Tag Archives: big game hunting

Must Hunters and Anglers Carry CDL with License?

Hunters and anglers should carry photo identification along with appropriate fishing/hunting licenses to properly identify who they are (CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton).

Hunters and anglers should carry photo identification, along with their appropriate hunting/fishing licenses, to properly identify themselves to wildlife officers when asked. (CDFW photo)

Question: While hunting or fishing, besides carrying the appropriate license(s), do I also need to carry my state driver’s license? I would prefer to leave it in my vehicle, but I also want to be sure I am in compliance with the law if I run into a game warden in the field. So my question is do I need to carry photo I.D. with my license? (Anthony B.)

Answer: You will need to verify that you are the person holding your own fishing or hunting license. Though photo identification is not mandated by law, being able to identify yourself properly is. If you cannot appropriately identify who you are, you may see yourself in an extended contact with the wildlife officer. If you’re getting cited for something, the wildlife officer may have to take you to jail until you can be properly identified. The bottom line is even though the law doesn’t state you must have photo identification in possession, it would benefit you greatly to carry photo identification, so you may properly identify who you are to the wildlife officer.


Family crabbing trip
Question: My family plans to take a trip to San Francisco this July. Is red crab season still open or is it open all year? If it is open, please let me in on some rules and regulations, such as the limit and the size? Where can I find more information about crabbing in San Francisco and ask more questions? (Kao X.)

Answer: Take of rock crab is open year-round. Red/yellow/rock crab are species that may be kept in San Francisco Bay (no Dungeness crab may be kept from the Bay, even during the open season). Rock crab and other non-Dungeness crab have a daily bag and possession limit of 35 crab that must measure at least four inches across (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.85(b) on pg. 50 of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).

There are a variety of piers where people go crabbing in the San Francisco Bay area. Try reviewing piers on the website www.pierfishing.com. A guide that shows the differences between the crab species is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/dungeness_crab.asp#cancroid.

Be sure to review the above subsection thoroughly for further fishing regulations that pertain to rock crab (bag limit, size limit, etc.). For more information about crab, you can visit our Invertebrate Management Project webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/invertebrate/crabs.asp.


Transporting cleaned and portioned fish
Question: If I take a long road trip with my boat in tow and catch fish over a few days, my concern is that while I will only have legal quantities in possession, the fish will be cleaned, portioned and vacuum sealed before I return home with my boat in tow. I know it’s legal to clean fish after I am at my vacation home, but in this this situation the quantities of yellowtail, yellowfin, white sea bass, etc. would be impossible to determine even though I am within the possession limits. How would a wildlife officer deal with this situation if I was stopped on the roadtrip home with a cooler full of vacuum sealed fish? (Charlie C.)

Answer: Unless the regulations specifically require that a fish be kept whole until being prepared for immediate consumption, such as lobster and abalone, you may clean and store your fish in any condition you want to, once they are brought ashore. In similar situations, people have chosen to package each fish separately, and retain the carcass, so that if stopped by a wildlife officer, they could show the officer the legal-sized carcasses, which would also aid in identifying the species of fish. That still would be more complicated than if you hadn’t chunked up the fish, but it would be better than a bag of nondescript cubes of fish. If the quantity appeared highly excessive, a wildlife officer might use our Wildlife Forensics Laboratory to determine the exact quantity.


AO tags during rifle season?
Question: Can you use an Archery-Only tag during rifle season if you’re still using archery equipment as your method of take? (Eric C.)

Answer: Yes. The Archery-Only (AO) tag allows hunting with archery equipment only during the archery and general seasons in A, B or D zones and Hunt G10 (military only). You may not possess a firearm or crossbow when hunting under the authority of an AO deer tag, except as otherwise provided.

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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.

Why Not Wolves in California?

Gray wolf captured and GPS-collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

Gray wolf captured and GPS-collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

Question: Even though gray wolves are slowly expanding back out into their historical ranges, why have they not returned to California? Other western states have them. What makes California different? What’s the status of the wolf planning effort? Is there funding for it? (Emma M.)

Answer: The biggest considerations on natural reestablishment of gray wolves into California are the smaller populations of prey species available (compared to other western states), the growing population of people and the decline in habitat to support them.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Program Manager Karen Kovacs, while the gray wolf’s prey species is similar to other western states (deer and elk), California cannot compare with the other states on the numbers of prey animals. In general, wolves in the western states prey on elk. And while some states have hundreds of thousands of elk, our state has less than 10,000 elk. California has more deer than elk, but again, less than what other western states have.

