California Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting Seasons, Laws, and 17 Locations on Public and Private Land

California bighorn sheep hunting seasons

Here, we fetch up California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons, laws, and locations on public and private land. We retrieve seasons for Zone 1 through Zone 9, and bring back hunter-friendly summaries of hunting laws and drop link to the regulations and our pages for related hunting info.


Topics

  1. Species.
  2. Hunting License.
  3. Seasons.
  4. Hunting Tags.
  5. Shooting Hours.
  6. Bag and Possession Limits.
  7. Hunting Methods.
  8. Tagging Requirements.
  9. Purchase and Sales.
  10. Hunting Violations.
  11. Locations.
  12. Hunting Forum and Blog.

California Sheep Hunting Species

Nelson Bighorn Sheep

Species for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.
Species for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.

There are California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons, but ONLY for Nelson Bighorn Sheep rams (subspecies Ovis canadensis nelsoni).  You’ll find regulations specific to “Nelson Bighorn Sheep” and the broader categories for “Big Game” and “Mammals.”  These rules and regulations are located at Fish & Game Code (FGC) §§ 3950 and 4902 and Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations, Section 350 (14 CCR § 350″).

Warning shots!!!  All other species are protected under federal and State law as either endangered or threatened species (see below).  A “ram” is defined as a male having at least one horn, the tip of which extends beyond a point in a straight line beginning at the front (anterior) edge of the horn base, and extending downward through the rear (posterior) edge of the visible portion of the eye and continuing downward through the horn. All reference points are based on viewing the ram directly from a 90 degree angle from which the head is facing. This bighorn species regulation is located at 14 CCR § 362(c).

California Bighorn Sheep

Range map for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.
Range map for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.

The California Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis californiana), also known as the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis sierrae) is an endangered species under federal law and State. Click here for more information from the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).  These sheep rules and regulations are located at Section 17.11 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“50 CFR§ 17.11“) and FGC § 4700(b)(2) and at 670.5(a)(H).

Peninsular Bighorn Sheep

The Peninsular Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis cremnobates) is fully protected under federal and State law as a threatened and endangered species.  They are native to San Diego County, Riverside County, and Imperial County of California and populations are located from the San Jacinto Mountains south to the U.S.-Mexico border. Click here and here for more information.  These sheep rules and regulations are located at 50 CFR§ 17.11“), FGC § 4700(b)(2), and 14 CCR § 670.5(b)(I).

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting License

Hunting license for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.
Hunting license for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.

A valid hunting license from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) is required and must be possessed to hunt Nelson Bighorn Sheep.  Click here for information about purchasing and fees, including reduced fees for disabled veterans and recovering service members. This bighorn ram license regulation is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(c)(1).

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting Season

Hunting zones for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.
Hunting zones for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.

California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons and number of tags vary by hunting zone and for each fundraising hunt. Link to Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5, Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, and Zone 9.


Zone 1

General Season

The proposed general season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in Zone 1 is 12/3 – 2/5, 2017. Click here for final hunt dates.

Hunt Name & Code

The Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunt name is Zone 1 – Marble/Clipper Mountains. The hunt code is 501

Tag Quota

The proposed Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag quota for 2015 was three (3) tags, down one from 2014.

Access

Vehicle access limited to designated routes.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015.  In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was from the first Saturday in November and extending through the first Sunday in February. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated in 2014.

Marble/Clipper/South Bristol Mountains Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015.  In 2014, no tags were allocated for this hunt.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Zone 2

General Season

There were no general season proposed in 2015 in Zone 2 for the Kelso Peak/Old Dad Mountains hunt for Nelson Bighorn Sheep. Click here for final hunt dates.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was from the first Saturday in November. extending through the first Sunday in February. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated.

Kelso Peak and Old Dad Mountains Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. No tags were allocated in 2014 for this hunt.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Zone 3

General Season

The proposed general season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in Zone 3 is 12/3 – 2/5, 2017. Click here for final hunt dates.

Hunt Name & Code

The Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunt name is Zone 3 – Clark/Kingston Mountain Ranges. The hunt code is 503.

Tag Quota

The proposed Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag quota for 2015 was one (1) tag, the same as 2014.

Access

Vehicle access limited to designated routes.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was from the first Saturday in November, extending through the first Sunday in February. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated in 2014.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Zone 4

General Season

The proposed general season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in Zone 4 is 12/3 – 2/5, 2017. Click here for final hunt dates.

