Kesterson Unit Hunting Rules, Maps, and Tips

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Kesterson Unit Entrance Sign

On this page, you’ll find practically everything you need for hunting ducks, geese, snipe, and pheasant at the Kesterson Unit of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, including the Bear Creek Units, Freitas Units, and Luis Unit. We also cover other things you can do there, like fishing and auto tours of tule elk and waterfowl.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit SignYou’ll find driving directions, hunting maps, and info about the check station, passes, permits, reservations, lotteries, waiting lists, camping, waterfowl blinds, parking lots, and more. For directions to the check station and units, use our custom map.

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NOTE: Unless noted otherwise, all references are to Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 32.24 and Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations, Sections 550, 550.5, 551, and 552.


About the Refuge

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Wolfsen Road ExitThe San Luis National Wildlife Refuge is in the town of Los Banos in Merced County, California, off Wolfsen Road. It’s owned by the federal government, but the hunting program is managed by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW). As such, the Refuge is designated as a Type A State Wildlife Area. See 14 CCR § 551(c)(9).

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Visitor SignThe Complex Headquarters and Visitor Center are located by the San Luis Unit. The physical address is 7376 S. Wolfsen Road, Los Banos, CA 93635. The phone numbers are (209) 826-3508 (USFWS) or (209) 826-0463 (CDFW). The Visitor Center is open from 8 to 4:30. Visiting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise and after sunset. The website is https://www.fws.gov/Refuge/San_Luis/.

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General Hunting Rules

For hunting in California, you must comply with all federal, State, and local hunting rules. In this Section, we cover those general hunting rules. For hunting on public land, each area or unit can add and/or further restrict the general rules.

For local rules, see Refuge & Unit Hunting Rules below. Warning shot!!! All applicable hunting rules are incorporated into your permit–whether you know them or not–and are a condition for use.

State Hunting Rules

San Luis Wildlife Refuge hunting seasons, bag limits, etc.
Snipe Hunting

There are California hunting rules that generally apply to hunting seasons, bag limits, shooting hours, methods of take, etc.

To see general California hunting rules, go to our pages for ducks, geese, snipe, and pheasant. However, general State rules may be restricted by refuge and unit specific rules. For example, shooting hours at the East Bear Creek Unit end at 3:00 p.m.

Federal Hunting Rules

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Hunting Rules, Regulations, and Procedures, including the Kesterson Unit, federal duck hunting, goose hunting, and snipe hunting rules.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act

There are federal hunting rules that generally apply to all migratory birds–birds that tend to migrate across State lines. Migratory game birds include birds like ducks, geese, snipe, coots, and moorhen. They do not include upland game birds, like pheasant.

To see general federal hunting rules, go to our summary 0f the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It covers topics like field dressing.  For example, you can field dress ducks, but you have to keep the head or one fully-feathered wing attached until you get it home.

Wildlife Refuge Hunt Rules

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Hunting Rules, Regulations, and Procedures, including the Kesterson Unit, hunting rules and proceduresThere are California rules that generally apply when visiting any State Wildlife Area, and rules specific to Type A wildlife areas, like the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Hunting Rules, Regulations, and Procedures, including the Kesterson Unit. Those rules apply to activities like hunting, fishing, bike riding, camping, falconry, shooting, trapping, and driving. In addition, they address rules and procedures for things like passes, permits, reservations, and lotteries.

To find those rules, follow the two links above. Keep in mind, though, that there may be addition rules and restrictions for specific refuges, units, assignments, and zones. Those can be found at check station winds, unit maps, road signs, information boots, etc.

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Refuge & Unit Hunting Rules

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Check Station Camping Area
Camping Area

In this Section we cover hunting rules and procedures that apply to the entire Refuge, and to specific units, zones, and assignments within them. We cover authorized species, bikes, blinds, boats, camping, check stations, dogs, entrance and exit, equipment, hunt areas, hunt days, lotteries, passes, permits, pheasant hunting, reservations, shoot times, shotguns, snipe hunting, trapping, unit maps and rules, vehicles, the waterfowl zone, and waiting list.

