Category Archives: safety

How to Begin a Career as a Wildlife Officer?

Wildlife Officers have a passion to protect California’s fish and wildlife resources while patrolling in 4×4 trucks, boats of all sizes, ATVs, and even horseback and personal watercraft. Most Wildlife Officers think spending a career outside in California’s wild places beats pretty much any other career out there.

Question: I’m in high school and last month my dad and I were contacted by a game warden while we were out fishing. He was really nice. After checking our licenses and sturgeon cards, and once he figured out we were all good, he spent at least another 20 minutes with us answering a bunch of questions. Afterward my dad and I were talking about it and I’m thinking now that becoming a game warden is something I would like to consider someday for a job. I’m only 16 though so what should I do now to prepare for a career as a game warden? (Josh M., Benicia)

Answer: First of all, thank you for your interest! You are lucky you have a dad who is interested and willing to pass along the love of fishing to the next generation. We are always excited to hear from young enthusiastic outdoors people like you who desire a career that will benefit California’s extraordinary fish and wildlife resources.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Captain Patrick Foy, “The same things that may motivate you also motivated most of today’s Wildlife Officers (Game Wardens). We have a passion to protect California’s fish and wildlife resources while patrolling in 4×4 trucks, boats of all sizes, ATVs, and even horseback and personal watercraft. We think spending a career outside in California’s wild places beats pretty much any other career out there. As law enforcement officers, we have the authority to investigate all crimes and arrest all criminals – whether they are poachers, polluters, violent criminals, drug dealers, reckless drivers, auto thieves, etc. and therefore we help keep law abiding Californians safe. We thrive on helping the most vulnerable of California’s citizens and the fish and wildlife with no voice. And we are excited to meet young people, such as you, who share our values and want to pursue a career as a Wildlife Officer.”

Knowing what career you want to pursue in high school makes it much easier to make that dream a reality. And yes, there are several actions you can take to prepare yourself for a wildlife officer career with CDFW. Here are a few important tips:

  • Continue to develop your passion for fishing and the outdoors, and consider taking up hunting if you don’t already. Although a fishing and hunting background can help with your career as a wildlife officer, it is not required. Sounds like you’ve got the fishing part figured out!
  • Do well in high school, plan to attend college, and do well there. We check all of your grades in both high school and college. The grades you are earning right now make a difference. Earn a four-year college degree to be more competitive than those who meet the minimum requirement of 60 units.
  • What to study in college? Whatever interests you! Many Wildlife Officers have bachelor’s degrees in subjects ranging from English and math, to the more traditional wildlife management and biology. Just be sure to meet the minimum 18 units of required courses listed at the link below.
  • Develop excellent public speaking and communication skills.
  • Learn to speak a second language if you do not already.
  • Never use drugs. Even a single use of any “hard drug” results in automatic disqualification depending on how old you are and when you used them.
  • Maintain a good driving record. We thoroughly examine your driving record from the day you begin driving.
  • Crimes such as shoplifting, vandalism, theft from employers, etc., are inconsistent with a career in law enforcement, but that should be obvious! You are required to disclose all crimes committed on your initial application, whether or not you were caught.
  • Consider military service. Serving in the military is an excellent way to gain real world experience and develop the leadership skills needed to thrive as a Wildlife Officer. Veterans who pass our written exam are automatically moved into the number one rank which is a substantial benefit to them. Just make sure you also gain the college education necessary to meet minimum qualifications.
  • Maintain excellent physical fitness, including knowing how to swim. You must pass a series of physical fitness tests, including a swim test to be accepted into the Academy.

Become thoroughly familiar with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division website. It lists the minimum qualifications you will need to be accepted into the Academy.

With the above tips in mind, everywhere you exceed our minimum qualifications makes you more competitive for selection. We hope this helps you develop a plan to make your career goals a reality!

Note: Although Josh is in high school and not yet eligible to apply, any interested and eligible applicants should begin checking back around August. The application period is expected to be open in the September-October timeframe.