Hunt Name & Code

The Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunt name is Zone 4 – Orocopia Mountains. The hunt code is 504.

Tag Quota

The proposed Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag quota for 2015 was one (1) tag, down one from 2014.

Access

Vehicle access limited to designated routes.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was from the first Saturday in November, extending through the first Sunday in February. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated in 2014.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Zone 5

General Season

The proposed general season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in Zone 5 is 12/18 – 2/19, 2017. Click here for final hunt dates.

Hunt Name & Code

The Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunt name is Zone 5 – San Gorgonio Wilderness. The hunt code is 505.

Tag Quota

The proposed Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag quota for 2015 was tw0 (2) tags, the same as in 2014.

Access

Horses and pack animals for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.
Horses for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.

Horseback Recommended. Access extremely difficult. Travel by horseback recommended. Access fees may be required on private land.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was from the third Saturday in November and extending through the third Sunday in February. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated in 2014.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Zone 6

General Season

There is no general season proposed in 2015 in Zone 6 for the Sheep Hole Mountains hunt for Nelson Bighorn Sheep.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was from the first Saturday in November and extending through the first Sunday in February. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated in 2014.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Zone 7

General Season

The proposed general season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in Zone 7 is 8/20 – 9/26, 2016. Click here for final hunt dates.

Hunt Name & Code

The Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunt name is Zone 7 – White Mountains. The hunt code is 507.

Tag Quota

The proposed Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag quota for 2015 was one (1) tag, the same as last year.

Access

Extremely rugged terrain at very high elevations. Altitude sickness has affected previous hunters.  Physical condition should be above average. There is no vehicle access, call (760) 872-6585.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was the first Saturday in August and extending through the last Sunday in September. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated in 2014.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Zone 8

General Season

The proposed general season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in Zone 8 is 12/3 – 2/5, 2017. Click here for final hunt dates.

Hunt Name & Code

The Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunt name is Zone 8 – South Bristol Mountains. The hunt code is 508.

Tag Quota

The proposed Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag quota for 2015 was one (1) tag, the same as last year.

Access

Vehicle access limited to designated routes.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was from the first Saturday in November and extending through the first Sunday in February. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated in 2014.

Marble/Clipper/South Bristol Mountains Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. No tags were allocated in 2014 for this hunt.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Zone 9

General Season

The proposed general season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in Zone 9 is 12/3 – 2/5, 2017. Click here for final hunt dates.

Hunt Name & Code

The Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunt name is Zone 9 – Cady Mountains. The hunt code is 509.

Tag Quota

The proposed Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag quota for 2015 was two (2) tags, the same as last year.

Access

Vehicle access limited to designated routes.

Open Zone Fundraising Tag

There were no fundraising tags proposed for 2015. In 2014, the season for Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting in California was from the first Saturday in November and extending through the first Sunday in February. Warning shot!!!  However, only one (1) Open Zone Fundraising Tag was allocated in 2014.

For a legal description of this Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting zone, link to 14 CCR § 362.

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting Tags

A valid license tag is required to hunt Nelson Bighorn Sheep in California.  The tags are distributed through the CDFW Big Game Drawing for bighorn sheep, elk, and antelope tags.  These tag regulations are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(b)(4), 708.9(b)(9), and 708.14(d).  For additional information, link to CDFW’s hunting digest for big game mammals, pages 20, 40 and 53.

Applications

Warning shots!!!  Applicants for Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags are allowed to submit only one application per license year.  This bighorn sheep tag application regulations is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(b)(7) and 708.14(a)(4)(G).

Age Requirements

To participate in the Big Game Drawing for antelope, elk and deer tags, applicants must be at least 12 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying.

However, applicants for Bighorn Sheep tags must be at least 16 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying.

These bighorn ram tag age limit restrictions are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(b)(3), and 708.14(a)(4)(A).

Deadline

Applications for Nelson Bighorn Sheep license tags must be submitted by June 2 of each year.  These bighorn ram application deadline rules are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(b)(2) and 708.14(a)(4)(E).

Disqualification

Applications for Nelson Bighorn Sheep are NOT allowed if the applicant was previously awarded a Nelson bighorn ram license tag through the CDFW’s Big Game Drawing.

In addition, applicants for Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags will NOT be included in the drawing or earn a preference point if the application is (a) incomplete, late and ineligible applications or (b) submitted without the appropriate processing fee. (Also see “Drawings: Preference Points” below.)

