It’s early Saturday. Zero dark thirty in Marine talk. The sun hasn’t come up yet, and a light breeze mixed with heavy dew and thick fog is making for a chilly, wet November morning on Camp Pendleton.
The morning silence is broken by a group of Marines who’re gathered around the bed of a pickup truck talking while they check their gear one last time before heading out.
Marines clad in cammies, brandishing firearms and trekking about the approved hunting areas here on the weekends aren’t participating in a special training exercise. A closer observation will reveal the weekend warriors are wearing bright, orange clothing and deer scent. They’re going hunting.
Many servicemembers hunt on base in their leisure.
Camp Pendleton, with its more 125,000 acres and approximately 200 square miles of terrain, offers an abundance of wildlife, which makes for good hunting, explained Camp Pendleton’s chief game warden, Victor P. Yoder.
“Camp Pendleton is one of the last open spaces in the southern coastal region of California,” Yoder said. “There’s a multitude of hunting opportunities here.”
Hunters can pursue deer, cottontail and jackrabbit, squirrel, dove, quail, pigeon, duck, goose and coyote during their respected hunting seasons, which go on weekends throughout the year, explained Yoder. Depending on their prey, hunters are authorized to use shotgun, bow or rifle, Yoder said, adding Camp Pendleton is unique to east coast military installations because hunting with rifles is authorized.
Gunnery Sgt. Jeff D. Guilloz, assistant mess chief with Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 and member at large with the Pendleton Sportsman’s Club, bagged his limit of ducks – seven – Friday while on a morning hunt with 1st Lt. Robert E. Shuford, the internal information officer for Marine Corps Base’s Consolidated Public Affairs Office, and host of the Pendleton Sportsman Show.
“We killed four different breeds of duck today,” said Guilloz, 37, of Senecaville, Ohio. “That’s what makes hunting on (Camp) Pendleton interesting for hunters. There’s a lot of variety here. Not everyone wants to shoot one particular type of duck.”
Shuford downed three.
Guilloz takes his duck hunting seriously. He wears woodland camouflage from head to toe, three different duck calls attached to a lanyard around his neck and wields an automatic 12-guage shotgun whenever he’s after his web-footed quarry. Haku, an eight-year-old chocolate-colored Labrador/Chesapeake Retriever mix, always accompanies him on his hunts to fetch fallen fowl.
Guilloz grew up hunting other game in his home state of Ohio but is relatively new to duck hunting.
“I’ve been hunting ducks for three years,” he said. He credits his getting “duck fever” to fellow Marines.
“I got started hunting ducks here on base when some friends of mine introduced me to the sport,” he said, adding he prefers duck hunting. “There’s a lot of action,” he said. “It’s really something when you can call the ducks in. You get to do a lot of shooting.”
Guilloz recommends Marines try hunting Camp Pendleton.
“A lot of guys hunted before they joined the Marines,” he said. “There’s a lot of good hunting here.”
Yoder, who’s in his 11th season as a game warden here, encourages those who’re looking to try their hand at hunting.
“I’d like to see more first –term Marines and sailors come out and hunt,” said Yoder. “It’s important to pass hunting on to the next generation.”
Dennis Loftis, retired Marine lieutenant colonel and president of the Pendleton Sportsman’s Club, echoes Yoder’s call to have more Marines and sailors take up hunting on base.
“Many Marines and sailors aboard the base have grown-up hunting”, explained Loftis. “Most of them don't even know that (hunting is) available and that they can do it on base,” he said. “We get the word out to them and assist them by providing information and camaraderie” with the Pendleton Sportsman’s club.
Loftis believes bringing about awareness of hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities could make their assignment at Camp Pendleton more enjoyable.
Loftis invites servicemembers wishing to find out more about hunting and other outdoor activities on base to visit the Pendleton Sportsman’s Club website at www.thependletonsportsmansclub.netfirms.com.
It’s currently deer and duck and quail season. Those interested in hunting can find out more details by visiting Victor P. Yoder at the game warden building(Bldg. 25155) located in the 25 Area. He may also be reached by calling (760) 725-3360.
According to Base Bulletin 1710, Department of Defense cardholders and family members are authorized to take part in such outdoor activities as hunting, fishing and camping.