Authorized Species

In general, you can only hunt waterfowl, pheasant, snipe, coot, and moorhen at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. However, there are restrictions to where and when you can hunt them. There’s a special early season dove hunt at the Salt Slough Unit of the North Grassland Wildlife Area. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A) and 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(C).

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Quail Hunting RestrictionWarning shot!!! You cannot hunt quail anywhere on the Refuge.

Waterfowl Hunting

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Waterfowl Hunting, Duck Hunting, and Goose Hunting.You can hunt waterfowl, which only includes ducks and geese. You can also hunt American Coot and Common Moorhen.

Pheasant Hunting

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge pheasant hunting.You can also hunt pheasant but only with restrictions at the Kesterson and San Luis Units. See Pheasant Hunting below for details.

Snipe Hunting

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge snipe hunting.You can also hunt snipe, but only at the San Luis Unit  on a limited basis. See Snipe Hunting for details.

Dove Hunting

During the early season, there’s a special dove hunt at the Salt Slough Unit of the North Grasslands Wildlife Area. It requires self-registration.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Unit Dove Shooting Hours
Shooting Hours
San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Unit Dove Hunting Area
Dove Hunt Map

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Bicycles

You can ride bicycles at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. You can only ride them on roads or levees for transportation between parking lots and hunting areas. See 14 CCR § 551(j) and 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(D).

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Big Game Hunting

Big game hunting is not allowed at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A) and (C).

Blinds

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Waterfowl BlindsYou cannot cut woody vegetation or make permanent blinds anywhere on the Refuge. If you bring a blind or make a temporary blind, you have to take it out after you finish hunting that day. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(1) and (3)14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(G); 14 CCR § 550(g)(3).

In Free Roam areas, you can only use portable blinds, temporary blinds made from natural resources, or existing concrete barrel blinds.

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Boats

In general, you cannot use motorized boats at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. There’s an exception for the Freitas units. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(11).

Freitas Units Boats Access

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Freitas South UnitA boat is required to access Freitas Unit North and Freitas Unit South. The speed limit is 5 mphWarning shots!!! You cannot use inboard water thrust or air-thrust boats (e.g. jet skis, air boats, inboard jet boats). When the water is low, you might not be able to reach the hunting area with an outboard motor boat. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(10)14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(G), and all State and Coast Guard boating regulations.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Freitas South Unit Boat Closure
Boat Launch CLOSED

Freitas South Unit parking is on Highway 165. Only use the marked stalls. On Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, display the parking pass you get from the check station.

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Camping and Trailers

You cannot camp or park trailers at the San Luis Unit, Blue Goose Unit, or West Bear Units. See 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(F).

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Check Stations

To enter the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge during waterfowl season, you need an Entry Permit. To get one, you either need a reservation, lottery card, or to be called from the waiting list at the designated.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Check Station
Salt Slough Check Station

In general, you get them from Salt Slough Unit Check Station. For the Kesterson Unit and Freitas North Unit, you get them from the Kesterson Check Station.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Kesterson Unit Check Station
Kesterson Check Station

To find your check station, use our custom map.  Also see Permits, Reservations, Lotteries, and Waiting List above and below.

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Dogs

Dogs must always remain under your immediate control. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(13).

Entrance and Exit

In general, all areas of the San Luis Wildlife Refuge is closed. You can only enter and exit the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge through designated locations. You can only hunt in designated hunting areas. See 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(H)Hunt Areas, and Complex Rules & Regulations.

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Equipment

Whatever equipment you bring into the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, you have to take it out the same day (e.g. decoys, boats, blinds, shells). See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(2) and 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(G).

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Hunt Areas

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Freitas South Unit GateThe San Luis Wildlife Refuge consists of seven different hunting units, each of which has a few special rules. They’re identified on hunt maps and with brown road signs, open gates, and posted hours.

  1. Blue Goose Unit.
  2. East Bear Creek Unit.
  3. Freitas North Unit.
  4. Freitas South Unit.
  5. Kesterson Unit.
  6. San Luis Unit.
  7. West Bear Creek Unit.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge closed zonesWarning shots!!! Make sure you carry you license, stamps, and permits while in the field. Stay out of areas posted with signs that say, “UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY PROHIBITED”; “AREA BEYOND THIS SIGN CLOSED.” See Complex Rules & Regulations.