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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.

Hunters Should Use Caution with Wild Rabbits

Hunters should use caution when field dressing wild rabbits.

Hunters should use caution when field dressing wild rabbits.

Question: I’d like to try some rabbit hunting but hear they may carry some kind of disease. Is this true? If so, is this anything to be concerned about and what precautions should I take? (Jeff J., Stockton)

Answer: You may be referring to “tularemia,” a bacterial disease that wild rabbits occasionally carry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “tularemia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Rabbits, hares and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks. Humans can become infected through several routes, including tick and deer fly bites, skin contact with infected animals and ingestion of contaminated water. Symptoms vary depending on the route of infection. Although tularemia can be life-threatening, most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics.”

To be safe, hunters should take precautions by wearing latex gloves when field dressing their rabbits to minimize exposure to the disease. Be sure to properly cool the animal after field dressing it, and to always cook it thoroughly. Tularemia is named after the place where it was discovered – Tulare.


Booyah Boo Rig
Question: I would like to use a Booyah Boo Rig in coastal ocean waters and possibly for stripers in the Sacramento River. It has five places for flashers or grubs but only one will have a hook. The others are just attractants. Would this be ok? Here is a photo of it. (Dave K.)Booyah Rig

Answer: As long as the rig does not exceed the allowable number of hooks (which generally is three hooks or three lures with up to three hooks each for inland waters), it is legal.

Ocean regulations are less restrictive. Generally, any number of lines and hooks may be used but bear in mind that there are hook/line restrictions for some fish species in both inland and ocean waters, so you’d need to read the regulation for each specific species to know for sure.


Can boat owners be cited for their passengers’ fishing violations?
Question: I’m a small recreational boat owner (ocean fishing). If somebody on my boat violates any Fish and Wildlife laws (e.g. hook barb not completely removed for salmon fishing), am I liable in any way for this infraction? What are my legal “game law” responsibilities for my boat guests? (John S.)

Answer: In ocean waters, boat limits apply to all persons on board. “All persons aboard a vessel may be cited where violations involving boat limits are found, including, but not limited to the following violations: A-Overlimits: B-Possession of prohibited species: C-Violation of size limits: D-Fish taken out of season or in closed areas” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 27.60). If the issue is illegal gear, the officer will try to determine which person was using it.


Hunting for small game with pellet guns
Question:
I am 21 years old and am wondering if I need a license or any type of permit to carry an air rifle? Do I need a permit or license to hunt small game or for target shooting? To be honest, I don’t like real guns. I just want to go target shooting with my dad and maybe some hunting for small game with my friends. I plan to go camping this summer with some friends to celebrate my 22nd birthday. It would be great to know what the laws are regarding carrying and hunting with pellet guns. Can you please let me know? (Adeh M.)

Answer: You may use a pellet gun for target practice in areas where shooting is allowed. This includes gun ranges, some public lands (e.g. Forest Service or BLM), and private lands where you have permission to be. Many cities and counties do not prohibit the use of pellet guns but you should check in with the local sheriff’s department to be sure.

Resident small game mammals and birds may be taken with air rifles if you first obtain a California hunting license. In order to get a hunting license, you must first pass a Hunter Education course. Some species like upland game birds require an upland game bird validation on your license.

After obtaining a hunting license, you will need to become familiar with the laws and regulations pertaining to small game hunting. These regulations are contained in the current Waterfowl and Upland Game Hunting Regulation booklet. The regulations pertaining to the take of small game regulations begin on page 26. A summary of these regulations can also be found on our website.

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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.

Mentoring New Generations of Hunters

Family waterfowl hunting at the Yolo Wildlife Area Basin

Family waterfowl hunting at the Yolo Wildlife Area Basin

Question: I just took my first Hunter Education Class last week at the age of almost 60. I am interested to put my training into practice and bring my kids and grandkids into it as well. What is a good plan to begin hunting that can include all of us, since I have never had anyone to teach me how to start? (Ken B., Palo Alto)

Answer: First of all, welcome to the exciting comradery of California hunters. We can recommend several options. First, put your new Hunter Education Certificate to use right away by purchasing your hunting license and tags/tag applications. The Big Game Drawing online application deadline for elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, and premium deer tags is midnight June 2, 2016.

