Tag Archives: hunter education

How to Prove the Sex of a Turkey

Turkey strut ( Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Turkey strut ( Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Since only tom turkeys are legal to take during the spring season, how do I prove the sex to an inquiring wildlife officer? Must a wing be left on? A beard left on? Both left on? One or the other left on? (G.B.G.)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production.


Two Cali-rigs with a two rod stamp?
Question:Can two Cali-rigs (Alabama rigs with only three hooks) be fished simultaneously on separate poles as long as the angler has a second pole stamp on their license? (Ron K.)

Answer: Yes, as long as the angler taking fish with two rods or lines in most inland waters has the two rod stamp.


Hunter education assistance for those with learning disabilities?
Question: My son has a severe reading/learning disability. He wants to take the hunter education class in order to get his hunting license but will need some assistance during the testing phase of the class. What accommodations are available for him? (Nathan H.)

Answer: In California we provide reasonable accommodations for all entitled students. Anyone with a disability can ask the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for reasonable accommodation and it will be provided on an individual basis taking into consideration that person’s specific needs. The parent, guardian or mentor should contact the CDFW before the course to request accommodations.

According to Hunter Education Instructor Leader Lt. Bart Bundesen, the key to success for any student is to study for the hunter education exam by assembling all of the pertinent information beforehand and tailoring it to their own learning approach. Here are a few resources to do this:

These websites are recommended for a couple of reasons. The Today’s Hunter in California (www.hunter-ed.com/ca/) website belongs to the same company that makes the hunter education manuals we use in California, so the material is very similar. This site has California-specific information, good animations and video. HunterCourse.com is another great website, especially for students without strong reading skills, because it incorporates more visual learning tools. The Today’s Hunter and Huntercourse.com websites both have additional audio narration functions. The International Hunter Education Association (www.ihea.com/hunting-and-shooting/hunter-education/online-courses) website also provides a lot of great information and is a good study website.

Don’t worry if it looks like a pay website. There is no charge for using any of these websites to study but the actual online courses are designed for adults. For youngsters and those with learning disabilities, we recommend that in addition to studying from these websites, they take the full 8-hour class because they will likely understand and retain the information better. The online courses require the student to do all studying and learning via the computer, and then come into the 4-hour follow up class knowing everything and ready to take the exam. While most of the material is reviewed in the 4-hour follow up class, we see a much higher success rate among people who take the full 8-hour class. Students who take the full class have the added benefit of listening to the class discussions, watching the instructor demonstrations and they can ask questions if they need better clarification about any of the topics they must learn before taking the test.

For additional questions on what reasonable accommodations may be available, please contact CDFW’s Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator at (916) 651-1214

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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.

Donating Fish to Charity for a Tax Deduction?

(CDFW file photo)

(CDFW file photo)

Question: In a recent column you said it is legal to donate excess fish from a multi-day fishing trip to a church or non-profit shelter as long as no compensation is received. What about a tax deduction? This way the guys with too many fish donate to the churches, the churches feed the hungry and the fisherman gets a deduction and doesn’t have to worry about dead fish to clean. Everyone wins! What do you think? (Dick L.)

Answer: Sorry, but while this might sound like a great idea, donated fish cannot be claimed as a tax deduction because you cannot assign a value to sport-caught fish. The best thing for anglers to do is to catch and keep only what they know they will actually use so that they don’t end up with excess fish to clean and donate.


Night fishing
Question: We love to fish for crappie and are wondering if it is legal to fish for them at night. I am not aware of any California lakes that allow night fishing using lights off of your boat. Is this legal, and if so, what bodies of water allow this type of fishing? Thanks for all of your weekly information (W. Yamamoto).

Answer: Night fishing for crappie is permitted by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFW) as long as the lake where you plan to fish permits fishing at night (CCR Title 14, section 2.15). Some lakes prohibit night fishing for purposes of access control, safety or security reasons. You will need to contact the agency or concessionaire managing the lake to inquire about their policy.


