hunting zone. Warning shot!!! All hunters entering on the same lottery number must hunt the same hunting assignment
      5. Registration: enter between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. the evening before each hunt day (potential hunting partners do NOT have to participate in the lottery or be present for the registration).
      6. Results: posted shortly after 9:00 p.m.

Permits: issued at the check station (see “Reservations,” “Lottery” and “Waiting list” above and below)

Re-fills: when hunters leave the area, vacancies will NOT be refilled

Reservations:

      1. Permits: issued starting two (2) hours before shoot time
      2. Check station: must be presented at the checking station by one and one-half (1 ½) hours before shooting time
      3. Expiration: Reservations expire one and one-half (1 ½) hours before shooting time
      4. Party size: each reservation assures entry of up to (a) three (3) persons if a three-person blinds is available and (b) up to two (2) persons, if a two-person blind is available. Warning shot!!! All hunters entering on the same reservation number must hunt the same hunting assignment

Shells: 25 max per day

Shooting Hours: one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise until 12:00 noon

Shot: ONLY steel or other non-toxic shot approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Shotgun restrictions

Use of shotguns

Shotguns: ONLY  shotguns may be used. Warning shot!!!  The chamber and magazine must remain unloaded until reaching blind sites

Unit capacities: the daily hunter capacity is 37 persons in the blinds, plus up to three (3) persons in the blind reserved for persons with disabilities. Up to an additional 15 spaces (5 parties of 3 in assigned cells) are available when the Lone Tree Unit is open.

Units: Lone Tree Unit and Merced Unit (link to unit-specific regulations)

Waiting list: If you do not have a reservation and missed the Lottery, you may be added to the fill-in list on a first-come, first-served basis

      1. Check-in: NO one will be checked in after starting shoot time
      2. Checkout: all hunters must check out at the check station by 1:30 p.m.
      3. Party size: up to three (3) persons if a three-person blinds is available and up to two (2) persons, if a two-person blind is available. Warning shot!!! All hunters entering as a party must hunt the same hunting assignment
      4. Permits: depending upon availability, one-day entry permits are issued after reservation and lottery holders are checked-in
      5. Registration: sign in at the check station

VI. Regulations

Merced National Wildlife Refuge

A. Migratory Game Bird Hunting. We allow hunting of goose, duck, coot, and moorhen on designated areas of the refuge in accordance with State regulations subject to the following conditions:

1. You must unload firearms (see §27.42(b) of this chapter) before transporting them between parking areas and blind sites. Unloaded means that no ammunition is in the chamber or magazine of the firearm.

2. You may only possess approved nontoxic shotshells (see §32.2(k)) in quantities of 25 or less per day after leaving the parking lot.

3. Each hunter must remain inside his or her assigned blind, except for placing decoys, retrieving downed birds, and traveling to and from the parking area. We prohibit shooting from outside the blind.

4. Dogs must remain under the immediate control of their owners at all times (see §26.21(b) of this chapter).

B. Upland Game Hunting. [Reserved]

C. Big Game Hunting. [Reserved]

D. Sport Fishing. [Reserved]

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Regulations for National Wildlife Refuges Where Hunting Programs are Administered by the Department of Fish and Game.

(a) The power to control entry on the federally owned areas listed in subsection 551(a)(2) is at the discretion of the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The following lands owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are open to hunting by the public under control of the California Department of Fish and Game.

***

(4) Merced National Wildlife Refuge.

(A) Area Firearms Restrictions: Shotguns and steel or other nontoxic shot approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only. A hunter shall not possess more than 25 shot shells per day.

(B) Hunt Days: Saturdays and Wednesdays during waterfowl season.

(C) Shooting Hours: Waterfowl shooting hours will be from one-half hour before sunrise until 12:00 noon.

(D) Authorized Species: Waterfowl, coots, and moorhens. There shall be no hunting of common snipe.

(E) Camping and Trailers: Not allowed.

(F) Bicycles: Allowed.

(G) Reservations: Each reservation assures entry of no more than three persons if three-person blinds are available, or no more than two persons, if two-person blinds are available. All person’s entering on the same reservation will receive the same hunt assignment.

(H) Special Restrictions: Hunters must hunt from assigned blinds, except to retrieve downed birds.

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  • California rules and regulations for the use of boats while on national wildlife refuges, California state wildlife areas, and California ecological reserves while hunting for ducks and geese (scaup, brant, Canada geese, dark geese, snow geese, white-fronted geese, specklebellies, white geese); migratory game birds (doves, pigeon, snipe, waterfowl) resident small game birds (grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, quail, turkey), resident small game (jackrabbit, rabbit, squirrel), big game (antelope, bear, deer, elk, pig, sheep), non-game (coyotes, crow, fox, raccoon) and fishing (bullfrogging, commercial fishing, crayfishing, crawfishing and sport fishing)

    CA. Hunting Rules & Regulations

    CDFW’s Hunting Regulations Booklet

2013-2014 Waterfowl and Upland Game Hunting & Department Lands Public Use Regulations

§552. REGULATIONS FOR NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES WHERE HUNTING PROGRAMS ARE ADMINISTERED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME.

Note: In addition to the following State regulations, Federal regulations prohibit littering and the possession of alcohol while hunting on national wildlife refuges. The consumption or possession of an open container of alcohol, within public areas of the refuges, is prohibited. Medical marijuana cards are not valid on National Wildlife Refuges.

(a) The power to control entry on the federally owned areas listed in subsection 551(a)(2) is at the discretion of the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The following lands owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are open to hunting by the public under control of the California Department of Fish and Game.

