Imperial National Wildlife Refuge Hunting Rules & Tips

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge hunting Map

On this page, you’ll find info for hunting ducks, geese, snipe, doves, quail, rabbit, bighorn sheep, mule deer, gray fox, and coyote at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. You’ll also find info for fishing and frog gigging.

Topics


Basic Info

  • Imperial National Wildlife Refuge Custom Map.jpg
    Custom Map

    Acres: 25,768

  • Administrator: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS“)
  • CDFW Region: Region 6 (Inland Deserts)
  • Complex:  Southwest Arizona NWR Complex
  • County: Imperial County, CA and Yuma County, AZ
  • Maps: see our custom map for the waterfowl management unit, boat launches, closed zones, visitor center, info kiosk, and Monkey Island.
  • Location:  12812 Wildlife Way, Yuma, AZ 85354
  • Phone Number:  (928) 783-3371
  • Refuge map:
  • State agencies: Arizona and California
  • Waterfowl Zone: Colorado River Waterfowl Zone
  • Website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/imperial/

Federal, State, and Local Rules

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge waterfowl hunting rulesIn general, you’re allowed to hunt at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. With respect to the California side of the refuge, you’re only allowed to hunt ducksgeesesnipewhite-winged and mourning doves, Gambel’s quailrabbits, gray fox, coyote, bighorn sheep, and mule deer. See 50 CFR § 32.22(A), (B) and (C) and Hunt Regs.

When hunting all of those birds (except pheasant), you have to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. For all of those birds, you also have to follow California and Arizona rules, deeding on your location. Finally, you have to follow local rules on brochures and its website for general use, hunting, fishing and boating. You might also find additional rule at information booths, roads, signs, permits, etc.


General Hunting Rules

Warning shot!!! The regulations summarized below supplement the general refuge regulations.

Accidents

Report accidents or injuries to the Refuge Manager and State agencies. Report accidents or injuries to the Refuge Manager and State agencies. After hours, please call 911. See Hunting Regs.

ATV’s

You cannot use ATV’s or OHV’s at the Refuge.

Caution

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge sandbars and hazards.Beware of desert heat, stinging insects, venomous reptiles, and thorny plants. Bring plenty of water. Use sunscreen. When possible, wear light colored clothes and a hat. Don’t place your hands or feet under rocks or into crevices and plants. Watch where you step!

Camping & Overnight

You cannot camp or stay overnight at the Refuge. See Rules & Regs.

Closed Areas

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge Closed AreasYou cannot take possession of game animal in closed areas of the Refuge. See our custom custom map and Hunting Regs.

Disabled Hunters

Service animals are allowed at the Refuge.

Dogs & Pets

In general, dogs and pets must be on a leash at the Refuge. The only exception is for dogs actively engaged in hunting. See Rules & Regs.

Fees

There are no entrance fees for the Refuge. See Entrance Fees.

Firearms

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge firearm restrictionsIn general, you cannot have firearms at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. The only exception is for hunting, but you still have to comply with all federal, State, and local firearm regulations. Warning shot!!! Firearms must be unloaded and either cased or dismantled while in a vehicle under power. See Rules & Regs.

Fires

You cannot have open fires at the Refuge. See Rules & Regs.

Firewood

You cannot collect firewood at the Refuge. See Hunting Regs.

Guides

A Special Use Permit is required for commercial guides. See Permit Regs.

Horses

You can travel by horseback in the Wilderness Areas of the Refuge. See Rules & Regs and Hunting Regs.

Hunt Areas

You can only hunt in designated areas of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge that are “marked as such on the hunt map.” Warning shot!!! If you’re unclear of the boundary between Arizona and California, consult Fish & Game (Arizona and California). See Hunting Regs.

Hunt Maps

Imperial national wildlife refuge in California
Hunt Map

Pictured right is map of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. For GPS, see our custom map with directions to the waterfowl management unit, boat launches, closed zones, visitor center, info kiosk, and Monkey Island.

License

If you’re hunting on the Arizona side of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, you need non-resident license from Arizona. If you’re hunting on the California side, you need a license from California.

Natural Resources

You cannot remove, deface, or damage rocks, minerals, semi-precious stones, Native American artifacts, paleontological objects, or objects of antiquity from the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. See Rules & Regs.

Protected Animals

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge hunting rules.You cannot take, have, bother, harm, damage, remove, or transport any animal or animal part, whether dead or alive, from the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. The only exception is for legally taken game animals. See Rules & Regs.

Shotguns

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge steel shot and non-toxic shot laws.You can only take steel or other non-toxic shot into the field when hunting “ducks, geese, coot, doves, quail, and cottontail rabbit” at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. Warning shot!!! You cannot hunt with lead shot or even take it into the field. See 50 CFR § 32.22(A)(3) and Hunting Regs.

Regulations

If you’re on the Arizona side of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona rules for seasons, bag limits, and possession limits apply. On the California side, California rules apply.

Retrieval

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge retrieval from closed areas.You cannot go into Closed Areas of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge to retrieve game, regardless of whether it’s dead or wounded. The same applies to hunting dogs. For Closed Areas, see our custom map and Hunting Regs.

Target Shooting

You cannot target shoot or practice at the Refuge. See Rules & Regs.

Trapping

A Special Use Permit is required for trapping at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. See Permit Regs.

Vegetation

You cannot take, have, bother, damage, remove, or transport any plant or plant part, whether dead or alive, from the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. See Rules & Regs.