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Hunt Days

General Rule

In general, you can only hunt on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays during waterfowl season.

Freitas Units

You can hunt seven days a week at the Freitas North Unit and Freitas South Unit. However, you can only get to them by boat. See Boats above.

On Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays, you still need to get a permit from the designated check stations. See Check Stations above.

The Units are closed from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

West Bear Creek Unit Hunt Days

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge West Bear Creek Unit SignThere’s an exception for the West Bear Creek Unit, which opens on the third Saturday in November. See 14 CCR § 551(p)(6) and 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(B).

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Lotteries

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Check Station
Salt Slough Check Station

If you don’t have a reservation, a lottery is used to fill any vacancies. For most units, you register in person on the night before your desired hunt day at the Salt Slough Check Station between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Kesterson Unit Check Station
Kesterson Check Station

For the Kesterson and Freitas North units, go to the Kesterson Check Station. Take your hunting license into the check station and register for the drawing. See our custom map.

 

They’ll write your name and license number on the lottery sheet and give you a registration number. Potential hunting partners don’t have to go with you. You can leave after you register. NOTE: Lotteries for the Merced National Wildlife Refuge and Volta Wildlife Area are also held at the Los Banos check station.

A computerized random drawing is held shortly after 9:00 p.m. Registration numbers are assigned a lottery number and posted on the check station window. They won’t announce the results or give them to you over the phone. To find your position, search for your registration number and look for your corresponding lottery number.

On the morning of the hunt, reservations are processed first. If there’s still room for more hunters, lottery numbers are called in numerical order. If you don’t respond, you’re name is scratched.

Warning shots!! If you register more than once, you’ll be disqualified and not allowed to hunt that day. You cannot transfer your lottery number to another person. If you intent to hunt with a group, see Parties below.

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Maps

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Flood Map
Flood Map

Pictured right is a projected flood map for the San Luis Unit of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. You can get current maps on the USFWS webpage for the Refuge.

See Unit Maps below.

Passes

During waterfowl season, you need a Type A Pass to enter the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. Warning shots!! You have to buy your pass in advance either online or at a CDFW’s license sales office or license agent. In 2016, a one pass costs $21.09 and a season pass costs $158.76. They aren’t sold at check stations. Juniors are exempt from the requirement. See 14 CCR § 550.5(c)(2) and 14 CCR § 551(e)(1).

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Permits

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Kesterson Unit Closure Sign
Waterfowl Season Permit Requirements

To enter the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge during waterfowl season, you need an Entry Permit. To get one, you either need a reservation, lottery card, or to be called from the waiting list at the designate. In general, you get them from Salt Slough Unit Check Station. For the Kesterson Unit and Freitas North Unit, you get them from the Kesterson Check Station. See our custom map.

Some permits are area-specific (see below). When that’s the case, you can only hunt in your assigned blind or zone, except to retrieve downed birds.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Vehicle Tour RoutsIn general, all permits must be returned to your check station when you’re finished hunting or before using a tour route or leaving the Refuge.

To find your check station, use our custom map.  See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(6) and (8). Also see Check Stations, Reservations, Lotteries, and Waiting List above and below.

Blue Goose Unit Permits

At the Blue Goose Unit, entry permits  are specific to spaced blind areas. In other words, you can only hunt in your blind. The only exceptions are while relieving downed birds, putting out decoys, or travel to/from the parking area. Your shotgun must be unloaded outside of your assignment (e.g. while walking or riding a bike to and from your assignment). Warning shot!!! You cannot hunt snipe, dove, quail or pheasant. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(7)-(8).

East Bear Creek Unit Permits

At the East Bear Creek Unit, entry permits are specific to your pond assignment. You can only park in the East Bear Creek Unit parking lot, and use the river crossing. You cannot use motorboats or fish in the unit.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Check Station SignWarning shots!!! Shoot time ends at 12:00 p.m. You must return your permit to the Salt Slough Unit Check Station by 3:00 p.m. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(9) and 14 CCR § 55(p)(6).