These Nelson bighorn ram eligibility rules are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(b)(5) and (8).

Fee

In 2015, the price for bighorn sheep, antelope, and elk tag drawing applications is $8.13 per hunter.  Click here for current pricing.

Fundraising Tags

See below.

Hunting License

Applicants must possess an annual California hunting license that is valid during the Nelson Bighorn ram season for which they are applying.  In 2015, the standard hunting license fee was $47.01 for California residents and $163.65 for nonresidents.  There are reduced fees for one and two day licenses, juniors, disabled veterans, and recovering service members.  NOTE: The tw0-day license is NOT available to nonresidents wishing to hunt deer, bear, antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, bobcat, or pig.  These Nelson bighorn sheep license rules are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(b)(4) and 708.14(a)(4)(C).

Party Applications

Unlike antelope, deer, and elk drawings, parties are NOT allowed to apply for Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags.  This bighorn ram rule is located at 14 CCR § 708.14(b)(4).

Preference Points

The maximum number of preference points for the 2015 Big Game Drawing was 13 points for any particular species. Also see “Disqualification” above.

Purchasing

Applications for Nelson Bighorn Sheep must be purchased from the CDFW, either online, from a license office, license agent, or by telephone at (800) 565-1458.

NOTE: Page 16 of the CDFW Big Game Hunting Digest has a worksheet for applying with a license agent. These bighorn ram application purchasing rule is located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(b)(2) and 708.14(a)(4)(E).

Residency Requirements

Residents and nonresidents are allowed to apply for  general and fundraising Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags.  Warning shot!!!  However, no more than ten percent (10%) of general license tags may be awarded to nonresidents.  These bighorn sheep tag residency rules are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(a), and 708.9(b)(3) and (10).

Transferability

Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags are nontransferable.  This bighorn ram tag transferability rule is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(c)(1).

Validity

Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags are valid only in the zone or zones specified. This antelope tag validity rule is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(c)(1).

Zones

Applicants for Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags may apply for only one designated hunting zone.  Tags are valid only in that zone or specified zones. These Nelson bighorn ram hunting zone restrictions are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(b)(6) and 708.9(c)(1).

Drawings

General Nelson Bighorn ram license tags are issued through a random drawings. This bighorn ram drawing regulation is located at 14 CCR § 708.14(a)(1).  NOTE: Also see “Fundraising Tags” below; CDFW’s Big Game Hunting Digest, pages 20, 40 and 53; and pages 12 and 52 of CDFW’s Hunting Regulations for Mammals.

Deadline

Typically, the random drawing for Bighorn Sheep tags is held within ten (10) business days after the application deadline of June 2.  The drawing is held to determine successful applicants and a list of alternates for each hunting zone.  There are two drawing rounds.  The random round is conducted first, followed by the preference points round.  This bighorn ram drawing regulation is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(b)(9).

Fundraising Tags

See below.

Notification

Only successful applicants will be mailed notification, which should be mailed by July 2 or as soon as practical for the CDFW. This bighorn ram notice regulation is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(b)(11).

Orientation

After being awarded a Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag (general or fundraising), the hunter must successfully complete an orientation. Warning shot!!! Licensed guides employed by the hunter must accompany their clients to the orientation program. These bighorn ram orientation rules and regulations are located at FGC § 4902(e) and 14 CCR § 708.9(c)(2).

Preference Points

Applicants for Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags will not receive Preference Points if the application is submitted without the appropriate “Processing Fee”  (see below.)  This Nelson bighorn ram preference point rule is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(b)(8).

Processing Fees

Upon receipt of notification, successful applicants for Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags must pay a nonrefundable processing fee. These Nelson bighorn ram processing fee rules are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(b)(2) and 708.14(a)(4)(D).

Deadline

CDFW must receive the tag processing fee by 5:00 p.m. on July 15 (or the first business day after a weekend or holiday). This Nelson bighorn ram processing fee deadline regulations is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(b) and (11).

Payment

The processing fee must be paid through CDFW’s Automated License Data System terminals at the License and Revenue Branch or, possibly, online, from a license office, or license agent.

Residents Fee

In 2015, the nonrefundable processing fee for Nelson Bighorn tags for California residents was $383.50.  Click here for current fees. This bighorn sheep processing fee regulations is located at 14 CCR § 702(c)(N).

Nonresident Fee

In 2015, the Bighorn Sheep Tag fee for nonresidents of California was $1,507.50.  This bighorn sheep processing fee regulations is located at 14 CCR § 702(c)(O).

