Category Archives: Firearms/Ammunition

Target Shooting with the Skeet Fleet

(DFG photo by Debra Hamilton)

(CDFW photo by Debra Hamilton)

Question: In Southern California we have taken large boats offshore on the open ocean to shoot clay pigeons with shotguns. We call them the “Skeet Fleet.” We use steel shot and do not shoot auto loaders such that we can maintain control of the shells and not have the casings land in the water. I guess the first question is what are the regulations regarding this activity and is there a distance that we need to be offshore? I now live in northern California and am interested in doing the same. Would there be an option of doing the same around Grizzly Island or on San Francisco or Suisun Bay? (Anonymous)

Answer: Target shooting in the ocean is not addressed in the Fish and Game Code, but littering in waters of the state is. Therefore, the throwing of the clay birds, which are coated in paint for visibility, into the water may be an issue.

“It is unlawful to deposit, permit to pass into, or place where it can pass into the waters of the state, or to abandon, dispose of, or throw away, within 150 feet of the high water mark of the waters of the state, any cans, bottles, garbage, motor vehicle or parts thereof, rubbish, litter, refuse, waste, debris, or the viscera or carcass of any dead mammal, or the carcass of any dead bird” (Fish and Game Code, section 5652).

Depending on the location, there may also be local, state and federal laws prohibiting the discharge of firearms.


Buying wild boar meat?
Question: I have heard wild boar numbers are often at excessive levels and that they can be hunted and sold. I am looking to purchase some wild boar meat. I know there are different hunting seasons for them and the quantity varies throughout the year. What is the regulation on selling wild boar and are there any people/businesses in the area that are licensed to do so? (Tara S., Carmel)

Answer: We do have a rather large population of wild pigs in this state and they can be hunted; they just cannot be sold. The sale of wild animals (including wild pigs) or their meat is unlawful in California. Only permitted domestically reared deer meat and the products of domestically reared deer or elk (jerky or sausage, for example) are exceptions.

The sale of wild pig taken and sold within California is unlawful. In addition, even wild pig taken in another state is unlawful to sell in California (FGC, section 3039). You should be able to locate pig through a vendor on the Internet that sells game meats. As long as it is already pre-packaged, it would be legal to purchase and import into California. We have previously dealt with this issue extensively at county and state fairs where vendors sell various types of game meats at booths. There are also state and federal requirements that apply to the products to make them safe and lawful for sale for human consumption.


Bringing a wolf carcass or pelt back from another state
Question: If I legally kill a wolf in Idaho, can I return to California with the wolf and or hide? (Tom R.)

Answer: Legally harvested wolves and wolf pelts may not be imported into California. The Fish and Game Commission has listed the wolf as endangered in California and consequently, the following would apply: “No person shall import into this state, export out of this state, or take, possess, purchase, or sell within this state, any species, or any part or product thereof, that the commission determines to be an endangered species or a threatened species.” (FGC, section 2080)


Are hunters/anglers required to carry photo identification?
Question: What type of identification am I required to carry when hunting and/or fishing? Is just my current license and tags all I need to carry or am I required to carry another form of ID? (Russell W., La Verne)

Answer: Unless you are a commercial fisherman, you are not required to carry photo identification when hunting or fishing, but it is always a good idea. Carrying photo identification will allow a wildlife officer to positively confirm your identification and that you are the licensed holder of the fishing/hunting license you are carrying. For California residents, it’s best to carry a California driver license or DMV identification card.

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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.

Antibiotics in Hatchery Fish?

Trout planting_CDFWQuestion: I would like to fish at a local stocked pond. Do the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish that are stocked there have antibiotics in their systems? Are they fed antibiotics on a routine basis or even on an occasional basis? I just want to be sure any fish I’m catching will be safe to eat. (Connie S., Big Pine)

Answer: CDFW hatchery fish are treated with antibiotics when it is necessary to save their lives. According to Dr. William Cox, CDFW Program Manager of Fish Production and Distribution, this is done on an as-needed basis and using only antibiotics that are approved and registered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for diseases listed on the label and in fish species approved. This is all done under veterinary prescriptions by CDFW veterinarians. To be approved by the FDA, there are many hurdles to prove human food safety, animal safety and environmental safety. These are all met in the process of becoming registered. So to answer your basic question, none of CDFW’s stocked fish have antibiotics when they are stocked for anglers. They are perfectly safe to eat.


