California Hunting Methods for Birds and Mammals

On this page, you’ll find info about California hunting methods for archery, crossbows, falconry, firearms, muzzleloaders, trapping, and hunting dogs. You’ll also find hunting methods as they relate to categories of birds and mammals and certain locations.

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Archery

California hunting methods for bow and arrows, and other archery equipment.In general, California hunting methods include archery for birds and mammals (e.g. Big Game). In the law, you usually have to use a bow and arrow (e.g. long, recurve, and compound bows). During archery seasons, disabled hunters can use a crossbow if they have a Disabled Archer Permit.

For more details, see our page for California Archery Laws. You’ll find information about archery seasons, bag limits, and any restrictions and exceptions for the topics below.

Accidents

In general, you cannot leave a person that you accidentally shoot with an arrow. You have to do everything reasonable under the circumstances to help them.

Arrow Heads

In general, arrow heads cannot have any kind of explosive, poison, or tranquilizer.

Big Game

California hunting methods for elk and other big game.Big Game includes Pronghorn AntelopeBlack BearDeerElkWild Pig, and Nelson Bighorn Sheep. When hunting Big Game, broad head type blades must NOT be able to “pass through a hole seven-eighths inch in diameter.” You must measure mechanical/ retractable broad heads in the open position.

Casting Distance

In general, arrows must have a casting distance of 130 yards.

Dogs

California hunting methods for dogs.In general, you cannot use dogs for hunting for Black BearBobcatElk, or Nelson Bighorn Sheep. In addition, you cannot use them during archery seasons for Pronghorn Antelope or Deer. There are restrictions for training hunting dogs during seasons for Gray Fox and Raccoon. Also see our page for California Dog Hunting Laws.

Firearms

In general, you cannot carry a firearm during archery season. Similar, you cannot carry them during regular season with an archery-only tag. There are exceptions related to muzzleloaders.

Pheasant

In general, you can only use arrows with flu-flu fletching for hunting Pheasant.

Public Roadways

In general, you cannot shoot over or across any public roadway.

Vehicles

In general, you cannot carry a bow in your vehicle that is nocked or in a ready-to-fire position. There are exceptions for hunters with a Mobility Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License.

Waterfowl

In general, you can only use arrows with flu-flu fletching for hunting Ducks and Geese. There is an exception for shooting waterfowl sitting on the water from a boat.

Wildlife Areas

In general, you cannot use a bow and arrow at Type A or Type B wildlife areas. In general, you can use a bow and arrow at Type C wildlife areas. You can practice shooting at some wildlife areas.


Birds

California hunting methods for birds.There are general California hunting methods for several categories of Birds. There are hunting methods that apply to game birds and nongame birds. There are additional methods that depend on whether the bird tends to live in California or migrate here. Additional methods depend on whether you are hunting birds over land or water.  After you understanding the legal categories, scroll down and follow links to hunting methods for specific birds.

Upland Game Birds

Upland Game Birds are the largest category of game birds. You can usually hunt them over land. There are two subcategories of Upland Game Birds.

Resident Game Birds

Those that tend to live in California are called Resident Game Birds.

Migratory Game Birds

Migratory Game Birds are those that tend to migrate (i.e. fly)  across state lines.

Waterfowl

Waterfowl is a major subcategory of Migratory Game Birds because you tend to find them over water.  Those birds include Ducks and Geese. Coots and Moorhen are two other Migratory Game Birds that you tend to find over water.

Nongame Birds

All other birds are Nongame Birds, and include American crow, starlings and English sparrows.


Condor Range

 

California hunting methods in the Condor Range.The California Condor is an endangered species of bird. In general, California hunting methods restrict the kinds of ammunition your can use in the area known as the California Condor Ranger. In general, you cannot use lead ammunition in the Range. For maps and details on particular firearms, go to our page for the California Condor Range.


Crossbows

In general, California hunting methods for archery do not include crossbows. Instead, crossbows are a type of firearm. For more details, go to our page for California Archery Laws. You’ll find information about archery seasons, bag limits, and any restrictions and exceptions for the topics below.

Accidents

In general, you’re cannot leave a person that you accidentally shoot with a crossbow bolt. You have to do everything reasonable under the circumstances to help them.

Arrow Heads

In general, crossbow bolt head cannot have any kind of explosive, poison, or tranquilizer.

Big Game

 

California hunting methods for bear and other big game.Big Game includes Pronghorn AntelopeBlack BearDeerElkWild Pig, and Nelson Bighorn Sheep. When hunting Big Game, broad head type blades must NOT be able to “pass through a hole seven-eighths inch in diameter.” Mechanical/ retractable broad heads must be measured in the open position.

Casting Distance

In general, crossbow bolts must have a casting distance of 130 yards.

Deer

In general, you can use a crossbow to hunt Deer, but only during the general seasons. There is an exception for hunters with a Disabled Archer Permit.

Dogs

In general, you cannot use dogs for hunting for Black BearBobcatElk, or Nelson Bighorn Sheep. In addition, you cannot use them during archery seasons for Pronghorn Antelope or Deer. In general, hunting dog training is not allowed during gray for or raccoon seasons. Also see our page dedicated to Dog Hunting & Training.

