Category Archives: Firearms/Ammunition

Turkey Hunting with Pellet Rifles?

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While watching some videos on YouTube about turkey hunting with a pellet rifle, I noticed a guy from northern California stating he was using a nitro piston Remington air rifle which is not constant air or CO2 powered as your regulations state they must be. I believe people are thinking that any pellet rifle that is .177 caliber or larger is all right to use. This guy has videos of multiple hunts in which he is using illegal equipment, thus couldn’t he be considered “poaching” or at least taking game with illegal equipment? It’s sad to see people that are not completely understanding of the rules and regulations, but it also angers me to see people shoot these birds with equipment they should not be using. (Rob G., Folsom)

Answer: Thank you for taking the time to contact us about this and the use of the pellet rifle. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Chief Mike Carion, this topic was recently discussed among our law enforcement leaders, and the group’s consensus is that the regulation allows for “compressed air or gas.” Therefore, since the nitrogen-filled chamber is a compressed gas, it would meet the criteria of the regulations and therefore is not illegal.

This is another example of the regulations not being able to keep up with the advances in technology. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention and we will work to correct the writing of the language of these regulations.


Filleting halibut aboard my boat?
Question: If I catch a California halibut and want to fillet it aboard my boat and keep it as fresh as possible, what do I have to do? Someone told me that as long as I leave all of the skin still attached on one side, that would be legal. Is this correct? (Robert L., Long Beach)

Answer: Yes. For California halibut taken from or possessed aboard a vessel south of Point Arena (Mendocino County), fillets must be a minimum of 16 and three-quarter inches in length and shall bear the entire skin intact. A fillet from a California halibut (flesh from one entire side of the fish with the entire skin intact) may not be cut-in-half fillets. However, a fillet may be cut lengthwise in a straight line along the midline of the fillet where the fillet was attached to the vertebra (backbone) of the fish only if the two pieces of a fillet remain joined along their midline for a length of at least two inches at one end of the fillet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(b)(6)).


How old to hunt in California?
Question: How old do you have to be to hunt in California? I know you have to be 12 to hunt big game, but are there any age limits to anything else? How old do you have to be to take the hunter safety class? (Zac S.)

Answer: A person must be 12 years old to apply for a big game tag and 16 to hunt bighorn sheep. There is no specified minimum age to hunt other game, but hunters must be accepted into and successfully complete the prescribed hunter education course. It’s up to the hunter education instructors as to what minimum age child they are willing to test, but most recommend 10 years old. The main thing is the child must be mature enough to successfully complete the hunter education course requirements and examination.


Bear spray
Question: What are the laws in regards to bear spray in the state of California? I moved from Alaska where it was almost necessary to carry bear spray as your first line of defense in order to eliminate the threat rather than resorting to a firearm. Can you please clarify what the law is here in California? I understand personal self-defense against humans is legal as long as its 2.5 ounces or less. But as far as bear spray I just don’t know the answer. I am concerned because I still have a can I brought from Alaska with me and would like to know if I am breaking any laws? (Paul P.)

Answer: Nothing in the Fish and Game Code or Title 14 regulations limit the amount of bear spray that may be possessed in California. However, depending upon the ingredients in the spray, there are likely Penal Code or Health and Safety Code provisions that apply. The use of bear spray is not allowed within National Parks found within California but is allowed in some parks in other states. CDFW recommends checking with the local sheriff’s office in the area you plan on carrying the bear spray.

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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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

When Cattle Run Feral …

Feral cattle (photo from  Wikimedia Commons)

Feral cattle do not exist in Fish and Game regulations. To harvest them may constitute cattle rustling and land a person in jail with a hefty fine! (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Question: I know of people seeing feral cattle in a wilderness area where I hunt. The area is miles from the nearest maintained trail at elevations where bighorns are found. Rangers also confirm the cattle are feral, as in left behind by the ranchers who used to run cattle in the area. What are the laws regarding taking feral cattle in California? I know other states, such as Colorado, allow it year round, unregulated. (Stephen M.)

Answer: “Feral cows” do not exist in Fish and Game regulations because all cattle are considered domestic (not wild or feral) livestock and are someone’s property. California may have feral pigs but there is no such thing as a feral cow. Cattle all belong to someone until that right of ownership is relinquished, and ranchers do lease cattle grazing rights on public property.

It would be a felony to kill another’s cow without their permission (grand theft) and therefore unlawful for you to “harvest” cattle from the wilderness area, or any other place for that matter, without written permission. When cattle do gain access to a wildlife area, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has the authority to relocate them under the provisions of the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550(b)(16).

Bottom line … if you try to do this yourself, you may be arrested for cattle rustling and find yourself in jail for up to six months along with facing a hefty fine.


Colorado River stamp no longer required?
Question: I hear that the Colorado River Stamp was discontinued for 2014. If so, what license or stamps do I need to fish in the Colorado River now? (Glenn U.)

