California Elk Hunting Seasons, Laws, and Locations

California Elk Hunting Seasons for Roosevelt Elk, including California Share Hunting for Elk

On this page, you’ll find information about the California elk hunting seasons, laws, and locations.

Topics

  1. Seasons.
  2. Hunting tags.
  3. Shooting hours.
  4. Bag and possession limits.
  5. Hunting areas.
  6. Elk hunting license.
  7. Hunting permits.
  8. Hunting methods.
  9. Buying and selling elk.
  10. Species of elk.
  11. Hunting tips.
  12. Hunting violations.
  13. Hunting forum and blog.

Species

California Elk Hunting Seasons for Rocky Mountain Elk
Rocky Mountain Elk

Elk is one of six mammals that are classified as Big Game. There are several species of elk that are legal to hunt in California. They are all from the genus Cervus. They include the species listed below.

  1. Rocky Mountain Elk.
  2. Roosevelt Elk.
  3. Tule Elk, a subspecies of the North American elk.

Elk populations are managed by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW), formerly known as “DFG.” See FGC §§ 3950 and 4181, and 14 CCR § 350.

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License

California Elk Hunting Seasons for Tule Elk
Tule Elk

To hunt elk, you have to get a California Hunting License. You can buy it online or from a CDFW license office or license agent.  The license is available to residents, non-residents , and Juniors under the age of 16 on  July 1.  Click here for current prices. For disabled veterans and recovering service members, click here for a summary of reduced fees.

Warning shot!!!  While hunting any bird or mammal in California, including elk, keep your license in your immediate possession. See 14 CCR § 700(b).

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Bag Limit

California Elk Hunting Seasons for Roosevelt Elk
Roosevelt Elk

There are hunting tags for the kinds of elk listed below.  However, you can only get one elk tag per season. The tag is only good for one elk and it has to come from the specific area for which the tag was issued.

After shooting an elk, you have to make every reasonable effort to find it. If wounded, you have to kill it immediately. After taking it into your possession it become part of your daily bag limit. See 14 CCR §§ 251.5, 14 CCR § 364(k) and (l), and 354(m).

Bull Elk

A “bull elk” is any elk having an antler or antlers at least four inches in length as measured from the top of the skull.

Spike Bull

A “spike bull” is a bull elk with no more than one point on each antler. An antler point is a projection of the antler at least one inch long and longer than the width of its base.

Antlerless Elk

An “antlerless elk” is any elk, with the exception of spotted calves, with antlers less than four inches in length as measured from the top of the skull.

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Seasons

See Elk Seasons for general, archery, and muzzleloader seasons, plus those specific to juniors, military bases, and species of elk (e.g. tule elk).


Tags

See California Elk Tags for info on general, fundraising, and premium tags, plus tagging procedures, party applications, replacement tags, and more.

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Permits

Cooperative Elk Hunt Area Permit

A “cooperative elk hunting area” is private property where landowners are allowed to hunt elk in order to protect and enhance elk habitat. In general, these areas have to be at least 5,000 acres. For tag limitations, applications, deadlines and other info, see 14 CCR § 555.

Depredation Permits

Elk can cause serious damage to people and property, including crops, domestic animals, and livestock. In general, landowners, tenants, and/or their agents and employees can kill or trap elk to protect people and property. For more information, see our page for California Depredation Permits.

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California Elk Hunting Shooting Hours

In general, shooting hours for elk begin one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise and end one-half (1/2) hour after sunset. However, those hours may be further restricted on Public Hunting areas. See 14 CCR § 352.

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California Elk Hunting Methods

When elk hunting is allowed in California, you can only use the hunting methods listed below. In the law, those methods are called “methods of take.” See 14 CCR §§ 251.5 and 354(m).

Ammunition

shotgun shellsDepending on when and where you hunt elk, you might be required to you steel or other non-toxic shot. See California Condor Range below. Also sour summary for Non-Toxic Shot, and CDFW updates for Nonlead Ammunition.

Bait

It’s illegal to knowingly feed Big Game, including elk. See 14 CCR § 251.3.

