Category Archives: Upland Game

Possessing Steel and Lead while Hunting Chukar and Quail?

Chukar (CDFW photo)

Question: The ban on hunting with lead ammunition is being phased in. It now includes chukar, while the use of lead will continue to be allowed for quail until the 2019 season. My question is can hunters carry both types of shells (lead and steel) in the field if they are hunting areas where they might reasonably expect to find both species, switching between one and the other depending on what birds they bump? Or must they only possess steel (or bismuth or tungsten or other certified nonlead ammunition) while hunting chukar, and then have to use that ammunition if they run into quail? (Jim M.)

Answer: No. When hunting and targeting two different species, and the possession of lead ammunition is prohibited for one of those regulated species but not the other, you are held to the confines of the most restrictive regulation. In this case, chukar fall under the regulation that says, it is “unlawful to use, or possess with any shotgun capable of firing, any projectile(s) not certified as nonlead…” (California Code of Regulations, section 250.1(d)(2)).

Thus, if you are using your trusty shotgun to hunt both quail and chukar at the same time, steel/nonlead ammo is required.


Shrimp fishing legal?
Question: I have been trying to research whether it is permissible for a recreational license holder to trap for shrimp in the ocean. Can you please help me understand if this is allowed and if there are any restrictions on type of traps, limits, etc. or any other restrictions that I should be aware of? (Kevin B., Santa Barbara)

Answer: Yes, it is legal to take any type of ocean shrimp in California waters, but spot prawns are the most desirable and sought after for eating purposes. However, because California’s spot prawns are found so deep – usually 100 fathoms (600 feet) or more – and the bag limit is only 35, most people are not interested in trapping these shrimp recreationally.

Another option is the lesser known coonstripe shrimp, also referred to as dock shrimp for their habit of sometimes living around pilings. Unlike spot prawns, coonstripe shrimp inhabit relatively shallow water and can be fished close to shore with lightweight traps. They may occur out to depths of 600 feet, but fishermen often set their traps between 70-150 feet. The sport limit is 20 pounds per day (the first 20 pounds taken, regardless of size or condition), and there is no closed season or size limit for the sport fishery. While they range from Sitka, Alaska to (at least) Point Loma in San Diego County, the highest concentrations of coonstripe are found in far northern California, near Crescent City.

Shrimp and prawn traps may be used to take shrimp and prawns only. South of Point Conception, trap openings may not exceed one half-inch in any dimension, effectively prohibiting shrimp and prawn trapping in the region. This requirement is intended to protect juvenile lobster. For For traps fished north of Point Conception, trap openings may not exceed five inches in any dimension.

To learn more about fishing for these interesting shellfish, please check out the crustaceans section of the current Ocean Sport Fishing regulations for the regulations, legal gear, limits and other information you will need to know (CCR Title 14, sections 29.80 through 29.88).


Is lead shot legal or illegal for doves this season?
Question: I keep hearing from tons of folks who are saying that lead shot is illegal for doves this season. I can’t find anything in the regs that say that, except for when hunting on California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands or in the condor zone. The way I read it, lead shot is OK for doves until July 2, 2019. Am I correct or wrong? (Bill K.)

Answer: You are correct. Effective July 1, 2016, nonlead shot is required when taking upland game birds with a shotgun. Exceptions include when hunting dove, quail, snipe; or any game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot is now required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, nongame birds, and any wildlife for depredation purposes. For more on the nonlead ammunition implementation, please check our Nonlead Ammunition in California website.


Do smoked fish stored in a freezer count as in possession?
Question: For the regulation of five fish bag limit and ten in possession, do fish that are smoked and retained in freezer count for the latter? (Bob M., Anderson)
Answer: “No more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish, amphibian, reptile, mollusk or crustacean named in these regulations may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized; regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen, or otherwise preserved” (CCR Title 14, section 1.17). Trout regulations generally allow possession of double the daily bag limit and is covered in the “unless otherwise authorized” exemption described above. To specifically answer your question, smoked or retained fish in a freezer are part of your possession limit.

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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.

Compliance Requirements with Game Wardens?

Game warden Nicole Kozicki checks a waterfowl hunter’s hunting license

Question: What are the penalties for refusing to cooperate with and speak to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) game warden or to show I.D. upon request? (P.T.)