Freitas Unit Permits

While you can hunt daily at the Freitas Units, you still need an Entry Permits from the designated check stations for Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays. Permits must be returned to the check stations on those days.

Freitas South Unit parking is on Highway 165. Only use the marked stalls. On Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, display the parking pass you get from the check station.

Warning shots!!! You can only take 25 non-toxic shells after launching your boat. Your shotgun must remain unloaded (chamber and magazine) while under power). See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(5) and 7).

Kesterson Unit Permits

At the Kesterson Unit, entry permits  are specific to spaced blind areas. Your shotgun must be unloaded outside of your assignment (e.g. while walking or riding a bike to and from your assignment).

For Blinds 28 through 31, you can only get there on the one-way road. No new permits will be issued after shoot time begins, and there will be no re-rills.

san-luis-national-wildlife-refuge-kesterson-unit-mountain-lion-warning-sign
Mountain Lion Warning!!!

Warning shot!!! You cannot hunt snipe, dove, quail, or pheasant in the unit. Mountain lions have also been spotted.

San Luis River Unit Permits

At the San Luis River Unit, entry permits are specific to your pond assignment.

West Bear Creek Unit Permits

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Check Station SignAt the West Bear Creek Unit, entry permits are specific to your pond assignment. You cannot use motorboats. You must return your permit to the Salt Slough Unit Check Station by 3:00 p.m. Warning shot!!! You can only fish in designated areas. See 14 CCR § 55(p)(6).

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Pheasant Hunting

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge pheasant hunting, Kesterson Unit pheasant hunting, San Luis Unit pheasant hunting.You can hunt pheasant at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, but you can only hunt them at the Kesterson and San Luis units. You Entry Permit is specific to those areas.

See 50 CFR § 32.24(B) and 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(C). Also see Shotguns, Dogs,  Permits and Shoot Times above and below.

Kesterson Unit Pheasant Hunt

At the Kesterson Unit, you can hunt on the opening weekend of pheasant season. You need a permit and can only hunt in a special zone. The Unit might also open on the first Monday of pheasant season, for hunting in the spaced blind area.

San Luis Unit Pheasant Hunt

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Sign
San Luis Unit

At the San Luis Unit, you can hunt pheasant in the Free Roam area, and only on waterfowl shoot days.

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Reservations

If you have a reservation, you still need to get an Entry Permit from the designated check station.

All hunters entering on the same reservation will receive the same hunting assignment. See 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(F) and Check Stations above.

Blue Goose Unit Reservations

Each reservation assures entry of three people in a three-person blind, and two people in a two-person blind. Warning shot!!! You can only hunt from your assigned blind. The only exception are to retrieve downed birds or hunt in Free Roam areas. Reservations expire one and one-half hour before shoot time. See 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(G)14 CCR § 55(x)(17), and Shoot Times.

East Bear Creek Unit Reservations

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Check Station SignEach reservation assures entry of up to three people. Check in at the Salt Slough Unit Check Station. Reservations expire one and one-half hours before shoot time. See 14 CCR § 55(x)(16) and Shoot Time below.

Freitas Unit North Reservations

Each reservation assures entry of one boat with up to four people. Check in at the Kesterson Unit Check Station. Reservations expire at 3:00 a.m. See 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(F), 14 CCR § 55(x)(18) and our custom map.

Freitas Unit South Reservations

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Salt Slough Check Station SignEach reservation assures entry of one boat with up to four people. Check in at the Salt Slough Unit Check Station. Reservations expire at 3:00 a.m. See 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(F), 14 CCR § 55(x)(19), and our custom map.

Kesterson Unit Reservations

Each reservation assures entry of three people in the three-person blinds (16 blinds), and two people in the two-person blinds (15 blinds).  Reservations expire one and one-half hours before shoot time. Warning shot!!! You can only hunt from your assigned blind. The only exception are to retrieve downed birds or hunt in Free Roam areas. See 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(F) and (G); 14 CCR § 551(x)(20); and Shoot Times above.

San Luis Unit Reservations

Each reservation assures entry of two people in the two-person blinds, and three people in the three-person blinds. In the Free Roam area, each reservation assures entry of two adults, each of whom may bring two Juniors, two non-shooters, or one of each. Reservations expires one hour before shoot time. See 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(C); 14 CCR § 55(x)(21); and Shoot Times above.

