Why no hunting during the rut?

Mule deer during the rut

Question: While watching hunting shows on TV, I see that most of them are hunting during the rut. Why can’t deer and elk hunters in California also hunt during the rut? (Terry C.)

Answer: It’s all about providing more hunting opportunities to more people. According to Deer Program Manager Craig Stowers, seasons are set with certain harvest objectives in mind. Later in the season as the animals go into the rut (breeding period) they become more bold in their attempts to find a mate, and are thus easier to hunt. If the season was held during the rut, the hunter harvest success rate would be higher, and fewer hunters would be able to hunt before the harvest objectives were reached.

Hunter survey data shows most hunters simply want an opportunity to hunt. The archery and gun seasons begin in different zones around the state in July and August, respectively. By starting the season early and allowing it to run until late fall when the animals are just going into the rut, more hunters have more opportunities to participate.

In addition to regular season hunts, there are also several special late season hunts offered that are timed to take place during the rut. These are highly sought-after tags, though, and they are distributed only through the big-game drawing. Most of California’s deer hunting takes place well before the rut begins (general seasons are timed to close about a month before the rut gets started) for two reasons:

1) Hunting during the rut greatly reduces hunter opportunity (hunting success rate is higher and so fewer tags can be issued to achieve the harvest objectives).

2) To create the least amount of disturbance possible during this critical phase of their life cycle.

The bottom line is that deer managers try to strike a balance between providing hunter opportunity and success while not exceeding harvest objectives.


Catching lobsters on a baited hook?
Question: While fishing off the jetty the other day, I caught a large lobster on a baited hook but released it because I think I remember reading that spiny lobsters could not be taken on hook and line. Where can I find this in the regulations? (Gary K.)

Answer: You did the right thing in releasing the lobster, as the only legal methods of take for lobsters are by baited hoop net or by hand. Baited hoop nets are the only appliance that may be used for people fishing from a boat, pier, jetty or shore. Skin and SCUBA divers may only take crustaceans by hand and may not possess any hooked device while diving or attempting to dive for lobsters (Section 29.05.) In addition, spiny lobster report cards are required by everyone fishing for and/or taking lobsters.


Hunting on property that is fenced but not posted with “No Hunting” signs?
Question: Can I hunt on property that is fenced but not posted with “No Hunting” signs without specific permission from the landowner? (Anonymous)

Answer: No, it is unlawful to trespass onto property for the purpose of discharging any firearm or taking birds or mammals without the written permission of the landowner or other authorized person. In cases involving publicly owned property (game refuges, state wildlife areas, etc.), specific written permission may or may not be required.

The law does not require that signs be posted on the property in all cases. For instance, unfenced property that is under cultivation would be excluded (FGC Section 2016). A simple guideline is to respect crops, fences and signs, and in any other circumstance that makes you wonder about hunter access, seek out the landowner and ask for permission.

According to Game Warden DeWayne Little, there is case law that states that a bullet or an arrow may be considered to be an extension of a person; therefore, a person shooting into private property could be committing a trespass even without physically entering the property. And, if you wound an animal where it is legal for you to hunt and the animal then goes onto property where you do not have legal access, you cannot enter the land to retrieve the animal until you obtain permission from the landowner or his designee.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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