Answer: You are required to show your hunting or fishing license, tags and/or harvest report cards, proof of identification and any fish or game in your possession upon request. “All licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians shall be exhibited upon demand to any person authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians” (Fish and Game Code, section 2012). Noncompliance with this regulation is punishable as a misdemeanor.


Are spiny dogfish considered sharks under the sharkfin ban?
Question: I know you can no longer buy shark fin soup at a restaurant. How about spiny dogfish fin soup? Are spiny dogfish included in this ban? (Anonymous)

Answer: Although the name may be confusing, dogfish are actually sharks in the elasmobranch subclass and are covered by Fish and Game Code, section 2021, which prohibits commercial trade of shark fins and products made thereof. A restaurant cannot lawfully sell shark fin soup made from the fins of a dogfish. As used in this section, “shark fin” means the raw, dried, or otherwise processed detached fin or the raw, dried, or otherwise processed detached tail, of an elasmobranch.


Bait balls for chumming?
Question: I have seen a product called Bait Balls advertised from a store where I routinely buy my fishing supplies. Would the use of this product in inland waters be considered chumming? (Nina)

Answer: “Chumming” is the practice of “placing any material in the water, other than on a hook while angling, for the purpose of attracting fish to a particular area in order that they may be taken” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.32). If this product will be broadcast independently and not used as bait on a hook, then using it would be considered chumming. Chumming is allowed while fishing in saltwater, but it is prohibited in most inland waters.

When fishing in inland waters (as per CCR Title 14, section 2.40), “Chumming is permitted only in:

(a) The Colorado River District, but only the approved bait fishes for this District may be used as chum (see Section 4.15) except in the Salton Sea where corn may also be used.
(b) Carquinez Strait and Suisun Bay and their tributaries and saltwater tributaries.
(c) Sacramento River and tidewater of tributaries downstream from Interstate 80 bridge.
(d) San Joaquin River and tidewater of tributaries downstream from Interstate 5 bridge.”


Fully feathered dove wings required in a permanent camp?
Question: I have a dove possession question that my buddy and I argue about. After a day of hunting doves when we come back to camp, must we leave the wing on if we are spending a week at camp and are going to eat some of the doves that week? I know we must leave the wings on while transporting, but once we are in a permanent camp can the wings be removed? By leaving the wing on, after a couple days the birds develop a foul taste (no pun intended!). To me, they stink, even in the cooler. Last year a game warden came into camp and I forgot to ask him about it. My buddy said, “See, we were lucky!” But were we really? (Jim M.)

Answer: Your doves must retain a fully feathered wing either until you return to your home or until the bird(s) are being prepared for immediate consumption. “All birds, including migratory game birds, possessed or transported within California must have a fully feathered wing or head attached until placed into a personal abode or commercial preservation facility, or when being prepared for immediate consumption” (CCR Title 14, section 251.7). Camps are NOT considered to be your permanent or personal abode.

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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 Over Alfalfa?

Successful pig hunter at Tejon Ranch (CDFW photo)

Question: I know it’s illegal to bait animals to get them to come to you in order to hunt them. However, what about hunting over an alfalfa or corn field? I know some other states allow this and I am wondering if California does, too. (Dakota C.)

Answer: Although feeding big game and hunting over bait is illegal in California, it is legal to hunt over a standing or harvested alfalfa or cornfield. While it is generally prohibited to take resident game birds and mammals from “any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered…” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 257.5), this regulation includes several exceptions. One exception allows the “taking of resident game birds and mammals on or over standing crops, flooded standing crops (including aquatics), flooded harvested croplands, grain crops properly shocked on the field where grown, or grains found scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural planting or harvesting.”


Catch and release in MPA
Question: Is it legal to fish catch and release in a no-take State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) Marine Protected Area (MPA) such as Big River SMCA? Nothing is mentioned in the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet. (Robert J.)

Answer: No, it would not be legal to catch and release inside a no-take SMCA or MPA because “take” means to “hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill” (Fish and Game Code, section 86).


Why not able to purchase license and harvest report cards together?
Question: I purchase a California fishing license every December for the following year. Then in May I purchase an abalone report card. And then in September I purchase a lobster report card. I purchase all of these online, which is convenient. Still, it’s three transactions I have to remember and three postage charges. Why can’t I purchase my fishing license and harvest report cards in one transaction? (Ben W.)

