How to Keep Hunters from Hunting on Our Property?

Mule deer_Clear Lake_USFWS

Mule deer around Clear Lake (Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: Our church owns about 700 acres in the foothills of Northern California. We recently had someone shoot at a 6-point buck, wound it, and screech away off the property. We called the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), who sent out a tracker. They followed the trail of blood but never found the wounded animal.

Meanwhile, we have many deer that reside on our property and we are vegetarians. We do not shoot the deer and they wander freely on the property. You can walk within maybe 20 feet of even these majestic big bucks and they won’t flee. We do not want people shooting the animals on our property.

The Fish and Wildlife person who came out told us it was legal for people to shoot the deer on our property unless we fenced it or posted signs (such as “POSTED NO HUNTING”) all over the property. Is this really true? For one thing, it isn’t even hunting season (with a firearm, which this was), and second, it’s private property and we’ve not given written permission to anyone to hunt on our property.

We also don’t want to post “NO TRESPASSING” signs because we welcome the public to visit our beautiful community with 85 homes and a number of businesses, including a school.

Can you help me understand what the law states, and what we must do to allow the public on our land but disallow hunting (and fishing) on our land? (Church Administrator)

Answer: Hunters do not need permission to hunt on private property unless the land is under cultivation, enclosed by a fence, or posted in accordance with Fish and Game Code, section 2016. This section requires that signs “forbidding trespass or hunting, or both are displayed at intervals not less than three to the mile along all exterior boundaries and at all roads and trails entering those lands,” and “signs may be of any size and wording that will fairly advise persons about to enter…that the use of the land is so restricted.”

If you would like to pursue trespassing charges (under Penal Code 602) against specific people who have entered the property for any reason, including without permission to fish or hunt, you can do so but the prosecutor generally wants the owner to state they will testify and also show that the suspect was already warned at least once.

Another law to be aware of is one that states “It is unlawful … to hunt or to discharge while hunting, any firearm or other deadly weapon within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling house, residence, or other building or any barn or other outbuilding used in conjunction therewith. The 150-yard area is a ‘safety zone’.” (FGC, section 3004).

You may need to take measures to discourage deer from becoming too comfortable on your property around humans because this makes them vulnerable to unscrupulous poachers. To do this, remove as many attractants as possible. If the deer are being fed, this is illegal (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 251.3 and 251.1). Also, by encouraging more deer to occupy your property than is normal, this may bring in some additional unwanted side elements (e.g. poachers, Lyme’s disease and mountain lions).


Throw nets to capture live bait
Question: I know round nets can be used to catch live bait like anchovies and smelt from piers, but I am not sure if there is a size restriction for the circumference on the net. I couldn’t find that info in the regs book. (Mike I.)

Answer: There is no size restriction on the circumference of a throw net used in ocean waters at this time. However, throw nets may only be used north of Point Conception (Santa Barbara Co.) and may only be used to take herring, Pacific staghorn sculpin, shiner surfperch, surf smelt, topsmelt, anchovies, shrimp and squid (CCR Title 14, section 28.80.)


Bringing mountain lions into California as “personal property”?
Question: A friend of mine told me that because mountain lions are not endangered or federally protected, that California cannot prevent a person who has taken one legally in another state from bringing it into the state as personal property. Is California blowing smoke? Thanks (Ken)

Answer: No, your friend is mistaken. Fish and Game Code section 4800, which was added to the code as an Initiative Measure (Prop. 117) in 1990, designates mountain lions as “specially protected” in California, and prohibits their possession or importation into the state. However, Fish and Game Code section 4800(b)(2) does allow for mountain lion possession if the owner can demonstrate the mountain lion was possessed prior to June 6, 1990.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at Cal.Outdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

2 responses to “How to Keep Hunters from Hunting on Our Property?

  1. Carrie Wilson: Years ago, we did NOT warn a trespasser when we pressed charges, and he pleaded “not guilty.” We had no postings, and no fencing on one border either. The judge asked the perpetrator: “Do you own the property?” Answer was no. Judge asked, “Did you have permission to be on the property?” Answer was no. Judge said, “Guilty.” Posting property for trespassing purposes is NOT required in California, nor is giving a warning. Yes, asking them to leave may help the case, but then that may become a “he said/she said” situation. We believe your answer gave an erroneous perception of what the law actually is. Otherwise, every single homeowner in the state would have to have such signage.

    • California Outdoors

      Katie Cather: I think we all know it’s unlawful to trespass onto property we do not own or have permission to be on, and this falls under Penal Code section 602. In addition, it is unlawful to trespass onto property for the purpose of discharging any firearm or taking birds or mammals without the written permission of the landowner or other authorized person. In answering this question I was trying to address the situation that these landowners wanted people to feel free to enter and enjoy their property and did not want to discourage free entry by posting “No Trespassing” signs. They did, however, want to discourage people from entering the property to hunt, but again, they did not want to fence the property or post any signs to define where their property boundaries were and to warn that hunting was not allowed. While we should all be sure we are not trespassing without permission onto someone else’s property, by fencing or posting the perimeters of their property with “No Hunting” signs placed three signs to the mile, they would be protecting their property from being hunted under Fish and Game Code, section 2016.

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