Fishing from my private dock?
Question: I live right on the river and can fish from my backyard off my private dock. Do I need a fishing license? I heard if it is private property you do not need a license. (Eric)

Answer: What you heard was not correct. You do need a fishing license because it’s not a matter of where you’re standing, it’s a matter of the waters you’re fishing in. All rivers of the state are public waters, and all fish contained in those waters are public fish. Even if a stream or river runs through private property, all of the fish within those waters belong to the people of California, and thus a fishing license is required. The only places where you would not need a fishing license would be if you were fishing in a pond on private property that has no stream or creek water flowing into it or out of it. The water must be completely self-contained so that no fish from outside of the property can swim into it or swim out of it. The only other place where you can fish without a fishing license is on a public pier in the ocean (CCR Title 14, section 1.88).


Hunter Ed reciprocity between states?
Question: I took a hunter education class in Missouri and have a hunter’s safety card issued from there but recently moved to California and would like to hunt here. Do I have to complete another hunter ed course in California or can I just purchase a hunting license using my old card? (Steve H.)

Answer: No, California accepts hunter education certificates from other states as proof you have completed an approved course in the past. You can also present a previous hunting license from another state as proof to buy a California hunting license. But despite the fact you may not need to take a California hunter education class, you still may want to consider one. It’s a good idea for everyone to periodically update their knowledge with a refresher course and a review of the 10 commandments of handling a firearm. Our hunter education program is always improving and most people do benefit from a refresher. For a calendar list of more than 200 hunter education classes offered throughout the state, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/classes.aspx).


Casting for squid?
Question: Is it legal to use a standard cast net to catch squid in the ocean or are only dip nets allowed? (Hai L.)

Answer: Hawaiian type throw nets or cast nets are legal to use to take squid if used north of Point Conception. In waters south of Point Conception, only hand-held dip nets are allowed (CCR Title 14, section 28.80).

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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.

Scouting with Scuba for Abalone?

(Photo by Derek Stein for CDFW)

Scuba divers cannot assist a free diver in any way when pursuing abalone (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Question: Is there any regulation prohibiting a photographer with scuba gear from also scouting out large abalone for a regulation-compliant abalone diver to take? Thanks in advance, and for all you do. (Dave C.)

Answer: The photographer in scuba cannot assist the free diver in any way. The action you describe falls within the definition of “take” under the Fish and Game Code and its regulations (see Fish and Game Code, section 86 and California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.80). Both the abalone diver and the photographer with scuba gear may be cited for violating CCR, Title 14 section 29.15(e), which prohibits the use of scuba gear to take abalone.


Ocean whitefish fillet size limit
Question: I noticed in the new ocean sport fishing regulations that ocean whitefish fillets are required to be a minimum length of 6½ inches long and retain the entire skin intact. However, there is no minimum size limit for the whole fish. Why is there a size limit on fillets but not on the whole fish? (Jim Martinez)

Answer: The reason is because previously in the regulations, the basses (kelp, sand and spotted) all had 12 inch minimum total lengths or 6½ inch minimum fillet lengths, and were required to retain 1-inch patches of skin still attached for identification. Ocean whitefish fillets looked so similar to the bass fillets that they too were required to measure a minimum of 6½ inches with skin attached to avoid confusion with the basses. This year though fishery managers increased the minimum lengths of the basses to 14 inches and the minimum fillet lengths to 7½ inches. Because there was no biological reason to increase fillet lengths on the ocean whitefish, scientists chose to leave their minimum fillet lengths at 6½ inches and to require all skin to be left on so that there still could be no mistaking ocean whitefish fillets with fillets of one of the three bass species.


Hunter Ed question regarding a someone with a felony
Question: My father-in-law is interested in big game hunting. Unfortunately for him, he has a non-violent felony conviction which bars him from possessing a firearm. This will allow him to only hunt via archery methods.

Does he still have to take the standard hunter safety course or is there a special class for archery only? I have a feeling he has to take the standard course even though all the firearms questions will have no bearing on his archery tackle pursuit. If he does take and pass the course, may he still hunt during the general deer season using a crossbow with me?