Answer: Sport fishing licenses and all sport fishing license items become available for purchase on Nov. 15 each year, except for abalone and lobster report cards. While abalone and lobster report cards are not available for sale at the beginning of the year, you do not have to pay for postage on items purchased through the Online License Sales and Service, unless you select expedited shipping.

Abalone Report Cards become available for purchase on March 15. Abalone regulation changes, based on data gathered from the previous year, frequently require changes to the Abalone Report Card. The March 15 date for the start of sales for Abalone Report Cards allows time for changes to be made to the report card and still allows the report card to be available for purchase 45 days prior to the first day of abalone season. For example, the seasonal limit for abalone recently changed from 18 to 12. Therefore, changes were made within the Automated License Data System to reduce the number of lines printed on the report card and the number of abalone tags included with the report card to 12.

Spiny lobster season spans a part of two calendar years and the report card is valid for the entire lobster season. The upcoming lobster season opens Sept. 30, 2017 and closes March 21, 2018. If Spiny Lobster Report Cards for the 2017/18 season were available at the time 2017 sport fishing licenses first became available for sale (Nov.15, 2016), they would have been available for purchase during the 2016/17 lobster season. It is likely that many people would accidently purchase a spiny lobster report card for the wrong year.


Abalone shell pieces for jewelry?
Question: I realize it is illegal to sell abalone shells as jewelry or other artwork if obtained while sport diving under California regulations, but what if the abalone shells or pieces of them are found while beach combing and the shell had already been vacated by natural means? Can these shells be made into jewelry since there is no limit on taking these shells or pieces? (Scott E., Walnut Creek)

Answer: You can generally pick up abalone shells and shell parts for your personal use. However, Marine Reserves, Marine Protected Areas and other prohibited areas do not allow for any shell collecting. Wherever you go, you should contact the controlling agency to find out what collecting activities are legal for that area. As long as the shells are legally obtained and not sport-taken, they can be used to make jewelry that is sold.

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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 Can Be Collected from Ocean Beaches?

Sea Stars of the California Coast (CDFW photo)

Question: I am an artist and my medium is to work with natural items I find in nature. I was wondering if I am allowed to take items from the beaches near my home. I see people collecting many things but I know that the beaches are protected and I don’t want to take anything that is forbidden. I am particularly interested in the seaweed and colorful algae that washes up after storms. There are also items such as sponges, tree fans, dead crabs, even little animal skulls, and of course drift wood. I would really love to know if I am allowed to collect anything so as not to disrupt the natural process of things. Any information you could offer would really be great. (Aggie M.)

Answer: Aside from state parks and marine protected areas that prohibit take/collecting of marine life within their boundaries, some collecting of beach wrack for personal use is allowed under certain conditions. If any of the algae/kelp you collect will be used for products that will be sold, a commercial Kelp Harvesters License will be required. Please check our website for all of the details regarding kelp and marine algae collection.

Shells that have been discarded by their occupants may be taken as long as you’re doing so in an area where collecting is not prohibited by the governing agency. Wherever you go, you should contact the governing agency to find out what collecting activities are legal for that area. As long as the shells are legally obtained and not sport-taken, they can be used to make art and or jewelry that is sold.

Marine protected area information is available online. Notice that some areas do not allow any “take.” You will find information on this page regarding the areas you may want to avoid.

As far as animal skulls, sea otters and all other marine mammal skulls may not be collected or possessed unless specifically authorized through the federal government (NOAA). If you are selling your artwork, Fish and Game Code, section 3039 generally prohibits selling any parts of a bird or mammal found in the wild in California.


Go ID required on buoys when crab fishing from a pier/dock?
Question: The 2016-2017 Dungeness crab fishing regulations say you have to have a buoy on your crab pot with your GO ID number. Does this requirement apply when you are crabbing off a pier or dock, too? (Judy and John F.)

