Sidearm While Duck Hunting?

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: A friend and I recently had a situation where we found pig tracks at one of the areas where we like to duck hunt. We both found it a little unnerving to be walking in knee to waist high grass armed with only bird shot if a pig were to charge. The area where we are hunting doesn’t explicitly prohibit handguns. We were wondering if California law allows us to carry a handgun, not as a method of take, but rather for defense while hunting waterfowl. I noticed the answer to the question on sidearms while hunting upland game and small game but don’t know if duck hunting has any additional restrictions. Also, if this is allowed, does the ammo in the handgun apply to the nonlead requirement while hunting duck, or is it exempt considering that it is not a method of take? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks. (Rhyan P.)

Answer: Unless the area where you’re hunting explicitly prohibits the possession of, or hunting with, handguns, that part should not be a problem. If that is the case, and you feel that your life is in danger, you can shoot the pig. However, you are not authorized to take the carcass unless you have a pig tag and utilized a legal method of take. If you’re hunting in condor country, you must carry nonlead ammunition.


Are crabs with black spots safe to eat?
Question: I just bought two crabs and found one with black spots on the outside shell. I’ve seen these before and usually avoid them, but this time the seller sneaked it into my package. When I called him about it, he said he didn’t know what it is, but it doesn’t permeate the shell. This isn’t true—I’ve seen this stuff on the flesh at the joints. It looks like oil. Can you enlighten me? Besides being ugly, is it unsafe? (Mari V., Berkeley)

Answer: Black spots on the shells of crustaceans are typically composed of melanin, which is the end product of a series of immunological reactions. This means the crab was likely responding to some shell damage that could be caused by physical trauma or a disease agent. In this case, the black spotted crab is probably safe if cooked correctly. However, if the discolored shellfish tissue has an unpleasant taste or texture, or looks or smells unusual, we always recommend not eating it.


Where can I find bail fine information?
Question: How are fines determined and how can someone locate published documentation on fines? (John S., Bakersfield)

Answer: The State Judicial Council publishes the “Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules” every year. If you perform a web search, most courts will link to the most current edition. The link on our web site  www.courts.ca.gov/documents/july2011_jcbail.pdf is the 2011 edition. Additionally, some fines are mandatory and established by the California legislature. Those can be found in the Fish and Game Code starting with Section 12000. See the California Legislative Information web site http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml to look up the code. With some exceptions for mandatory fines, the uniform bail and penalty schedule is a guideline used by judges. In other words, judges have a great deal of discretion in setting fines and penalties for any violation.


Crossbows for wild pigs?
Question: I am trying to get some clarification on hunting wild pigs with a crossbow. The regulations state that crossbows may be used to take deer and wild pigs only during the regular seasons (California Code Regulations, Title 14, section 353). Since wild pigs can be hunted all year, does that mean that a crossbow can be used (like a firearm) to hunt wild pigs? Can any legal hunter with a hunting license and a pig tag use a crossbow for wild pigs? The regulations have a bit of a gray area here and I would like some clarification please. (Al Q.)

Answer: Yes, wild pigs can be taken year-round with a crossbow.


Importing a water buffalo skull?
Question: I purchased a water buffalo skull with horns in Thailand (Jan 2014). The Thai post office informed me I would need a “customs” form to have it delivered in the U.S. but they did not have them. The skull remains with my son in Thailand.

The skull is clean and dry. There is no remaining material on the skull. The skull was purchased from a buffalo farm for about $60. The animal was not mistreated or tortured. It died a natural death. The farm has a number of skulls for sale.

Can you please tell me what form I need and what I need to do to have it shipped to me here in California? Thank you in advance for your assistance. I enjoy your articles! (Jerry M.)

Answer: California wildlife law does not generally apply to this situation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be the contact agency regarding importing parts from a water buffalo into California.

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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.

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