Here, we fetch up California elk hunting laws every hunter should know before hunting. We retrieve them from the Fish and Game Code, as well as Title 14 of the Code of Regulations. We bring them back to the Menu below with brief summaries and links to the text, as well as links to our pages with related topics (e.g. firearm laws).
Warning shot!! The laws on this page either add to or further restrict general hunting regulations for broader categories applicable to “wildlife,” “mammals,” and “big game mammals” (click here to see those regulations). Finally, for hunter-friendly summaries of California elk hunting rules—without the legal mumbo jumbo—see our page for elk seasons, hunting laws, and locations.
Introduction to California Elk Hunting Laws
Our Menu of California elk hunting laws include definitions and hunt zones, as well as special hunts for archers, juniors, and muzzleloaders. You’ll also find rules relating to seasons, bag limits, and tag quotas. For practically everything else you need to know about elk hunting, also see our summary for elk seasons, hunting laws, and locations. Warning shots!! While we include many California elk hunting laws, always check with the Fish & Game Commission for additional and current regulations.
Selection of California Elk Hunt Laws
Our menu includes major California elk hunting laws and some broader categories, including some for mammals, game mammals, and big game mammals, in general. In alphabetical order, topics include: ammo, archery, cooperative hunts, computer-assist remotes, crossbows, definition of big game, definition of game mammals, depredation permits (restrictions), dog for mammals, dogs for elk, equipment (e.g. tracking devices), herding, hunts, hunting methods, license, possession, shooting hours, tag applications, tag drawing system, tag fundraisers, tag quotas, and tag replacements.
- FGC § 3004.5 requires nonlead centerfire ammo when using pistols or rifles in the Condor Range to take big game, including elk.
- FGC § 3950 defines game mammals to include certain species of elk.
- FGC § 3960 prohibits use of dogs to hunt big game mammals during the mammals closed season or in an ecological reserve or game refuge where hunting is illegal.
- FGC § 4181 allows land occupants to apply for depredation permit to kill elk causing property damage, and generally prohibits sale or shipment of the carcass.
- 14 CCR § 251 prohibits use of (a) location devices—at any time–attached to big game (e.g. tracking devices); (b) devices capable of flight or orbit (e.g. drones)–from between 48 hours before and after the hunting season; and (c) motor vehicles to hunt mammals (e.g. shooting from a moving truck), but includes exemptions for unpowered boats, depredation permits, and mobility-impaired hunters.
- 14 CCR § 251.1 prohibits mammal harassment, as it defines, and generally prohibits herding and driving.
- 14 CCR § 251.5 requires hunters to immediately kill game mammals taken into their possession, and add the to his or her daily bag limits.
- 14 CCR § 251.9 prohibits computer-assist remotes and sites, as it defines, for hunting mammals.
- 14 CCR § 265 prohibits use of dogs (a) to take elk, (b) during archery seasons for deer and bear; (c) to pursue mammals or dog training in dog control zones, as it defines, during certain times of the year; (d) in excess of the number of dogs it allows per hunter; or (e) with global positioning equipment.
- 14 CCR § 350 defines big game to include certain species of elk.
- 14 CCR § 352 establishes shooting hours for big game, including elk.
- 14 CCR § 353 allows hunting (a) big game with bow and arrows, rifles, and muzzleloading rifles, subject to restrictions for ammo, sights, tags, artificial lights, vehicles, the Condor Range, Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permits, and Disabled Archer’s Permits, (b) elk with pistols and revolvers, subject to restrictions for ammo and barrel length, and (c) crossbows during the regular deer season or with a Disabled Archer’s Permit.
- 14 CCR § 354 prohibits (1) crossbows, as it defines, during the any archery season except with a Disabled Archer’s Permit; (2) small broad head-type blades; (3) arrows and crossbow bolts using (a) lighted nocks with directional beam of light, (b) explosive heads, (c) tranquilizers, and (d) poison; (4) shooting across roads and highways; (5) possession of firearm while hunting during any archery season or with an archer-only tag; and (6) bow or crossbows in a ready-to-fire position in or on vehicles; and requires minimum casting distance of 13o yards.
- 14 CCR § 364 identifies elk hunts in compliance with restrictions relating to species, sex (as it defines), hunting areas, seasons, tagging responsibilities, tag quotas, methods of take, dogs, bag limits, possession limits, age limits, military status, and any special conditions.
- 14 CCR § 401 allows land occupants to apply for a depredation permit from the CDFW to kill elk causing property damage, but only in compliance with permit (a) restrictions relating to methods of take, use of the carcass, and local firearm regulations and (b) requirements relating to reports and tags.