I pride myself on knowing CDFW law well, but this wrinkle throws me for a loop. He is a great guy who just made a bad choice more than 12 years ago. Now that I married his step-daughter and am such an avid hunter, he wants to get in on the fun, but only as the law allows. (Anonymous)

Answer: He will still have to take Hunter Ed, but he will have to find a class that does not use real firearms or have a live-fire requirement in the class. While signing up for the class or else at the very beginning of the class, your father-in-law should notify the instructor immediately of any firearms restrictions he may have. Then the instructor can determine how best to accommodate him during the class. For a list of available hunter education classes in his area, please go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/hunting/.

Hunter Ed isn’t just about firearms. It includes all forms of hunting, hunter safety, conservation, ethics, etc. In most cases convicted felons are not restricted from using archery equipment or air rifles but he should check with his parole officer or the court to make sure the conditions of his case do not preclude using these methods of take for hunting.


Practicing spearfishing in rivers?
Question: I know it is not legal to spear fish in rivers. However, if I want to take my spear to the river to practice my technique with no intention of taking any fish, am I abiding by the law? (Zoe D., Trinidad)

Answer: Spearfishing is permitted in some rivers, such as those in the Colorado River District and the Valley District (as authorized under CCR Title 14, section 2.30) but primarily only for a few species of non-game fish. New this year, spearfishing for stripers is now legal in the Valley District. Even if just practicing your techniques, don’t forget your fishing license! Otherwise, the use and possession of a spear within 100 yards of any canal, river, stream, lake or reservoir is specifically prohibited (CCR Title 14, section 2.09).

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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.

How Much Fishing Until Boat Limits Apply?

(CDFW photo by Ed Roberts)

(CDFW photo by Ed Roberts)

Question: I heard this question asked on the radio last season while fishing for salmon in Monterey. The answers from mostly experienced and knowledgeable anglers were mixed. No one seemed to be certain. So here’s the situation:

Two anglers, both legally licensed, one rod trolling per angler, barbless hooks, one lure per line. The anglers take turns hooking up and fighting the fish. Soon they have three legal salmon on the boat. One angler has a limit, and the other angler needs one more and wants to catch his own. The question: Can the two anglers continue trolling with the two rods out?

My reading of the ocean regs is yes, they can, because there is nothing in the regs saying the angler with a limit must stop fishing while the boat/anglers are not over limit. If the next one to hook a fish was to fill the boat limit, then the angler with the limit would not be able to even touch the rod. However, since catch and release fishing is not prohibited, both can continue to fish until the last fish is netted. Do you agree? (Dave R.)

Answer: Yes, boat limits apply. Boat limit: When two or more persons that are licensed or otherwise authorized to sport fish in ocean waters off California or in the San Francisco Bay District … are angling for finfish aboard a vessel in these waters, fishing by all authorized persons aboard may continue until boat limits of finfish are taken and possessed aboard the vessel (CCR, Title 14 section 27.60 (c )).


How to become a Hunter Ed Instructor?
Question: How can I sign up to become a Hunter Education Instructor?

Answer: Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Successfully complete the hunter education course prior to submitting an application
  • No felony convictions
  • Completed a course of study prior to taking a supervised examination covering the basic topics of hunter education

The testing process to become a certified instructor takes about two hours and applicants must score a minimum of 80 percent. After passing the exam, the volunteer will take an oath and work with an experienced instructor before leading their own class.

To retain current HEI certification, an instructor must teach one class per year and attend one conference. More information on the requirements can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered, or speak with one of our wildlife officers at the upcoming Fred Hall Shows in either Long Beach or Del Mar.


Lobster report card for two different types of traps?
Question: If I am fishing with both flat and rigid types of hoop nets in one set, do I need to fill out two lines on my lobster report card (e.g. one line with a gear code for flat and one line for the non folding type?) (Dixon C.)

Answer: Yes. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Environmental Scientist Travis Buck, instruction 2 on the lobster report card says “make a separate entry for each location fished and each type of gear used.” You’ll see under gear codes that flat hoop nets are gear #1 and rigid hoop nets are gear #2. So create separate lines for each type of net, and record the corresponding number of lobsters retained for each type of net. Thank you for paying attention to this detail!