Human population in California is also different. California has more than 38 million people and infrastructure to support that population including highways, development, reservoirs, intensive agriculture, etc., all of which contribute to a loss of deer and elk habitat, hence a loss of potential wolf habitat.

One other difference is that California has very limited information regarding the prior presence of wolves in the state. Very little verifiable information exists, including about two wolves collected in the 1920s. So just how widespread and what those historical numbers are is unknown.

The draft Wolf Plan will address these considerations and other consequences of wolves in California. The wolf planning process with the stakeholder working group is completed. We are in the process of revising the draft based on peer review and the last round of comments from the working group. We anticipate having the revised draft available for public review along with holding two public meetings for additional input to the department. We will then make any necessary changes and finalize the Wolf Plan. Timeframe is late spring or early summer. There is no specific funding identified at the present time.

California has no intention to reintroduce wolves as other states have done. For more information on gray wolves and the work being done in California, please go to: www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/wolf/


Filleting fish onboard vessels?
Question: I want to make sure I have this filleting of fish onboard vessels correct. If I am fishing in San Francisco Bay and catch a 36-inch striped bass and a 48-inch leopard shark, I cannot remove the fillet from either fish until I am off my boat, correct? If so, can I remove the tail, head and fins from the fish? If I move to the Delta District to fish, are the filleting restrictions different? Thank you, as always, for helping to clarify these regulations. (Howard A.)

Answer: Both striped bass and leopard sharks have minimum length requirements and no established minimum fillet lengths, so neither can be filleted until you are back on shore. Heads and tails must also stay attached so that the fish can be measured to confirm they are of legal size, unless the fish is still of legal size after removing the head and tail. No person shall fillet, steak or cut into chunks on any boat or bring ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks any species with a size limit unless a fillet size is otherwise specified (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(c)). In addition, no fish may be possessed on a boat or brought ashore in such condition that the size and/or species cannot be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508 and 5509), unless it is being prepared for immediate consumption on the boat.


Can youth hunters earn preference points?
Question: If my 9-year-old daughter has her hunting license, can she apply for preference points for any big game species, even though we know she can’t big game hunt until she is 12? (Shelley D.)

Answer: No. Hunters can only apply in the big game drawing once they are eligible to hunt for big game. Applicants for premium deer license tags, pronghorn antelope license tags, or elk license tags must be at least 12 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying. Youth hunters are not eligible to apply, even if it’s just to earn preference points (CCR Title 14, section 708.11).


Number of rods while fishing with crab snares?
Question: While out crabbing from our boat, my friend and I like to cast crab snares while waiting to check our soaking crab pots. I don’t see any regulations related to the number of rods we can have out when using only snares from a boat. (Paul S.)

Answer: Regulations for crab snares (referred to as crab loop traps in our laws) can be found in CCR, Title 14, section 29.80. Although there is no limit to the number of poles you use, each loop trap is restricted to no more than six loops (snares).

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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.

Fishing or Foul Hooking?

The Northern or Florida strain of largemouth bass (LMB) are the best species for stocking in small private ponds. (DFG staff photo of Amanda Menefee by Ken Oda)

Angling is defined to only include the fish voluntarily taking the bait or lure in its mouth. Snagging the fish outside of its mouth is illegal and considered foul hooking (CDFW staff photo of Amanda Menefee by Ken Oda)

Question: When sport fishing for black bass, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regulations say the fish must willingly take the bait in its mouth. However, it doesn’t say if the hook has to be inside the mouth or not. For example, when fishing a multi-hook bait, can the hook go from the outside to the inside of the mouth? As bass often hit these baits while attempting to eat it, the rule seems a little vague. (Randy R.)

Answer: No, this would be considered foul hooking and not legal since the fish is essentially snagged rather than voluntarily trying to eat the lure. Angling is defined in the regulations to only include “such manner that the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth.” The outside of its mouth is not in its mouth (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.05).


