Tag Archives: turkey hunting

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!

# # #

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.

Cow Decoy for Big Game and Turkey Hunting?

cow-decoy1

(Photo courtesy of Ultimate Predator Gear)

Question: There is a manufacturer of decoys that attach to the front of a bow gun for hunting big game and turkeys. They are similar to the Montana style decoys but with a frontal profile blocking the hunter’s profile wcow-decoy2hile he aims and shoots through the large center hole. The decoys come in the frontal shape of a bovine cow, a turkey, a cow elk, a mule deer and others. Can I use the bovine cow decoy while bow hunting big game such as deer and wild pigs in California? I have heard of great success with this decoy in other states. Also, can the same decoy be used for turkeys? The cow decoy seems to be a much safer alternative for the hunter to avoid being mistaken for game. (Leo H.)

Answer: There are no regulations regarding the use of decoys for big game hunting. However, it is “unlawful to use any mammal (except a dog) or an imitation of a mammal as a blind in approaching or taking game birds” (Fish and Game Code, section 3502).


Stopping crab trap raiders and thieves?
Question: What, if anything, can a recreational crabber do to detect, prevent and/or suppress others from raiding and stealing their crabs during crab season? Not only have I had crabs and crab nets stolen (Bodega Bay area), but thieves have gone so far as to replace a catch with things like rocks and beer bottles? Realizing some of my traps may be unintentionally (some possibly intentionally) cut by vessels traveling at sea, is there anything else one can do? Even with my GO ID number properly marked, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens are hard-pressed to enforce applicable laws. I’m thinking of developing an alarm of some sort via microchip to detect changes in depth after they’re set. Do you have any other ideas? (Derek B.)

Answer: Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do in this situation. If you are using hoop nets, they must be checked every two hours or less. So crabbing should be a closely monitored activity, which should help alleviate this problem. You may also want to talk with other crabbers and make arrangements to keep an eye on each other’s traps while out on the water. Otherwise, set your traps when you are planning to be on the water and then fish for other species while your traps are soaking.


Is shooting biodegradable clays still littering?
Question: In a recent column you addressed a question of shooting clay birds being thrown into the ocean. Not sure I like that idea, but that isn’t the issue I have. ALL clay birds today are made of non-toxic, biodegradable material. I love shooting clays and get tired of people who don’t shoot assuming I am “littering” the landscape. Can you please let the public know there is nothing to worry about when it comes to clay birds sold in the stores today? (Linda K.)

Answer: Target shooting and shooting clay pigeons are some of my favorite pastimes. While the clays are supposed to be biodegradable, they break down at different rates depending on the brand. I think the issue is more one of people leaving all of the discards in the fields or areas where they have been used. I think the real issue is even though they may break down eventually, they will still litter the landscape and be viewed as litter when left in public areas. If you’re shooting these on your own property or at a designated shooting range, it’s your choice to leave them where they fall. However, for me, we do much of our shooting on my brother’s property, and although the land is not open to the public, we still pick up everything that we can easily find afterward as a common courtesy, especially since they are all easily seen due to their bright white, orange and lime green colors. Same thing goes for spent shotgun shells. Those don’t break down and will be visible for a long time if left behind.


Maximum lobster hoops?
Question: I know the maximum number of hoop nets that can be fished from a boat is 10. We take a couple of multi-day trips every year and invariably lose one or two during the trip. Can we carry a couple of spares on the boat to replace any we lose? (Larry H.)

Answer: No, unfortunately, you may not. No more than five hoop nets may be possessed or used by a person, not to exceed a total of 10 hoop nets possessed per vessel (CCR Title14, section 29.80(b)).

# # #

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 to Use a Crossbow?

Crossbows are normally not considered legal "archery" equipment for taking game birds and game mammals during archery-only season. However, there is an exception for those who hold a Disabled Archer Permit. (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Crossbows are not considered legal “archery” equipment and cannot be used during the archery-only seasons for game birds and mammals unless the hunter possesses a valid disabled archer permit. Crossbows can be used during the open seasons for wild turkey hunting (Photo courtesy of Parker Bows)

Question: With turkey season coming up soon and deer season right around the corner, can you please clarify when crossbows may be used for hunting big game and turkeys in California? As I understand it, you can use a crossbow instead of a rifle during rifle season. Is this correct? Can we use crossbows for taking wild turkeys? (Jesse J.)

Answer: It is important to understand that a crossbow is not considered archery equipment. Crossbows cannot be used during the archery seasons for game mammals or game birds unless the hunter possesses a valid disabled archer permit.

