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Fish and Game Q&A: Are hunters a threat to hikers and campers?

September 3, 2009 |  2:51 pm
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: As an avid outdoor hiker/camper ("primitive") in the wilderness, I have just learned that there is year-round hunting of some sort throughout California, especially on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Since I wear and use materials that "blend" with nature, I am now very concerned about whether I should be changing my pup tent and clothing to international orange! As much as I respect the right to hunt and recognize its importance in helping to manage wildlife, I am very concerned about the safety of hikers/campers like myself being shot in the crossfire!  What are the statistics concerning hunting accidents of this nature in California? (Pam K.)

Answer: Public hunting is allowed on most U.S. Forest Service and BLM properties but not within national parks or California state parks. In addition, most wild game in California have very regulated seasons. Accidents due to careless hunters as you describe here are rare.

According to Hunter Education Administrator and Capt. Roy Griffith, California sells nearly 300,000 hunting licenses per year, yet averages only about 16 firearm-related hunting injuries per year, with two or fewer resulting in death.  In these cases, the injured person is typically a member of the shooter’s hunting party. This year California had its first injury in more than 10 years in which the victim was not a hunter (a farm worker received a minor “peppering” when an individual shot at a dove out of season).

Studies in other states have proven that wearing blaze orange reduces the number of hunting accidents that result in injury. While California law does not require hunters to wear blaze orange, it is highly recommended. In fact, DFG recommends that anyone sharing the outdoors become familiar with local hunting opportunities and seasons and wear blaze orange during the local big game seasons. For more information on California’s hunting opportunities and seasons, check out www.dfg.ca.gov/about/hunting/.

Q: Do I need a permit to harvest seaweed from a public beach for the purpose of making instruments (primarily rattles) to use in ceremony, or shells to adorn them or for special uses (such as adding them to basket weaving projects)? I am an old California Native American Indian woman, emanating from Monterey County, and I would appreciate any information that you may allow me to have. Thank you — be blessed. (Xielolixii)

A: Individuals may collect certain marine plants for personal use only. This could include using them to create handicraft or ceremonial items, as long as none of those products are commercialized (traded, bartered or sold).

Harvest is not allowed for eel grass (Zostera), surf grass (Phyllospadix) or sea palm (Postelsia). These marine plant species may not be cut or disturbed (Section 30.10). In addition, marine protected areas and state reserves may restrict or prohibit cutting or harvesting of other aquatic plants, so be sure you know where you are when collecting.

For all marine aquatic plants authorized for take, the daily bag limit is 10 pounds wet weight in the aggregate (except as provided in Section 28.60). For the most part, there are no closed seasons, closed hours or minimum size limits for any species of marine aquatic plant.

A fishing license is not required for the take of marine plants, but any critters (even the smallest mollusks) that are attached to the plants may require a license. Kelp forests are home to and even a food source for many small invertebrates and fishes, so if any of these animals are hitchhiking on the plants when you collect them, you must have a sport fishing license.

Q: If an angler fishing without a license from a public pier hooks a fish and then guides it to the beach end of the pier, can he land that fish while standing with his feet in the sand? (Randy O., Santa Cruz)

A: Not legally. The privilege to fish without a license from a public pier applies only to anglers while on the pier. As soon as the angler leaves the pier there are no free passes. Only licensed anglers may fish (or land a fish) from the beach, even if the fish was first hooked while the angler was on the pier.

Q: I know that a hunter cannot shoot a firearm from a roadway or the shoulder of the road, but do the same laws apply to archers?

A: Yes. According to Game Warden DeWayne Little, no arrow or crossbow bolt may be released from a bow or crossbow upon or across any highway, road or other way open to vehicular traffic. This includes the improved shoulder of a roadway or its right-of-way (Section 354[e]).

Photo by Carrie Wilson / DFG