Tag Archives: Turkeys

Turkey Hunting with Pellet Rifles?

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While watching some videos on YouTube about turkey hunting with a pellet rifle, I noticed a guy from northern California stating he was using a nitro piston Remington air rifle which is not constant air or CO2 powered as your regulations state they must be. I believe people are thinking that any pellet rifle that is .177 caliber or larger is all right to use. This guy has videos of multiple hunts in which he is using illegal equipment, thus couldn’t he be considered “poaching” or at least taking game with illegal equipment? It’s sad to see people that are not completely understanding of the rules and regulations, but it also angers me to see people shoot these birds with equipment they should not be using. (Rob G., Folsom)

Answer: Thank you for taking the time to contact us about this and the use of the pellet rifle. According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Chief Mike Carion, this topic was recently discussed among our law enforcement leaders, and the group’s consensus is that the regulation allows for “compressed air or gas.” Therefore, since the nitrogen-filled chamber is a compressed gas, it would meet the criteria of the regulations and therefore is not illegal.

This is another example of the regulations not being able to keep up with the advances in technology. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention and we will work to correct the writing of the language of these regulations.


Filleting halibut aboard my boat?
Question: If I catch a California halibut and want to fillet it aboard my boat and keep it as fresh as possible, what do I have to do? Someone told me that as long as I leave all of the skin still attached on one side, that would be legal. Is this correct? (Robert L., Long Beach)

Answer: Yes. For California halibut taken from or possessed aboard a vessel south of Point Arena (Mendocino County), fillets must be a minimum of 16 and three-quarter inches in length and shall bear the entire skin intact. A fillet from a California halibut (flesh from one entire side of the fish with the entire skin intact) may not be cut-in-half fillets. However, a fillet may be cut lengthwise in a straight line along the midline of the fillet where the fillet was attached to the vertebra (backbone) of the fish only if the two pieces of a fillet remain joined along their midline for a length of at least two inches at one end of the fillet (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65(b)(6)).


How old to hunt in California?
Question: How old do you have to be to hunt in California? I know you have to be 12 to hunt big game, but are there any age limits to anything else? How old do you have to be to take the hunter safety class? (Zac S.)

Answer: A person must be 12 years old to apply for a big game tag and 16 to hunt bighorn sheep. There is no specified minimum age to hunt other game, but hunters must be accepted into and successfully complete the prescribed hunter education course. It’s up to the hunter education instructors as to what minimum age child they are willing to test, but most recommend 10 years old. The main thing is the child must be mature enough to successfully complete the hunter education course requirements and examination.


Bear spray
Question: What are the laws in regards to bear spray in the state of California? I moved from Alaska where it was almost necessary to carry bear spray as your first line of defense in order to eliminate the threat rather than resorting to a firearm. Can you please clarify what the law is here in California? I understand personal self-defense against humans is legal as long as its 2.5 ounces or less. But as far as bear spray I just don’t know the answer. I am concerned because I still have a can I brought from Alaska with me and would like to know if I am breaking any laws? (Paul P.)

Answer: Nothing in the Fish and Game Code or Title 14 regulations limit the amount of bear spray that may be possessed in California. However, depending upon the ingredients in the spray, there are likely Penal Code or Health and Safety Code provisions that apply. The use of bear spray is not allowed within National Parks found within California but is allowed in some parks in other states. CDFW recommends checking with the local sheriff’s office in the area you plan on carrying the bear spray.

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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.

Hatching and Raising Wild Turkeys

Wild spring turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Wild spring turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: If I want to raise a couple of turkeys from eggs that I believe came from partly or mostly wild stock, would I run afoul of California law? They would not be used for any business purposes and would remain on my property. I would prefer to let them roam around my place, which is quite large and full of native habitat, as opposed to keeping them penned up. There are currently no wild turkeys in my area. (Tucker)

Answer: You cannot take eggs from the wild to raise. Nesting birds are given protection from “harassment” while sitting on and incubating their eggs. In addition, wild turkeys cannot be domestically reared and released for propagation or hunting purposes. Only wild trapped turkeys trapped from the wild by the Department may be released into the wild (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 671.6(b)).


Fishing for different species with separate rods?
Question: I have a question about fishing for salmon and groundfish off the coast of San Francisco. I understand that only one rod can be used to fish each type. My question is over whether it’s ok to fish for both types of fish at the same time? By this I mean one rod set up for salmon using the “mooching” style of fishing at around 10 feet of water with frozen bait. The other rod would be set up for groundfish using shrimp flies at the bottom of the ocean floor around 85 ft. Your help is much appreciated. (Jason)

Answer: Nice try! But no, you may use only one rod when targeting salmon or groundfish. You may not use one rod for salmon and one rod for groundfish at the same time. You are also restricted to using only barbless hooks if you have a salmon on your boat, even if you are targeting rockfish at the time (see CCR Title 14, section 27.80.)