Steel shot for chukars
Question: A friend told me that we are now required to use steel shot when hunting chukars (Red-legged Partridge). Is this a new regulation? Since these are introduced non-native birds, why shouldn’t they be treated similar to the Eurasian doves? Please let me know because I would not want to get a ticket. (Chris J.)

Answer: As you may know, we are in the middle of a transition to nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California. As of July 1, 2016, nonlead ammunition is now required for all hunting on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves and when taking upland game birds with a shotgun, except for dove, quail, snipe and any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot is required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds and any wildlife under the authority of a CDFW depredation permit.

In regards specifically to chukar (which are related to Red-legged Partridge but a different species), you are required to use nonlead shot when hunting them with a shotgun from this season on unless you are hunting at a licensed game bird club.

According to CDFW Upland Game Bird Senior Environmental Scientist Karen Fothergill, there is no species-related or ecological reason for the manner in which we are phasing-out lead ammunition. Rather, in order to implement the nonlead legislation in a way that is least disruptive to hunters, we coordinated question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, held meetings with hunting organizations, hosted a series of public workshops throughout the state and sent letters to major ammunition manufacturers before we finalized the implementation plan.

For more information on the laws and phase-out of lead ammunition in California, please visit our website.


Filleting sheephead at sea
Question: I was recently told that I could not fillet a sheephead aboard my vessel since they do not have a minimum fillet length but do have a size limit of 12 inches (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.65).

My question is whether it still applies for a large sheephead if the fillet was longer than the 12-inch size limit? I am assuming the reason for not allowing sheephead to be filleted aboard a vessel is because it is difficult to determine the overall size of the fish from the fillet. However, if the fillet is greater than the minimum size limit for the species, it would seem like there should be some type of exception to the no fillet rule, or perhaps there is another reason I’m not considering?

Answer: Only those species listed as allowed to be filleted may be filleted on a vessel. Since California sheephead have a minimum size limit of 12 inches total length but no fillet length specified in the regulations, they may not be filleted while on any boat or brought ashore as fillets, steaks or chunks (CCR Title 14, section 27.65).

If you think this regulation for California sheephead should be revised to allow for a minimum fillet length allowance, you are welcome to bring a proposal before the California Fish and Game Commission for consideration.


Use of blue tarp with decoys
Question: Can I use a blue tarp and place dove decoys around it? I’m hoping the doves will think the blue tarp is water and will be attracted to fly over or land near the decoys. (Anonymous)

Answer: Sure, you can give it a try!

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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.

What’s the Best Method for Catching Octopuses?

Octopus and shrimp in reef at Anacapa Island (Photo by Derek Stein)

Octopus and shrimp in reef at Anacapa Island (Photo by Derek Stein)

Question: We have a question about catching octopus. Can octopus caught in crab traps be kept? Can sport fishermen use traps to target octopus for sushi or to use for bait? If not traps, can you recommend a better way? Also, are there any seasons, bag limits and/or size limits for octopus? (Nick W.)

Answer: No, traps may not be used to take octopus. They can be taken only by hand or hook-and-line fishing gear and no chemicals of any kind may be used to assist in taking octopus by hand. Octopus may be taken year-round, and up to 35 octopi may be taken per day or possessed at any time. Scuba diving equipment may not be used to take octopus north of Yankee Point, Monterey County (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.05). There are no size limits for octopus.


Legal to hunt with an AK-47?
Question: Is it legal to hunt with a California legal AK-47? I understand I am supposed to use soft point ammunition, but I was wondering if the rifle itself will pose legal issues when it comes to hunting. (James M.)

Answer: If your rifle is one that is legal to possess in California, it would be legal to use for hunting purposes. However, you must have legal ammunition for the area and species you plan to hunt. When hunting big game, center-fire ammunition and soft-nosed or expanding bullets are required. Nonlead projectiles are required when taking bighorn sheep or when hunting any wildlife on a state-managed Wildlife Area or Ecological Reserve.

The laws relating to assault rifles and high-capacity magazine are quite complex. The agency with the most expertise in this area is the California Department of Justice, Firearms Division (note the sections that specifically address assault weapons and high capacity magazines). You can either check their website or call their general information
line at (916) 227-7527.


Trapping Eurasian-collared doves for bird dog training?
Question: Is it legal to trap Eurasian-collared doves? I’ve purchased a bird dog pup and would like to use them for live bird training. If it is legal, do I just need my hunting license or is a trapping license needed? Also, are there any special rules about transporting them live to a field to train with? (Chris R.)