Bow and Arrow

California Elk Hunting Seasons for Archery, Bow and ArrowIn general, archery with a bow and arrow is an authorized method for hunting Big Game, including elk. However, you have to use a broad-head type blade that won’t pass through a hole seven-eighths inch in diameter. If you use a mechanical/retractable broad head, it has to be measured in the open position. Also see California Archery Laws for more info about tags, blades, exposive heads, poison, casting distance, lights, disabilities, use of dogs, etc. Also see 14 CCR §§ 353(a) and 354(c).

California Condor Range

California Elk Hunting Seasons in the California Condor RangeWhen hunting Big Game in the California Condor Range, including elk, only non-lead centerfire rifle and pistol ammunition may be used.  Warning shot!!!  It’s even illegal to possess lead ammunition while hunting elk. See California Condor Range Hunting. Also see FGC § 3004.5 and 14 CCR § 353(h).

Computers

It is illegal in California to hunt any mammal, including elk, with a computer-assisted or remotely controlled device. The same is true for equipment, Internet site, web-based system, software, telemetry device, or other similar technology. See 14 CCR §§ 251 and 251.9.

Crossbows

California Elk Hunting Seasons for CrossbowsIn general, it’s illegal to hunt elk hunting in California with a crossbow.  However, there’s a limited exception for hunter’s with a Disabled Archer Permit. See 14 CCR § 353(e), 353(g), and 353(j).

Dogs

It’s illegal to use dogs when hunting elk in California. See 14 CCR §§ 265(a)(2) and 364(p).

Guides

To find an elk guide, see California Hunting Guides. You can also search a list from the CDFW.

Harassment

It’s illegal to harass any game mammal, including elk. “Harassment” is the intentional disruption of normal behavior patterns (e.g. breeding, feeding and sheltering).  The same is true for herding or driving game mammals. See 14 CCR § 251.1.

Lights

In general, it’s illegal to use artificial lights for the purpose of hunting Big Game, including elk. The same is true for any device that electronically alters or intensifies a light source. Examples include “sniperscopes”, night vision scopes and binoculars. It also includes infrared, heat sensing or other non-visible spectrum light technology. Warning shot!!! It also illegal to possess any such device.

However, it’s legal to use laser rangefinders, “red-dot” scopes with self-illuminating reticles, and fiberoptic sights with self-illuminating sight or pins that don’t project a visible light onto the animal.

There are a couple of counties where it’s illegal to hunt any wildlife between one-half hours after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise. Those counties include Monterey and San Benito, east of Highway 101.

Landowners and/or tenants might be allowed by the CDFW to use lights to hunting elk at night when elk are causing or threatening to cause property damage. See California Depredation Permits, and 14 CCR §§ 250, 263353(i), and 401.

Muzzleloaders

California Elk Hunting Seasons for MuzzleloadersIn general, muzzleloaders are an authorized method of hunting Big Game, including elk. See California Muzzleloader Seasons restrictions related to ammunition, caliber, sites, transportation and tags.* See 14 CCR §§ 353(a), (f), (g), (j) and (k).

* There’s a proposal to make it illegal to hunt Big Game with the following kinds of ammunition.

(1) A softnose or expanding projectile is a bullet designed to increase from its original diameter, commonly referred to as “mushrooming”, and retain a significant part of its original weight upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal.
(2) Projectiles commonly referred to as “frangible” bullets, designed to disintegrate upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal are not softnose or expanding projectiles.

Pistols and Revolvers

In general, pistols and revolvers are an authorized methods for hunting Big Game, including elk. However, ammunition and barrel restrictions are noted below. See 14 CCR § 353(d). Also see “Ammunition” and “California Condor Range” above.

Ammunition Restriction

When hunting elk in California with a pistol or revolver, only centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles.*

* There’s a proposal to make it illegal to hunt Big Game with the following kinds of ammunition.

(1) A softnose or expanding projectile is a bullet designed to increase from its original diameter, commonly referred to as “mushrooming”, and retain a significant part of its original weight upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal.
(2) Projectiles commonly referred to as “frangible” bullets, designed to disintegrate upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal are not softnose or expanding projectiles.

