19 California Sheep Hunting Laws Every Hunter Should Know Before Hunting

California sheep hunting laws.
California sheep hunting laws.

Here, we fetch up California sheep 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 sheep hunting rules—without the legal mumbo jumbo—see our page for black sheep seasons, hunting laws, and locations.


Introduction to California Sheep Hunting Laws

Our Menu of California sheep 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 sheep hunting, also see our summary for sheep seasons, hunting laws, and locations.  Warning shots!! While we include many California sheep hunting laws, always check with the Fish & Game Commission for additional and current regulations.


Selection of California Sheep Hunting Laws

Our menu includes major California sheep hunting laws and some broader categories, including some for mammals, game mammals, and big game mammals, in general. In alphabetical order, topics include: ammoarcherycomputer-assist remotescrossbowsdefinition of big gamedefinition of game mammalsdog for mammalsdogs for sheepequipment (e.g. tracking devices), herdinghunting methods, hunting requirementslicensepossessionshooting hours, and tags (applications, drawing system, fundraisers, quotas, and replacements).

California sheep hunting laws.
California sheep hunting laws.
    1. FGC § 3004.5 requires nonlead centerfire ammo when using pistols or rifles in the Condor Range to take big game, including bighorn sheep.
    2. FGC § 3950 defines game mammals to include bighorn sheep.
    3. FGC § 3960 prohibits use of dogs to hunt big game during the specie’s closed season or in an ecological reserve or game refuge where hunting is illegal.
    4. 14 CCR § 251 prohibits use of (a) location devicesat 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 boatsdepredation permits, and mobility-impaired hunters.
    5. 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.
    6. 14 CCR § 251.9 prohibits computer-assist remotes and sites, as it defines, for hunting mammals.
    7. 14 CCR § 265 prohibits use of dogs (a) to take sheep, (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.
    8. 14 CCR § 350 defines big game to include bighorn sheep.
    9. 14 CCR § 352 establishes shooting hours for big game, including bighorn sheep.
    10. 14 CCR § 353 allows hunting (a) big game with bow and arrowsrifles, and muzzleloading rifles, subject to restrictions for ammo, sights, tags, artificial lights, vehicles, the Condor RangeVisually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permits, and Disabled Archer’s Permits, (b) bighorn sheep 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 14 CCR § 362 prohibits sheep hunting except (1) during hunting zone seasons and special huntings; (2) in compliance with (a) restrictions relating to bag limits, possession limits, tag quotas, shooting hours, methods of take and any special conditions; and (b) requirements relating to scopes.
    13. 14 CCR § 700 requires hunters to carry a hunting license in his or her immediate possession while hunting.
    14. 14 CCR § 702 (external link) identifies fees for (a) reservations to hunt on wildlife areas, and (c) hunts tags and drawing.
    15. 14 CCR § 708.9 establishes sheep hunting procedures relating to the purchase of tags, as well as tagholder responsibilities.
    16. 14 CCR § 708.14 generally requires the CDFW to award premium sheep tags using the Modified-Preference Point drawing system, as it provides, including restrictions relating to party applications, residency.
    17. 14 CCR § 708.15 establishes procedures for filling the quota for sheep tags.
    18. 14 CCR § 708.16 generally allows the CDFW to issue fundraising sheep tags using a random drawing system.
    19. 14 CCR § 708.17 limits the number of replacement sheep tags to one tag per year, but only in compliance with the procedures.

California Sheep Hunting Laws

14 CCR § 362 (California Sheep Hunting Laws)

(a) Areas:

(1) Zone 1 –

Marble/Clipper Mountains: That portion of San Bernardino County beginning at the intersection of Kelbaker Road and the National Trails Highway; north on Kelbaker Road to the junction with Interstate Highway 40; east on Interstate Highway 40 to the intersection with National Trails Highway; southwest on National Trails Highway to junction with Kelbaker Road.

(2) Zone 2 –

Kelso Peak and Old Dad Mountains: That portion of San Bernardino County beginning at the intersection of Kelbaker Road and the Union Pacific Railroad in Kelso; southwest along the Union Pacific Railroad to intersection with unnamed road at Crucero; north on unnamed road to the merging with Mojave Road; northeast on Mojave Road to the junction with Zzyzx Road; north on Zzyzx Road to intersection with Interstate Highway 15; northeast on Interstate Highway 15 to the intersection with Cima Road; south on Cima Road to the intersection with the Union Pacific Railroad in Cima; southwest on the Union Pacific Railroad to the intersection with Kelbaker Road in Kelso.

(3) Zone 3 –

Clark and Kingston Mountain Ranges: That portion of San Bernardino and Inyo counties beginning at the intersection of Interstate Highway 15 and California State Highway 127 in Baker; north on California State Highway 127 to the junction with Old Spanish Gentry Road at Tecopa; southeast on Old Spanish Gentry Road to the junction with Furnace Creek Road; southeast on Furnace Creek Road to the junction with Mesquite Valley Road; north on Mesquite Valley Road to Old Spanish Trail Highway; north and east on Old Spanish Trail Highway to California/Nevada state line; southeast on California/Nevada state line to the intersection with Interstate Highway 15; southwest on Interstate Highway 15 to the junction with California State Highway 127.