Also, hunters and anglers are now being offered the ability to report harvest data online at: www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/harvestreporting/. This means you will be able to enter your 2012 lobster report card data online. Thanks and good luck lobster fishing.


Importing USDA processed black bear meat?
Question: Can I bring USDA processed black bear meat into California from Colorado and Nevada from USDA plants to sell here locally? (Anshu P.)

Answer: No, California Fish and Game law prohibits the sale of the pieces or parts of any bear in California, and it makes no difference if the item was a bear that was killed in California or in another state and imported into the state. (See Fish and Game Code, section 4758.)

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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.

Who’s right – the sheriff or me?

Photo by Edward J. Pastula, courtesy of NOAA

Question: Are there any rules on the numbers of fishing rods someone can use for ocean fishing? I had a bad experience recently with an Orange County sheriff who saw me on the Newport Beach jetty fishing with several poles. He told me I was allowed only two poles. I told him I’d seen a sign posted at a nearby pier that said, “Maximum limit three active poles.” The officer said the pier was not following the Fish and Game rules. I told him I thought what applies there also applies here in Newport since Fish and Game rules apply statewide. I presume sheriffs can’t represent Fish and Game regarding fishing rules and should instead be catching fugitives, bad guys and drug traffickers and not bothering fishermen! I didn’t want to argue with an officer with a gun, especially a sheriff who doesn’t know the rules, but I felt the officer was harassing me. (Dandy L., San Bernardino)

Answer: Sheriff’s deputies do enforce Department of Fish and Game (DFG) regulations when they see violations, and in this case, the deputy was correct. When fishing in the ocean from a public pier or jetty, DFG regulations allow for only two rods and lines, two hand lines, or two crab nets, crab traps or other appliances for taking crabs (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.88 specifically describes a jetty as a structure that is “connected to land … and whose purpose is to form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor …”). If the sign on the nearby pier indicated a three-pole maximum, then it was not a sign that was posted or authorized by the state. City regulations can be more restrictive than state DFG regulations, but not less restrictive.


Distance from the road to hunt?
Question: I’ve heard that you need to be a certain distance from highways and roads when hunting. How far away from the roadway do you need to be before shooting?

Answer: Neither the Fish and Game Code nor the California Penal Code states a specific distance that hunters or shooters need to be from roads. Penal Code section 374(c) most closely addresses this issue as it states, “Every person who shoots any firearm from or upon a public road or highway is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

In essence, this section makes it unlawful to discharge a gun from the highway surface. “Highway” as defined in the California Vehicle Code is a road that is “publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.” Bear in mind, however, that local (e.g. county) ordinances may prohibit the discharge of firearms in certain areas or within certain distances of roads, and in general, most cities do not allow shooting within the city limits. You should check with your county sheriff’s office, too.

Certainly the most important factor, regardless of the law, is public safety. Well- traveled roads and highways are not appropriate places to shoot. If you were to injure another person or livestock, or damage property, you would undoubtedly be subject to civil and possibly criminal prosecution. While shooting just one inch away from a road may be legal, it may not be safe.


Will DFG plant fish in private duck club pond?
Question: A pond on our private duck hunting property was accidentally drained in the last year but has now refilled. Can we have DFG replant it with fish?  (Fishingdude)

Answer: DFG will only plant fish in public waters that are open and available to the public to enjoy. If this is a private pond, you will need to get a private stocking permit from DFG and then buy fish from a commercial fish farm, which may also stock them for you.


Out-of-state hunter safety cert valid here?
Question: I recently moved to California from Michigan and am wondering if I will be required to take another hunter safety class to be able to hunt here? Also, during archery season, are you able to hunt from a tree stand or an elevated platform? (Noah S.)

Answer: California has no restrictions against using tree stands. And no, you will not need to take another hunter safety course as long as you can show proof that you have passed a hunter safety class in Michigan. If you cannot produce a certificate or proof, you will need to complete another course to get your hunting license. Information regarding Hunter Education courses in your area is available online at www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/index.aspx.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.