West Bear Creek Unit Reservations

Each reservation assures entry of up to two adults, each of whom may bring two Juniors, two non-shooters, or one of each. Reservations expire one and one-half hours before shoot time. See 14 CCR § 55(x)(16) and Shoot Time below.

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Shoot Times

Approximate shoot times for game birds are posted online by the CDFW for Northern California. Use the Column for Los Banos. However, shoot times are location specific and posted on the Check Station windows. Warning Shot!!! At the East Bear Creek Unit, shoot time ends at 12:00 noon.

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Shotguns

On Type A wildlife areas, you can only:

1. Use 12-gauge shotguns or smaller (e.g. 20-gauge),

2. Use size T shell shot or smaller (e.g “2 shot”),

3. Take 25 shells in the field during waterfowl season,*

4. Use steel or other non-toxic shot,

5. Carry ammo in the field if you have a Permit (see above), or

6. Carry unloaded firearms in parking lots, visitor areas, check stations, or other CDFW facilities, and while on a boat under power, a vehicle, or on a bicycle

* You can take more than 25 shells on days when only upland game may be taken and on special “youth only” waterfowl hunt days. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(1), (5), and (7)14 CCR § 551(cc)(4), and 14 CCR § 551(o)(34).

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Snipe Hunting San Luis Unit

San Luis Wildlife Refuge snipe hunting, San Luis Unit snipe huntingYou can hunt snipe at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, but there are limitations on where and when you can do it.

In general, you can only hunt snipe at the San Luis Unit. However, you can only hunt in the Free Roam. Evener there, you can only hunt them on waterfowl shoot days that are open for adults to hunt. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(4) and 14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(C) and Shoot Times above.

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Trapping

In general, trapping is not allowed at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. You can apply, though, for a Special Use Permit for trapping. To get one, call (209) 826-3508. See Complex Rules & Regulations.

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Unit Maps & Rules

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Mileage to Units SignFor all units, also see Check Stations, Permits, Reservations, Lotteries, Parties, and Waiting Lists above. Open the image to the right to see how many miles the units are from the Salt Slough Check Station. The West Bear Creek Unit, for example, is 8.5 miles away and Lot B of the Salt Slough Unit is 4.6 miles away, with access only through the wildlife area).

Blue Goose Unit

"San

San Luis National Wildlife Blue Goose Unit Waterfowl Hunt Map
Waterfowl Hunting Map

 

See Camping and Trailers.

East Bear Creek Unit

"San

San Luis National Wildlife East Bear Creek Unit Waterfowl Hunt Map
Waterfowl Hunting Map

Freitas North Unit & Freitas South Unit

"San

San Luis National Wildlife Freitas Unit North Waterfowl Hunt Map, Freitas Unit South Waterfowl Hunt Map
Waterfowl Hunting Map

See Boats above.

Kesterson Unit

"San

"San

See Pheasant Hunting above.

San Luis Unit

"San

San Luis National Wildlife San Luis Unit Waterfowl Hunt Map
Waterfowl Hunting Map

See Camping and TrailersPheasant Hunting and Snipe Hunting above.

West Bear Creek Unit

"San

San Luis National Wildlife West Bear Creek Unit Waterfowl Hunt Map
Waterfowl Hunting Map

See Camping and Trailers and Hunt Days.

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Vehicles

Unless posted otherwise, the speed limit is 25 mph. You cannot stop your vehicle between parking areas to drop off people or equipment. This is sometimes referred to in the field as the “no dumping” rule. You cannot take trailers of any kind into the refuge hunting areas.

See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(6) and (12)14 CCR § 552(a)(7)(H) and Complex Rules & Regulations.

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Waiting List

If you don’t have a reservation and missed the lottery, you can sign up on the waiting list. You can sign up after the lottery, which is held around 9:00 p.m. the evening before the hunt, or after the check station opens the next morning and until 3:00 p.m. If there’s still space after reservations and lottery numbers are processed, they issue permits on a first-come, first-serve basis from the waiting list. Since there’s no guarantee that you’ll get in, hunters commonly refer to this as the “sweat line” or “sweating it in.”