(4) Zone 4 –

Orocopia Mountains: That portion of Riverside County beginning at the intersection of Interstate Highway 10 and Cottonwood Springs Road; east on Interstate Highway 10 to the junction with Red Cloud Mine Road; south on Red Cloud Mine Road to the junction with the Eagle Mountain Mining Railroad; southwest on the Eagle Mountain Mining Railroad to the junction with the Bradshaw Trail; southwest on the Bradshaw Trail to the Intersection with the Coachella Canal; west along the Coachella Canal to the junction with Box Canyon Road; northeast on Box Canyon Road to the junction with Cottonwood Springs Road; north on Cottonwood Springs Road to the intersection with Interstate Highway 10.

(5) Zone 5 –

San Gorgonio Wilderness: That portion of Riverside and San Bernardino counties beginning at the intersection of Interstate Highway 10 and California State Highway 62, west on Interstate Highway 10 to the junction with California State Highway 30; north on California State Highway 30 to the junction with California State Highway 38; east and north on California State Highway 38 to the junction with Forest Service Route 1N01; east on Forest Service Route 1N01 to its joining with Pipes Road; east on Pipes Road to the junction with Pioneertown Road; southeast on Pioneertown Road to the junction with California State Highway 62; southwest on California State Highway 62 to the intersection with Interstate Highway 10.

(6) Zone 6 –

Sheep Hole Mountains: That portion of San Bernardino County beginning at the junction of California State Highway 62 and Ironage Road; northwest on Ironage Road to the intersection with Amboy Road; north on Amboy Road to the intersection with National Trails Highway; east on National Trails Highway to the junction with Saltus Road; southeast on Saltus Road to the junction with unnamed road in Saltus that runs through Cadiz Valley; southeast on unnamed road to the intersection with California State Highway 62; west on California State Highway 62 to the junction with Ironage Road.

(7) Zone 7 –

White Mountains: That portion of Mono County within a line beginning at U.S. Highway 6 and the Mono-Inyo county line; northward on Highway 6 to the California-Nevada State Line; southeasterly along the California-Nevada State Line to the Mono-Inyo County Line; westward along the Mono-Inyo County Line to the point of beginning.

(8) Zone 8 –

South Bristol Mountains: That portion of San Bernardino County beginning at the junction of Kelbaker Road and the National Trails Highway; west on the National Trails Highway to the intersection with Interstate Highway 40; east on Interstate Highway 40 to the junction with Kelbaker Road; south on Kelbaker Road to the point of beginning.

(9) Zone 9 –

Cady Mountains: That portion of San Bernardino County beginning at the junction of Interstate Highway 40 and Newberry Road; north on Newberry Road to intersection with Riverside Road; East on Riverside Road to junction with Harvard Road; north on Harvard Road to junction with Interstate Highway 15; northeast on Interstate Highway 15 to junction with Basin Road; south on Basin Road to intersection with Union Pacific Railroad; east on Union Pacific Railroad to intersection with Crucero Road; south on Crucero Road to intersection with Interstate Highway 40; west on Interstate Highway 40 to the point of beginning.

(b) Seasons:

(1) Open Zone Fund-raising Tag: The holder of the fund-raising license tag issued pursuant to subsection 4902(d) of the Fish and Game Code may hunt:

(A) Zones 1 through 4, 6, 8 and 9: Beginning the first Saturday in November and extending through the first Sunday in February.

(B) Zone 5: Beginning the third Saturday in November and extending through the third Sunday in February.

(C) Zone 7: Beginning the first Saturday in August and extending through the last Sunday in September.

(2) Marble/Clipper/South Bristol Mountains Fund-raising Tag: The holder of the fund-raising license tag issued pursuant to subsection 4902(d) of the Fish and Game Code may hunt:

(A) Zones 1 and 8: Beginning the first Saturday in November and extending through the first Sunday in February.

(3) Kelso Peak and Old Dad Mountains Fund-raising Tag: The holder of the fund-raising license tag issued pursuant to subsection 4902(d) of the Fish and Game Code may hunt:

(A) Zone 2: Beginning the first Saturday in November and extending through the first Sunday in February.

(4) Except as provided in subsection 362(b)(1), the Nelson bighorn sheep season in the areas described in subsection 362(a) shall be defined as follows:

(A) Zones 1 through 4, 6, 8 and 9: The first Saturday in December and extend through the first Sunday in February.

(B) Zone 5: The third Saturday in December and extend through the third Sunday in February.

(C) Zone 7: Beginning the third Saturday in August and extending through the last Sunday in September.

(5) Except as specifically provided in section 362, the take of bighorn sheep is prohibited.

