Tag Archives: big game hunting

Elk Range in California

Rocky Mt Elk_Yellowstone_USFWS_Bauer_11440_102.3.18

Rocky Mt. elk from Yellowstone National Park were imported into California in 1966 and released in Kern County (U.S.F.W.S. photo)

Question: Why are there no elk in the central or southern Sierra Nevadas? It seems like ideal habitat comparable to that found in Colorado, but the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation doesn’t even show it as a historic range for elk. Is there some reason they could not and do not thrive in the high Sierras, or at least the foothills? (Nick C.)

Answer: It’s true that the historic range of elk in California did not include the Sierra Nevada range. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Statewide Elk and Antelope Coordinator Joe Hobbs, historically tule elk were found in the Central Valley, coast range and the Sierra foothills, but did not occupy the higher elevation regions of the Sierra Nevada.

Previous studies suggest that the Great Basin, combined with the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges, served as a western barrier to the natural movement of Rocky Mountain elk (typically found in Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Montana).

Hobbs also says elk are slowly expanding in California and we have received reports of elk in various parts of the Sierra (Plumas, Sierra and even Tuolumne counties). Currently, California has three subspecies of elk. In addition to the tule elk of the Central Valley and foothills, Roosevelt elk are found in the north coast area and the coastal interior regions, and Rocky Mountain elk reside in northeastern California.

Although the Sierra does seem to be composed of habitat capable of supporting elk, historically this was not the case due to the topography of California. Tule elk were found in the Central Valley and coast range and evolved for utilization of these habitat types and not those found in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada. The Great Basin and various mountain ranges prevented the Rocky Mountain elk from dispersing into the western portion of the Sierra Nevada range.


Can female Dungeness crabs be harvested?
Question: May I keep female Dungeness crabs if they are of minimum size? (Larry A.)

Answer: Yes. Recreational crabbers may actually take either male or female Dungeness crab. Males reach a larger size, and thus often contain more meat. Many recreational crabbers let females go as a matter of conservation etiquette to help the population replenish itself. During the first half of the season, the females are often carrying eggs and are often under the size limit as well; they simply don’t reach the larger sizes males do. Only commercial crabbers are restricted from taking female crab.


Can non-hunters carry extra shells for waterfowl hunters?
Question: I have a question about the number of shells a waterfowl hunter may possess while hunting. Is it clarified in the regulations that only hunters are limited to no more than 25 shells in the field during the waterfowl season? If not, a non-hunter could then carry another 25 shells into the field for the hunter to use. (Rick S., Pleasanton)

Answer: Current Fish and Game Commission regulations restrict the number of shot shells that are permitted in the field on some refuges or wildlife areas. The ammunition restriction does not apply to all areas, but in the areas/refuges listed in California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 551(a), the restrictions are twofold:

1) Hunters may not possess more than 25 shot shells while in the field (CCR Title 14, Section 551[q]); and,

2) Only persons with a valid hunting permit for that day are permitted to possess ammunition in the field (CCR Title14, Section 551[b][4]).

Therefore, a non-hunter cannot pack in extra shells for the hunter.


Hunting and fishing at the same time?
Question: Is it legal for me to hunt and fish at the same time? I would like to be on the boat or shore fishing with a shotgun beside me in case a duck or goose comes into range, and vice versa. If I am more serious about hunting that day, can I have a line in the water? Is this legal as long as I follow all the associated rules/laws? (Mike K.)

Answer: Yes

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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 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.

Did Game Warden Have the Right to Search My Car?

Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities. It's a crime to refuse to show any wildlife officer upon request all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken, and any device or apparatus capable of being used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians." (CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton).

Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities. It’s a crime to refuse to show any wildlife officer upon request all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken, and any device or apparatus capable of being used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians.” (CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton).

Question: I was out fishing at Lake McSwain. A man was there before me but didn’t catch anything. I got lucky and caught two trout right away, then decided to go try out a different spot. I was planning on doing a whole day of fishing and didn’t want the two fishes to spoil, so I gave them to the man that had not caught any. As I was leaving, a game warden showed up. I told him I caught two but gave them away because I’m heading to a different spot. He wanted to search my car and I let him because I didn’t have anything to hide. After not finding anything, he then told me those two fish count towards my bag limit so I can only catch three more, even if I move to a different spot. Now my question is, does he really have the right to search my car just like that, and is it correct that I can only catch three more fish after I gave those two away? What happened to the five fish in possession regulation? (Anonymous)

Answer: Good question, but the game warden was correct. No more than one daily bag limit may be taken or possessed by any one person (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.17). There is a difference between the bag limit (the number you can take per day) and the possession limit (the maximum number you can have in your possession). Just because you gave two fish away, this did not set the slate back to zero so that you could take five additional fish that day.

As far as the request to search your vehicle, any officer can ask for your consent to inspect a vehicle. Your question indicates you “let him” inspect your car because you had nothing to hide. This was perfectly legal.

Whether an officer has the authority to conduct an inspection when consent is not given depends upon the specific circumstances of the contact. Wildlife officers have extensive inspection authorities that are unique to their jobs. For example, it is a crime to refuse to show an wildlife officer “… all licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code, section 2012). Also, wildlife officers are authorized to inspect all receptacles, except the clothing actually worn by a person at the time of inspection, where birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians may be stored or placed (FGC, section 1006).


Challenging the Hunter Education exam?
Question: Can I challenge the Hunter Education exam to get my license? (Mark L.)

Answer: Yes, many California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) offices offer a comprehensive equivalency exam, but according to Hunter Education Coordinator Lt. James Kasper, this exam is a difficult examination to pass and the failure rate is high. There is a nonrefundable, administrative fee required to take the examination. This fee must be paid prior to taking the test. If you fail the examination, you must take a hunter education class or a home study/on-line course to become certified. The equivalency exam can only be taken one time.

WARNING! Not all states accept the equivalency certificates as proof of hunter education. All states will accept the certificate of completion that is awarded upon completion of a hunter education class or home study/on-line course.

If you are still interested in taking the equivalency examination, please contact your local CDFW office to see if they offer it. This examination can only be taken by appointment.


Antique dealer selling animal parts

Question: Can hunters bring mountain goats, brown bears and buffalo into the state (under California Penal Code, section 653(o))? If so, may a California antiques dealer sell animal mounts, skins or rugs from these animals? (Eric L.)

Answer: The Fish and Game Code does not prohibit the selling of animals not found in the wild in California so long as the animals were legally acquired and the importation is declared to the Department of Fish and Wildlife (pursuant to FGC section, 2353). Antique dealers should be aware of federal laws regulating the importation, possession and sale of some animals. Questions regarding those laws should be directed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They can be reached online at www.fws.gov/.

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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.