Tag Archives: big game hunting

Why Don’t Some Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Stag1

Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I recently heard about a few Southern California bucks that seem to carry their antlers year round. One person I heard from insisted they were mountain biking and repeatedly saw the same deer in January and in May with a 4×3 rack. While I disagreed with the person telling me this, I admitted I am no biologist and didn’t know what they were seeing. Do some deer out here not shed their antlers? I was under the impression that even though nutrition, water and climate might affect when they shed, that deer always shed their antlers. Can you share some info or point us in the right direction to learn more about the antler shedding process here in SoCal? (Al Q.)

Answer: Deer that don’t shed their antlers are commonly called “stags”. This is usually the result of some kind of injury (or maybe deformity) of the testicles. Testosterone plays a role in both antler development and shedding, so injuries can really affect the types of antlers they have. Weird looking antlers can also result from injury to the antlers while in velvet … but those kind usually fall off normally and are replaced the next year with “normal” antlers.

So, this proves there are indeed exceptions to every rule — even biological ones!


Incidental take while spear fishing?
Question: What happens if a spearfishing diver spots a large fish and shoots and spears it without realizing until too late that it’s a giant (black) sea bass or another prohibited species? Then after the fish is speared and brought to the surface, the spearfisher identifies they have a fish they can’t take or possess and promptly returns it to the ocean. Has the spearfisher violated any laws?

A fisherman (angler) who catches a prohibited species while fishing for other species can argue that the take was unintentional/incidental. Could the spearfisher successfully make a similar argument? (Steve H.)

Answer: Spear fishermen are responsible for identifying their targets before they pull the trigger and can be held accountable for shooting a prohibited species. They are also responsible for ensuring that any fish they shoot meets the minimum size limit requirements for that species, again, before they pull the trigger.

A short lingcod or illegal giant sea bass, for example, is unlikely to survive after being shot by a spear fisherman who has the ability to select his target carefully; a short or illegal fish is much more likely to survive being hooked and released by an angler fishing from a boat, who cannot selectively target which individual fish he wishes to catch.

If a diver is unsure about the size or identity of the fish he/she’s aiming at, he/she should choose a different target. Shooting a fish that you’re unsure of could be illegal, and we believe that many spear fishermen would consider it unethical, as well.

All of these same principles also apply to hunters. No one with a rifle, shotgun, spear gun or even bow should pull the trigger unless absolutely 100 percent sure that their intended target is of legal size, species, gender, etc. An accurate (or even lucky) shot made, but with an error in judgment, isn’t worth the repercussions of breaking the very laws enacted to protect the state’s fish and game.


Why the health warnings for brown trout?
Question: In the fishing regulations there are safe eating guidelines for Donner Lake. I am trying to figure out why there are different recommendations for brown trout compared to rainbow trout. The guidelines suggest people eat only one serving of browns vs. seven servings of rainbows. Why? (Tim Worley)

Answer: The recommendations in our regulation booklet are from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The recommendations are probably from actual studies done by OEHHA of mercury levels in edible flesh from these two species from Donner Lake.

According to Dr. William Cox, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, we do not plant brown trout in Donner and so those fish are essentially wild and older in the system. Therefore, they have been on natural diets and accumulating mercury from the naturally occurring insects and aquatic life that comprises their food chain.

CDFW does plant rainbow trout in Donner as part of what we call a “put-and- take” fishery. For most of their lives those fish are not eating natural feeds, and are generally not piscivorous like the brown trout, so they accumulate much less mercury. Humans, especially children and women of child bearing ages, need to limit their intake of mercury because it can have serious health effects, including death.

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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.

Ingenious or Illegal?

Red abalone from Santa Cruz Island (Photo by CDFW Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Red abalone from Santa Cruz Island (Photo by CDFW Marine Biologist Derek Stein)

Question: I am going over abalone laws again for any details that I may have missed and I have one quick question.

Measuring devices: You must have a fixed-arm measuring gauge, capable of spanning an abalone’s shell. It is a violation to take an abalone when not in possession of a gauge, even if the abalone is legal-sized.Ab iron_gauge combo

As you can see in this picture, the gauge is part of the ab iron. Since it has a fixed-arm that is capable of measuring abalone, I assume this gauge is legal. I just wanted to confirm since I am hearing that people are being approached for this type of gauge. Thanks. (Jerry)

Answer: In order for this combination abalone iron / measuring gauge to be legal, it must meet the requirements of both a legal abalone gauge and legal abalone iron.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Dennis McKiver, the law says every person taking abalone “shall carry a fixed caliper measuring gauge capable of accurately measuring seven inches. The measuring device shall have fixed opposing arms of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.15(f)).

While the idea of carrying one device seems desirable, it is difficult to determine the absolute legality of this particular device from this photo alone. The important thing to consider is that a legal gauge must be “capable of accurately measuring” and the fixed opposing arms must be “of sufficient length to measure the abalone by placing the gauge over the shell.” If there is any question, the abalone fisherman should carry an additional legal abalone gauge with them.

All divers must carry an abalone gauge that measures seven inches and any abalone removed from the rock that measures seven inches or more must be retained (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(d)). Wildlife officers frequently find people trophy hunting with only nine or 10 inch gauges in their possession and they end up citing many of these individuals for high grading because they are detaching and replacing abalone that are less than nine or 10 inches, but are otherwise legal to take.


Slingbow for game hunting?
Question: Is it legal in California to hunt small and big game with a slingbow, provided it can cast an arrow legal for the game being hunted at least 130 yards? Referring to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354, slingbows do have flexible material (the band), and a string connecting its two ends (of the band) as the nock, to satisfy the legal definition. (Jason L.)