Vehicles

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge vehicle restrictions.To drive a vehicle on the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, you must have a license and insurance. The same is true for motorcycles, ATV’s and OHV’s. You can only drive on designated roads and rounds. Warning shot!!! Going off road is strictly prohibited. The speed limit is 25 mph unless another speed limit is posted. See Rules & Regs.

Violations

If you want to report a violation that took place on the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, call (800) 637-9152 anytime of the day or night.

Wilderness Areas

You can only access the Wilderness Areas by foot or horseback.


Waterfowl, Dove & Snipe Hunting Rules

Blinds

You cannot build permanent blinds or structures at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. The same is true for pit blinds. You must remove temporary blinds immediately after each hunt. See 50 CFR § 32.22(A)(1)-(2).

Boats & Guns

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge boating restrictionsWhen your boat is under power at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, your firearm must be unloaded and cased or dismantled. You must take your boat out of the Refuge each day. You cannot leave wakes in any backwater or no-wake zone. Tubing and waterskiing are not allowed at the Refuge. See 50 CFR § 32.22(A)(2)Rules & Regs, and Hunting Regs.

Decoys

You must remove your decoys from the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge immediately after each hunt. See 50 CFR § 32.22(A)(2).

Hunt Areas

You can only hunt ducks, geese, dove, snipe, coots, and moorhen on designated areas of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge.


Quail, Rabbit, Coyote & Gray Fox Hunting Rules

Archery

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge coyote hunting with a bow.You can use a bow to hunt quail, rabbit, coyote, and gray fox at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, but only for the purpose of hunting. On the California side, you have to comply with California Archery Laws. You can use a crossbow if you have a Disabled Archer’s Permit. On the Arizona side, follow its rules. See Rules & Regs.

Hunt Areas

You can only hunt in designated areas of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge.

Hunting Methods

You can only use shotguns and bows to hunt quail and cottontail rabbit hunting at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. See 50 CFR § 32.22(B)(1).

Seasons

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge gray fox season.You can only hunt cottontail rabbit at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge from September 1 through the end of the State quail season. (The hunting reg page says until “the end of the state season.”) You can only hunt coyote and gray fox during the State quail season. See 50 CFR § 32.22(B)(3)-(4) and Hunting Regs.


Bighorn Sheep & Mule Deer Hunting

Archery

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge archery season for bighorn sheep.You can hunt bighorn sheep and mule deer with a bow, but only during open season and with proper tags. Deer hunting is allowed during the archery and general seasons. See California Archery Laws, Hunting Regs, and our pages for bighorn sheep and deer.

Hunt Areas

You can only hunt in designated areas of the Refuge.


Fishing & Frog Gigging Rules

In addition to the General Hunting Rules (above), the following restrictions apply to fishing and frog gigging at the Imperial Wildlife Refuge.

Authorized & Common Species

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge Fishing rulesYou can fish at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, but you must comply with the restrictions noted below. Common species include bass (largemouth, smallmouth and striped); bluegill; carp (common); catfish (flathead and channel); crappie (black); sunfish (redear); and tilapia.

Boats, Ramps & Docks

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge Bullfrog GiggingYou can use a boat on the backwaters of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, but you cannot make a wake. There’s a primitive boat ramp near the northern boundary of Clear Lake. It’s by the Yuma Proving Ground on Red Cloud Mine Road. Warning shots!!! You should use 4-wheel drive with high clearance and space is very limited. There’s also boat ramp and dock on the northern shore of Martinez Lake. In addition, there’s a free boat ramp and dock located at the Meers Point Recreation Area. It’s a day-use-only dock. See Fishing & Boating Regs.

Closed Areas

Use our custom map to find the Closed Areas of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. The ponds and inlets in and around the Refuge Headquarter’s/Visitor Center are closed. The western parts of Ferguson Lake and Martinez Lake are closed from October through the end of February. Closed areas are marked with buoys. See 50 CFR § 32.22(D) and Fishing & Boating Regs.

Disabled Fishermen

For disabled fishermen, there is a dock located at the Meers Point Recreation Area. Use our custom map.

Fishing Areas

You can only fish in designated ares of the Refuge. See 50 CFR § 32.22(D).

Hazards

Stay alert for submerged hazards, which vary with water levels. Examples include sandbars, rocks, snags, and other river debris. Sandbars can be particularly hazardous. Changing water levels can hide them one day and make them visible the next. To avoid sandbars, watch ahead for “lines” on the river and go around them. “Follow the flow.” Sandbars can drop off suddenly so remember to watch children and pets as the strong currents can carry them away from shore quickly. Please be aware that cellular telephone service is weak or nonexistent on many areas of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. See Fishing & Boating Regs.

License & Stamps

To fish on the Colorado River of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, you must have a Colorado River Special Use Stamp and a fishing license from either a California or Arizona. To fish on lakes and backwaters of the Refuge, you need a license from the State in which you are fishing. See Fishing & Boating Regs.

Overnight Fishing

You cannot fish overnight at the Refuge.

Regulations

Fishing at the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is regulated by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish or California Department of Fish and Game, depending on which state is being fished.

Restrooms

There are restrooms at the Meers Point Recreation Area, which is on the northern shore of Martinez Lake. You can find them on our custom map.

Shore Fishing

If you want to fish from shore, you can do it at the Meers Point Recreation Area. You can find it on our custom map.


  • Refuge Hunting Brochure

Imperial national wildlife refuge in California

Imperial national wildlife refuge in California
Hunting Brochure, p. 2

 

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