Answer: Yes, if you already have a fishing license when fishing off a pier or jetty (even where no license is required), then you must fish with buoys marked with your GO ID. It’s OK to use a small net float/buoy instead of a full size buoy if you’d prefer. According to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(c)(3), every recreational “crab trap” except those used by a Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) “shall be marked with a buoy” with the operator’s GO ID on it. One exception to the GO ID requirement in this scenario would be if the person fishing from a public pier or jetty was not required to have a fishing license and therefore has no GO ID. The trap would still need a buoy attached, but would not need to be marked. Anyone can get a GO ID, even if they have no fishing license or are under age 16. Instructions for getting a GO ID are available on our website.

Baiting turkeys with water?
Question: I have a friend who bow hunts for turkeys and puts a tub of water near his turkey blind. He also places small water tanks in brush areas during deer season and says it’s ok. Is this true? Is it legal to use water as bait? (Dennis B., Palmdale)

Answer: Your friend should be informed that CCR Title 14, section 251.1 prohibits intentional acts that “disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns.” This activity is also specifically prohibited on some public lands (CCR Title 14, section 730). This section prohibits hunting for more than 30 minutes within 200 yards of wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area or within ¼ mile of six specified wildlife watering places in Lassen and Modoc Counties. The definition of “watering place” includes man-made watering devices for wildlife.

Lost fishing license
Question: I purchased a fishing license a couple of months ago but now cannot find it. I do have a picture of it. How can I get a copy of my original? (Dee D.)

Answer: Go to any License Agent or CDFW License Sales Office to buy a duplicate sport fishing license. A small fee is charged for each duplicate validation. If you lose your Abalone Report Card or Sturgeon Fishing Report Card, you can obtain a duplicate from CDFW license sales offices only. You must complete an Abalone Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace an Abalone Report Card. You must complete a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form) and pay the duplicate fee to replace a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card. Duplicate fees are listed on the license description page.

Do licensed fishing guides also need a fishing license?
Question: Is a California licensed fishing guide required to also have an individual sport fishing license? (Tom H.)

Answer: If the guide is just driving the boat and only verbally guiding clients while they fish, then no. However, if the guide does any fishing themselves, then a sport fishing license is also required.

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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.

Properly Catching and Releasing Fish while Taking Photos?

(CDFW file photo by Roger Bloom, Heritage and Wild Trout Program)

Question: My friends and I are all fly fishermen who promote catch and release fishing rather than taking fish for consumption. Many other fishermen, fishing guides and lodges, as well as most fly fishing magazines also claim to share this philosophy but then publish untold numbers of photos of people holding the fish they’ve caught. Typically these photos reveal the fish being held for quite a few seconds out of water, and clearly their slime barrier is being broken by the clutching hands. I wonder how many fish handled in this way ultimately die from the stress of being caught, held out of water and having their protective coating compromised. While growing up, I was taught if you break the slime barrier, the fish will likely die. Is this true? Moreover, most anglers I know count successful days of fishing as catching (and releasing) as many fish as possible. If you consider the increased probability of a fish dying from being caught and held, multiplied by the number of fish caught, there could be a lot of mortality which goes directly against the point of catch and release. Can you please provide some information on this issue? (David W.)

Answer: While many photo layouts suggest prolonged time out of water, it can obviously vary greatly. According to Senior Environmental Scientist Jeff Weaver, a good rule of thumb is to hold your breath when you lift the fish and get it back into the water before you run out of breath. Wetting hands before handling fish is probably the most effective method to minimize damage to the slime coating. Handling fish with dry hands generally removes at least some areas of this protective barrier, subjecting the fish to increased risk of fungal or other infection (though not necessarily mortality). If extra time is needed to set up the photo or make adjustments to correct for lighting problems, etc. the fish should be retained under water in a net for as much time as possible.

Steelhead (Photo by Ken Oda)

There are four important practices that will help reduce mortality: 1) keep most of the body of the fish in the water while photographing it, particularly the opercula and gills so they remain oxygenated, 2) always hold the fish with wet hands underneath the pectoral fins (near the head) and at the caudal peduncle (narrow part just forward of the caudal or tail fin) to avoid injury to the vital organs in the belly, and 3) assuming you have a fishing partner that will serve as photographer, have them get the camera settings ready and set up the frame of the picture while the fish is retained underwater in a net. Quickly remove the fish from the water for a picture and return it to the net to rest and respirate for some time, then lift it again for another shot (only if necessary to get a good photo), and 4) always recover the fish before releasing it to the point that it can swim of its own accord and remain upright. If necessary, hold the fish with the mouth facing upstream in an area with adequate flow to ensure thorough oxygenation of the gills.