You can sign up on the waiting list but, if you sign up by yourself, you cannot take in a partner. You can sign up for the first available space or select two options. If you select an option(s), you won’t be called unless one of them becomes available. You must be present when called or your name will be scratched. If you intent to hunt with a group, see Parties below.

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Waterfowl Zone

The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge is in the Balance of State Waterfowl Zone, which determines waterfowl seasons, bag limits, and possession limits.

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Auto Tour Routes

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Tule Elk
Observation Booth with a Telescope.

There are tours for tule elk and waterfowl, but you can only dive–you cannot walk on the auto routes. Here are a few pictures.San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Tule Elk Sign

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Fishing

Areas

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Fishing Areas Parking LotsIn general, you cannot fish at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. There are exceptions, though, for designated areas in San Luis Unit and West Bear Creek Unit (see below).

Boats

In general, you can only fish from the shore. While you cannot use a boat or other floatation device, you can apply for a Special Use Permit.

Hours

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Fishing Areas Parking LotsIn general, you can only fish during daylight hours.  There’s an exception, though, at the West Bear Creek Unit (see below).

You can only use a pool or one road and reel, which you must attend at all time. You can only take fish (e.g. no frogs or snakes). The most common species are channel cat, bullhead, striped bass and black bass. See 50 CFR § 32.24(D)(2).

You must comply with all California fishing regulations, including license and stamps. You also need an Entry Permit. See 50 CFR § 32.24(D).

San Luis Unit

You can fish in the Salt Slough, which is next to the Tule Elk Auto Tour Route of the San Luis Unit. You have to park in one of the lots, but you can walk and fish between them. 

West Bear Creek Unit

At the West Bear Creek Unit, you can fish in the San Joaquin River. The area is next to the Highway 165 / San Joaquin River Bridge, but there’s no parking area. The River’s south (left descending) bank, is open 24 hours per day. See 50 CFR § 32.24(D)(1).

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Other Non-Hunting Activities

In addition to hunting, you can go fishing and take vehicle tour routes for tule elk and waterfowl. See Complex Rules & Regulations (including links from the page).

Alcohol

You cannot use or posses alcoholic beverages while in the field.

Bicycles

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Local Rules SignIn general, you cannot ride a bike at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. There’s an exception for hunting.

Camping & Trailers

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Local Rules SignIn general, camping and trailers are not allowed on the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. There’s a limited exception, though, for hunting. You cannot take trailers of any kind into the refuge hunting areas. 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(12).

Dogs & Pets

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Local Rules SignYou can bring dogs and pets to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. In general, you have to keep them on a leash. There’s an exception, though, for hunting. In general, you cannot do dog training or dog field trials. You might be able to get a Special Use Permit, though. Dogs must always remain under your immediate control. See 50 CFR § 32.24(A)(13).

Fees

There are no fees for using the auto tour routes, nature trails, or parking lots, but you need a Type A pass and permit to enter during waterfowl season.

Fires

In general, you cannot make fires or use cooking grills at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. However, you can apply for a Special Use Permit.

Horseback

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge San Luis Unit Local Rules SignIn general, you cannot ride horses on the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. However, you can apply for a Special Use Permit.

Hours

For non-hunting activities, visiting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.

Marijuana

You cannot use or possess marijuana at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge, even if you have a medical card.

Permits

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Kesterson Unit Closure Sign
Waterfowl Season Permit Requirement & Closures

You don’t need a permit to go on the auto tour routes, nature trails, or parking lots, but you do need an Entry Permit to enter during the waterfowl season. You need a Spe Special Use to go into closed areas or do activities that are not otherwise allowed (e.g. trapping).

Plants

In general, you cannot take, disturb, or collect plants. There’s a limited exception for hunting blinds.

Property

In general, you cannot remove any property from the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge. However, you can apply for a Special Use Permit.

Weapons

In general, you cannot bring any weapons on the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. There’s a limited exception for hunting.

Wildlife

In general, you cannot take, disturb, feed, or collect wildlife at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. There’s a limited exception for hunting.

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