Hunting pigs and turkey simultaneously?
Question: There is a bit of a debate going on the Nor-Cal Wild Pig Hunters Facebook group regarding the legality of hunting pigs and turkey simultaneously during turkey season. Is it legal to carry No. 6 shot shells (for turkey) and rifled slugs (for pigs) at the same time while out hunting turkey in an area that holds pigs? Many say it is common practice, others say it is illegal to carry slugs (or any shell holding larger than No. 2 shot) while pursuing turkey. Who’s right? (Mark, San Bruno)

Answer: It would be legal to hunt pigs and turkeys simultaneously because a slug is not shot. A hunter who possesses shot size larger than No. 2 could be cited while turkey hunting, but the regulation limiting shot size that may be possessed when taking turkey does not address slugs.

Methods authorized for taking big game (wild pig) include shotgun slugs, rifle bullets, pistol and revolver bullets, bow and arrow and crossbow (2014-2015 Mammal Hunting Regulation booklet, page 24, section 353).

Methods of take for resident small game (wild turkey) are shotguns 10 gauge or smaller. Shotgun shells may not be used or possessed that contain shot size larger than No. BB, except that shot size larger than No. 2 may not be used or possessed when taking wild turkey (CCR Title 14, section 311(b)).


How can I prove my innocence regarding a fishing citation?
Question: If I am cited by a wildlife officer for a short fish or an overlimit of crustaceans but believe I am innocent, how can I prove it? Do I have to go to court at my own expense to prove my innocence? (Dustan B.)

Answer: If you believe that you are innocent of the violation(s) you were charged with, then yes, you need to appear in court on the date listed on the citation. You will then have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, no contest or not guilty. If you enter a plea of not guilty, you will have your opportunity to explain your side of the story to the judge.


Fishing with mosquito fish/guppies for bait?
Question: I live in the Central Valley, Fresno to be exact. In inland waters where mosquito fish are resident, is a person legally able to use “mosquito fishes” as bait (similar to using minnows as bait)? I would already presume transferring them from one body of water to another is prohibited, but what if the body of water is already inhabited by mosquito fish? (John T., Fresno)

Answer: Mosquito fish are not native to California waters but were introduced into California around 1922 to consume and suppress mosquitos and their larvae. Allowable live baits that may be used in the Central District, which includes the Fresno area, can be found in section 4.20 of the 2014-2015 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet (page 17). Legally acquired mosquitofish can be legally used in any body of water for bait except those listed under 4.20(f).

Use and transportation of bait fish is strictly regulated in the Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet (CCR Title 14, section 4.00) to prevent the inadvertent transfer of a baitfish species from one body of water to another. It’s a good idea to double-check this section of the regulations booklet whenever you are transporting baitfish to your favorite fishing spot.

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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.

 

Bowfishing in the Surf?

bowfishing_IndianHeadRanch

Bowfishing (photo courtesy of Indian Head Ranch)

Question: Is it legal to bowfish in the surf? Regulations say bowfishing is not allowed within 100 yards of the mouth of a stream. I’m guessing on the beach it is ok for finfish, like spotfin croakers? However, I do know some beaches prohibit bowfishing because they consider a bow and arrow a deadly weapon. Do you know which ones? (David T.)

Answer: You should check with your local police or sheriff’s department first to determine if there are any city or county ordinances prohibiting the use of bow and arrow fishing tackle. If not, it is legal to bowfish in the surf under the following conditions: Spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used for taking all varieties of skates, rays and sharks, except white sharks. Such gear may not be possessed or used within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or on any trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken. Bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used to take finfish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill swordfish, white shark, green sturgeon and white sturgeon (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 28.95, 27.90 and 27.91).


Can you hunt waterfowl not listed in the regulations?
Question: I know there are quite a few types of ducks that are not listed in the waterfowl regulations (e.g. teal, mergansers, etc.). If a species is not specifically mentioned, does this mean that they can or cannot be hunted? (Joe D.)

Answer: The waterfowl regulations apply to all species of geese, ducks and mergansers. Coots have different regulations. As long as the waterfowl species you wish to take does not have more specific regulations than the general bag limits, then that non-specified waterfowl species can be included in your general bag.


Retrieving game from private property?
Question: Where can I find the regulations on retrieving game that has moved onto another’s property after being shot? I believe that it is legal but I can’t find the regs. (Joe D.)

Answer: There are no regulations which allow you to recover game that ends up on private property. You are expected to retrieve all game you harvest and not to cause wanton waste by failing to recover something you’ve shot, but you must get permission from the landowner to legally enter their property. If you are not able to reach them for permission, you may contact the local game warden or sheriff and request assistance.