***

(4) Merced National Wildlife Refuge.

Type A Area

Location and Access: Approximately sixteen miles southwest of the city of Merced. From Merced, travel south seven miles on Highway 59 to Sandy Mush Road, then west (right) nine miles on Sandy Mush Road to the checking station. From Los Baños, travel east on Highway 152 to the junction of Highway 59, then north (left) seven miles to Sandy Mush Road, then west (left) nine miles to checking station.

Reservations: Available during waterfowl season.

Checking Station: Permits will be issued to reservation holders starting two hours before shooting time. Reservations must be presented at the checking station by one and one-half hours before shooting time. Reservations will expire after this time. Hunters without reservations may register in person at the Los Banos Wildlife Area checking station between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m., the evening before each hunt day for a lottery drawing to be held shortly after 9:00 p.m., to establish the order of issuance of permits to fill vacancies after reservation holders on the morning of the hunt. Each potential hunter including juniors (if accompanied by a responsible adult) must register in person to participate in the lottery. A hunting partner does not have to be present for the registration, nor be a lottery participant. Each lottery number may allow entry of up to the capacity of the available blind or designated hunting zone. If a person’s name appears more than once in the drawing, he will be eliminated from the draw and will not be allowed to hunt that day. Persons arriving after the 9:00 p.m. lottery registration deadline will be added to the list on a first-come, first-served basis. Persons signing in on the first- come, first-served list must sign in as a party or as an individual. All hunters entering on the same reservation, lottery number, or when signing in as a part on the first-come, first-served list must hunt the same hunting assignment. The daily quota of hunters shall be filled by reservation, lottery and first-come, first-served hunters, and there will be no refilling of vacancies when hunters leave the area. No one will be checked in after starting shoot time. Hunters must check out of the area by 1:30 p.m. Blinds: Fourteen (14) double blinds and three (3) triple blinds including two goose pits. The goose pits and the Lone Tree Unit will not open until the 3rd Saturday in November.

Daily Hunter Capacity: 37 in the blinds, plus up to three persons in the blind reserved for persons with disabilities. Up to an additional 15 spaces (5 parties of 3 in assigned cells) are available when the Lone Tree Unit is open. For information, phone (209) 826-0463 (CDFW) or (209) 826-3508 (FWS).

(A) Area Firearms Restrictions: Shotguns and steel or other nontoxic shot approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only. A hunter shall not possess more than 25 shot shells per day.

(B) Hunt Days: Saturdays and Wednesdays during waterfowl season.

(C) Shooting Hours: Waterfowl shooting hours will be from one-half hour before sunrise until 12:00 noon.

(D) Authorized Species: Waterfowl, coots, and moorhens. There shall be no hunting of common snipe.

(E) Camping and Trailers: Not allowed.

(F) Bicycles: Allowed.

(G) Reservations: Each reservation assures entry of no more than three persons if three-person blinds are available, or no more than two persons, if two-person blinds are available. All persons entering on the same reservation will receive the same hunt assignment.

(H) Special Restrictions: Hunters must hunt from assigned blinds, except to retrieve downed birds.

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To protect habitat and keep the Merced National Wildlife Refuge a safe place for wildlife and people, please follow these rules:

The Merced NWR is open daily from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

  • Respect other refuge visitors’ viewing opportunities
  • Minimize disturbance to wildlife
  • No collecting of plants, plant parts, or mushrooms
  • No feeding wildlife
  • Remain in vehicles on auto tour routes for optimal viewing
  • No bicycling allowed on the Refuge
  • No horseback riding
  • Pets must be on leash at all times when outside of vehicles
  • No camping, campfires, or cooking grills
  • Park vehicles only in designated parking areas
  • Keeping noise levels to a minimum will enhance wildlife viewing
  • Please remove all trash
  • No fishing

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General Information:

Goose, duck, coot, and moorhen hunting is permitted on designated areas of the Merced NWR subject to the following conditions or as may otherwise be posted.

  • At the Merced NWR hunters may possess not more than 25 federally approved nontoxic shotgun shells per day.
  • The Merced NWR is open to hunting only on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the waterfowl hunting season.
  • Shooting hours at the Merced NWR are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon.
  • Vehicles may stop only at designated, assigned parking areas. The dropping of passengers or equipment or stopping between designated parking areas is prohibited. All permits must be returned to the check-stations immediately upon completion of your hunt, before using any tour routes or leaving the refuge vicinity.
  • Use or possession of alcoholic beverages while in the field is prohibited.
  • Hunters must possess valid hunting licenses, stamps, and area permits while in the field.
  • Access to individual blinds and zones may be limited to those holding location-specific permits. This includes Kesterson and Freitas pheasant zones, pond assignments within West Bear Creek, East Bear Creek, Lonetree, the San Luis River Unit, and within the spaced blind areas of Merced, Blue Goose, and Kesterson Units. Hunters are restricted to their assigned blind or zone, except to retrieve downed birds, place decoys, or to travel between the blind and the assigned hunter parking area.
  • Loaded weapons are prohibited outside of assigned blinds within the spaced blind areas. At all times on the refuge, weapons must be unloaded (no ammunition in the magazine or chamber) when in a boat under power, in a vehicle, or on a bicycle.
  • Within the free roam area, hunters may use only portable blinds, temporary blinds constructed of natural materials, or existing concrete barrel blinds. The construction of permanent blinds is prohibited. The cutting/breaking of woody vegetation is prohibited. All portable blinds, decoys, and other personal equipment must be removed from the refuge each day.

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