When Big Game Tags Go Unclaimed

Pronghorn antelope (Photo courtesy of UDWR)

Question:Last year I drew an Area 6 antelope tag. While in camp I was talking with a fellow hunter who told me he drew a tag six years ago. He also told me he had a tag for this year and showed me an antelope he had shot that day. I told him I was surprised at his good luck in drawing so soon. He responded by saying he was just as surprised when he received a telephone call from DFG offering him an unclaimed tag. I am wondering what becomes of unclaimed tags. I heard that years ago there was a standby list for unclaimed tags, but thought that was done away with long ago. (Jim S.)

Answer: Hunters who are drawn for an elk, antelope or sheep hunt must claim and pay for their tags shortly after the drawing. According to DFG Information Systems Analyst Tony Straw, in the big game drawing all non-winning applicants are ranked according to their preference points and the random number they received in the drawing. DFG notifies by mail a small set of the top ranked alternates for each hunt. If a tag is not claimed by the person who is drawn, then the tag will be offered to the first ranked alternate. If the first alternate does not want the tag, then it is offered to the next ranked alternate and so on, until the tag is claimed.

It sounds like the hunter you ran into last year was an alternate for the Zone 6 – Surprise Valley Hunt because one or more winners declined their tags. It is also likely he is mistaken on how long it has been since he was previously drawn. Alternates are selected based on preference points, so an alternate for this hunt would not have received a tag that recently. Rarely does a tag go unclaimed by any of the notified alternates. When this occurs, the tag will be offered to the next ranked alternate (DFG generally calls the customer in this case rather than sending a letter to expedite the process). If that person does not want the tag, this process is repeated until the tag is claimed.

Tags for the most sought-after hunts, such as a bull elk tag or a buck antelope tag are not usually declined. The most desirable hunts generally don’t make it past the first alternate. Cow elk tags are much more likely to go beyond the first alternate. Some hunters may have second thoughts about burning points that took years to earn on a cow elk tag.


Hunting Peacocks
Question: We have a flush of feral peacocks in our neighborhood. They are very annoying and dig in our garden. My son says he’s heard they taste like pheasant. Is it lawful to hunt them? What rules would apply? (SE Jones)

Answer: Peacocks are considered domestic animals and not a game species in California. If you believe they are feral in your area, you need to check with local law enforcement and/or animal control to see if they belong to a nearby property owner and whether they have any other concerns. Peacocks or peahens are considered personal property and are not regulated by Department of Fish and Game (DFG). However, safety laws, such as discharging a firearm within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling without the consent of the owner, would still apply for authorized take (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(a)).


Tagging abalone without holes
Question: I was wondering what to do in this situation. Both a friend and I took
abalone with no holes in the shell; thus, no place to attach the tags. Regulation 29.16(3) specifically states that the tag shall be securely fastened to the shell of the abalone. We were fortunate in that there was enough algae growth on the shells where we could attach our tags, but this method didn’t seem very secure. Did we do this right? What should we have done if there was nothing growing on the shell? (Bill L.)

Answer: This is unusual but we do see it once in awhile. DFG Lt. Dennis McKiver suggests doing whatever it takes to attach the tag,like you did. You could punch a hole in the foot with a knife or scissors and then attach the tag directly to the foot. Since there are no holes in the shell, the game wardens will most likely understand you’re trying your best to tag your abalone.

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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.

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