California Hunting Laws for Over 30 Species & 650 Locations

California hunting attorney
California Hunting

On this website, you’ll find reliable info about California hunting. Legal Labrador shares your passion for hunting nearly 30 species of birds and mammals!! We fetch up laws and procedures for over 650 hunting locations, both public and private. Unlike other sources, like the Department of Fish and Wildlife, we retrieve federal, State, and local laws. We bring them to you with hunter-friendly summaries and direct links to supporting laws. When possible, we drop the legal mumbo jumbo and bark out “Warning shots!!” to keep your eyes in the right direction.

As your legal Labrador, we also fetch up hunting calendars, definitions, links, maps, services, regs, and much more. In addition, we keep you in the loop with FacebookTwitter, and Blog. Finally, we advocate for the hunting industry and, at your request, provide legal assistance to hunters. If you still don’t find what you’re looking for, ask our “Legal Labrador” to “Fetch in Up.”

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Basics

Hunting Licenses

To hunt any bird or mammal, you need the appropriate hunting license. There are different licenses depending on where you live, plus your age, location, profession, and/or ability. If you’ve never had one, you’ll need to complete the Hunter Education Program.

Stamps / Validations

California hunting Federal Duck Stamp
California Hunting Stamps & Validations

For hunting birds in California, you usually need some sort of stamp. To hunt migratory game birds, you must first complete a harvest survey. Before hunting waterfowl, most people need a Federal Duck Stamp and California Duck Stamp. For birds that tend to be hunted over land (e.g. doves), most people need an Upland Game Bird Stamp. Finally, you also need a special permit to hunt certain birds (e.g. Sage Grouse). Warning shot!!! Before hunting, review our pages for the specific bird (e.g. Turkey).

Tags

California hunting tags
California Hunting Tags

If you’re in California hunting Big Game, you’ll need to buy at least one hunting tag before you hunt. Choosing the right tag can be very complicated. For details on buying tags, link to Bighorn SheepBlack Bear, Deer, Elk,  Pigs, and Pronghorn Antelope. The type of tag you need depends on many things like:

  1. How you plan to hunt them (e.g. muzzleloader tag),
  2. The sex of the animal (e.g. buck tag),
  3. The hunting season (e.g. late season buck tag),
  4. Your status (e.g. military personnel deer tags),
  5. The number of animals you’ve killed (e.g. second deer tag),
  6. You’re age (e.g. apprentice tag),
  7. The purpose of your hunt (e.g. fundraiser tags), and
  8. The area you’re going to hunt (e.g. Zone-A deer tag).
California hunting seasons, including California Big Game hunting methods, and California Type C wildlife areas.
Big Game Hunting Tags

Getting a tag can be confusing, but here are the basics. Tags are purchased from the CDFW. For all Big Game except pigs, you have to  get them through a random drawing. Except sheep, you have to be at least 12 years old to get a tag for Big Game. (For sheep you have to be at least 16.) To qualify for a Pronghorn Antelope tag, you also have to attend an informational meeting. Unsuccessful applicants can improve their chances through the Preference Point System. Warning shots!!!  For info on tagging procedures and reporting, link to  Bighorn SheepBlack BearDeerElk,  Pigs, and Pronghorn Antelope.

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Seasons

In general, hunting in California hunting is prohibited. In other words, unless there’s an authorized hunting season you can’t do it. Seasons vary for each bird and mammal. To find current seasons, go our pages for each Bird and Mammal.

California hunting seasons.
California Hunting Seasons

Here are a few basis. Some animals have early and late seasons (e.g. Doves, Deer, Geese, and Turkey. There are special seasons for junior hunters (e.g. Ducks and Elk). Waterfowl seasons, in particular, depend on locations known as Waterfowl Zones). Finally, there are seasons for different hunting methods (e.g. California Trapping Laws).

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Hunting Methods

California hunting methods.
California Hunting Methods

In general, you cannot hunt any bird or mammal except with authorized Methods of Take. California hunting laws use the word “take” to include things like shooting, trapping, and capturing. We just use the term “Hunting Methods.”

