Although all parts of San Mateo County are within about forty miles of San Francisco and within a few hours by auto, there are few sections of the state that are better supplied with game and fish. It is true that a few years ago there was much better hunting, but everything considered, the coast region in San Mateo County is not to be despised. In years past the grizzly bear was common throughout the peninsula. It is said that these bears were even larger than the famous Kadiak Island grizzlies, said to be the largest in the world. Stories told of the raids made by them on the ranches in the early days are wonderfully interesting. It is probable that the last grizzly was killed in the early seventies, although it is reported that a black bear was killed in the central part of the county about 1892.
Enos Ralston of San Gregorio, whose parents settled on the Corte Madera Creek in the latter part of the fifties, tells of a grizzly bear that he and his small brothers and sisters surprised while they were gathering berries. The bear was on one side of a big red log and the children on the other. When they climbed on the log they saw the bear, it is a question as to whether the children or the bear was more frightened. Anyway, the bear went one way and the children the other.
A bear story with a more serious ending is said to have happened just across the south line of the county. Henry Waddell, who was then living in a cabin near the mouth of the stream that now bears the name of Waddell Creek went out one morning after deer. He was accompanied by a small dog. The dog took the trail, of some animal up through a steep side canyon. Near the head of the canyon the dog disappeared behind a turn and almost immediately a big bear came down the canyon at full speed. It was impossible for Waddell to get out of the way and before he knew it he had received a blow from the bear’s paw over the head that scalped him, while his thigh was crushed by the bear’s jaws. Waddell was so badly injured that he died within a few days.
As long as the present conditions exist in San Mateo County there will be an opportunity for the man who cares for deer hunting to secure venison. With 36,000 odd acres of Spring Valley land upon which there is practically no hunting, and the California redwood park just across the south line where no hunting at all is allowed. the deer can breed undisturbed. When this protected area becomes crowded, the overflow spreads out in the adjoining parts of the county where hunting is allowed. On account of the protection, it has been possible during the past several years to kill an average of 150 (leer a year. Deer find San Mateo hills particularly to their liking: the feed is good and the cover is so thick that hunters are at considerable odds unless they are assisted by well trained (logs. Deer have been killed within a short distance of both Redwood City and San Mateo. On a drive through the Spring Valley lands, it is not unusual to see as many as a dozen or more.
Valley quail are the prize game bird of the county. Quail shooting is excellent in many parts of the county and promises to be better on account of the shortening of the season and the reduction of the bag limit at the last session of the legislature. With continual watchfullness necessary, the quail have become more crafty, so that it is difficult to secure a limit, although there may be an abundance of birds in the vicinity. As soon as a few shots are fired the gun-wise birds take to the high brush where it is impossible to find them. Many years ago the mountain quail were found in fair numbers in the higher elevations; but it is doubtful if one could be found in any part of the county today.
San Mateo has long been famous for its excellent rabbit shooting. Both the cottontail and brush rabbits are found in the county, but the brush rabbit far outnumbers the cottontail. The brush covered hills on the coastside afford excellent cover. If given reasonable protection, the rabbits will long afford a source of enjoyment to the red-blooded man who likes to get out with gun and dog. During the first few days of the open season, hundreds of rabbit hunters make their way to the various parts of the county. Most of them return with goodly bags. San Mateo was one of the first, if not the first, to give rabbits the protection of a closed season. This law was found to be so satisfactory, that sometime later a state law was passed giving state-wide protection during part of the year.
The grey tree squirrel is no longer considered game in San Mateo County. They are worth more alive from the aesthetic point of view to satisfy the outer man, than they are dead to satisfy the inner man. Squirrels are found more or less commonly throughout the wooded parts of the county. In parts they are very common, even within the incorporated limits of the cities along the bay shore.
Marsh shooting in San Mateo County has not improved during recent years. Formerly the salt ponds on the bay shore afforded excellent duck shooting but in recent years clucks have become noticeably scarce. There is still in the fall of the year an excellent flight of ducks in the morning and evening, between the Spring Valley lakes and the bay, but shooting is limited to a few moments at that time and it is difficult to get more than a few birds. Better bags of ducks are secured by those hunters skilled in the use of a skulling oar, but this sort of hunting is rather hard work for the average hunter and is not commonly resorted to.
Rail shooting has been one of the sports of the county, but so much land has been reclaimed during the past few years that rail have been greatly reduced and it has become necessary to put a closed season on them. It is probable, however, that in a few years they will have increased to such an extent that a short open season can be declared. The clapper rail is one of the best of table birds and is preferred by many to any other variety of game.
Of all the attractions of San Mateo County perhaps trout. fishing is not to be surpassed. There are miles and miles of excellent trout streams easily accessible. Many of these are classic with the angling fraternity; and it is only necessary to mention the Purissima, San Gregorio, Pescadero, Butano, or any of the other well known streams , to start the ball a rolling, or, more properly, the reel a spinning. Wonderful stories are told about the excellent creels of fish that have been taken.
The streams of San Mateo have been well attended to by the State Fish and Game Commission and hundreds of lively fingerlings have been planted during the past years. The following is a record of the plantings that have been made since 1912.
In 1912, there were planted 150,000 steelhead trout, 6000 eastern brook and 114,000 rainbow; in 1913, 117,000 steelhead and 48,000 rainbow; in 1914, 274,000 steelhead, 20,000 rainbow and 400 eastern brook ; and in 1915, 400.000 steelhead and 80,000 rainbow trout-a total of 1,213,000 fish.
Added to this vast number, in normal years there is a heavy run of trout from the ocean that spawn naturally, so that even though the streams are heavily fished there should be an abundance of fish for everyone.
To many, the good things that are produced on the land at San Mateo are nothing when compared with those found in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Every low tide brings scores of residents and visitors from San Francisco to the rocky reefs where the abalone grow; and those who have had the pleasure of eating abalone know what satisfaction it brings to gather a number of these excellent shell fish.
During certain times of the year when the smelt are spawning, they run close to shore and at such times are taken by the sack-full. Fresh smelt are deemed superior to trout by many and certainly are excellent. Salt water eel are found abundantly along the rocky shore.
Great big crabs that are not surpassed in flavor by any crab in the world are taken in enormous quantities along the shore.
Many other sea delicacies might be mentioned, for they are common in San Mateo, but let us offer you the invitation to come and be shown. San Mateo invites you.
In addition to the planting of thousands of fish in the county, the Fish and Game Commission has maintained a constant patrol to see that the game and fish laws are not violated. During the past four years there has been paid out for patrol service $10596. There have been made 231 arrests, and a total of $4120. imposed in fines. The total amount collected for hunting and angling licenses has amounted to approximately $5955. It will be seen that when the cost of fish planting and the cost of patrol service are considered, that the expenditures by the Commission have been largely in excess of the money derived from the county. This is possible on account of the fact that the money collected for the licenses in San Francisco and other large cities can be used in the fields and streams where the hunters from San Francisco find their sport.