Barrel Length

When hunting elk in California with a pistol or revolver, the barrel must be at least four (4) inches long.

Rifles

In general, rifles are an authorized method for hunting Big Game, including elk.  However, ammunition is restricted to only centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles.* See 14 CCR § 353(a). Also see “Ammunition” and “California Condor Range” above.

* There’s a proposal to make it illegal to hunt Big Game with the following kinds of ammunition.

(1) A softnose or expanding projectile is a bullet designed to increase from its original diameter, commonly referred to as “mushrooming”, and retain a significant part of its original weight upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal.
(2) Projectiles commonly referred to as “frangible” bullets, designed to disintegrate upon impact with, or when passing through the tissues of an animal are not softnose or expanding projectiles.

Shotguns

Image of 12-gauge shotgun.Shotguns are NOT an authorized method of hunting elk in California. See 14 CCR § 353(b).

Vehicles

Aircraft

It’s illegal to use aircraft to scout or hunt Big Game, including elk. The rule applies from 48 hours before until 48 hours after any Big Game season. The same is true for motorized, hot-air, or unpowered aircraft capable of flight. It’s also true f0r earth orbiting imaging devices. Warning shot!!!  Flying slowly at low altitude, hovering, circling, and repeatedly flying over is evidence of a violation. See 14 CCR § 251.

Powered Vehicles

California Elk Hunting Seasons for vehicles and ATV / OHVIn general, it’s illegal to use any motor-driven air or land vehicle to hunt mammals, including elk. The same is true for chasing, driving, or herding mammals. Examples include motorboats, airboats, sailboats, snowmobiles, ATV’s, and OHV’s). Exceptions for disabled hunters, motorboats, landowners, and tenants are noted below. See 14 CCR §§ 251 and 251.2.

First, there’s an exception for hunters with a Mobility Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License.

Second, there’s a limited exception for motorboats. However, (1) the motor has to be shut off, (2) all forward progress must have come to an end, and (3) the boat must be drifting, beached, moored, resting at anchor, or being propelled by paddle, oar, or pole.

Finally, there’s a possible exception for landowners and tenants that need a vehicle to help prevent property damage caused by wildlife. See California Depredation Permits.

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Purchase and Sale

See Buying and Selling Wildlife in California.

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Hunting Areas

There are lots of great places to hunt elk in California, including private and public land.

Clubs

See California Hunting Clubs.

Fundraising Hunts

For fundraising tags, see California Elk Tags. Click here for info from the CDFW on drawing a tag.

Private Land

Click here for public elk hunting opportunities on private property participating in the CDFW SHARE Program.

Click here for private elk hunting opportunities on private property participating in the CDFW’s Private Land Management Program (“PLM”).

Application for Cooperative Elk Hunting Area Permit
Application for Cooperative Elk Hunting Area Permit

There are more elk hunting opportunities to hunters with a Cooperative Elk Hunting Area Permit. For more info, see FGC § 1575 and 14 CCR § 555.

Public Land

There are at least seven public hunting areas for elk.

    1. Cache Creek Natural Area (BLM).
    2. Cache Creek Wildlife Area (CDFW).
    3. Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve (CDFW).
    4. Carrizo Plain National Monument (BLM).
    5. Grizzly Island Wildlife Area (CDFW).
    6. Klamath National Forest (USFS).
    7. Los Padres National Forest (USFS).

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Hunting Tips

For elk hunting tips, follow the links below.

    1. Elk hunting statistics by year.
    2. Tooth age data.
    3. Management Areas.
    4. Elk biology, which includes help for identifying elks, etc.
    5. Private Lands Management Program.

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California Elk Hunting Violations

There are tough penalties for illegally killing a trophy elk (e.g. outside of season, no hunting license, no tag). The potential fine is between $5,000 and $40,000.  You could also go to jail for up to one year. The same rules apply to deer, antelope, and bighorn sheep. See FGC § 12013.3.

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Forum & Blog

To participate in our California elk hunting forum, leave your buddies a response or reply below with a California elk hunting tip.

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While we try to fetch up all California elk hunting seasonslaws and locations, we might miss a few or make a typo. If so, please leave a comment or question in the reply box below.

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