When transporting turkeys home, which parts are required for ID?
Question: What portions of a turkey is a hunter required to retain for identification purposes? I’m not sure that “plucking a turkey in the field but leaving the beard attached” is sufficient to stay legal when transporting. While keeping the beard would certainly help identify, I believe a fully feathered head or wing is the actual requirement. In fact, if a hunter chooses to pluck both wings and leave the “fully feathered head” attached, would that be enough proof for identification purposes? Please advise. (Blake D.)

Answer: Hunters are not required to retain the turkey’s beard. However, “all birds, including migratory game birds, possessed or transported within California must have a fully feathered wing or head attached until placed into a personal abode or commercial preservation facility or when being prepared for immediate consumption” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.7).

Since the law only authorizes the take of bearded turkeys during the spring season, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommends leaving the beard attached during the spring season (CCR Title 14, section 300).


How to properly preserve and transport Pacific halibut?
Question: I’m planning some trips this year to fish for Pacific Halibut. If we should happen to catch one of any size, what is the legal way to transport a fish if it won’t fit in a cooler? Could it be filleted, and if so, when could that be done? I’m very particular about preserving fresh fish properly as soon as it’s caught. (Ross B.)

Answer: You may not fillet your Pacific Halibut when on your boat or before you land the fish (Fish and Game Code sections 5508-5509). Once ashore, there are no restrictions on filleting your fish into the size and conformity you want.


Video recording crab traps?
Question: Are there any regulations or restrictions regarding using video cameras (GoPros) on crab traps or lobster hoop nets? (Josh F.)

Answer: No, there are no fishing regulations that prohibit use of a video camera while fishing.

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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.

When and Where are Turkeys Nesting?

Wild spring turkeys (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I know that turkeys roost in trees at night and that this is their courtship and nesting season, but where do they nest and for how long? We’re seeing lots of toms running around right now but not many hens. I’ve not found any sitting on nests. When can we expect the newly hatched chicks to be out and on their own? (Dwayne J.)

Answer: In most areas, nests can be found in a shallow dirt depression surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest. Hens look for locations close to food and water and with ample cover to safely conceal the hen and her poults (chicks) once hatched. Hens are very leery of predators, such as coyotes and fox, but do leave the nest unattended for brief periods to feed and drink.

Hens typically lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.

A newly hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest to feed within 12 to 24 hours. Poults eat insects, berries and seeds while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon.

For more on wild turkeys, please see our “Guide to Hunting Wild Turkeys in California” publication online as well as the National Wild Turkey Federation website.


How to catch spot prawns with only a half-inch trap opening?
Question: I took a look at a few online California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) articles about traps, mesh sizes, etc. Once I saw that other types of shrimp traps have a logical trap opening size compared to the size of the shrimp, I began to wonder if the regulations might have an error.

Can you verify if there has been some sort of error in defining the half-inch opening of the trap as the mesh size of the trap? If this is the case, the size of the opening of the spot prawn trap should be more in line with other shrimp traps. If the opening of the shrimp traps could be in the 3-5 inch range with an alum hoop as the standard, recreational spot prawn trap fishing would be as enjoyable as lobster hooping. (Geoff H.)

Answer: The trap openings cannot exceed a half-inch as you’ve noted, and the regulation has not changed. “Shrimp and prawn traps may be used to take shrimp and prawns only. Trap openings may not exceed one half-inch in any dimension on traps used south of Point Conception nor five inches in any dimension on traps used north of Point Conception” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(f)). The reason for the difference in opening dimensions is to protect juvenile lobsters (found south of Point Conception) from being incidentally taken in these traps.


Does a licensed fishing guide’s son need a guide fishing license, too?
Question: I’m a licensed fishing guide on the upper Sacramento and Feather rivers. Is it legal for my son to help me on my vessel while I’m guiding? I’m seeing that there is a guide employee permit but in this situation that permit doesn’t seem right. Is there a deckhand permit where he can help me and help other friends in their boats that are guided also? He’s not being paid; he’s just there for the experience. (Michael T.)

