If Land is Not Posted, Can it be Hunted?

Kids take part in a managed youth hunt with the help of guides and parents on a state wildlife area. (Photo courtesy of MDC)

Question: I have two questions about a recent press release announcing the dove opener. First of all it states: “Hunters must have written permission from the landowner prior to hunting on private land.” I believe this is incorrect. If the property is POSTED, a hunter must have written permission. If it is not posted, there is no requirement for the hunter to know it is private and therefore stay out. The law is written a little odd, but I think this is the agreed interpretation.

My second question is regarding the press release statements, “It is illegal to hunt within 200 yards of an artificial water source for wildlife.” I have never seen this before. What is that statute? My understanding of the law was that a hunter many not park a vehicle or camp with 1/4 mile of an artificial water source and that he could not stay on the water source for more than 30 minutes. However, it’s perfectly legal to hunt right up to and across a guzzler (or other artificial water). (Jim Mathews)

Answer: Regarding your first question, you are correct that hunters don’t always need to have written permission from the landowner to hunt on private lands. Hunters are required to obtain written permission prior to hunting on private land that is fenced, cultivated, or where signs forbidding trespass or hunting are displayed at intervals not less than three to the mile along all exterior boundaries and at all roads and trails entering those lands (Fish and Game Code, section 2016). However, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) advises hunters to respect the property rights of others. CDFWs hunting regulations booklets all state:

“If the land you hunt on is not your own, it belongs to someone else. Make sure you have a legal right to be there. Contact the owner or person who administers the property, and secure written permission to hunt. A hunting license does not entitle you to enter private property.”

This is always the best practice. Public land managers may restrict hunting activities, too. Unfortunately, one of the most common perpetuations of a negative image of hunting is hunter trespass. Land owners are never pleased to find strangers with guns on their property without permission.

For the entire language of the hunter trespass law, please go to http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml and search using Code = FGC and Section = 2016.

As far as your second question, you are referring to the regulation for Camping Near or Occupying Wildlife Watering Places (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 730). The regulation does not apply everywhere, and it specifically lists the prohibited activities and the locations where they are prohibited. The press release should have referenced “wildlife watering places” as those are the exact words from the regulation.

Wildlife watering places are defined as: “Waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.”

“Camping/Occupying” is defined as: “Establishing or inhabiting a camp; resting; picnicking; sleeping; parking or inhabiting any motor vehicle or trailer; hunting; or engaging in any other recreational activity for a period of more than thirty (30) minutes at a given location.”

Under this regulation, hunting is prohibited within 200 yards of the following:

• Any guzzler or horizontal well for wildlife on public land within the State of California.
• Any of the wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area as depicted on the Bureau of Land Management maps of “Calif. Federal Public Lands Responsibility,” “Calif. Desert Conservation Area” and the new “Desert District, B.L.M.”

Hunting is also prohibited within one-quarter mile of the following wildlife watering places:

(A) Butte Well – Lassen County.
(B) Schaffer Well – Lassen County.
(C) Tableland Well – Lassen County.
(D) Table Mountain Well – Lassen County.
(E) Timber Mountain Well – Modoc National Forest, Modoc County.
(F) Belfast Well – Lassen County.

For the entire language of this section, please go to  https://govt.westlaw.com/calregs/Search/Index and search using Title = 14 and Section = 730.


Shell collecting prohibited on Newport Beach?
Question: I often walk on the beach in Newport and collect any shells that appear to be in good shape. Recently a city official told me I cannot collect shells on the beach. Are there specific local, state or federal laws or regulations governing the collection of common shells on the beaches of Newport? (Lori, Newport Beach)

Answer: Unless the beach is part of a Marine Protected Area with Title 14 regulations that specifically prohibit collection of shells or nonliving marine resources, Fish and Wildlife laws don’t prohibit shell collection. If a city official told you that you cannot collect shells, then there may be a city ordinance. You should check with the City of Newport Beach.

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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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