Tag Archives: deer hunting

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.

Bowfishing for Bullfrogs?

Bullfrogs can be taken by bow and arrow (CDFW Photo by Dave Feliz)

Bullfrogs can be taken by hand, hand-held dip net, hook and line, lights, spears, gigs, grabs, paddles, bow and arrow (including compound bows) or fishing tackle (CDFW Photo by Dave Feliz)

Question: In the regulations it says it’s legal to use bow and arrow to take bullfrogs. Does this mean we are also allowed to take them using compound bows? (J. Riggs)

Answer: Yes, compound bows are a kind of bow, so you can use them to take bullfrogs. Bowfishing for bullfrogs will also require you to have a California sport fishing license.  Amphibians may be taken only by hand, hand-held dip net, or hook and line, except bullfrogs may also be taken by lights, spears, gigs, grabs, paddles, bow and arrow or fishing tackle (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.05(e)). Since there are some protected frog species that may coexist with bullfrogs, please be sure you are correctly identifying your frog as a bullfrog, Rana (Lithobates) cataesbeiana, before releasing your arrow!


Taking a deer to a butcher across the state line?
Question: I live in Lake Tahoe on the California side, and hope to tag my first buck this fall. If I have a successful hunt, is it legal to take the buck to our favorite butcher who happens to be just across state line in Incline, Nevada? Or, would I need to find a butcher in California to help process the animal? (Scott Y., Lake Tahoe)

Answer: You will need to check with Nevada Department of Wildlife regarding their importation laws. Each state regulates importation of dead wildlife under its own regulations. California’s Fish and Game laws do not prohibit this, but when you bring the meat back into California, you will need to file a “Declaration for Entry” form. This form and all directions can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/entry-declaration.aspx.  


No deer tag, so what can we hunt?
Question: Half of our group drew tags for our favorite hunting zone and half did not. The unlucky ones will be helping with chores, fishing and hunting coyotes. Can we carry a rifle for coyotes while riding with the hunter with a tag? Many times we’ll drop the deer hunter off and then come back to pick them up, meanwhile calling coyotes to kill the time. Is it legal or would it be best to leave the guns at camp and separate the two activities? Thanks. (Mark)

Answer: This would be legal as long as the coyote hunters are clearly not attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill a deer. If your friends are hunting deer and you are hunting coyotes, it’s best to keep the two practices separate. This is especially true during deer season so the coyote hunters will not be mistaken by others to be deer hunting without a tag. In addition, as coyote hunters, you cannot engage in driving deer for your friends to shoot while in possession of a rifle because this is considered take of deer. Take is defined as to “Hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or the attempt to hunt pursue, catch, capture or kill.” If the coyote hunters are involved in any activity which results in the pursuit of deer, they would be in violation.

Keep in mind that coyote hunting methods are often not compatible with deer hunting, so wardens sometimes encounter hunters claiming to hunt coyotes when in fact they are deer hunting and trying to fill a friend’s tag. This is a significant problem in areas where drawing a tag is difficult, such as the X-1 zone, so the wardens are watching for this.


Fishing in isolated ponds
Question: As our creeks dry up, ponds are formed, with some of them at the road culverts. Is it legal to fish these ponds with a pole, by hand or a dip net? (Jeanne G., Portola)

Answer: In intermittent streams like you describe, what appear to be ponds are actually isolated pools. Although not apparent during the dry season, water may still be flowing, out of sight, under the streambed surface. This is often called “intragravel flow.” Because a creek is still a stream and not actually a pond or lake, the same regulations for the stream will still apply. Fish can only be taken from these waters under the regulations currently applicable for that stream, including seasons, limits, methods of take, etc. To view the current sport fishing regulations for inland waters, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/ or pick up a copy of the booklet wherever fishing licenses are sold.


Are artificial fish scent attractants considered bait?
Question: Are products like artificial, scented fish eggs considered “bait” when it comes to areas where the regulations call for artificials only? My guess is they would be considered bait, but what about just plastic salmon egg imitations with no scent? Or, does scent play into the regulations at all? (Mike S.)

Answer: An artificial lure “… does not include any scented or artificial baits” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.11). This means attractants may not be applied to the lure while fishing in waters restricted for artificial lure use.

