How Many Feet in the Water to Enter a Legal Hunt Zone?

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

California mule deer (photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: While hunting during archery season in August, I ran into a situation that I could use your guidance on. While at my campsite, a hunting partner of mine observed a buck feeding near the creek that we were camped near. I was hunting in D7. Unfortunately for me, the buck was on the north side of Deer Creek, and therefore in X9A. I quickly got my bow while my hunting partner sat quietly at camp and watched. I quietly moved into position and waited for the deer to cross the creek. He never did, so therefore I had to let him go, of course.

When a zone’s boundary is defined by a creek, river or other body of water, when is the animal considered to be within your zone and therefore legal to take? Can you take him when he’s drinking and touching the water? Does he need to have two or four feet in the creek? Does he need to completely cross and be across the creek and completely in your zone? Or does he need to be clear of the creek bed all together? What is the law? (Kevin K.)

Answer: The deer would have had to be at least halfway across the creek to be into the correct zone. Keep in mind that animals shot with bow and arrow or a rifle can travel a substantial distance, so it is wise not to hunt right on the border of a zone. A non-lethal shot could easily take you immediately into the closed zone where your tag is not valid.


Ocean sunfish – you can take them, but what then?
Question: I saw some ocean sunfish laying around on the surface in waters off Sonoma County. Are they legal to take? Is there a website or a listing of which fish are illegal to catch? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, ocean sunfish (Mola mola) may be taken by licensed recreational fishermen. While some ocean species have fishing regulations that pertain only to them (e.g. rockfish and salmon), other species do not. Species for which there are no specific regulations, such as ocean sunfish, are covered under section 27.60 on page 34 in the current Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. The daily bag limit for species covered under section 27.60(a) is: 10 fish of any one species, with a total daily bag limit of 20 fish. This means you can take up to 10 ocean sunfish plus 10 other fish per day, for a total of 20 fish. Fish that fall under this section do not have seasons (open year-round) or size limits.

Please be aware that ocean sunfish are not a species targeted by most recreational fishermen. This species is generally not considered to be good eating. Keep in mind that it’s a violation to waste a fish after you have taken it (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.87), so you might want to research that a little more before finding yourself in possession of a large fish you don’t care to eat.


Carrying shotguns for ducks and doves at the same time
Question: You recently answered a question about having two shotguns in a duck blind. That made me wonder whether the two shotguns can be loaded with different ammo. For example, if it’s dove season, can I have a 12 gauge shotgun for ducks and keep a 20 gauge loaded with lead shot for doves? (Allen S.)

Answer: Yes, you can carry more than one gun, but while waterfowl hunting, you are required to possess only non-toxic shot regardless of the shot size. Both shotguns must be loaded with non-toxic shot.

In addition to non-toxic shot requirements for waterfowl hunting, nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting on all state wildlife areas and ecological reserves regardless of the species pursued. And when hunting during waterfowl season, hunters may only have 25 shells in the field, regardless of the difference of shot size. This means hunters on state wildlife areas are limited to non-lead and only 25 shells total for doves and ducks, combined.

For more information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California, please visit http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition.


Corn for carp bait?
Question: Can you point me in the right direction to see the regulation regarding the use of whole corn kernels as bait, specifically for carp, but in general as well? Numerous people have told me corn is illegal to use in California, but I’ve looked through the regulations book at least four times and can’t find anything saying it’s illegal. (Tony)

Answer: The general bait regulation for inland waters says that treated and processed foods may be used as bait, and there is no prohibition on the use of corn kernels (CCR Title 14, section 4.00). This question comes up quite a bit because some states do not allow corn to be used as bait, but California does.

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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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