Answer: These slingshot-style bows would not be legal because bows are defined only as longbow, recurve or compound bow (under CCR Title 14, section 354(a)). The slingbow falls under the definition of a crossbow (CCR Title 14, section 354(b)) “or cured latex band” and could be used for hunting under crossbow regulations.


Trout fishing with “dough balls”?
Question: While living back east, we used to use “dough balls” for trout. We made them out of corn meal, flour and water or fish meal, flour and water. Is this a legal bait for trout in California? (Mike)

Answer: Yes, processed foods may be used in California’s inland waters where bait is legal. Therefore, where bait is legal, dough balls would be legal.


Resident sport fishing license still legal after moving out of state?
Question: If I bought a California fishing license earlier in the year but then moved out of state, can I still legally fish with that resident license even if I now have an Idaho address? I’ll be coming back and forth during the year to visit family and am hoping this license will be good at least through the end of the year. (James F., Boise, ID)

Answer: Your resident California sport fishing license is valid through Dec. 31, 2014, even if you move out of state.

“Resident” is defined as: Any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior to the date of his application for a license or permit, any person on active military duty with the Armed Forces of the United States or auxiliary branch thereof, or any person enrolled in the Job Corps established pursuant to Section 2883 of Title 29 of the United States Code (Fish and Game Code, section 70).

“Nonresident” is defined as: Any person who has not resided continuously in the State of California for six months immediately prior to the date of his application for a license or permit (FGC, section 57.)

Next year you will need to buy a nonresident sport fishing license to fish in California.

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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.

Catching Limits from Different Waters on the Same Day

When fishing at night, make sure you can still identify your catch. (USFWS photo by Steve Hillebrand)

(USFWS photo by Steve Hillebrand)

Question: I enjoy your weekly newspaper columns and now I have a question that I hope you can answer. When fishing for striped bass at a local lake where there is a 10 fish limit with no size restriction, what happens if on the way home I stop at the Delta to fish for catfish and a wildlife officer checks me out and I have 10 striped bass already? How do I prove I caught them at say New Hogan Lake several miles away and not the Delta? Another thing, if I catch eight striped bass at the lake, can I still catch two more out of the Delta? Thanks for your consideration. You keep writing them and I’ll keep reading them!! (Mark S., Tracy)

Answer: A fisherman could lawfully catch eight striped bass at a lake and then catch two more in Delta waters during the same day for an overall possession of 10 fish. There is nothing in the Fish and Code or regulations to prohibit a person with 10 striped bass from stopping to fish for catfish in the Delta. However, you should expect any wildlife officer who contacts you will conduct a thorough investigation of the source of your fish. I can only suggest you try to keep those fish caught at the lake clearly separate and even stow them away in your car in a separate cooler. Also, if the lake is one where you can get a receipt showing you fished there first, then it helps give you a little more evidence. Because this can be difficult for you to prove, and unless you want to take those fish home before heading out again to the Delta, I suggest you do whatever you can (e.g. pictures or video on your phone) to prove the fish were caught in different waters. Then if a wildlife officer questions you, the situation will be more clear.


Shotgun magazine capacity
Question: I know when bird hunting, you are allowed two shells in the magazine and one in the chamber. Are the rules any different when hunting big game with a shotgun? (Brian H.)

Answer: No, the rules are the same. The law says shotguns capable of holding not more than three shells firing single slugs may be used for the taking of deer, bear and wild pigs. In areas where the discharge of rifles or shotguns with slugs is prohibited by county ordinance, shotguns capable of holding not more than three shells firing size 0 or 00 buckshot may be used for the taking of deer only (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 353(b)).


Spearfishing for white seabass
Question: As a spear fisherman, could I complete a two fish limit for a boat with two divers? For example, let’s say the other guy gets sick, can I go shoot a second fish for his limit of one? (Alex V.)

Answer: No. Boat limits only apply to anglers (hook and line fishermen). If you speared more than one daily bag limit you could be cited for taking an “overlimit” of fish.


Free fishing group permits
Question: I have some sponsors interested in helping host some fishing events to benefit military men and women who have returned from duty overseas and now have combat-related injuries or disabilities. Can any special provisions be made to waive license fees for the troops during these hosted fishing trips? What about for these veteran individuals who just want to go fishing on their own? Would you be so kind to explain what opportunities there may be and who I would contact? (Randy H., La Granada)

Answer: Yes, there are “Free Group Fishing Permits” available allowing for free fishing under certain conditions and the requirements for these permits are very clear and specific (Fish and Game Code, section 7151 [d-e]). With this approved form, the following persons may fish under this authority:

* Mentally or physically disabled persons
* Active duty military personnel receiving inpatient care in a military or Veteran’s Administration hospital
* Veterans with service connected disabilities

Fish and Game Code, section 7151(d) allows for these special sport fishing permits to be issued to groups of mentally or physically handicapped persons under the care of:

1. A certified federal, state, county, city, or private licensed care center, or
2. Organizations exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code, or
3. Schools or school districts.

Employees of private licensed care centers, tax-exempt organizations, schools or school districts are also exempt from Section 7145 only while assisting physically or mentally disabled persons fishing under the authority of a valid license issued pursuant to this section.

For more on free and reduced-fee fishing licenses, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/sportfishingfreereduced.html. The Free Group Fishing Permit application forms can be obtained through our License and Revenue Branch office in Sacramento.

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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.