Orange hunter vests
Question: I recently completed my hunter safety education course, got my license and went hunting with a small group on private land. None of us wore hunter safety orange vests as we were all together at all times and in each other’s line of sights. I see hunting shows where they sometimes don’t wear the orange hunter vests either. When do you wear the vests? Is it acceptable to not wear them while on private land when you’re with a small group and know where everyone is? Or, do you have to wear orange all the time while hunting? (Joseph L., OIF Vet)

Answer: Though some states require hunters (especially when hunting upland game) to wear blaze orange all the time while in the field for safety reasons, in California we do not require it. It is a good idea to wear this distinctive color whenever possible for your safety as it does help you to stand out, but there is no law requiring it. You’ll find that orange is being incorporated more and more into hunting camouflage patterns to provide greater safety. One thing to note for deer hunting, deer cannot detect the color orange. To deer, orange looks gray.


Where can bluegill be used for bait?
Question: Many times I have seen people on the docks in the Delta catching bluegill for striper bait. Is this permitted for black bass bait in Lake Don Pedro if the bluegill are caught there and not transported from another place? (John and Diane H.)

Answer:  Bluegill may not be used as bait at Lake Don Pedro. California sportfishing regulations for freshwater generally prohibit using live or dead finfish for bait. Although certain species of finfish may be used in the waters where taken, bluegill may only be used in the Colorado River District (see CCR, Title 14, section 4.15(a)) and portions of the Valley and South Central Districts (see CCR, Title 14, section 4.20(d)). While Lake Don Pedro is inside the Valley District (see CCR, Title 14, section 6.36), it is not included as a location where bluegill may be used as bait.

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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.

Should Anglers Release Lingcod Females?

Both male lingcod and male cabezon (like pictured here) guard the egg nests (Photo by Matt Elyash)

Question: Last year before the end of rockfish season, I went on a charter boat out of Berkeley. Some of the lingcod caught were females with eggs. When do lingcod spawn and can keeping these females hurt the fishery in the future? Should we as anglers release females like we do for striped bass? I’m glad to see the size limit dropped and the season longer, but I don’t want to be back to where we were before. (Jason Green)

Answer: Lingcod and other groundfish are federally managed. Harvest management plans and stock assessments take into account the removal of both males and females when setting quotas, so fishery managers do factor in the take of females, too.

According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Environmental Biologist Travis Tanaka, the lingcod stock has fully recovered from their overfished status and so the spawning closure is no longer required to protect the stocks. Lingcod don’t get the bends (no swim bladder), so females can be released if handled properly.

In northern California, the seasons are closed for lingcod and other groundfish species in late fall, winter and spring for boat-based anglers. The closures help to protect mature female lingcod that have moved closer to shore to spawn, and protect the mature males that guard the egg nests.

Lingcod are a species that if handled properly can often be successfully caught and released. However, unless regulations prohibit keeping the fish (e.g. bag and minimum size limits) or the angler is releasing all fish, if it turns out the fish has been improperly handled or is bleeding and may not survive, the fish should be kept. Releasing bleeding females that may not survive in order to keep males instead just wastes fish and is not a good conservation method.

Lingcod generally spawn from November through February. Females do take longer to mature and they grow to a larger size than males. By some estimates, males only grow to 24-26 inches. Females are legal to keep, so keeping an egg-laden female would be up to that fisherman’s personal ethics. In addition, the practice of divers choosing to shoot male lingcod while they are guarding the egg beds is not prohibited, but it is a reflection of that fisherman’s ethics.

Bottom line … female lingcod are legal to take and so it’s up to the fisherman to decide whether or not they want to.


Planting wild turkeys?
Question: Who can I talk to about planting wild turkeys on private property? I am not sure if it is legal to plant turkeys. If it is legal, do I need a permit? And if so, how do I get one? (Steve H.)

Answer: Turkeys are not allowed to be transported or planted on private property. The law says: “No permission will be granted to any person to release to the wild state turkeys that have been domestically reared for propagation or hunting purposes, except as provided in subsection 600(i)(4) of these regulations. Only wild trapped turkeys trapped from the wild by the Department may be released into the wild” (CCR Title 14, section 671.6 (b)).

According to DFG Wild Turkey Biologist Scott Gardner, only DFG can release wild turkeys (no game farm birds) into the wild. However, we are not planting turkeys due to recent nuisance problems and other issues.

Does the property where you’d like to plant turkeys contain habitat that would be attractive to wild turkeys? Have you seen turkeys nearby? If either of these are true then you probably already have turkeys. It’s almost guaranteed that even if we were to plant birds on your property, they would likely not stay without the appropriate habitat.

Be careful about game farm birds that are being sold as wild turkeys, too. Besides the fact that they are specifically illegal to release into the wild, they aren’t wild turkeys, Gardner says, despite what they look like. A wild turkey must be raised in the wild by a hen right from hatching to learn to be a wild turkey. Otherwise they are maybe just a step up from livestock.


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? (Kayak fishing Ron)

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

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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.