Answer: Yes, the Colorado River Special Use Validation has been discontinued. California and Arizona have entered into an agreement for the reciprocal recognition of licenses to fish any portion of the Colorado River that is the boundary between California and Arizona. With a California sport fishing license or an Arizona sport fishing license, you can fish from either shore, or from a boat, in the portion of the Colorado River that makes up the California-Arizona boundary and connected adjacent water that is the boundary between Arizona and California. Anglers holding California sport fishing licenses abide by California regulations, and anglers holding Arizona sport fishing licenses abide by Arizona regulations. This agreement does not apply to canals, drains or ditches used to transport water for irrigation, municipal or domestic purposes.


When is it legal to shoot across water?
Question: In one of your Cal Outdoors answers you laid out the parameters of hunting from a boat. How can this be legal if you are not allowed to shoot across water? (Keith and Julie B.)

Answer: While it is illegal to shoot across a roadway, it is not illegal to shoot across water as long as the shooter is able to clearly see their target and can do so safely. Shooting from any “platform” which is not stable is unsafe, and discharging a rifle across a body of water is extremely dangerous due to the likelihood of the bullet ricocheting in an unintended direction. Shot shells do not present this danger to the same degree.


Taking non-licensed passengers along as observers while fishing?
Question: As an avid fisherman with a private vessel, I often take friends out hoop netting or fishing. Often these friends are perfectly happy to operate my boat while I tend the fishing line(s) or hoop nets. Do these companions need to have a fishing license as long as we follow the bag limits and limits on nets and lines in the water for a single fisherman? It is often a spur of the moment decision to go out, and sending my guest off to get a license for one or two hours of fishing is inconvenient at best. (Jack Z.)

Answer: You are welcome to take non-licensed passengers along to observe you while fishing or hoop netting as long they do not engage at all in any of the actual sport fishing activities. It is only in the commercial fishing industry where those who assist with the boat handling and other tasks need to have their own commercial fishing license.

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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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

Can a Private Boat Owner Be Cited for a Passenger’s Violation?

California Spiny Lobsters at San Clemente Island (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: I have my own boat and take friends out lobster fishing with me. I always make sure each person has their license and report card. I also make sure each person has their own bag and keeps each lobster they catch separate as they catch them. My question is, if the game warden finds a short lobster in one of their bags, am I held responsible as the boat owner or would the owner of that bag be responsible? Also, do boat limits apply when fishing for lobster? (Jerry E.)

Answer: Lobsters may be brought to the surface of the water for measuring, but no undersize lobster may be brought aboard any boat or retained. All undersize lobsters must be released immediately into the water (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.90). If the bag or undersized lobster is claimed by any person aboard the boat, that person would most likely be issued a citation for possession of an undersized lobster.

If no one claims the lobster, the game warden can issue citations to everyone aboard the boat (joint possession). Or, since the boat is the property of the skipper, the skipper may be the only one cited because the undersized lobster is possessed aboard the skipper’s boat. Of course, prevention is the best solution, so if in doubt, set it free.

Sport fishing boat limits apply only to fin fish, not lobster. This means that once a lobster fisherman harvests the daily bag limit of seven, he or she may no longer fish for lobster.


Lead ammo for pistol in condor country?
Question: In the lead-free condor zone, can I carry a pistol that is loaded with lead ammo for self-defense, with the intention of NEVER using it for hunting purposes? The purpose of carrying it is for self-defense only. Of course I’ll be carrying lead-free ammo for my rifles, but I want to know about the side arm. Personally, I carry either a Glock 20 in 10mm or a Ruger 44mag. (Brandon C.)

Answer: You may not use or possess lead ammunition in the condor zone while hunting, even if you have no intention of using the lead ammunition to shoot wildlife. For more information on the non-lead requirements in condor country, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/condor/.


Selling sturgeon eggs from a legally-taken sturgeon?
Question: If I catch legal-sized sturgeons with eggs, can I sell the eggs because I don’t eat them? (Byron M.)

Answer: No. It is illegal to sell any portion of a sturgeon or any fish taken under the authority of a sport fishing license (Fish and Game Code, section 7121).


Grizzly bear tooth
Question: I received a grizzly bear tooth amongst some of my grandfather’s possessions after he passed away. My grandfather grew up here in California and was an amateur geologist and never hunted, so I think he either found or purchased the tooth, although I have no proof. I was wondering if it is legal to possess or sell the tooth here in the state of California. I don’t want to break any laws. (Laura J.)

Answer: It is legal for you to possess it but you cannot try to sell it. The sale or purchase of any bear part in California is prohibited (FGC, section 4758 (a)). Even offering it for sale over the Internet is a federal violation that could make you subject to prosecution under the Lacey Act. You may possess the tooth or give it away, but you may not sell it.

Sounds to me like you have an interesting piece of California’s history, as grizzly bears are extinct in the state — Enjoy it!


Retrieving hoop nets with rod and reel?
Question: Is it legal to use a rod and reel as a retrieval device for a hoop net? For instance, I would connect an 18-inch hoop net to the line of my rod and reel (without hooks) and this would allow me to cast the net in order to better fish for lobsters from a jetty. Is this OK? (Jeff C.)

Answer: Yes, you may use a rod and reel as a retrieval device for your hoop net. You are not required to pull your net by hand, nor are you prohibited from pulling it using a rod and reel.

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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 CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.