Can Minors Legally Hunt Alone?

(Photo: National Shooting Sports Foundation)

(Photo: National Shooting Sports Foundation)

Question: I am 16 years old and have my hunter education certification. I was wondering if it is legal for me to hunt by myself with a firearm. I have not found anything saying one way or another whether I can legally do this. If it is legal, do I need to carry written consent from my parents with me? (Jonah A.)

Answer: If you have a valid junior license, you may hunt by yourself with a firearm. However, if you are using a HANDGUN, then you either need to be accompanied by a parent or a responsible adult, or have the written permission of a parent.

Firearms laws are contained in the California Penal Code. A good reference guide to California firearms laws can be obtained by visiting the California Department of Justice, Firearms Bureau website (click on “Firearms Summary” on the right-hand side).

Here’s an excerpt from the publication relating to minors in possession of firearms:

Possession of a Handgun or Live Ammunition by Minors
It is unlawful for a minor to possess a handgun unless one of the following
circumstances exists:

• The minor is accompanied by his or her parent or legal guardian and the
minor is actively engaged in a lawful recreational sporting, ranching or
hunting activity, or a motion picture, television or other entertainment
event;

• The minor is accompanied by a responsible adult and has prior written
consent of his or her parent or legal guardian and is involved in one of
the activities cited above; or

• The minor is at least 16 years of age, has prior written consent of his or
her parent or legal guardian, and the minor is involved in one of the
activities cited above (Pen. Code, §§ 29610, 29615.)

It is unlawful for a minor to possess live ammunition unless one of the following circumstances exists:

• The minor has the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to possess
live ammunition;

• The minor is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian; or

• The minor is actively engaged in, or is going to or from, a lawful, recreational sport, including, competitive shooting, or agricultural, ranching, or hunting activity (Pen. Code, §§ 29650, 29655.)

On state wildlife areas, any visitor 16 or 17 years of age presenting a valid resident or non-resident hunting license issued in his or her own name will be issued an entry permit and may hunt independently (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550.5(c)(9)).


Are trail cameras legal to use on National Forest lands?
Question: Are there any regulations that prohibit the use of trail cameras on National Forest lands? I ask because a friend was on National Forest land and was told by U.S. Forest Service (USFS) personnel that trail cameras constitute harassment and are illegal. He was then told he must remove them. I’m trying to find out which National Forest it was. If this is true, wouldn’t ALL wildlife photography be illegal, including photographing birds? (Brian K.)

Answer: This is not a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regulation. I suggest you find out which specific area of National Forest your friend was in when this happened. Afterward, contact the USFS office in that area for more details.


Salmon and groundfish fishing
Question: Is it legal to fish for both salmon and ground fish by boat on the same day? If so, are there any restrictions on gear that may be used? I’m interested in the Bodega Bay area. (Dan P.)

Answer: No more than two single point, single shank barbless hooks shall be used in the ocean north of Point Conception (34o27’00” N. lat.) when salmon fishing or fishing from any boat or floating device with salmon on board (CCR, Title 14 section 27.80(a)(2)).

It is legal to fish for both salmon and rockfish on the same day and have them on your boat. If you fish for salmon first or have any salmon on your boat, you would be restricted to fishing for groundfish with barbless hooks thereafter. If you fish groundfish first, you may use barbed hooks (no more than two) for groundfish and then switch to barbless gear once you target salmon. And once you have rockfish onboard, you are also held to the groundfish depth constraints.

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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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