Buying diamondback rattlesnakes from Texas for taxidermy?
Question: I want to buy dead western diamondback rattlesnakes for taxidermy from a seller in Texas. From what I read in the regulations, it is OK. The shipper just needs to label the box with the contents. If this is legal, can you please provide the code section regarding buying/importing dead rattlesnakes? (Bryan W.)

Answer: Dead rattlesnakes can be purchased and imported into California (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). You will just need to make sure the shipment comes with a completed Declaration for Entry form identifying what it is and where it’s coming from. This declaration must be submitted to the department or a designated state or federal agency at or immediately prior to the time of entry. Declaration is not required if shipped by common carrier under a bill of lading.

This form may be photocopied. The original copy of the declaration form shall be retained by the person importing the fish or game into the state. One copy shall be mailed to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814, within 24 hours after entering the state. One copy shall be deposited at the point of entry with any state or federal agency or officer, and one copy shall remain with the fish or game if transported by other than owner or common carrier.

“Point of entry” refers to the city or town nearest your point of entry into California.


Lobster hooping from a public pier?
Question: While lobster hooping from a public pier, the maximum number of nets per person is two. Can a person with two nets deployed for crab/lobster simultaneously use a fishing rod for finfish? What about if the person has a fishing license and lobster card? (Steve G.)

Answer: No, the regulations state that people fishing from a public pier can fish with only two “appliances,” so the two hoop nets and one fishing rod for fin fish would total three. You don’t need a fishing license to fish from a public pier, but anyone fishing for lobsters must have a valid lobster report card.

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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.

How Well Can Waterfowl See?

Wood duck (Photo © Carrie Wilson)

Wood duck (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: How well can ducks actually see? Can they see color? I know deer see different shades of gray, but what about ducks and geese? (David V.)

Answer: Waterfowl can control the curvature of both the lens and cornea (mammals, including humans, only control the lens). This is basically how birds can see extremely well while flying and while in the act of diving/feeding. In addition, their eyes act independently and they use one at a time to allow for depth-perception since nearly all waterfowl have monocular, not binocular, vision (they can’t stare forward at objects).

Another unique thing about waterfowl is they can see in almost all directions. A few ducks are the exception to the rule, but usually the eye placement allows them to view in many different directions at the same time. Secondly, waterfowl have a very high number of cones (which dictates color vision in humans) which allows them to see sharp images and have color vision where colors are more vivid than humans’ ability. The breadth of color vision is much wider than our own since UV light can be observed by waterfowl (UV light is absorbed by lenses in humans). This allows waterfowl to fly at night or feed in the dark or at low light conditions.


Diving in MPA reserves with game onboard?
Question: If I am on a commercial sport diving boat and we have legally caught lobster on board, may we go into a marine protected area (MPA) to dive and be assured that we will not get a ticket if we are boarded? We would of course have lobster report cards all properly filled out and the lobsters would be of legal size and taken beforehand in a legal area. Can the boat operator be assured that he will not be cited as well? (Rusty B., Montclair)

Answer: If you have lobsters on board your vessel, you may not dive in a marine reserve with gear that can be used to catch lobster (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 632 (a)(7) and (8)). A person can’t have their “fishing gear” deployed in the water when anchored or transiting through a marine reserve or other MPA that prohibits fishing for the species you have onboard. Thus, if a diver dives with a game bag and gloves, then it could be argued they have their lobster “fishing gear” in the water. If divers really want to dive in a marine reserve off their boat with catch on board, they should do everything possible to ensure it does not appear they will be pursuing/taking lobster. This would include stowing their completed lobster report card, along with the lobster and dive bags. A diver wearing gloves and diving with a game bag, or anything else that could be used to take fish, lobsters or abalone (a large dive knife or long stick with a hooked device, etc.) would appear to have another purpose in mind besides sightseeing. It would then be up to the wildlife officer to determine the appropriate action.


Are rules for selling on eBay different?
Question: From my understanding, it is illegal to sell deer skulls, deer antlers or deer mounts in the State of California. I know that eBay is based in California and they allow the sale of deer antlers, mounts and deer taxidermy. Obviously, they are receiving money from the online sale of deer parts so how did that come about, and has there been special legislation to cover it? Was this a decision allowed by the California government, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or has it just happened this way? (Nate H.)

Answer: Just because eBay is selling these things or allowing them to be sold, doesn’t mean it’s legal. Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling or purchasing any part of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California. Complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers mounted for display or antlers in the velvet may not be sold or purchased at any time. However, shed antlers or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handcrafted items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be handcrafted, may be purchased or sold. Deer hides can also be sold.