- 14 CCR § 555 allows the CDFW to establish cooperative elk hunting areas, as it defines, and establishes rules and procedures for applications, permits, and tags.
- 14 CCR § 700 requires hunters to carry a hunting license in his or her immediate possession while hunting.
- 14 CCR § 702 (external link) identifies fees for (a) applications to hunt big game on private wildlife management areas, (b) reservations to hunt on wildlife areas, and (c) hunts tags and drawing.
- 14 CCR § 708.11 allows fundraising elk hunts and establishes procedures for receiving a tag, and provides for tagholder responsibilities and special permits.
- 14 CCR § 708.14 generally requires the CDFW to award premium elk tags using the Modified-Preference Point drawing system, as it provides, including restrictions relating to party applications, residency.
- 4 CCR § 708.15 establishes procedures for filling the quota for elk tags.
- 14 CCR § 708.16 generally allows the CDFW to issue fundraising elk tags using a random drawing system.
- 14 CCR § 708.17 limits the number of replacement elk tags to one tag per year, but only in compliance with the procedures.
Regulations for California Elk Hunting Laws
14 CCR § 555 (California Elk Hunting Laws)
To encourage protection and enhancement of elk habitat and provide eligible landowners an opportunity for limited elk hunting on their lands, the department may establish cooperative elk hunting areas and issue license tags to allow the take of elk as specified in Section 364, and subject to the following conditions:
(a) Definition and Scope.
A cooperative elk hunting area is an area of private land located within the boundary of an area open to public elk hunting (as identified in Section 364). Minimum size of a cooperative elk hunting area shall be 5,000 acres, except that contiguous parcels of at least 640 acres in size may be combined to comprise a cooperative elk hunting area. Within an area open to public elk hunting, the number of cooperative elk hunting license tags issued shall not exceed 20 percent of the number of public license tags for the corresponding public hunt and shall be of the same designation (i.e., antlerless, spike bull, bull or either-sex) as the public license tags.
(b) Application Process.
Application forms are available from the department’s headquarters and regional offices. A person (as defined by Fish and Game Code Section 67) owning at least 640 acres within a cooperative elk hunting area shall be eligible to apply for a cooperative elk hunting area permit. Applicants shall designate one individual eligible to receive one elk license tag by the date indicated under subsection (3) below. Such individuals shall be at least 12 years of age and possess a valid California hunting license. A person may annually submit a cooperative elk hunting area application where they own sufficient habitat as described in subsection (a) above, for each public hunt area in which their property occurs.
(1) Applications shall be submitted to the department’s regional office nearest the proposed cooperative elk hunting area. Department of Fish and Game regional offices are located as follows:
- Northern California and North Coast Region, 601 Locust Street, Redding 96001 (530) 225-2300
- Sacramento Valley and Central Sierra Region, 1701 Nimbus Road, Rancho Cordova 95670 (916) 358-2900
- Central Coast Region, 7329 Silverado Trail, Box 47, Yountville 94599 (707) 944-5500
- San Joaquin Valley and Southern Sierra Region, 1234 East Shaw Avenue, Fresno 93710 (559) 243-4005
- South Coast Region, 4949 View Crest Avenue, San Diego 92123 (858) 467-4201
- Eastern Sierra and Inland Deserts Region, 4775 Bird Farm Road, Chino Hills 91709 (909) 597-9823
(2) Completed applications must be received by the first business day following July 1. Only those applications that are filled out completely will be accepted. The Department will evaluate applications to determine if the specified parcels are of sufficient size within the boundary of a public elk hunt area, and contain important elk habitat. Rejected applications and those that are incomplete will be returned within 15 days of receipt by the department. If the number of accepted applications exceeds the license tags available, the department will determine successful applicants and a list of alternates by conducting a random drawing from the pool of qualified applicants as soon as possible after the application deadline. For any license year that the demand for cooperative elk hunting license tags within an area open to public hunting (as identified in Section 364) exceeds the number of tags available, tags will be first issued to applicants that did not receive a tag the previous year. If the quota is not filled, tags will be issued to the remaining applicants by random drawing.
(3) Successful applicants will be notified by the department as soon as possible after the application deadline. Applicants shall submit the name, address, and valid California hunting license number of designated elk license tag recipients and payment of elk license tag fees by check, money order, or credit card authorization in the amount specified by subsection 702(b)(1)(L)(M), to the department’s regional office nearest the proposed cooperative elk hunting area, by the first business day following August 1.
