How to Find Legal Target Shooting Areas?

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: A friend used to own property just outside the city limits and we were able to legally shoot our rifles on his property. Times have changed though and we now need a new place where we can we still legally shoot our rifles and shotguns for sport. We’re not hunters; we just practice target shooting. How do we go about finding places where we can legally shoot? (Gracie R., Carlsbad)

Answer: Your best bet is to contact the closest Sheriff’s Office that patrols the area where you want to target shoot. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not regulate target shooting nor keep track of all the potential target shooting areas available to the public. This issue basically comes down to county shooting ordinances and landowner permission. I think you will find most cities do not allow discharge of firearms within their city limits, so contact the local Sheriff’s Office to see what county areas may be open.

For public areas like U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, contact the applicable regional station or headquarters that oversees the area. Some USFS or BLM lands may have designated target shooting or plinking areas. They may also have other areas on their properties where target shooting is allowed, but it’s always a good idea to check ahead of time to be sure it is legal with the applicable county as well.

Otherwise, for public and private gun clubs or shooting ranges in your area, you might try http://www.wheretoshoot.org from the National Shooting Sports Foundation website. I’ve used this site often and they make it easy to find a safe and licensed range in your local area to target shoot or to introduce someone new to the shooting sports.


How to prove the sex of a turkey?
Question: Since only tom turkeys are legal to take during the spring season, how do I prove the sex to an inquiring game warden? Must a wing be left on? A beard left on? Both left on? One or the other left on? (G.B.G.)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production


Catching fish with baited fish traps?
Question: Is it legal to use baited fish traps in Southern California? I see in the regulations where it refers to the use of baited traps to catch a variety of fish species in the San Francisco area (California Code of Regulations, section 28.75). Is this the only place where this method of take is allowed? (Corey)

Answer: Baited traps may not be used to take fish in ocean waters off Southern California. This is legal only in San Francisco and San Pablo bays, their tributaries, etc., and in the ocean and bays off of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties for a few specified species of ocean fish. Only hook-and-line or hand may be used to take finfish (per Section 28.65) unless other, specific permissions are provided in regulations listed in the Gear Restrictions section (which begins on pg. 45 of the current California Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet).


Spearfishing without a license?
Question: I know it’s legal to fish without a license off public piers, but is there anywhere to go spearfishing without a license? (Keith H., Santa Barbara)

Answer: No, there is usually no place you can spearfish without a license, but there are two free fishing days per year, usually around the Independence Day and Labor Day holidays. On those two days, spearfishing without a license is allowed (bag limits and other regulations still apply).

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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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