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Fish and Game Q&A: What's the law on shooting bucks?

September 24, 2009 |  2:19 pm

Mule deer buck and yearling.

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 about a buck I saw years ago. He was an old fellow, gray face, neck and chest, and always with the same group of does. The top of his horns looked like the bottom of a castoff antler. The horns were 16-18 inches tall and fairly heavy. I watched him for two weeks, once trying to make out a fork, but couldn’t. By the letter of the law he wouldn’t have been legal, but how about by the intent of the law maybe? At the time I thought about asking a warden but figured he would be tough eating. Later my dad said old stags like that were good eating. It’s now 40 years later, but what is the law? (Michael P., Redding)

Answer: You did the right thing. The law requires that a legal buck must have a branched antler in the upper two thirds on at least one side. If you’d shot that buck, it would have been illegal under California Fish and Game laws.

According to the Department of Fish and Game's deer program manager, Craig Stowers, there’s a good chance that the buck you encountered was an old-timer who technically had lived past his reproductive fitness. But remember, laws are designed to fit the majority of the situations hunters are likely to encounter, and so they must be enforced as written. In this case, the deer is protected to live out its life.

Q: Is it legal to laminate a fishing license? Once the stamps are on it, I don’t see the problem, but some friends are saying it is not legal and the local game warden will confiscate my license if they find that I’ve laminated it. Is there anything in the regulations that prohibits this? Thanks. (Eric M.)

A: California Fish and Game law prohibits altering, mutilating or defacing licenses issued by DFG but does not prohibit laminating. According to retired DFG Capt. Phil Nelms, the law requires that certain information, including the signature of the license holder, be present on the license before you use it.  If you laminate the license, all of this information must remain visible.

A hunting or sport fishing license must contain the following information about the licensee to be valid:

(1) True name; (2) residence address; (3) date of birth; (4) height; (5) color of eyes; (6) color of hair; (7) weight; (8) sex

All sport fishing licenses, both annual and short-term, must also contain the date of validity (as per CCR, Title 14 Section 705, except as provided in subsections 705 [b] and [c] and FGC Sections 7149 and 1749.05). If you were to purchase a report card after laminating your license, you’d run into a problem because you could not then record the number on your license as required. If you think you will be purchasing a report card, hold off on laminating your license until you can record the number on the bottom front portion of your license. Any stamps must also be attached to the license before lamination, as stamps attached after lamination are not technically attached to the license and could be easily removed or transferred.

Q: Most hunters that I know learned about the sport in their youth. I am an adult male who has never hunted and am eager to learn. Are there classes or programs geared toward adults? (Edward H.)

A: Yes! The best way to start is to take a hunter education course. The course is required to get a hunting license in California and provides good entry-level instruction about firearms safety, laws and regulations, first aid and wildlife management. DFG also offers Advanced Hunter Education classes throughout the state, including seminars on wild pig, waterfowl and wild turkey hunting. A list of these seminars can be found on the DFG website at www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/advanced/. In addition to the education you will receive, the seminars are a good place to meet other experienced hunters with similar interests. Look around for sportsmen’s clubs in your local community, too. They are usually associated with a gun range, which would be another good location to learn a great deal about firearms and discuss hunting with experienced people. Check the National Shooting Sports Foundation website www.wheretoshoot.org for a list of ranges and sportsmen’s clubs organized by location and interests. There are also lots of books and magazines that provide many resources about hunting and the Internet is always full of information that should help.

Photo: Mule deer buck and yearling. Credit: California Department of Fish and Game

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