Fundraising Tags

The CDFW has discretion to sell bighorn ram tags for the purpose of raising funds for Nelson Bighorn Sheep management.  This and the following fundraising tag regulations are located at 14 CCR § 708.9(a) and  708.16.

Age Limit

Applicants for Nelson Bighorn Sheep fundraising tags must be 16 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying. NOTE: For deer, elk, or antelope, the age limit is 12 or older.  See Section 708.16(a)(1)(B).

Applications

Applicants may submit one or more applications for Nelson Bighorn Sheep fundraising tags.  In 2015, the application fee was $5.97.  See Section 708.16(a)(1)(E).

Deadline

As with general bighorn license tags, the application deadline is June 2. See Section 708.16(a)(1)(D).

Drawing

As with general bighorn license tags, there is a random drawing for fundraising tags that is held within ten (10) business days after the application deadline of June 2.

Only successful applicants will receive notice, which will come as soon as practicable for the CDFW.

The tag must be claimed at CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch in Sacramento by 5:00 p.m. on July 15 or, if that date falls on a non-business day, the first business day thereafter.

Unclaimed tags will be awarded to alternates in the order drawn.

See Sections 708.16(a)(1) and (a)(1)(I)-(L).

Hunting License

According to CDFW’s webpage, a hunting license is NOT required to apply, but must be purchased if drawn.

Orientation

To qualify for a bighorn ram fundraising tag, buyers must complete CDFW’s hunter orientation program and satisfy the hunter education requirements for a hunting license.  Click here for information about hunter’s education.  See Section 708.9(a).

Preference Points

For bighorn ram fundraising tags, preference points are NOT (1) awarded or (2) considered in the random drawing. See Section 708.16(a)(1)(F) and (G).

Purchasing

The tags may be sold by the CDFW or a nonprofit organization through a random drawing to California residents or nonresidents.  NOTE: The sales price includes the processing fee and hunting license. See FGC § 709 and 14 CCR §§ 708.9(a).

Residency Requirements

California residents and nonresidents can apply for bighorn ram fundraising tags. See Section 708.16(a)(1)(E).

Tag Fee

The regulations state that applicants must pay the appropriate nonrefundable tag processing fee.  However, there is no processing fee for fundraising tags, just a nominal application fee. See Section 708.16(a)(1)(C) with reference to Section 702(c)(S).

Transferability

Fundraising bighorn ram tags are NOT transferable. See Section 708.16(a)(1)(H).

Guides

See “Drawings: Orientation” above.

Preference Points

In general, unsuccessful applicants for a Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag will earn one (1) preference point for use in future Big Game Drawing for bighorn sheep.  This preference point regulation is located at 14 CCR § 708.14(a)(3).

Successful Applicants

In general, successful applicants receiving a bighorn sheep tags will lose all preference points.  Warning shot!!!  If for some reason you cannot hunt, your preference point and accumulated points may be lost.  However, it is possible to retain them by (1) submitting a request to the CDFW, (2) return the tag to CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch before the season starts, and (3) submit the nonrefundable processing fee.  If the request is granted, CDFW has discretion to refund the tag fee.  This bighorn ram preference point regulation is located at 14 CCR § 708.14(d).

Non-applicants

In general, bighorn sheep preference points will be lost if the applicant fails to apply through, or is disqualified from, the Big Game Drawing for five (5) consecutive years. However, non-applicants can still earn a point by submitting the appropriate application to the CDFW either online, from a license office, or license agent, and selecting the point code number as the hunt choice. These bighorn ram preference point regulations are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.14(f) and (h).

Transferability

Preference points for Bighorn Sheep are NOT transferable to another species or person. This bighorn ram preference point restriction is located at 14 CCR § 708.14(c).

Zones

Preference points are NOT zone or hunt specific. This bighorn ram preference point restriction is located at 14 CCR § 708.14(c).

Quotas

There are a limited number of Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags for each hunting zone.  The limit is referred to as the “quota.” In general, Nelson Bighorn Sheep tags are awarded using the Modified-Preference Point drawing, which varies by the quota. These Nelson Bighorn Sheep regulation are located at 14 CCR §§ 362(d), 708.14(a) and  708.15(b).

One Tag Quota

If the quota is only one tag, the tag is awarded using a “Draw-By-Choice” drawing.

