History of the Wheeler Island Land Company - Since 1924
Early members of Wheeler Island Duck Club in the 1920's
The Wheeler Island Duck Club was incorporated in the State of California on April 3, 1924. The land area consisted of 1054 acres and was purchased for the sole purpose of duck hunting and other appropriate recreational activities. There were ten charter members: H.C. "Doc" Veatch, A.C. Drendell, J.A. Richmond, Henry Woerner, Fred Ballinger, William M. Symon, P.N. Varellas, John Tavlopoulous, Thomas Fernandez, and A.L. Piper. In 1928 an application was submitted and approved by the Superior Court of California approving the name change of the club to Wheeler Island Land Company. The original membership was limited to seventeen (17) members and this prevailed until 1974 when it was increased to 20 members. Eventually the number was changed again to include the current number of members at twenty-one (21).
The original club house consisted of the main dining room, kitchen, a small room for the keeper and a few small bedrooms on the west side. The builders used treated lumber similar to railroad, ties laid flat on the marshy ground for the foundation to support the building. This material has endured well over the years and building movement has been minimal. When new additions were added the same method was used with great success.
In the early days of hunting at Wheeler Island the limit was 15 per day and not over 25 live decoys were ever used. The blind locations used to be fairly close to the boat ditches for easier access by the hunters. The club used to have one boat on the marsh that was operated by the keeper. Hunters would board this boat in the early hours and get off at the blind location and walk out to the blind, which was quite close to the boat ditch. There were stakes with wire strung along so the hunter could follow them to the blind. Decoys were stored in the blind and in many cases left in the water. The blinds were redwood tappered tanks about four feet deep. There were no lids so during the hunting season muskrat ladders were kept in each blind so if one fell in it could climb out. In the summer months they were filled with water to keep them from leaking in the winter. The problems associated with the wooden blinds inspired member Henry Smith (1957-1977) to design and build the Smitty Duck Blinds. The Smitty blinds are a fiberglass design complete with a lid, a rotating seat and shelves to place your shells, etc. These blinds are still in place at Wheeler Island.
Wheeler Island for years was a traditional "men's only" hunting club. In the early 1970's that tradition was set aside to make way for what is now the "norm" at Wheeler Island. Son's, sons-in-law, daughters, and wives now participate in the Wheeler experience on a regular basis. During the season there is a special "Wives Night" dinner once each month on Friday night. It has turned into a well attended evening through the years. Another tradition at Wheeler Island is the annual New Years Party which is a fun evening for the whole family. As Wheeler Island celebrates over 80 years as a hunting club, the involvement of the members is still as evident as it was in the beginning back in 1924. Here's to another 80 years of the hunting experience!