Firearms

In general, you cannot carry a firearm during archery season. Similar, you cannot carry them during regular season with an archery-only tag. There are exceptions related to muzzleloaders.

Pheasant

In general, you can only use crossbow bolts with flu-flu fletching for hunting Pheasant.

Pig

In general, you can use a crossbow to hunt Pig, but only during the general seasons. There is an exception for hunters with a Disabled Archer Permit.__

Public Roadways

In general, you cannot shoot over or across any public roadway.

Vehicles

In general, you cannot carry a crossbow in your vehicle that is nocked or in a ready-to-fire position. There are exceptions for hunters with a Mobility Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License.

Waterfowl

In general, you can only use crossbow bolts with flu-flu fletching for hunting Ducks and Geese. There is an exception for shooting waterfowl sitting on the water from a boat.

Wildlife Areas

In general, crossbows are not allowed at Type A or Type B Wildlife Areas. In general, archery is allowed on Type C Wildlife Areas. Target practice is only allowed at some Wildlife Areas.


Hunting Dogs

 

California hunting methods rabbits and other small game.In general, California hunting methods include the use of hunting dogs. When allowed, the can be used  to “take” birds and mammals. “Take” includes any attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill them. However, there are many exceptions and restrictions. For more details, go to our page for the individual species for bird or mammal.  Also see our page dedicated to Dog Hunting & Training.

Baited Areas

In general, hunting dogs cannot begin their pursuer within 400 yards of a baited area.

Big Game

In general, hunting dogs are NOT for taking Big Game during any closed season. In general, hunting dogs are NOT allowed at all for hunting Pronghorn AntelopeBlack BearBobcatElk, or Nelson Bighorn Sheep. In general, hunting dogs are not allowed at all during archery seasons for Black Bear and Deer.

Black Bear

Hunting dogs are not allowed during archery seasons for Deer and Black Bear. When allowed, you can’t use any more than three dogs.

Bobcat

In general, hunting dogs are not allowed for taking Bobcat. When allowed, you can’t use any more than three dogs.

Collars

Warning shot!!! You can never use hunting dogs with a transmitter that signals when the dogs head is lifted to a treed animal. You can never use a collar fitted with GPS.

Control Zones

There are certain areas where hunting dogs are not allowed during certain times of the year. These are known as “Dog Control Zones.” The restriction usually has to do with Deer seasons. Outside of those Zones, hunting dogs can usually be used year-round. Warning shots!!! There are exceptions related to mountain lions, (b) Elk, (c) Big Game Closed seasons, or (d) fully-protected, threatened or endangered mammals.

Deer Season

When hunting in an area open for the general Deer season, no more than one hunting dog is allowed. Hunting dogs are not allowed during archery seasons for Deer and Black Bear.

Ecological Reserves

In general, hunting dogs are not allowed on Ecological Reserves. Check each location for any exceptions.

Endangered Species

Dogs are not allowed for taking fully protected, rare, or endanger animals.

Furbearing Mammals

In general, hunting dogs are allowed for hunting mammals that are mainly hunted for their fur. These mammals include badgerbeavergray foxminkmuskrat and raccoons.

National Wildlife Refuges

In general, hunting dogs are allowed at National Wildlife Refuges that are open for hunting. Check our pages for the location you wish to hunt.

Nongame Mammals

In general, hunting dogs are allowed for hunting mammals that are predators or hunted for sport. These mammals include Coyote and other Nongame Mammals (e.g. sika deer, goats, opossum, moles, rodents, skunks and weasels).

Pigs

In general, hunting dogs are allowed for hunting Wild Pigs. When allowed, you can’t use more than three dogs. During deer season, you can’t use any more than one dog. During closed season, you can’t use any dogs.

Property Damage

California hunting methods for bobcat and other wildlife causing property damage.If a bird or mammal is causing damage to your property, you may need a permit from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW). The permit is formally known as a “Depredation Permit.” To use dogs, you definitely need a permit to pursue Black BearBobcat, and mountain lion. Warning shot!!! There are restrictions on the number of dogs you can use.

Small Game Mammals

In general, hunting dogs are allowed for hunting small mammals that are mainly hunted for food. These mammals include Rabbits and Tree Squirrels.

Wildlife Areas

In general, hunting dogs are allowed at Wildlife Areas that are open for hunting. Check our pages for the location you wish to hunt.


Falconry

California hunting methods for falconry.California hunting methods authorize the use of a falcons. The law sometimes refers to them as “raptors” and “hawks” (e.g. hawking hours). Falcons are migratory birds, so they are regulated under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. For more details, go to our page dedicated to Falconry (e.g. species of falcons). Meanwhile, here are a few basics.

License

To hunt with a falcon, you need an annual Falconry License from the CDFW. Warning shot!!! You have to have it in your possession while hunting.

Falconry Seasons

In general, there are falconry seasons for hunting with a falcon. Some seasons are different than regular shotgun seasons. There are seasons for small game, including Rabbits and Tree Squirrels.  There are also seasons for the birds listed below. Warning shot!!! According to the CDFW webpage, it doesn’t show the falconry Goose season. For details about falcon season, follow the links to the specific animal you wish to hunt and double-check the actual regulation.