Two Tag Quota

If the quota is two tags, one tag is awarded using a “Preference Point” drawing.  The other tag is awarded using a “Draw-By-Choice” drawing.

Three Tag Quota

If the quota is three tags, two tags are awarded using a “Preference Point.” The other tag is awarded using a “Draw-By-Choice” drawing.

Four or More

For quotas of four or more, seventy-five percent (75%) of the quota will be awarded using a Preference Point drawing. (Any resulting fractional tag shall be rounded to the next higher whole number.) The remaining portion of the quota shall be awarded using a Draw-By-Choice drawing.

Alternates

If the Nelson Bighorn Sheep tag quota for a particular hunting zone is unfilled after July 15, the alternate list will be used. Alternates are selected for each hunt or hunt period using a Preference Point drawing.  Warning shots!!!  Tags will be awarded only after successfully completing CDFW’s hunter orientation program (see above). Alternate selections are be limited to resident applicants, i.e. nonresidents are not eligible. This Nelson Bighorn Sheep regulation is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(b)(12).

Tagging Requirements

A valid license tag is required to hunt Nelson bighorn sheep. Immediately after killing a Nelson Bighorn Ram must, the tagholder must take the following actions:

    1. Completely, legibly, and permanently fill out all portions of the tag, including the report card,
    2. Cut out or punch out and completely remove the notches or punch holes for the month and date of the kill, and
    3. Attach the tag to the carcass of the Nelson Bighorn ram.

Warning shots!!!  All successful bighorn sheep tag holders shall have their tags validated.  All tags must be returned to the CDFW within 10 days after the close of the season, even if the tagholder did NOT kill a Nelson bighorn ram.  These Nelson Bighorn Sheep regulations are located at 14 CCR §§ 708.9(c)(1), (3), and (4).

Responsibilities

Harvest Reporting

Per CDFW’s webpage, tagholders may report their harvest online between July 1 through February 1.  Late reporting is only allowed by mail.

Head & Carcass

Within 24 hours of killing a bighorn ram, the tagholder must notify the CDFW’s Bishop office by telephone at (760) 872-1171 or (760) 413-9596 within, and arrange for the head and carcass to be examined.

Within 48 hours of killing a bighorn ram, the tagholder must present the head and edible portion of the carcass  to the CDFW’s checking station.

These bighorn ram head and carcass regulations are located at 14 CCR § 362(e)(4).

Horns

Within 48 hours of killing a bighorn ram, successful the tagholder must make the horns available to the CDFW.  The horns will be permanently marked for the purpose of identifying rams that were legally taken, but may be transported and possessed outside the hunting zone. This bighorn ram horn regulation is located at 14 CCR § 362(e)(5).

Meat

The CDFW reserves the right to take and use any part of the tagholder’s bighorn ram, except the horns (see below), for biological analysis if no more than one pound of edible meat is removed. This bighorn ram regulation is located at 14 CCR § 362(e)(6).

Report to CDFW

All tagholders will be notified by mail as to whether they will be required to report to the CDFW before hunting and upon completion of hunting. The notice will contain procedures for reporting, including appropriate methods of contacting the CDFW.  This bighorn sheep reporting requirement is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(c)(5).

Revocation

Tagholders must surrender his or her license tag to an employee of the CDFW for any act which either–

    1. Violates any of the provisions of the Fish and Game Code,
    2. Violates any regulation of the Fish and Game Commission, or
    3. Endangers the person or property of others.

The decision of the CDFW will be final and binding upon the tagholder. This bighorn tag revocation regulation is located at 14 CCR § 708.9(c)(6).

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Shooting Hours

Shooting hours for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.
Shooting hours for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.

The shooting hours for Nelson Bighorn Sheep in California begin one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise. Shooting hours end one-half (1/2) hour after sunset. These shooting hour regulations are located at 14 CCR §§ 352 and 362(e)(1).

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting Limits

Bag & Possession Limits

The daily bag and possession limit for Nelson Bighorn Sheep is one (1) mature ram.

Bag and possession limits for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.
Bag and possession limits for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.

Warning shot!!! The ram must have at least one horn, the tip of which extends beyond a point in a straight line beginning at the front (anterior) edge of the horn base, and extending downward through the rear (posterior) edge of the visible portion of the eye and continuing downward through the horn. All reference points are based on viewing the ram directly from a 90 degree angle from which the head is facing. A diagram showing the correct viewing procedure shall be distributed by the CDFW to each successful applicant. This bighorn ram bag and possession limit regulation is located at 14 CCR § 362(c).