Who can validate big game tags?
Question: I have a question regarding who can validate big game tags. In the regulations booklet there is a list of persons who may validate/countersign big game tags, but I noticed there is no mention of County Agricultural Standards Inspectors. Each county has Agricultural and Standards Inspectors and/or Agricultural Biologists and Standards Inspectors who enforce the laws and regulations of California. Would a hunter be within their legal right to have their big game tag countersigned by such a person? (Andy R., Escondido)

Answer: No. Only those people listed in the regulations booklet are authorized to validate big game tags (CCR, Title 14, section 708.6).

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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.

How Are Sturgeon Weathering the Drought?

Sturgeon photo1

White Sturgeon (CDFW photo)

Question: I have a question about sturgeon. Are they being negatively affected by the drought? Since sturgeon have been around millions of years, they must have endured many droughts and so hopefully this drought will not hit them as hard as maybe some other species that are less hardy and more sensitive to changes. Is this true? (Anonymous)

Answer: That’s an excellent question, but the answer is complicated. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Environmental Program Manager Marty Gingras, plenty of sturgeon in California will likely outlive this drought because of the state’s adaptive management of white sturgeon harvest (green sturgeon is a threatened species so harvest is illegal) and protection from poaching.

Sturgeon and salmon are anadromous species, but salmon mature and then die in just two to three years. By comparison, female sturgeon typically mature after 15-plus years, can spawn more than once (though not annually) and can live many decades. These characteristics mean that sturgeon are resilient, but it also means they can easily be overfished. California’s sturgeon fisheries were (with minor exceptions) closed from 1901 through 1953 due to overfishing. Commercial harvest of white sturgeon is illegal and recreational harvest is now managed through area closures, bag limits, size limits and gear restrictions.

Most sturgeon spawn in the Sacramento River and young-of-the-year fish migrate downstream to rear in the San Francisco Estuary. Large numbers of young sturgeon survive the migration only in years with nearly flooding Sacramento River flows during both winter and spring. For sturgeon it is as though 2014 is the eighth straight year of drought. Although a relatively-good “cohort” of white sturgeon spawned in 2006 will soon be harvestable, we expect the fishery to decline substantially.

Adaptive management of California’s white sturgeon through predictable ebbs in abundance is key to conservation of the species and its fishery.


Deer tag validation required from private property?
Question: If I take a legal buck on my own property, then tag and process it on site, do I need to get the tag validated since it will require me to transport the carcass off my property? (Ruth W.)

Answer: Yes. All deer must be validated even when taken on private property. Remember, wildlife belong to the people of the State of California, not to the owners of land where animals live. The law states the animal’s tag must be validated regardless of where taken and may not be transported initially except for the purpose of taking it to be validated (Fish and Game Code, section 4341).


Dorado limits higher in California
Question: I went fishing out of San Diego twice this fall. The first time we fished in California waters off San Clemente Island and the second time we fished in Mexican waters. I understand the daily bag limit for Dorado in Mexico is two fish, but can’t find it in the regulations booklet for California. What is it? (Chuck K.)

Answer: Dorado do not have a specific bag limit in California and so they fall under the general bag limit of 10 fish of any one species with no more than 20 finfish in combination of all species (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 27.60(a)).


When cancer treatment threatens premium draw deer hunt?
Question: I was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer in April and have had chemo for four months. I am doing great and am in good shape to go hunting, but I just found out I must have a bone morrow transplant and it looks like it will be around the time of the premiuml draw tag hunt. Can I return this tag and still get my points back? Doctors at Stanford are trying to let me go hunting but it may not happen. (Dennis S.)

Answer: So sorry to hear about your cancer and the treatments you’re going through! In order to return the tag without penalty, I suggest you contact our License and Revenue Branch at (916) 419-7573 immediately. You must return the tag before the season begins along with a letter explaining why you can’t complete the hunt. With some tag drawings there will be an alternate list available with hunters standing by in case of a cancellation. No alternate lists are established for premium deer tags though, so your tag will not be reissued to anyone else. There is a preference point appeal process available. Please go to CCR, Title 14, section 708.14 for the details. And best wishes that your upcoming cancer treatments go well.


Motorized turkey decoys?
Question: Are there any restrictions on using motorized or string motion decoys while turkey hunting in California? (Scott C.)

Answer: No.

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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.

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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.