We encourage you to go through the application process together. It will introduce all of you to navigating the online system and may also prompt an interest in other big game hunting opportunities, such as apprentice hunts. If your grandkids are junior hunters, ages 12-17 years old on July 1 of the license year, these apprentice hunts are an excellent option for most big game.

Every hunter who annually applies for draw hunts anxiously awaits the results from the draw. Then, if successful, they can enjoy the experience of spending scout time leading up to the hunt planning for their adventure. The planning stage is an important part of the hunt you can all do together. Don’t forget, an integral part of the hunt is sighting in your firearm or bow at the range, another activity you can do together.

Draw hunts are not your only options — wild pig tags and some deer tags are simply available for purchase. Wild pig hunting is a good introduction to big game hunting and require a tag to hunt them. However, the season is open year-round and there is no daily bag limit.

Consider hiring a licensed hunting guide. It may cost you some extra money, but guided hunts frequently give you access to private properties with higher density game populations. Guides should have expertise for the species and the area you are hunting. Soak up everything the guide is willing to teach you. If you or your kids are successful, most guides will offer to field dress the animal for you. We strongly recommend having your guide teach you how to field dress the animal and do it yourself.

CDFW also offers Advanced Hunting Clinics that focus on the “how-tos” of hunting, including how to hunt turkey, upland game, waterfowl and big game. Each clinic covers types of firearms, ammunition, importance of sighting in the firearm, gauging distance, scouting, tracking, field dressing, shoot-don’t shoot scenarios, hunter ethics, landowner-hunter relationships, conservation, and safety. The goal of this series is to develop ethical, conservation-minded, successful hunters through education … taking the hunter a step beyond the basic hunter education course.

Throughout the year, CDFW Special Hunts are also offered and designed especially for new hunters, youth hunters, women hunters, mobility-impaired hunters and people with limited experience or opportunity to hunt on their own. Depending on the time of year, hunts for upland game birds (pheasant, quail, chuckar and turkey) and, upon occasion, waterfowl, deer or wild pig may be offered.


What info must be on a sports crab pot buoy?
Question: What information is required to be displayed on sports crab pot buoys? I have placed my CF numbers from my boat on mine but have read that I must also place my GO ID numbers on the buoys. Can you please let me know what’s required for my buoys? Also, what are all of the necessary requirements for my crab pots to make them legal? (Ken H.)

Answer: No identification is currently required to be placed on the buoys of sport crab traps. However, beginning Aug. 1, 2016, a crab trap buoy must be legally marked with the operator’s GO ID number as stated on his/her sport fishing license.

Keep in mind that crab traps are only allowed in waters north of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County), and are required to have at least two rigid circular openings of not less than four and one-quarter inches inside diameter, constructed so that the lowest portion of each opening is no lower than five inches from the top of the trap. Starting Aug. 1, 2016, crab traps must contain at least one destruct device of a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less that creates an unobstructed escape opening in the top or upper half of the trap of at least five inches in diameter when the destruct attachment material corrodes or fails (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(C)(1-3)).


Compound bow for protection?
Question: This question goes back to the special junior turkey archery hunts available prior to the start of the regular spring turkey season. I accompanied my son on one of those hunts. I was concerned about our safety because there are bears and mountain lions where we would be hunting, as well as mountain lions basically everywhere in California. If I had had my hunting license, could I have had my compound bow on me for safety? I ask because I know you cannot have a firearm on you during archery-only seasons (I don’t have a firearm anyway), so could I have had my bow on me during the junior-only hunt? (David R., Sunnyvale)

Answer: You could have possessed a compound bow in this circumstance as long as you had a valid hunting license and tag for game that could be lawfully taken with a compound bow (such as wild pigs if they are present in the area) and you do not hunt turkey.

