Category Archives: Shooting sports

Turkey Hunting with Lead or Nonlead Shot?

Nonlead shot is now required when turkey hunting in California (Photo courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation)

Question: Do I have to use nonlead shot when turkey hunting with a shotgun this spring? (Joe N., Sacramento)

Answer: Yes. Nonlead ammunition is now required statewide when hunting wild turkeys with a shotgun. This applies to both public and private lands (except for licensed game bird clubs), including all national forests, Bureau of Land Management properties and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands. Private landowners or anyone authorized to hunt on private land must also comply with these regulations.


Moving crab pots that have become navigational hazards?
Question: Can I pick up and remove a crab pot that is a navigational hazard and/or has significant line floating on the surface? (Daniel)

Answer: No, it is unlawful to “disturb, move or damage any trap that belongs to another person that is marked with a buoy identification number or unless the person has written permission in possession from the owner of the trap” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80(a)(3) and Fish and Game Code, section 9002).

Instead, you are encouraged to report any crab pot creating a hazard to CDFW or the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has the authority to remove traps that are in violation of rule 9, which prohibits fishing that impedes the passage of a vessel that can only operate safely in a narrow channel or fairway. These are specifically designated by the sector of the coast guard that operates in that area.


Shooting too close to neighbors’ houses with permission?
Question: My neighbors and I each live on five-acre lots in Calaveras County that back up to open land with no buildings or dwellings. We all like to hunt and have dove and quail on the back sides of our properties that run in conjunction with each other. I noticed that our houses are between 100-140 yards from the area where we like to shoot which is facing away from our homes. We all allow each other to shoot with no problems, but based on of the language of Fish and Game Code, section 3004 it says we should be at least 150 yards away from our homes. Since we are all in agreement regarding shooting from this area, does this regulation make it illegal? (Brendon G.)

Answer: This regulation reads, “It is unlawful for a person, other than the owner, person in possession of the premises, or a person having the express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises, while within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling house, residence or other building, or within 150 yards of a barn or other outbuilding used in connection with an occupied dwelling house, residence or other building, to either hunt or discharge a firearm or other deadly weapon while hunting” (FGC, section 3004). It appears you would not violate these provisions but you should also contact your local Sheriff’s Department to see if there are any local laws that may apply to your location.


Ocean finfish landing net size requirement?
Question: I understand that the following regulation applies to ocean-going kayaks. It says, “No person shall take finfish from any boat or other floating device in ocean waters without having a landing net in possession or available for immediate use to assist in landing undersize fish of species having minimum size limits; the opening of any such landing net shall be not less than eighteen inches in diameter” (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(d)).

My question has to do with how the diameter is measured on a net that isn’t round. Many nets that are aimed at small craft use are not round and meet the opening size in one direction, for example, 18 inches x 14 inches. Is that legally sufficient or must the minimum diameter at any point be no less than 18 inches? That would push the net size up considerably, and given the limited utility of a net (or a gaff for that matter) from a near-water craft like a kayak or float tube, I’d prefer to carry as little as possible. (Ariel C.)

Answer: The net need not feature a circular opening despite its reference to “diameter,” but the net must be a minimum of 18 inches at its narrowest part. Good luck and tight lines!

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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.

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.