In addition, some people spray WD-40 on their lures. This substance contains petroleum and is specifically prohibited by law to be deposited or introduced into the waters of the state (Fish and Game Code, section 5650).

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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.

What Defines Wanton Waste?

Deer poaching (CDFW photo)

Hunters must make reasonable efforts to retrieve edible portions of game birds and game mammals. After an animal is harvested, no portion of the flesh usually eaten by humans can be left, either through carelessness or neglect, to go needlessly to waste. (CDFW photo)

Question: Is there a place in the regulations that talks about what I’ve heard hunters call “want and waste”? Can you point me in the right direction for the regulations if such a regulation even exists? The question comes up because my hunting partners and I often argue about what is and is not considered edible on a deer. Could I get a ticket because I do not eat the lungs or the liver or heart? Some people I know feel the ribs are not even worth eating. What is the definition of waste? I’ve heard someone say 30 percent can be left in the field but I’ve never seen what the regs say about the specifics of what you could possibly get a ticket for not taking home to eat. (Anonymous)

Answer: In California, hunters must make reasonable efforts to retrieve edible portions of game birds and game mammals. After a hunter has harvested an animal, the law requires that no portion of the flesh usually eaten by humans can be left, either through carelessness or neglect, to go needlessly to waste. Harvesting any deer and detaching or removing from the carcass only the head, hide, antlers or horns while leaving edible parts to needlessly go to waste, is deemed to be “wanton waste” and the hunter can be cited (Fish and Game Code, section 4304). The intent of the law is to prevent trophy hunting and to stop people from taking animals just for mounts.


Why are Dungeness crabs in San Francisco Bay protected?
Question: Why it is illegal to keep Dungeness crabs from San Francisco Bay? (Judy K.)

Answer: San Francisco Bay is an important Dungeness crab nursery area, so that’s the reason this area has always been considered off limits to the take of Dungeness crab by both sport and commercial fishermen.


Baited traps to catch bait fish?
Question: Can baited traps, such as a minnow traps, be used to catch surf smelts, anchovies or sardines to use as bait? I will be fishing in Southern California in Orange, Los Angeles or San Diego counties. (Jackson T.)

Answer: No. Baited traps can be used only for the take of shiner surfperch, Pacific staghorn sculpin and longjaw mud suckers in San Francisco and San Pablo bays and their tributaries, and in the open ocean and the contiguous bays of Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin counties. In addition, traps cannot be over three feet in greatest dimension. Any other species taken must be returned to the water immediately (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.80.)


Access rights through public land?
Question: Can someone hunt on a riverbank that is considered public land if the person entered through a legal public access or had been given permission by another property owner up river? Can the property owner down river run me out? (Anonymous)

Answer: If the riverbank is clearly public land and you accessed it legally, the landowner should not run you out. It is not legal for someone to interfere with a legal hunting activity (Fish and Game Code, section 2009.) The neighboring landowner should not run you out either unless you are on his/her land. Keep in mind that riverbanks and the beds of rivers beneath streams and lakes are often deeded to be “land” in California, and thus you may actually be trespassing. In addition, depending on the location, there may be local ordinances that would prohibit you from hunting in these areas. You might also check with the agency that has jurisdiction over the land or look up their regulations to make sure that hunting is allowed on the public land you are using. There is also the concern of game retrieval. While you may be able to access the river section, should the game you take land on private property that you do not have permission to be on, you could find yourself in a situation where you engage in either hunter trespass, or if you fail to retrieve the animal, waste of game. Both of these situations constitute citable offenses.


Picking seaweed
Question: Is it legal to pick seaweed along the Mendocino coast? (Raymond L.)

Answer: Yes. Generally, up to 10 pounds wet weight per day may be harvested per person (with no more than 10 pounds in possession at any time). Exceptions include the following prohibited species: sea palm, eel grass and surf grass. However, there are marine protected areas (MPAs) where the take of all living marine resources are prohibited (e.g. Point Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Ten Mile State Marine Reserve, etc.), so be sure you are not in a restricted area before harvesting seaweed. For information about MPAs, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/.

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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.