California Big Game Hunting Methods

California pig hunting seasons., including California Big Game hunting methods, and California Type C wildlife areas.

On this page, you’ll find rules for California Big Game hunting methods, which includes Pronghorn antelopeBlack beardeerelkwild pigs, and Bighorn sheep. You’ll find methods related to the category of Big Game. You’ll also find methods specific to each animal. Finally, you’ll find restrictions and privileges for each method that are based on specific people, places, situations, and times of the year.

California big game hunting methods, including Muzzleloaders for California hunting seasonsTopics include ammunition, bait, bow and arrows, California condor range, computers, crossbows, dogs, harassment, lights, muzzleloaders, pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and vehicles. We also include links to supporting federal and State law. Warning shot!!! Check city and county ordinances for any exceptions. If you need help, contact our in-house attorney.

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General Rules

The law refers to California Big Game hunting methods as “methods of take.” The definition of Take includes more than just hunting. It also includes things like using bait, computers, and traps. We’re going to refer to them all as “hunting methods.” In this Section, you’ll find examples of general hunting methods for Big Game. For a more complete list, follow the links for Specific Big Game below. Here are a few general rules to keep in mind:

Rule #1: You can’t hunt Big Game unless there’s a season.

Rule #2: You can only use methods approved for Big Game.

Rule #3: Approved methods may be restricted for specific Big Game, people, place, situations, and time of the year.

Aircraft

In general, it’s illegal use aircraft to find Big Game. The only exception is outside of two days before and after any specific season. The same is true for hot-air balloons, hang gliders, and satellites. Warning shot!!! Flying slowly at low attitudes, hovering, circling or repeatedly flying over any area is evidence that you are breaking this law.

Bow and Arrow

Big Game may be taken with a bow an arrow.

Dogs

It’s illegal to pursue Big Game with a dog during a closed season for the particular animal (e.g. Black bear).

Firearms

Big Game may only be taken with “nonlead projectiles and ammunition” (e.g. bullet, ball, sabot, slug, buckshot). For rifles, you can only use centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles. For muzzleloaders, you can only use a single projectile that’s at least .40 caliber.  In general, if you have a muzzleloading rifle-only tag, you can use open or “peep” sights. There’s an exception for hunters with a Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit.  In general, you can’t have a loaded muzzleloader in your vehicle or any attachment to it from a public roadway (e.g. trailer).

Lights

In general, it’s illegal to use lights to shoot Big Game. The rule applies to making the animal visible to the naked eye or through a scope or sight (e.g. night vision scopes, binoculars, infra-red). The rule does not apply to most laser rangefinders, red-dot scopes, or fiberoptic sights.

Tracking Devices

In general, it’s illegal to use a computer to find Big Game to which a tracking device has been attached. The only exception is with prior approval from the CDFW. The same is true for any telemetry device.

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Specific Big Game

There are California Big Game hunting methods for specific mammals. These methods may override General Rules noted above for all Big Game. Here are a few examples, but you can find them all by following the links to Specific Big Game.

Bear

In general, your  shotgun can only be capable of holding three shells, and you can only use shot with a single slug for Black beardeer, and wild pigsPistols and revolvers using centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles may be used to take Black beardeer and wild pigs.

Deer

In general, your  shotgun can only be capable of holding three shells, and you can only use shot with a s single slug deerBlack bear, and wild pigs. If slugs are not allowed by county ordinance, you can use size “0” or “00” buckshot for deer only. Pistols and revolvers using centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles may be used to take deer, bear, and wild pigs. In general, you can only use a crossbow to take deer and wild pigs during the regular seasons. There are exceptions for hunters with a Disabled Archer Permit.

Elk

Pistols and revolvers with minimum barrel lengths of 4 inches, using centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles, may be used to take elk and Bighorn sheep.

Sheep

Pistols and revolvers with minimum barrel lengths of 4 inches, using centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles, may be used to take Bighorn sheep and elk.

Pigs

 

California Big Game hunting methods including California hunting methods for wild pigs, hogs, and boar.In general, your  shotgun can only be capable of holding three shells, and you can only use shot with a single slug for wild pigsBlack bear, and deerPistols and revolvers using centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles may be used to take wild pigsBlack bear, and deer. In general, you can only use a crossbow to take wild pigs and deer during the regular seasons. There are exceptions for hunters with a Disabled Archer Permit.

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Specific Places

There are restrictions on California Big Game hunting methods at specific places. These methods override the general rules noted above. Here are a few examples, but you can find them all by following the links in the General Rules above.

California Condor Range

California Big Game hunting methods for the California Condor Range hunting,In the California Condor Range, “Nonlead centerfire rifle and pistol ammunition” is required for taking Big Game with a rifle or pistol. Warning shot!!! By no later than July 1, 2019, it will be required for all firearms.

National Wildlife Refuge

To hunt Big Game at any National Wildlife Refuge, it has to be a species authorized to be hunted at that location.

Wildlife Areas

To hunt Big Game at any Wildlife Area, it has to be a species authorized to be hunted at that location.

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Specific People

California Big Game hunting methods for juniors, disabled hunters, and more.There are California Big Game hunting methods based on specific people. These methods override the general rules noted above. Here are a few examples, but you can find them all by following the links to specific Big Game.

Disabled Hunters

In general, you cannot use a crossbow to hunt Big Game during any archery season. There’s an exception for hunters with a Disabled Archer Permit. In general, you cannot hunt Big Game from a motor vehicle. There is an exception for disabled hunters that get a Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License from the CDFW. In general, if you have a muzzleloading rifle-only tag, you can use open or “peep” sights. There’s an exception for hunters with a Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit. Finally, there are certain hunts available to youth, also referred to as apprentice hunts.

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Specific Situations

California Big Game hunting methods, including California hunting methods for bows and arrows and other archery equipment.There are restrictions on California Big Game hunting methods based on specific situations. Here are a few examples, but you can find them all by following links to specific Big Game.

Archery

For Big Game that allow hunting with a bow and arrow, you cannot use lighted nocks with a beam of light, explosive heads, tranquilizers, or poison. There are also restrictions against shooting them across a highway. It also has to have a casting distance of at least 130 yards. You typically cannot carry a firearm when hunting Big Game during an archery season.

Lights

It’s usually illegal to use lights to hunt game Big Game at night. There is an exception for killing Big Game causing property damage. In fact, you can usually kill them by any legal manner, day or night. Warning shot!!! You may need to get what’s called a “depredation permit” from the CDFW before killing them.

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