Answer: Eurasian-collared doves are resident game birds and the allowed “methods of take” can be found in the Waterfowl and Upland Game Hunting Regulations booklet under CCR Title 14, section 311 on page 26. Trapping is not an allowable method of take for game birds.


Can guests fish without a license from my private pond?
Question: I recently purchased a home with a private pond. Is it ok for my guests to fish the pond without a fishing license? (Randy N.)

Answer: A sport fishing license is not required for fishing in waters on private property by the owner or the owner’s invitee IF a number of conditions are met. First, those waters must be wholly enclosed by that owner’s real property, and the waters not have a hydrological connection to any permanent or intermittent waterway of the State. Also, an invitee shall not have compensated the owner for such a fishing privilege, nor shall the fish be taken for profit. Otherwise, your guests need fishing licenses. Seasons, bag limits and other California angling regulations apply to all waters on private lands in California, except for the ponds of Registered Aquaculturists.


Sell a moose mount?
Question: Can a person sell a moose mount? I don’t see anything in code or title but thought you may know. (Yvette A. )

Answer: California law does not prohibit the sale of a moose mount because moose are not found in the wild in California. Fish and Game Code, section 3039(a) states, “It is unlawful to sell or purchase a bird or mammal found in the wild in 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.

Hunting with an Airbow?

Benjamin Pioneer Airbow (www.crossman.com photo)

Benjamin Pioneer Airbow (www.crossman.com photo)

Question: I’ve been learning about the Benjamin Pioneer Airbow and am curious about the legal status of using these for hunting. It seems to be the functional equivalent of a crossbow and so I would think they would be appropriate for general big game seasons where archery is a legal method of take. Does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have a position on this innovative hunting tool? (Gregory Z.)

Answer: Airbows are essentially airguns that shoot arrows. They are not firearms nor are they (by definition) bows or crossbows (see California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354). Game mammals and birds may only be taken by the methods listed in CCR Title 14, sections 311, 507 and 354. While firearms, bows and crossbows are all allowable methods of take, the airbow does not fall under any of these definitions, and thus may not be used to take wildlife in California.


Chumming for Pacific halibut?
Question: Is it legal to fish for Pacific halibut using a chum bag? The bag would be independent with no hooks, just a bag of bait on the ocean floor. (Dan R.)

Answer: Yes, chumming is legal in the Ocean and San Francisco Bay District (see CCR Title 14, sections 1.32 and 27.05.). Please be aware that Pacific halibut is managed as a quota fishery and will close once the annual quota is reached. Before engaging in fishing activity, please check our Pacific halibut website for weekly tracking of harvest while the season is open or current closure notifications or call one of the hotlines listed at this site.


License required for frogs, bugs and other insects?
Question: I know I need a license to catch fish, but I was wondering if I need a license to catch dragonfly nymphs, snails or any other kind of water bugs as long as they are not a fish. Do I need a license to catch frogs and tadpoles? I’m going to take my kids to a river and help them explore and I know I’m going to have to help them catch the small water critters. (Pedro A.)

Answer: Thank you for taking the time to ask about the regulations before taking your kids out. Here are the basics: A sport fishing license is required for individuals 16 years of age or older who wish to take fish, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates or reptiles in California (freshwater or ocean waters).

Remember that tadpoles are baby frogs, and only the amphibians listed in CCR Title 14, section 5.05 may be taken. While technically it is legal to catch (and collect) certain tadpoles under a fishing license, you have to know how to ID them so you don’t accidentally collect a species that is not on the list. The species not in section 5.05 are endangered or threatened species, or species of special concern, and their possession is illegal without a special permit. Also, if you and your kids want to collect and rear the tadpoles to frogs, be aware they must be kept for life or given away because it’s illegal to release them back into the wild after being taken into captivity.

If you are going to actively catch frogs, tadpoles, etc. (amphibians) with your kids, you should first have a fishing license. If the kids do all of the work themselves and they’re under 16, they don’t need a license.

This information is contained in the current Freshwater Fishing Regulation booklet beginning on page 5 which can be found online or at any CDFW license office, bait shops, sporting goods stores or other places where fishing licenses are sold.


Importing mount of a species prohibited to hunt in California?
Question: Is it legal to own a mount of a wild animal that is illegal to hunt in California, but legal in another state? The critter is a sandhill crane that is illegal to hunt in California, but was legally bagged in another state (some 15 states consider these game animals, but not here). Can I bring this mount into California and publicly display it? (James S.)