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting Methods

Telescopes for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.
Telescopes for California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons.

Warning shot!!!  Each bighorn ram tagholder must possess a spotting telescope capable of magnification of 15 power (15X), which is not affixed to a rifle, while hunting. [14 CCR § 362(e)(3).

Ammunition

In general, there must be a Statewide ban on lead-based ammunition for hunting birds and mammals with a firearm by no later than July 1, 2019.  Warning shot!!!  According to Page 9 of CDFW’s Big Game Hunting Digest, non-lead ammunition has been required for Bighorn sheep beginning since the 2015 season.

Click here for CDFW updates on the implementation of the lead ban. Click here a summary of regulations for areas that presently require non-toxic shot approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  This regulation is located at FGC § 3004.5(c).  Also see “California Condor Range” below.

Bait

No person shall knowingly feed big game mammals, including Nelson Bighorn Sheep.  This California hunting restriction is located at 14 CCR § 251.3.

Bow and Arrow

Archery for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.
Archery for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.

In general, bow and arrows may be used in California for hunting Big Game, including bighorn sheep.  Warning shot!!! Link to our summary of for archery equipment (tags, blades, casting distance, lights, disabilities, use of dogs, etc.).

These bow hunting restrictions are located at 14 CCR §§ 353(a) and 354(c).

California Condor Range

California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons in the Condor Range.
California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons in the Condor Range.

When hunting Big Game in the California Condor Range, including bighorn sheep, only non-lead centerfire rifle and pistol ammunition may be used.  Link to our summary of the regulations for the California Condor Range.  These California bighorn ram hunting rules are located at FGC § 3004.5 and 14 CCR § 353.

Computers

It is illegal in California to hunt any mammal, including bighorn ram, with any computer-assisted or remotely controlled device, equipment, Internet site, web-based system, software, telemetry device, or other technology.  This California bighorn ram hunting law is located at 14 CCR §§ 251 and 251.9.

Crossbows

Crossbows for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons
Crossbows for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.

In general, crossbows are NOT allowed for hunting Nelson Bighorn Sheep in California.  However, it is possible to use one with a Disabled Archer Permit. These hunting regulations for the use of crossbows for hunting bighorn sheep are located at 14 CCR § 353(e) and 362(e)(2).

Dogs

Hunting dogs during the California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons
Hound dogs for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.

Dogs are NOT allowed for hunting Nelson (Desert) Bighorn Sheep.  These bighorn ram specification are located at 14 CCR § 265(a)(2) and 362(e)(2).

Harassment

It is illegal to harass, herd, or drive any game mammal, including Nelson bighorn sheep,  intentionally disrupting the mammal’s normal behavior patterns (e.g. breeding, feeding and sheltering).  This California Nelson bighorn sheep rule is located at 14 CCR § 251.1.

Lights

In general, artificial light is NOT allowed for hunting any game mammal in California, including Nelson bighorn sheep.

In addition, hunting any wildlife between one-half hours after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise is specifically prohibited in Monterey County and San Benito County east of Highway 101.

However, Nelson bighorn sheep may be hunted at night with a depredation permit from the CDFW.  These Nelson bighorn sheep rules and regulations are located at 14 CCR §§ 250, 263, and 353. For more information, see our page for California Depredation Permits.

Muzzleloaders

Muzzleloaders for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons
Muzzleloaders for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.

Big Game, including Nelson bighorn sheep, may be hunted in California with a muzzleloader.  Warning shots!!!  Link to our summary for muzzleloader restrictions related to ammunition, caliber,  sites, transportation and tags.* NOTE: A muzzleloader scope permit is free for visually disabled hunters.  This Nelson bighorn sheep regulation is located at 14 CCR §§ 353(a), (f), (g), (j) and (k).

* Proposed Regulation: there is a proposal to make it unlawful to hunting Big Game in violation of Sections 250.1 and 353 and to add the following definitions:

(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 & Revolvers

Subject to the following restrictions, pistols and revolvers may be used to hunt Nelson (Desert) Bighorn Sheep.

Ammunition

Only centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles may be used for hunting bighorn rams in California.*

* Proposed Regulation: there is a proposal to make it unlawful to hunting Big Game in violation of Sections 250.1 and 353 and to add the following definitions:

(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

A minimum barrel lengths of four (4) inches is required for hunting bighorn sheep in California.