(c) Bag and possession Limit:

One mature ram defined as follows: a male Nelson bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni ) 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. A diagram showing the correct viewing procedure shall be distributed by the department to each successful applicant.

(d) Number of License Tags:

Tag
Nelson Bighorn Sheep Hunt Zones Allocation
Zone 1 – Marble/Clipper Mountains 3
Zone 2 – Kelso Peak/Old Dad Mountains 0
Zone 3 – Clark/Kingston Mountain Ranges 1
Zone 4 – Orocopia Mountains 1
Zone 5 – San Gorgonio Wilderness 2
Zone 6 – Sheep Hole Mountains 0
Zone 7 – White Mountains 1
Zone 8 – South Bristol Mountains 1
Zone 9 – Cady Mountains 2
Open Zone Fund-Raising Tag 1
Marble/Clipper/South Bristol Mountains Fund-
Raising Tag 0
Kelso Peak/Old Dad Mountains Fund-Raising Tag 0
Total: 12

(e) Conditions:

(1) Nelson bighorn rams shall only be taken between one-half hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset.

(2) Only methods specified in sections 353 and 354, Title 14, CCR, for taking bighorn sheep may be used.

(3) Each tagholder shall possess a spotting telescope capable of magnification of 15 power (15X), which is not affixed to a rifle, while hunting.

(4) Successful general tagholders shall present the head and edible portion of the carcass of a bighorn ram to the department’s checking station within 48 hours after killing the animal. All successful tagholders shall notify the department’s Bishop office by telephone at (760) 872-1171 or (760) 413-9596 within 24 hours of killing the animal and arrange for the head and carcass to be examined.

(5) All successful bighorn sheep tagholders shall make the horns of each ram available to the department to be permanently marked in the manner prescribed by the department for identification purposes within 48 hours of killing the animal. The purpose of the permanent marking shall be to identify Nelson bighorn rams which were legally taken and which may be transported and possessed outside the areas described in subsection 362(a).

(6) The department reserves the right to take and use any part of the tagholder’s bighorn ram, except the horns, for biological analysis as long as no more than one pound of edible meat is removed.

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14 CCR § 708.9 (California Sheep Hunting Laws)

Bighorn Sheep License Tags, Application, Distribution and Reporting Procedures

(a) Fund-raising Nelson bighorn ram license tags:

Fund-raising license tags for the taking of mature Nelson bighorn rams shall be sold for the purpose of raising funds to manage bighorn sheep. The department may designate a nonprofit organization to sell this fund-raising tag. The department may conduct a random drawing to distribute fund-raising tags. Any resident or nonresident is eligible to buy the tag. The sale price of a fund-raising license tag shall include 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 an annual hunting license. The purchasers of fund-raising license tags shall complete a required hunter orientation program conducted by the department and meet the hunter education requirements for a hunting license. The fund-raising license tags are defined in subsection 362(b).

(b) General Nelson bighorn ram license tags:

(1) The general Nelson bighorn ram license tags shall be issued by drawing, as described in Section 708.14.

(2) 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.

(3) Applicants shall be California residents or nonresidents, at least 16 years of age on or before July 1 of the license year for which they are applying

(4) Applicants shall possess an annual California hunting license that is valid during the bighorn ram season for which they are applying.

(5) Applicants shall not have been awarded a Nelson bighorn ram license tag in the department’s big game drawing.

(6) Applicants shall apply for only one designated zone.

(7) No applicant shall submit more than one application per license year.

(8) 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.

(9) 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.

(10) Not more than ten percent (10%) of general license tags shall be awarded to nonresidents each year.

(11) 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 the department’s License and Revenue Branch. 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.

(12) Should the quota for each zone remain unfilled after that date, the alternate lists shall be used. Successful applicants shall be issued tags only after successfully completing the required hunter orientation program conducted by the department.

(c) Tagholder Responsibilities:

(1) Only persons possessing valid Nelson bighorn sheep license tags are entitled to hunt bighorn sheep. Tags shall not be transferable and are valid only in the zone or zones specified.

(2) Individuals awarded a fund-raising license tag and all successful applicants for general license tags shall attend and successfully complete a mandatory hunter orientation program. Licensed guides employed by successful applicants and the fund-raising license tag buyer shall accompany their clients to this orientation program.

(3) All successful bighorn sheep tag holders shall have their tags validated. All tags shall be returned to the department within 10 days after the close of the season, even though the tagholder may not have killed a Nelson bighorn ram.

(4) Upon the killing of any bighorn sheep, 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 carcass of a bighorn ram immediately after the animal is killed.

(5) All tag holders will be notified by mail as to whether they will be required to report to the department before hunting and upon completion of hunting. The notification shall contain procedures for reporting, including appropriate methods of contacting the department.

(6) 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.

(B) Any act on the part of the tagholder which endangers the person or property of others. The decision of the department in such respects shall be final and binding upon the tagholder.

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Warning shot!! While we try to fetch up all major California sheep hunting laws, 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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