Answer: Yes, but you should keep all documentation of where it came from and/or hunting licenses with it in case the origin of the mount ever comes into question.

Fish and Game Code, section 2353, requires that you declare the entry into California of any legally taken birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians. The Declaration for Entry form requires you to put down information such as a hunting license number, game tag number, etc. and indicate the county and state in which the animal was killed. With the exception of animals like a mountain lion or mountain lion mount that cannot be legally imported, you are allowed to import legally acquired wild animals or wild animal mounts and should have documentation of where and how they were acquired as some states allow the sale of wildlife and wildlife mounts, too.

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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.

Shooting Deer Across a Lake?

Photo credit: USFWS

Photo credit: USFWS

Question: Is it legal to shoot my rifle across open water to the other side? Say I am on one side of a lake and see a legal deer on the other side (let’s assume it’s 200 yards, not a good long range shot). Can I shoot across the lake or pond or river? (Larry E.)

Answer: It is never advisable to shoot over water due to the potential for a ricochet. However, it is not illegal under the Fish and Game Code and its implementing regulations as long as both you and the deer are on property where it is legal to hunt and you have permission to hunt the area. Keep in mind though that while shooting deer across a lake may not violate state regulations, there may still be other federal laws or local ordinances that could make this illegal. Be sure to check with local authorities first to ensure no other regulations legally prohibit this practice.


Sport fishing from a commercial boat?
Question: I have a friend with a commercial urchin boat who invited me to come out with him. Would it be legal for me to fish off the boat and to maybe even dive and do some spearfishing from the boat? I would stick to fish and not take any urchin while down diving. (Anonymous)

Answer: No. Under Fish and Game Code, section 7856(f): “A person shall not take or possess a fish on a commercial fishing vessel under a sport fishing license while that vessel is engaged in a commercial fishing activity, including going to or from an area where fish are taken for commercial purposes.”

Commercial boat captains may take friends and family out to fish from their boats when they are NOT engaged in commercial fishing. All commercially caught fish or invertebrates must be off the boat before the boat leaves the harbor for a trip where the captain and passengers will be engaged in sport angling, diving, hoop netting or setting traps for crabs. They must commit to one or the other type of trip ahead of time.


Oh deer, oh road kill
Question: I hit a deer while driving a few nights ago. The dang thing jumped right out in front of my car at the last minute while I was only going 35 mph. It lived but it got me wondering whether I could have legally taken it home. If I field dress a freshly killed deer that’s been accidentally hit by a car, and even if I don’t have a deer tag, I don’t see why I could not take it. Otherwise, it would just rot on the side of the road and go to waste. I’m not a road-kill eater, but if I killed a deer by accident, I wouldn’t mind taking it home and eating it and keeping the skin. (Anonymous)

Answer: Unfortunately, this would not be legal. Road-killed wildlife may not be retained. Only authorized personnel of state and/or local agencies are permitted to dispatch and remove injured or dead animals.

Even if you were a licensed California hunter with the appropriate tags to take the deer, you cannot legally tag that deer and take it home. Deer may only be taken with rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers, muzzleloaders and archery equipment. Motor vehicles are not included in this list of legal methods of take.

Although FGC, section 2000.5(a), states the accidental taking of game by a motor vehicle is not a violation of the law, it does not authorize the possession of animals taken by a collision with a vehicle. You may wonder why this is the case since it seems like it would be a waste of a deer to not be able to place a tag on it and perhaps save another from being taken. The reason is that some poachers would use the “collision” excuse to take deer at night with their vehicle and just attach their tag to justify the action.


Using two rods to reach bag limit?
Question: If I am using a two-rod stamp and I have four fish in my bag (daily bag limit is five fish), can I still use two rods or do I have to only fish with one rod as I only need one more fish to reach my limit? (Kyle M.)

Answer: You may continue using two rods in the scenario you describe but once you catch the last fish in your limit, you must immediately pull in the other rod.


Stocking my home aquarium?
Question: Is it legal to take any marine life or rocks from the California coastline for use in an in-home aquarium? (James H.)

Answer: Finfish may not be transported alive from the water where taken except under the authority of a scientific collecting permit or a marine aquaria collector’s permit. The removal of live rocks (rocks with living marine organisms attached) is also prohibited in some areas, including marine sanctuaries and state parks.