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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.

Selling Tickets for a Fundraiser Serving Abalone?

Red abalone can be shipped out of state only certain conditions. (© Derek Stein)

Sport-taken abalone may not be bought, sold, bartered or traded. To use abalone for a non-profit fundraising dinner, the cost of attending the dinner must be advertised as a requested donation to the organization putting on the dinner (Photo by Derek Stein)

Question: My husband and I dive for abalone in Humboldt where we live. If we don’t consume them right away, we freeze them whole in the shell as the local wildlife officer advised us years ago. I also work for a nonprofit hospice in Sutter County and they will soon have a fundraiser at a private house where many of our staff will prepare appetizers for 100 guests. I want to prepare abalone appetizers from three abalone that we already have tagged and frozen from last season. The event is being professionally catered for the meal and dessert and so they are selling tickets, but no one is paying for or making money from the abalone I want to cook. The abalone is such a minuscule part of the meal. I just want to make sure I am allowed to bring it to an event like this and I was not able to find anything specific about that in the regulations. Please advise. Thank you. (Amy M.)

Answer: Sport-taken abalone may not be bought, sold, bartered or traded (Fish and Game Code, section 7121.) If sport-taken abalone are used for a non-profit fund-raising dinner, then the cost of attending the dinner must be advertised as a requested donation to the organization putting on the dinner. In your situation, if you are just providing a few abalone for an appetizer, and as long as the dinner is not advertised to contain abalone in order to sell more tickets to the fund-raising dinner, then you will not be violating the law.


Are hunters required to wear blaze orange hunting vests?
Question: I recently completed my hunter safety education course, got my license and went hunting with a small group on private land. None of us wore hunter safety orange vests as we were all together at all times and in each others line of sights. I see hunting shows where they sometimes don’t wear the orange hunter vests either. When do you wear the vests? Is it acceptable to not wear them while on private land when you’re with a small group and know where everyone is? Or, do you have to wear blaze orange all the time while hunting? (Joseph L.)

(Photo courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)

(Photo courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)

Answer: Though some states require hunters (especially when hunting upland game) to wear blaze orange all the time while in the field for safety reasons, California Fish and Wildlife laws do not require it. However, keep in mind that some military bases such as Camp Hunter Liggett and Camp Roberts do require blaze orange. It is a good idea to wear this distinctive color whenever possible for your safety as it does help you to stand out. You’ll find that orange is being incorporated more and more into hunting camouflage patterns to provide greater safety. One thing to note for deer hunting, deer cannot detect the color orange. To deer, orange looks gray.


Can local police issue Fish and Game citations?
Question: Can local police issue a violation for no fishing license? (Phil F.)

Answer: Yes, they are authorized to cite people who are breaking fish and wildlife laws but in many cases they will contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and turn the case over to our wildlife officers.


Shooting clay pigeons in dove fields when doves out of season?
Question: Is it legal to shoot clay pigeons in the same fields that I use for dove hunting when doves are not in season? (Richard X.)

Answer: Fish and Game laws do not generally cover target practice. However, Fish and Game law does prohibit target practice on most state wildlife areas, except in specifically designated areas that are identified as such. Keep in mind that shooting clay targets produces a lot of litter. Please make sure you have the property owner’s permission before you do it and comply with their requirements regarding cleanup.


Glasses when abalone diving?
Question: I wear reading glasses. I don’t like to take my glasses on the beach or in the water with me because I don’t want them to get scratched. However, without my glasses, I cannot clearly read the new abalone cards. Last season I accidentally used the wrong tag (one that was not in sequential order) because I could not read the numbers. What can I do to make this easier? (Zoe D., Trinidad)

Answer: I can empathize with your frustrations. You may want to consider including non-prescription reading glasses and/or a small magnifying glass in your dive bag or innertube. Either can be purchased at many convenience stores for under $15. At least with these you would not have to risk losing or breaking your prescription glasses and you will be able to comply with the regulations.

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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.