Crossbows may be used during the general seasons for deer, pig and game birds. For big game, hunters must use a broad head which will not pass through a hole seven-eighths of an inch in diameter (California Code of Regulation Title 14, section 354)). For wild turkeys, any arrow or crossbow bolt may be used except as prohibited by CCR Title 14, section 354(d) – which addresses explosive or tranquilizing arrowheads.

For additional information regarding archery equipment and crossbow regulations, please check the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 354. Good luck!


Revamping crab traps with five inch minimum openings?
Question: I have a question on the Dungeness crab regulations. There’s a new requirement this season that crab traps must have a destruct device with an unobstructed opening that is at least five inches in diameter. The regulations also describe ways to meet the requirement using cotton twine with rubber straps. I don’t keep my crab traps more than a few hours in the water. My existing crab traps already have two circular openings that are 4.5 inches in diameter.

Can I simply add one more circular metal/plastic ring, with inside diameter more than five inches, on the top of the crab trap and NOT use the cotton twine method? Basically, I will have a five-inch opening at all times, regardless of whether I lose my gear (crab trap) or not. (Chin D.)

Answer: “Starting Aug. 1, 2016, crab traps shall 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” (CCR Title 14, section 29.80(c)(2)).

An opening over five inches would satisfy this requirement as long as the permanent opening in the trap is in the upper half of the trap and it provides the same or greater escape dimensions that would be created when or if a self-destruct cotton failed. A trap set with the destruct material in the failed state (i.e. with no destruct material), would satisfy this requirement.


Shooting gophers and ground squirrels on private land?
Question: Do I need a hunting license to shoot gophers and ground squirrels on private land? (Anonymous)

Answer: Yes, if you are taking them for recreational purposes. Gophers and ground squirrels are nongame mammals and may be taken by licensed hunters. However, gophers and ground squirrels that are damaging growing crops or other property may be taken without a hunting license “by the owner or tenant of the premises or employees and agents in immediate possession of written permission from the owner or tenant thereof” (Fish and Game Code, section 4152).


Collecting natural sea water for aquarium?
Question: I have a big saltwater reef aquarium in my home and would like to collect natural sea water for it. What is allowed with regard to collecting natural sea water to use in home aquariums? I live just outside the Sacramento area and am willing to drive north or south but before setting out, I want to know what the rules are or what laws must be followed. Are there any limits on where or how much I can collect? I scuba dive around Monterey a lot and know that most areas are protected and/or are designated reserves, so figured I should ask.

I apologize for the odd question. I’m just hoping to conserve freshwater by using natural saltwater, if it’s possible and makes sense. Initially, I’d like to collect around 300 gallons. Are there are any laws or restrictions that I should be aware of? (Scott F.)

Answer: No, only that collection of seawater is not prohibited as long as you do so outside of marine protected areas. For information and maps of all of the marine protected areas in the state, please check out the CDFW website.

# # #

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.

# # #

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.

Falconry Road Hunting from a Moving Vehicle?

Harris Hawk_0916_Carrie Wilson

Harris Hawks are commonly used for falconry hunting (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: Is it legal or illegal to release a hawk or falcon (pursuant to a falconry license) from a moving vehicle to take game or non-game species? I am wondering if falconry road hunting would fall under the same illegal pursuit law that applies to hunting with firearms and archery under section 251. (Harris H., Modesto)

Answer: Yes, your assumption is correct. It would be illegal for a licensed falconer to release hawks or falcons from a moving vehicle because the law states, “No person shall pursue, drive, herd or take any bird or mammal from any type of motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat or snowmobile” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 251.)


When can Dungeness crabs be cleaned?
Question: I know abalone and lobster have restrictions on retaining whole animals until consumption, but I can’t find any restriction in the regulations on cleaning Dungeness crab. I know many boil and serve Dungeness crab whole. However, I find it easier to “back” the crab by cracking the shell into two pieces and removing the organs. Then I boil only the meat parts. When can I legally clean the crab? On the boat, back at the dock at a fish cleaning station, when I am home or after boiling? Thanks. (Dave C. )

Answer: Like with other finfish and shellfish with minimum size requirements, you must maintain the crab in a condition to where it can be identified and measured to ensure it meets any minimum size limit. Crabs possessed on a boat must be kept in such condition that the size and species may be determined (Fish and Game Code, sections 5508-5509). There is no requirement once ashore. Remember, the definition of “Fish” includes wild fish, mollusk, crustacean (crabs), invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn or ovum of any of those animals (FGC section 45). Therefore, while on a boat, you can clean the crab by removing the viscera whenever you like but must maintain the crab in a condition where it can be identified and measured across the back to ensure compliance with the size limit.