In general, hunting methods depend on the category of each bird and mammal. Common methods include archery and firearms, like shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers, muzzleloaders, and combinations. They also include air guns, crossbows, dogs, falcons, and traps. For birds, there are specific methods for migratory game birds, upland game birds, waterfowl, and nongame birds. For mammals, there are rules for big game, small game mammals, furbearing mammals, and nongame mammals.

California hunting methods, including boats.Warning shot!!! For many birds and mammals, there are additional methods that either restrict or expand the rules for each category. Common restrictions relate to the use of ammunition, arrows, bait, boats, crossbow bolts, dogs, decoys, lights, motor vehicles, and sights. Before hunting, review our pages for the particular bird or mammal, which include both general and specific hunting methods.

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Shooting Hours

California hunting shooting hours.
CDFW Timetable for California Hunting

Now that you’re ready for California hunting, you need to know shooting hours. Shooting hours vary for each category of bird and mammal. For birds, there are shooting hours for migratory game birdsupland game birdswaterfowl, and nongame birds. For mammals, there are hours for big gamesmall game mammalsfurbearing mammals, and nongame mammals.

Shooting hours can also change for some species (e.g. Spring Turkey). They can also change for some locations (e.g. Geese in Morro Bay). Finally, they can change on public hunting areas (e.g. Wildlife Areas). Warning shot!!! While the CDFW publishes shooting hours for Northern and Southern California, the sunrise and sunset is based on your exact location.

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Bag & Possession Limits

Geese Daily Bag Limits
Bag & Possession Limits for California Hunting

Another basic you need to know is that you can only take a certain number per day. California hunting laws refer to it as the daily bag limit. The limit can vary for some species of birds and in your hunting location (e.g. Ducks and Geese). There’s also a limit of the number of animals you can have in your possession at a particular time. This is known as the possession limitWarning shot!!! There’s also a season limit on some animals. For details and exceptions, go to our page for the specific bird or mammal that you’re hunting.

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Cleaning & Handling

After killing a bird or mammal, you have to know what you can and can’t do with it. California hunting rules depend on what species you’re hunting. For more detail, go to our page for the specific bird or mammal or find it on our menu above. Here are few basics to keep in mind.

California hunting tag procedures for cleaning and handling.
Tags for California Hunting

For most birds, hunting rules require you to keep the head or a fully-feathered wing attached. For Doves, though, you have to keep a fully-feathered wing attached. In general, you can only remove the head or wing after getting the birds home or you’re about to eat them. You also have to be careful with possession limits. You can have more than your limit at your home, provided you donate them to someone living there. The tags have to specify who the birds belong to. In general, no one can receive more than one possession limit. There are exception related to service providers like taxidermists and for charitable donations.

For Big Game, there are very specific tagging and reporting requirements (e.g. Deer). For info on tagging procedures and reporting, link to  Bighorn SheepBlack BearElk,  Pigs, and Pronghorn Antelope.

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Public Hunting

California hunting on public land.
Public California Hunting

There are nearly 650 public hunting areas for California hunting. Hunting rules change depending on which government agency (or agencies) is responsible for the hunting program. Listed below are links to our summaries of local hunting rules for each location.

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Private Hunting

There are a lot of great opportunities to hunt on private land as well. Some of these are available to the public. Most of these areas have special hunting rules. Follow these links for specific locations, hunting opportunities, and special rules.

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People

There are California hunting rules based on physical needs, age, gender, and status. Follow the links to our summary of the rules, including special hunting opportunities.

California hunting for youth, ladies, military, and disabled hunters.
California Hunting for Juniors

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Hunting Maps

California hunting maps.
Custom Maps for California Hunting

California hunting ,aps are hard to come by. Most of the ones distributed for public land are for general guidance only. The real coordinates are usually located in the regulations and in Sacramento. For as many hunting areas as possible, we provide maps of legal boundaries. We also prepare custom maps for things like hunting zones, special management areas, and areas of special interest (e.g. driving directions, parking lots, check stations, boat launches, etc.)

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Services

The California hunting industry is supported by many services. We have legal summaries for the service providers listed below.

California hunting services.
Services for California Hunting

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Forums & Blog

At the end of each page, you can participate in our California hunting forums by leaving a reply in the comment box. In addition, you can follow our Blog and on FacebookTwitter.  We invite you to participate by submitting hunting maps, wildlife photography, hunting videos, and leave a reply or comment on our California hunting forum and blogs.

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