These bighorn sheep pistol and revolver regulations are located at 14 CCR § 353(d) and 362(e)(2).

Rifles

In general, Big Game, including desert bighorn sheep, may be hunted in California with a rifle.  However, ammunition is restricted to only centerfire cartridges with softnose or expanding projectiles.* Warning shot!!!  Also see “Ammunition” and “California Condor Range” above. This desert bighorn sheep law is located at 14 CCR § 353(a).

* Proposed Regulation: there is a proposal to make it unlawful to hunting Big Game in violation of Sections 250.1 and 353 and to add the following definitions:

(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

Firearms and shotguns for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons
Shotguns for California nelson bighorn sheep hunting seasons.

Shotguns are NOT allowed for hunting Nelson (Desert) Bighorn Sheep in California. These bighorn ram hunting regulations are located at 14 CCR § 353(b) and 362(e)(2).

Vehicles

Aircraft

No motorized, hot-air, or un-powered aircraft capable of flight or earth orbiting imaging device may be used beginning 48 hours before until 48 hours after any Big Game hunting season, including desert bighorn sheep. Warning shot!!! Flying slowly at low altitude, hovering, circling, and repeatedly flying over is evidence of a violation. See 14 CCR § 251.

Powered Vehicles

In general, motor vehicles may NOT be used to pursue, drive, herd, take, or kill a any mammal, including desert bighorn sheep (e.g. motor-driven air or land vehicles, motorboat, airboat, sailboat, and snowmobile).

However, such vehicles may be used if (1) the motor has been shut off or the sails furled, (2) all forward progress has ceased, and (3) it is drifting, beached, moored, resting at anchor, or is being propelled by paddle, oar, or pole.

There are exceptions related to private property damage, depredation permits, and mobility impaired hunters with a Mobility Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License (link to our summary of rules for California disabled hunters. For more information, see our page for California Depredation Permits.

Link to our summary for hunting in California on navigable waters. These desert bighorn sheep hunting laws are located at 14 CCR § 251.

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Purchase and Sales

Click here for our summary of regulations related to buying and selling wild game, including bighorn rams.

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting Violations

There is a potential fine and/or imprisonment for the illegal taking of a trophy deer, elk, antelope, or bighorn sheep (e.g. outside of season, no hunting license, no tag).  The fine is between $5,000 and $40,000.  Imprisonment is up to one year in the county jail.  This bighorn ram hunting regulations is located at FGC §§ 12008.5 and 12013.3.

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting Areas

There are many areas in California for hunting Nelson Bighorn Sheep, including private and public land.

Clubs

Click here for any hunting opportunities for bighorn sheep at a commercial hunting clubs listed with the CDFW.

Fundraising Hunts

Click here for any Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunts offered through the CDFW for the purpose of fundraising.

Private Land

Click here for any bighorn ram hunting opportunities on private land through CDFW’s “SHARE” program.

Click here for any bighorn ram hunting opportunities on private land through CDFW’s Private Land Management Program (“PLM”).

Public Land

Following is a list of public potential hunting areas for bighorn sheep located in California on National Wildlife Refuges, State Wildlife and Recreation Areas, and Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) property.  Warning shot!!!  Passes must be purchased for State-Operated Hunting Areas.  Click here for pricing information.

BLM Properties

    1. Chocolate Mountains (Southeast)
    2. Jawbone Canyon/Chuckwalla Mountains
    3. Clark Range Area
    4. Kingston Range Wilderness Area
    5. Little Chuckwall Mountains Wilderness
    6. Lower Colorado River Area
    7. Mojave Desert
    8. Mule Mountains
    9. Sacramento River Management Area
    10. Shasta Management Area
    11. Trinity Management Area – Tunnel Ridge and North of Trinity River

National Wildlife Refuges

      1. Havasu National Wildlife Refuge (Pintail Unit)
      2. Imperial National Wildlife Refuge (designated areas)

State Wildlife and Recreation Areas

        1. Kelso Peak & Old Dad Mnts Wildlife Area
        2. Marble Mountains Wildlife Area
        3. Old Dad Mnts & Kelso Peak Wildlife Area
        4. Picacho State Recreation Area

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Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunting Forum

To participate in our Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting forum, leave your buddies a response or reply below with a hunting tip.

A good source of information is CDFW’s Big Game Digest.

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While we try to fetch up all California Nelson Bighorn Sheep hunting seasons, laws 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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