(c) An elk license tag issued pursuant to the provisions of this section is valid only during the general elk season in which the cooperative elk hunting area occurs and shall only be used on land specified in the landowner’s application. License tags are not transferable.
(d) All provisions of the Fish and Game Code and Title 14, CCR, relating to the take of birds and mammals shall be conditions of all license tags issued pursuant to this section.
(e) Any permit issued pursuant to Section 555 may be canceled or suspended at any time by the commission for cause after notice and opportunity to be heard, or without a hearing upon conviction of a violation of this regulation by a court of competent jurisdiction.
14 CCR § 708.11 (California Elk Hunting Laws)
(a) Fund-raising elk license tags:
(1) Three fund-raising license tags for the taking of elk bulls shall be offered for sale to raise funds for the management of elk. The department may designate a nonprofit organization or organizations to sell the fund-raising tags. The department may conduct a random drawing to distribute fund-raising tags. Any resident or nonresident is eligible to buy one of the license tags. The sale price of a fund-raising license tag includes the fee for processing and issuing an annual hunting license for the purchaser or any person designated by the purchaser. A fund-raising license tag distributed through a department random drawing does not include the fee for processing and issuing a hunting license. The purchasers of fund-raising tags shall complete required hunter orientation programs conducted by the department and meet the hunter education requirements for a hunting license.
(b) Distribution of elk license tags:
(1) Applicants shall apply, and pay a nonrefundable processing fee as specified in Section 702, through the department’s Automated License Data System terminals at any department license agent or department license sales office on or before June 2 each year.
(2) Applicants shall be California residents or nonresidents, at least 12 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying. Applicants for the apprentice elk hunts shall be less than 16 years of age as of July 1 of the license year for which they are applying. Applicants shall possess an annual California hunting license that is valid during the elk season for which they are applying.
(3) Up to two residents may apply together as a party. Nonresidents may not apply as a party.
(4) Applicants shall apply for only one designated zone pursuant to Section 364.
(5) No applicant shall submit more than one application per license year for an elk license tag.
(6) Incomplete, late and ineligible applications and applications submitted without the appropriate processing fee will not be included in the drawing and the applicant will not earn a preference point.
(7) Successful applicants and a list of alternates for each zone shall be determined by drawing within 10 business days following the application deadline date. If the drawing is delayed due to circumstances beyond the department’s control, the department shall conduct the drawing at the earliest date possible.
(8) Not more than one nonresident shall be selected to receive a general license tag each year.
(9) Unsuccessful applicants shall not be notified by mail. Successful applicants will be mailed notification as soon as practical. Upon receipt of the notification, the applicant shall submit the appropriate tag fee, as specified in Section 702, through the department’s Automated License Data System terminals at any department license sales office. The tag fee shall be received by the department by 5:00 p.m. on July 15 each year. If the deadline to submit the fee falls on a weekend or holiday payment will be accepted until the close of business on the first state business day following the deadline to submit payment.
(10) Should the quota for each zone remain unfilled after that date, the alternate lists shall be used. Any tags unclaimed by successful applicants after that date shall be awarded to alternates for that zone, on an individual basis, in the order drawn.
(c) Tagholder Responsibilities:
(1) All tag holders shall return their license tags to the department within one week after the close of the elk season, even though the tagholder may not have killed an elk.
(2) Upon the killing of any elk, the tag holder shall immediately fill out all portions of the tag including the report card completely, legibly, and permanently, and cut out or punch out and completely remove notches or punch holes for the month and date of the kill. License tags shall be attached to the antler of an antlered elk, or to the ear of antlerless elk immediately after killing.
(3) Persons authorized to validate or countersign elk tags are listed in subsection 708.6(c). Elk tags shall be countersigned before transporting such elk, except for the purpose of taking it to the nearest person authorized to countersign the license tag on the route being followed from the point where the elk is taken.
(4) Only persons possessing valid elk license tags are entitled to take elk. Tags are not transferable and are valid only for the area and period specified.
(5) The tagholder shall surrender his tag to an employee of the department for any or all of the following reasons:
(A) Any act on the part of the tagholder which violates any of the provisions of the Fish and Game Code, or any regulations of the commission made pursuant thereto.
(B) Any act on the part of the tagholder which endangers the person or property of others. The decision of the department shall be final.
(d) Elk may be taken on Santa Rosa Island pursuant to a permit issued by the department. For methods of take, see sections 353 and 354.
Warning shot!! While we try to fetch up all major California elk hunting laws, we might miss a few or make a typo. If so, please leave a comment or question in the reply box below.