Where are all of the nesting turkeys?
Question: I know this is the courtship and nesting season for turkeys and that they roost in trees at night, but where do they nest and for how long? I’m seeing lots of toms right now but not many hens and have not found any sitting on nests. How soon before the newly hatched chicks will be out and on their own? Thanks for any insight. (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 will 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 information on wild turkeys, please check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hunting website at http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting and the National Wild Turkey Federation website at http://www.nwtf.org.


Can barnacles be harvested?
Question: I live in San Luis Obispo County and read the fishing regulations where it says barnacles cannot be harvested in the intertidal area. What about other non-intertidal areas, such as piers, jetties, etc.? I thought I read somewhere that the limit was five pounds. (Michael H.)

Answer: The applicable regulation (CCR Title 14, section 29.05) does not allow collection of barnacles “in any tidepool or other areas between the high tide mark (defined as Mean Higher High Tide) and 1,000 feet seaward and lateral to the low tide mark (defined as Mean Lower Low Water).” If you can find barnacles offshore more than 1,000 ft. beyond the low tide mark, by law you may take them. If you found barnacles more than 1,000 ft. beyond the low tide mark and wanted to take them, you would be limited to 35 barnacles per day/in possession, again per section 29.05. There is no five pound limit for barnacles (you may be thinking of the 10 pound limit for mussels).

# # #

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).

# # #

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.

Bow Hunting for Spring Turkeys?

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Spring tom turkeys in Northern California (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I am interested in bow hunting for turkeys this year but have some questions. Last week I saw a flock of hens and jakes on the side of a highway and I got to wondering if it’s legal to hunt off the side of a highway. I know we can’t shoot across a highway, but exactly how many yards or feet away does a bow hunter have to be? (Rafael O.)

Answer: It is unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(b)). Definitions for road and roadway can be found in the California Vehicle Code, sections 527 and 530. In addition, most counties have ordinances setting the distance from a public roadway that one must be to lawfully discharge a firearm. Many counties require 150 feet, but this distance varies and you will have to check with the appropriate county’s sheriff’s department to determine the legal distance. It is always unlawful to negligently discharge a firearm, and the discharge of a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is prohibited (California Penal Code, section 374c).


Bringing a speargun into California
Question: I am coming to California from Australia for a diving holiday and wish to bring my own gear, including a spear gun. Do you know what the rules are about bringing one through U.S. customs? (Edward C.)

Answer: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does not regulate the importation of dive gear, including spear guns. You should check with the Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov) and U.S. Customs (www.cpb.gov) to see if they have any special provisions you must follow.


Live rodents as fishing bait?
Question: I have seen several videos about using live “feeder” mice and rats for bass and trout fishing and was wondering whether they are legal to fish with here in California. I wasn’t able to find any regulations talking about using live mice or rats. If not acceptable to use as a live bait, can they be used if dead/frozen? (Anonymous, Sacramento)

Answer: No. The freshwater fishing regulations do not list mammals as acceptable bait options, so rodents may not be used (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 4.00.)


Hunting Sandhill cranes?
Question: Does California have any type of hunting opportunities for Sandhill cranes? I have seen a couple of videos in which the hunters state that the meat is great and some say it tastes like steak. I tried to research any regulations for them but wasn’t able to come up with anything. Can you please let me know if they can be hunted here? (Jose G.)

Answer: While some states do authorize the take of Sandhill cranes during waterfowl season, there are currently no hunting opportunities for Sandhill cranes in California.


Kangaroo product ban?
Question: I am the owner of a store that sells kangaroo hide boots and other products made of kangaroo leather. I read in the news that California recently re-instated a ban on the import and sale of kangaroo products. Is this true and if so, what should retailers like me know about the ban? (Anonymous)

Answer: You are correct. The ban on kangaroo products went back into effect Jan. 1, 2016. California Penal Code section 653o prohibits the importation, possession with intent to sell, and sale of any parts of specified animals, including kangaroos. Some common retail products made from kangaroo leather are boots, belts, wallets and soccer cleats.

As you know, California retailers are responsible for knowing the laws and regulations of the state of California and must take the necessary efforts to ensure they do not possess kangaroo products with the intent to sell.

Penal Code section 653o may be enforced by any peace officer in the state, including police officers, sheriff deputies, and wildlife officers. A person who violates section 653o is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 and up to six months in jail for each violation.

# # #

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.