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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.

Can Sport-Caught Fish Be Donated to a Food Bank?

Sport-caught fish can be donated to a food bank or soup kitchen as long as they were legally taken, don’t exceed the angler’s bag limit and as long as the food bank or soup kitchen will accept them. Be sure to check with them first! (CDFG photo)

Sport-caught fish can be donated to a food bank or soup kitchen as long as they were legally taken, don’t exceed the angler’s bag limit and as long as the food bank or soup kitchen will accept them. Be sure to check with them first! (CDFG photo)

Question: We often take folks out fishing while they are visiting the area and staying at hotels, bed-and-breakfasts or campsites. Unfortunately, they are often not able to consume all of the fish that they catch. We understand we are allowed to gift fish to friends and family members (as long as each individual does not possess more than one bag limit per person per day).

Are there restrictions on gifting extra fish to local food banks or soup kitchens as long as the food bank would want and accept them? This is a question from a traveler who is interested in planning a future trip. (Jenny O., Santa Cruz)

Answer: Yes, a person is allowed to donate (gift) any fish taken to a food bank or soup kitchen that does not charge money for the fish as long as the fish were legally taken and the daily bag limit was not exceeded. Since every person is only allowed to take or possess one daily bag limit of fish per day, anglers should individually donate their fish to avoid having someone transport more than a possession limit of fish at any time. Since many food banks and soup kitchens no longer accept donations of meat or fish that is not USDA-certified, you may want to check with them in advance.


Airguns and Upland Game Hunting?
Question: My buddy and I are part of the ever increasing population of airgun hunters. We typically take rabbits and ground squirrels, but would like to use these .22 caliber precharged pneumatics for turkey and other upland game, such as quail and dove. While we believe the regulations cover the turkey hunting explicitly, can you confirm if it is also legal to take dove and quail with these firearms? (Jason C., Windsor)

Answer: Resident small game (as listed in California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257) may be taken with an air rifle firing pellets and powered by compressed air or gas. This includes: wild turkey (must use at least 0.177 caliber or larger), Eurasian collared doves, quail, non-protected squirrels, jack rabbits and cottontails, in addition to the other resident small game species defined in section 257.

Western mourning dove, white-winged dove and band-tailed pigeons are listed as migratory game birds and may not be taken with an air rifle.


Continue diving for fish after abalone limit reached?
Question: Just a quick question now that abalone season is upon us. I took up spearfishing last season and really enjoy it. I know the regulations state that once you reach your limit on abalone you must immediately stop diving. Does this mean stop diving altogether or just for abalone? I guess the question I am asking is can I continue to dive and spearfish after I get my limit of abalone? (Tom R.)

Answer: It is legal to spearfish after harvesting abalone. Abalone divers may take up to three abalone per day, and no more than three abalone may be possessed at any time. Nothing in the regulations requires you to exit the water after harvesting a limit of abalone. However, individuals “taking abalone shall stop detaching abalone when the limit of three is reached” (CCR Title 14, section 29.15(c)). This section also requires abalone divers to retain all legal-sized abalone they detach until they reach the limit.


Crayfish for bait?
Question: I was wondering if you can use crayfish as bait when fishing for freshwater fish, such as bass? (Jerry Y.)

Answer: Generally, crayfish may be used for bait statewide, with some exceptions (see CCR Title 14, sections 4.00 and 5.35). Even though crayfish are allowed as bait for bass fishing in most areas of California, if the crayfish were not caught and used in the same waters from where taken, many lakes prohibit anglers entering lakes with live bait. This is due to the potential for the introduction of exotic species, such as quagga and zebra mussels. There is no way to certify the bait and water holding the bait are free from these species. If you plan on using crayfish brought into a lake, it is important to check ahead of time with the operator of the lake to see if they allow importation of legally acquired bait.


Underwater camera to find trout?
Question: Is it legal to use an underwater camera to look for trout that may be hiding underneath the creek/river bank? Does it matter if it’s used while engaged in the actual activity of trout fishing or when not in possession of a fishing pole? (Jim B., Elk Grove)

Answer: An electronic viewing device, such as an underwater camera, would be legal but a non-electronic viewing device (such as goggles, scuba mask, etc.), would be prohibited for taking fish (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 2.09). There’s an exception, though, under the provisions of spearfishing (CCR Title 14, section 2.30).

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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.

 

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.