Bag Limits

There is a daily limit on the number of animals you can Take with a falcon. The law refers to it as the Daily Bag Limit. There’s also a limit on the number of animals you can possess at one time. This is know as the Possession Limit. Some of the daily bag limits are different than for general shotgun seasons. For details, go to our page for the specific animal you wish to hunt.

Ecological Reserves

Falconry Falconry is NOT allowed on Ecological Reserves.

Hawking Hours

“Hawking Hours” are the hours in which you’re allowed to hunt with a falcon. For Migratory Game Birds, the hours are generally from one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise until sunset. For Upland Game Birds, the hours are generally from sunrise to sunset.

National Wildlife Refuges

In general, falconry is allowed on National Wildlife Refuges. However, you can only do it on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays from the first Saturday after the end of waterfowl season through the end of the falconry pheasant season.  There are restrictions at some locations (e.g. Havasu and Sacramento River). So always check our pages for the specific area you wish to hunt. Double-check with the refuge too.

Wildlife Areas

In general, falconry is allowed on Type A and Type B Wildlife Areas. However, you can only do it on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays from the first Saturday after the end of waterfowl season through the end of the falconry pheasant season.  There are restrictions at some Wildlife Areas (e.g. Gray Lodge and Yolo Bypass). On Type C Wildlife Areas, you just follow the regular rules. So always check our pages for the specific area you wish to hunt. Double-check with the Area Manager too.


Mammals

There are general California hunting methods for four categories of Mammals. Follow the links below to our summaries, we include rules for categories, plus any restrictions. (See “General Rules___” above.)

Big Game

Larger mammals are categorized as Big Game. Those mammals include: Pronghorn AntelopeBlack BearDeerElkWild Pig, and Nelson Bighorn Sheep.

Small Game

Smaller mammals are categorized as Resident Small Game. Those mammals include species of Rabbits and Tree Squirrels.

Furbearing Mammals

Mammals that are mostly hunted for fur are called Furbearing Mammals. Those mammals include: BadgerBeaverGray FoxMinkMuskrat, and Raccoon.

Nongame Mammals

Everything else is referred to as Nongame Mammals. Those mammals include predators like Bobcat and Coyote. They also include non-native Deer & Goats: Fallow deer, Sambar deer, Axis deer, Sika deer, Aoudad goat, Mouflon goat, Tahr goat, and Feral goats).

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Muzzleloaders

California hunting methods for muzzleloaders and muzzleloading shotguns and rifles..A “muzzleloader” is a type of firearm. There are muzzleloading shotguns and rifles. In general, California hunting methods include the use of muzzleloaders. However, there are many restrictions. Warning shot!!! For more details, go to our page for the specific animal you wish to hunt. Also see our page dedicated Muzzleloader Law. Meanwhile, here are few basics.

Big Game

There are restrictions related to caliber size, power, projective, sights, and tags that you use. There are special restrictions in the California Condor Range. For more information, go to our page for the specific animal you wish to hunt.

Deer

There are special muzzleloader hunts for Deer season. __

Disabled Hunters

For visually-impaired hunters, you can apply for a Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit.  __

Elk

There are special muzzleloader hunts for Elk season __.

Migratory Game Birds

Muzzleloading shotguns are allowed for hunting Migratory Game Birds (e.g. waterfowl, certain doves, band-tailed pigeon, and snipe). They’re also allowed for taking domesticated migratory game birds at licensed shooting clubs.

Vehicles

In general, you can’t keep a loaded muzzleloading firearm in your vehicle while on a public road. The same is true for anything attached to your vehicle (e.g. trailer).


Non-Toxic Shot

California hunting methods for non-toxic shot and lead.California hunting methods restrict the use of ammunition you can you for some animals and places. In the past, most people mostly used ammunition with lead. By July 1, 2019, lead ammo will be banned in California. Instead, you will only be able to use steel or other non-toxic shot approved by the federal government. Meanwhile, the ban on lead is being phased in through California.

Currently, the ban is in affect for the animals and places listed below.

As of July 1, 2016, the ban is in affect for the species listed below.

As of July 1, 2019, the ban will be in affect for taking all wildlife for any purpose. Warning shot!!! When lead is not allowed, you can’t even have it in your possession while hunting. For more details, see our pages for Non-Toxic Shot and the specific animal you wish to hunt. You should also read the regulation.


Trapping

California hunting methods for trapping.California hunting methods include trapping of certain animals. Those animals are referred to in the law as Furbearing Mammals. They include BadgerBeaverGray FoxMinkMuskrat and Raccoon. For restrictions on trapping, including seasons, limits, traps, etc., follow the links to the specific animal you wish to trap. Also see our page dedicated to Trapping Laws.

Here are a few basics. Trapping requires a license from the CDFW. Body-gripping traps are NOT allowed. Steel-jawed leg-hold traps are NOT allowed. In general, cage traps, box traps, nets, suitcase-style live bear traps, and common rat and mouse traps are legal.

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