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Volunteers lend a hand at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
A group of volunteers armed with rakes, scrub brushes and wasp spray gave the Sacramento National Wildlife complex of refuges a bit of tender loving care over the weekend.
About 50 volunteers spent Saturday morning cleaning blinds, staking pathways and repairing signs in preparation for the upcoming waterfowl hunting season.
The 18th annual Brush-Up Day is co-sponsored by the Sacramento Nartional Wildlife Refuge Complex and California Waterfowl, US Fish and Wildlife officials said.
The event brought out a number of returning volunteers, but there were also many new faces in the crowd.
"We use the refuge to hunt, so it's only right that we help out," said Tim Turnbaugh, a Southern California native stationed at Beale Air Force Base.
Turnbaugh, who was introduced to the sport by friends, has been hunting on the refuge the past three years.
Volunteers met early at the County Road 68 check station in Glenn County, before breaking into six groups and sweeping through the Delevan refuge in Colusa County and hunting areas on the Sacrament refuge, south of Willows.
Garrett Spaan, visitor services specialist with US Fish and Wildlife, said the refuge's small staff has long relied on volunteers to help prepare the grounds for fall and winter hunting.
"Volunteers save us a lot of time," Spaan said. "It would take us weeks to get the hunting areas ready for the season."
The hunting areas on Sacramento and Delevan refuges are divided into two portions — a spaced hunting area and a free roaming area. Colusa and Sutter refuges are divided into an assigned pond area and a free roaming area.
Waterfowl hunting season opens Oct. 20.
Jerry Cates, who is also stationed at Beale Air Force Base, was introduced to hunting two years.
"There is nothing like being out here at dawn to look at the wildlife," he said. "It beats any day spent in the office."
Junior waterfowl hunts are planned later in the season.
Garrett Miles, 14, of El Dorado Hills took advantage of Saturday's brush up day to familiarize Lilly, his 1-year-old golden retriever, with the refuge.
This season will be Miles' first year in the sport.
"I can't wait," he said. "I plan to hunt just as soon as I get my license."
After a few hours preparing hunting areas for the season, the volunteer returned to the Visitors Center in Willows for a hunter forum to discuss current wetland habitat conditions, waterfowl population trends and hunting season regulations.
Mike Williams, of El Dorado Hills, hunted at the Delevan Refuge for the first time last year and plans to return for the season this year.
He volunteered for cleaning duty this year to help get a better feel for the hunting areas.
"This is a good way to get to know the refuge," Williams said. "It helps so when you wake up a 3 a.m. you know where you are going."
Before the hunting season gets underway, the Sacramento and Delevan refuges will celebrate their 75th and 50th anniversaries on Oct. 13.
A number of events are planned from 10 a.m. — 4 p.m. including family and children activities, heavy equipment displays, airboat demonstrations and carving demonstrations.
The winning art from the California Junior Duck Stamp Program will be on display throughout the day near the visitor center in Willows.
Volunteers will be at the auto tour platform with a spotting scopes to assist visitors with wildlife viewing.
Behind-the-scenes birdwatching tours at the Sacramento and Delevan refuges will occur on areas not typically open to the public.
Photography tours are also planned, officials said.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.