Answer: If he is not collecting a fee or accepting tips, then he would not meet the definition of an employee as he is a family member and simply a volunteer. However, if he took any kind of compensation, then he would technically be an employee and subject to those licensing requirements. If he is assisting people by casting or fishing and he’s 16 years old or older, then he will need to have a fishing license.


Kangaroo leather motorcycle gloves
Question: I got my motorcycle gloves back in 2014-2015 and the palm area and parts of the digits incorporate kangaroo leather. I don’t intend to sell them but I’m OK to possess and wear them, right? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, you are fine as long as you do not have any intention of selling them. It is illegal to “import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell or to sell within the state, the dead body, or any part or product thereof, of a polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf (Canis lupus), zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise (Delphinidae), Spanish lynx or elephant” (Penal Code, section 653o).

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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.

When and Where is Nonlead Ammunition Required?

Turkey strut (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have a question about airguns. With the new lead ban going into effect, can I still hunt turkeys with lead airgun pellets? Are pellet rifles included in the nonlead ammunition ban? (Bill K., Placerville)

Answer: Since pellet rifles are not firearms, the use of lead projectiles in pellet rifles is not prohibited.


Was there a federal reversal of the ban on lead ammunition?
Question: I heard there was a federal reversal of the ban on use of lead ammunition for hunting on federal lands. How does this affect those of us who hunt on federal lands in California? (Michael H., Yuba City)

Answer: The new administration reversed a January 2017 federal order from the former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would have phased in federal requirements to use nontoxic ammunition (and fishing tackle) on federal lands nationwide. The federal order was separate and independent from California’s effort to phase out the use of lead ammunition. For California hunters, there is no change whether hunting on federal, state or private land. Neither federal action affects the phase-in of California’s prohibition on the use of lead projectiles while taking wildlife in California.

California is currently phasing out the use of lead ammunition for hunting across the state, including while hunting on federal lands. Beginning July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition will be required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Until then, non-lead ammunition is required when hunting big game or coyotes in the California condor range with a rifle or pistol. Nonlead ammunition is required when hunting any species on California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wildlife areas and ecological reserves. When hunting bighorn sheep, or when using a shotgun to hunt waterfowl or upland game birds (except for dove, quail, snipe and any upland game birds taken on licensed game bird clubs) you must use nonlead ammunition. 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 for depredation purposes.

For more information and details, please check our nonlead ammunition website.


What are the nonlead ammunition requirements on private land?
Question: We enjoy hunting on a friend’s private ranch and would like to know if the nonlead ammunition laws apply to private lands and landowners. This property is not open to public access and is only hunted by family and friends of the landowner. (Samuel P., Paso Robles)

Answer: These laws apply both to public and private lands. Please refer to the previous answer regarding California’s phase-out of lead ammunition and where restrictions apply, as well as CDFW’s nonlead ammunition website.


Will nonlead ammunition be required for target shooting?
Question: When we go out target shooting, are we required to shoot only nonlead ammo? (Anonymous)

Answer: No. You are not required to use nonlead ammunition when target shooting. Use of lead projectiles for target shooting is legal unless CDFW or another government entity has determined otherwise for lands they administer. California’s prohibition on the use of lead projectiles only applies while taking wildlife. For more information and details, please check our nonlead ammunition website.


Nonlead requirements for concealed carry firearms?
Question: I know that nonlead is required for use when hunting, but if I have my concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit and I’m carrying my pistol concealed for my personal protection along with my shotgun, does the pistol have to also contain only nonlead bullets? (Ben W., Merced)

Answer: No. CCR, Title 14 section 250.1(c) provides, “Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit the possession of concealable firearms containing lead ammunition, provided that the firearm is possessed for personal protection and is not used to take or assist in the take of wildlife.” With the exception of ammunition for concealable firearms possessed for personal protection, hunters may not possess lead ammunition along with a firearm capable of firing that ammunition when nonlead ammunition is required.


How will wildlife officers check for compliance??
Question: How will wildlife officers check and confirm that hunters are using nonlead ammunition? (Anonymous)

Answer: All ammunition in a hunter’s possession may be inspected by wildlife officers. In some cases, if a wildlife officer suspects a hunter is in possession of lead ammunition and cannot prove otherwise in the field, he or she may seize a cartridge or bullet for further analysis. Hunters are encouraged to assist in confirming compliance by retaining ammunition boxes or other packaging.

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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.