Fish and Game Q&A: Can I carry a gun and hunt wild pigs while with friends who are bow-hunting deer?
*Updated with Carrie Wilson clarifying answer to first question
In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday afternoon or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:
Question: I have a question regarding hunting pigs during deer archery season. I know that pigs are open all year. I also know that if you are hunting deer during archery season, you cannot have any firearms with your archery equipment while out in the field. If I am out hunting with my friends, but I am hunting pigs with my gun while they are archery hunting for deer, is it legal for me to carry my gun with me while my buddies are bow-hunting if we are in the same hunting area? Will a game warden cite us or be overly suspicious because we would have a mixture of hunting equipment in our possession during archery season, even though we have a non-deer hunter in our group? Any info from you will be most appreciated. Thanks. (Tim P.)
Answer: This is an age-old scenario that we hear often. According to Assistant Chief Mike Carion, while you are not prohibited from carrying a firearm (Section 354[h]) because you are not an "archer," if you claim to be hunting pigs with your firearm during a deer archery-only season, you may draw the attention of a game warden.
If you are observed in the field with archery deer hunters and are carrying a firearm, and you are doing anything that could be defined as "hunting, pursuing, catching, capturing or killing" deer, there is a good chance you will be cited for taking or attempting to take deer without a tag, and hunting with a firearm during an archery season. If you claim you are hunting pig, coyote, ground squirrel or something else, this must be substantiated, as the claim alone does not protect you from prosecution. Based upon all the evidence at hand, you must be able to prove you are hunting pigs or legally hunting game other than deer. If game wardens know that pigs are not known to even occur in your particular area, or the type of ammo you are carrying is not consistent with what you say you are hunting, then you will probably be cited. So be sure your actions are consistent with the intended legal game you are hunting, that the game is obviously found in the area, and that you are carrying the correct tags and ammunition for the game you are pursuing.
In summary, hunting with folks that have specific types of tags places you in the same arena, as far as a warden is concerned. Because there are people who take advantage of such situations, game wardens pay close attention to mixed hunting groups, and by carrying a firearm you will be putting yourself and your group in the spotlight.
Question: Is it legal to spearfish at night? If so, what fish can be taken? This sounds intriguing to me since I enjoy night diving and it would give me another activity to enjoy while doing so, but I want to stay within the law. Thank you for your time. Just to be clear, I would be diving along the North Coast. (Anonymous)
Answer: Generally, Fish and Game laws allow fish to be taken at night in all ocean waters that are open to the take of fish during the day, and by all methods of take that are authorized for use during the day. If it's legal to take fish in a specific area during the day with a spear, it's legal to do so at night. Areas of the ocean in which spear fishing is prohibited include Marine Protected Areas and anywhere within 200 yards of the mouth of any stream. Taking fish with a spear is not allowed in the inland waters of the North Coast Fishing District at any time.
Question: At what age can kids first take the hunter safety course, go on their first hunt, and then what can they hunt for? (Bill A.)
Answer: Since the Department of Fish and Game is a state agency, it cannot discriminate by age. According to Capt. Roy Griffith of our hunter education program, it is up to the discretion of the parent or guardian to decide when their child has the maturity and upper body strength to safely manipulate a firearm. A junior hunter needs to attend a hunter education class and take a written test. Once juniors have passed the test, they can obtain a hunting license and may hunt any legal species (except big game, if they are under 12 Once they have turned 12 years old, they may then apply for big game tags and hunt big game with their junior hunting license and appropriate big game tag).
Question: If I have five trout on my stringer, can I continue to fish if I don't keep any more than the five-fish bag limit? In other words, catch and release after I have my limit of five? Thanks. (Don B.)
Answer: Good question, but the answer is NO. The definition of "take" is to "hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans or invertebrates or attempting to do so" (FGC Section 1.80). Therefore, catch-and-release fishing is not legal unless you're still under your maximum bag limit.
Photo of wild pig and piglets from California Department of Fish and Game