Laws for California Small Game Hunting Methods for Rabbits and Tree Squirrels

Here, we fetch up regulations for California small game hunting methods and bring them back with hunter-friendly summaries and links to our pates with related rules. Topics cover air rifles, archery, bait, calls, dogs, falconry, muzzleloaders, pistols, rifles, shotguns, and traps for rabbits and tree squirrels. We also include links to supporting federal and State law. Warning shot!!! Check city and county ordinances for any exceptions. If you need help, contact our in-house attorney.

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General Rules

California Small Game Hunting MethodsThe law refers to California small game hunting methods as “methods of take.” The definition of Take includes more than just hunting. It also includes things like using bait, decoys, and traps. We’re going to refer to them all as “hunting methods.” Here are a few general rules to keep in mind:

    • Rule #1: You can’t hunt small game unless there’s a season.
    • Rule #2: You can only use California small game hunting methods approved for the category.
    • Rule #3: Approved methods may be restricted for specific small game, places, and situations.

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Methods for Small Game

California small game hunting methods apply to a category of mammals called Small Game Mammals. Those mammals include the species listed below.

    • California Small Game Hunting Methods and California squirrel hunting seasonsBrush Rabbits
    • Cottonrail Rabbits
    • Hares (genus Lepus)
    • Jackrabbits
    • Pigmy Rabbits (genus Sylvilagus)
    • Tree Squirrels (genus Sciurus and Tamiasciurus)

In general, these Small Game Mammals can be Taken by the methods described below. Warning shot!!! There are additional restrictions and privileges for each species, so also see Rabbits and Tree Squirrels below.

Air Rifles

In general, California small game hunting methods allow for air rifles. However, you can only use compressed air or gas. You can use any caliber of pellet. See 14 CCR § 311(f).

Archery

California Small Game Hunting Methods and Archery for California hunting seasons.In general, California small game hunting methods allow archery. You can use any kind of arrow except with any kind of explosive head, tranquilizer, or poison. It has to have a casting distance of 130 yards. You can’t shoot across a public roadway. Warning shot!!! Archers are NOT allowed to possess a firearm while in the field engaged in archery hunting during an archery season. The same is true while hunting during a general season with an archery only tag. See 14 CCR § 311(e) and (k)14 CCR § 354(c)-(f) and (h), and our page dedicated to Archery Laws.

Bait

In general, small game mammals may NOT be taken within 400 yards of any Baited Area. See 14 CCR §  257.5.

Calls

In general, you cannot use electronic or mechanically-operated calling or sound-reproducing devices. See 14 CCR § 311(i).

Crossbows

California Small Game Hunting Methods and Crossbows for California hunting seasons.In general, you can hunt small game with a Crossbow. You can use any kind of crossbow bolt except those with any kind of explosive head, tranquilizer, or poison. It has to have a casting distance of 130 yards. You can’t shoot across a public roadway. Unless you have a Disabled Archer Permit, crossbows are not allowed during archery seasons.

Warning shots!!! Archers are NOT allowed to possess a firearm while in the field engaged in archery hunting during an archery season. The same is true while hunting during a general season with an archery only tag. See 14 CCR § 311(k) and (n)14 CCR § 354(c)-(h) and (j), and our page dedicated to Archery Laws.

Dogs

Hunting dogs are allowed for taking and retrieving resident small game. See 14 CCR § 311(o).

Falconry

Falconry is an authorized method for taking small game. For details, go to our page dedicated to California Falconry Hunting Seasons. Also see 14 CCR § 311(d).

Muzzleloaders

Muzzleloading shotguns may be used for hunting small game. See 14 CCR § 311(c).

Pistols

In general, rifles are not allowed for hunting small game. There is a limited exception for Rabbits and Tree Squirrels (see below). Also see 14 CCR § 311(g).

Rifles

In general, rifles are not allowed for hunting small game. There is a limited exception for Rabbits and Tree Squirrels (see below___). Also see 14 CCR § 311(g).

Shotguns

In general, shotguns may be used to hunt resident small game subject to the restrictions listed below. See 14 CCR § 311(a)-(b).

Gauge Size

In general, the shotgun has to be a 10-gauge or smaller. On Type A and Type B Wildlife Areas, it has to be at least a 12-gauge or smaller.

Plugs

If a plug is used to reduce the capacity of a magazine to fulfill the shell capacity requirement (see below), the plug must be of one piece construction incapable of removal without disassembling the gun.

Shell Capacity

You shotgun must be incapable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined (see Plugs above).

Shells

 You can only use shot shells and it must be loose in the shell (i.e. no slugs).

Shot size

You cannot use anything larger than No. BB. In fact, you cannot even possess anything larger while hunting.

Traps

Certain traps are allowed for taking Rabbit (see below).

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Methods for Rabbits

In addition to methods for taking Small Game (see above), rabbits may be taken/hunted in California by the following methods. For more details, go to our page dedicated to Rabbit hunting.

Box Traps

In general, box traps are NOT allowed for taking rabbits. However, during open season, there are limited exceptions in (a) San Diego County and (b) Orange County. See 14 CCR § 311(h).

    1. California Small Game Hunting Methods and Traps for California rabbit hunting seasonsBagging: must be killed immediately and added to the trapper’s daily bag limit
    2. Label: must show the name and address of the trap owner.
    3. Size: nothing larger than 24 inches in any dimension
    4. Tending: must be checked at least once every 24 hours

 Dogs

Coursing dogs are allowed for taking rabbits. See 14 CCR § 311(j).

Pistols

In general, you can kill rabbits with pistols. However, you cannot use them in Los Angeles County. See 14 CCR § 311(g).

Property Damage

In general, landowners and tenants can take cottontail and brush rabbits any time of the year to prevent actual damage to crops or forage. Warning shot!!! You cannot sell them if they are taken this way. See FGC § 4186.

Rifles

In general, you can kill rabbits with rifles. However, you cannot use them in Los Angeles County. See 14 CCR § 311(g).

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Methods for Tree Squirrels

California Small Game Hunting Methods and California squirrel hunting seasonsIn addition to methods for taking Small Game (see above), Tree Squirrels may be taken/hunted in California by the following methods. For more details, go to our page dedicate to Tree Squirrel hunting.

Rifles

In general, you can kill rabbits with rifles. However, you cannot use them in Los Angeles County. See 14 CCR § 311(g).

Pistols

In general, you can kill rabbits with pistols. However, you cannot use them in Los Angeles County. See 14 CCR § 311(g).

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