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Fish and Game Q&A: Can I use a scope-mounted light to hunt coyote at night?

December 31, 2009 |  4:07 pm

A coyote spotted near Little Lake, Calif.

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: Can you clarify the regulation on hunting coyote with a light? I interpret it to be that it’s OK to hunt at night with a light except during a designated deer season, and that it must be a hand-held light. Can you use a scope-mounted light? Thanks. (Tom B.)

Answer: Coyotes may be taken at any time of the year, in any number (unless prohibited by local ordinance or otherwise) and in any manner except poison (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, sections 472 and 475). You are correct that lights cannot be used for night hunting in any area where the general deer season is open.

According to Lt. Todd Tognazzini, before you set out to hunt coyotes, you will need to research two main areas of the law. The first deals with the use of lights while night hunting. The state is divided into three distinct zones and under the CCR, Title 14, section 264, there are some counties defined in Zone 1 and Zone 2 that allow spotlight use from a vehicle as long as the engine is off and spotlighting does not occur from a public roadway. In the Balance of the State Zone (all other counties), hunters may only use lights to take fur-bearing and non-game mammals if the hunter is on foot and away from a vehicle. Lights must be a maximum 9-volt light source with self-contained batteries, and must be either hand-held or worn on your head (CCR, Title 14, section 264.5).

According to the Fish and Game Code, section 2005, “It is unlawful to use or possess at any time any infrared or similar light used in connection with an electronic viewing device or any night vision equipment, optical devices, including, but not limited to, binoculars or scopes that use light-amplifying circuits that are electrical or battery powered, to assist in the taking of birds, mammals, amphibians or fish.”

In Zones 1 and 2, a weapon-mounted light of any size could be used so long as it was not a prohibited device (as described under the FGC, section 2005[c]).A weapon-mounted light would be lawful in the Balance of the State Zone as long as it complies with the 9-volt maximum and self-contained battery requirements as required for this zone (CCR, Title14, section 264.5).

There are also quite a few areas in the state where night hunting is prohibited completely, such as parts of San Benito and Monterey counties (CCR, Title14, section 263). There are also different areas with complete closure zones, so be sure to check for those as well (CCR, Title14, section 474).

Q: We would like to harvest some mussels from the rocks and pier pilings around Monterey and are wondering if we can use an abalone iron or small shovel to get the mussels. Thanks. (Ronald V.)

A: No, most saltwater mollusks, including mussels, may be taken only on hook and line or with the hands (CCR, Title 14, section 29.10). Since there are no additional provisions for taking mussels with any other sort of tool, taking them by hand is your only viable option.

Q: Is it legal to capture and keep wild boars (feral pigs) in California? Is it legal to keep them in a pit to train dogs for hunting boars? Thanks. (Barb S.)

A: No, it is unlawful to capture and keep live wildlife in California, with rare exceptions for rehabilitation and educational purposes. According to Lt. Todd Tognazzini, it is unlawful to capture any game mammal, game bird, non-game bird, non-game mammal or fur-bearer, or to possess or confine any live game mammal, game bird, non-game bird, non-game mammal or fur-bearer taken from the wild (FGC, section 3005.5). The law also directs DFG to seize any bird or mammal possessed or confined in violation of this section.

Q: I know that the law requiring anglers to display their licenses when fishing was recently repealed and the law requiring the purchase of a Bay-Delta Enhancement Stamp to fish in inland waters was also recently changed. Can you tell me when these will officially go into effect? I assumed Jan. 1, 2010, but then I saw something saying the “no display” law would not begin until March. What are the exact dates? Thanks much. (Bill K.)

A: The regulation repealing the need to display your license while fishing will not go into effect before March 1, 2010, the first day the general inland regulations start. The Bay Delta stamp is no longer required as of Jan. 1, 2010.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in this column, e-mail it to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Photo: A coyote spotted near Little Lake, Calif. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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