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Fish and Game Q&A: Can I hunt on my own land without drawing tags?

Hunters in the field.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I was looking into buying some land in California to use for hunting, but someone told me that even if you owned the land, you would still have to be drawn to hunt it. Were they correct or full of it? In Texas and in most other states, you can hunt on your own land. (Mitch, Southern California)

Answer: Yes, it’s true. The wildlife belongs to the state of California and not to the landowner who owns the land they may be residing on or passing through.  Under the provisions of a Private Lands Management program, however, landowners can improve their property to benefit wildlife, and in return receive additional tags that they may sell or use themselves. These tags may also allow them additional hunting rights that begin before or run after the regular hunting seasons and that allow additional cows, spikes or bucks to be taken.

Q: While fishing yesterday, we boated very few "keeper" king salmon but caught and threw back several good-sized silvers. The skipper said they are not endangered, just protected. The explanation I got was that the state does not want to pay hatcheries to raise them, so that’s why we can’t keep them. The problem is, by the time you bring them up from 75 to 100 feet, de-net and unhook them, they are tired and almost dead … but we still have to throw them back. What a waste of resources. Do you have any information on that? DFG requires the same thing for certain species of rock cod -- we have to throw them back even if they are dead. (Bob C.)

A: According to Department of Fish and Game senior marine biologist Melodie Palmer-Zwahlen of the Ocean Salmon Project, both California coastal coho (endangered) and Northern California coho (threatened) are indeed listed under the Endangered Species Act and the retention of coho (marked or unmarked) in any California ocean fishery is specifically prohibited under the National Marine Fisheries Service’s recovery plans for these stocks. Although some of the coho currently being contacted in California waters may be from hatcheries in Oregon and Washington, our own stocks are so depressed that it’s not possible to allow a direct take at this time. We do have several hatcheries currently spawning coho as part of a captive brood stock program specifically designed to enhance California coho populations.

Sport anglers can help by fishing near shore and using larger lures to reduce coho encounters. In addition, since coho can be identified by their white gums, coho should be shaken off the hooks while still over the water and not netted or brought on board. If the fish is hooked deeply, the angler should simply cut the line.

Q: If someone gifts abalone that are tagged but the tags are filled out improperly (or not at all), who gets the ticket, the person with the abalone or the original pickers?

A: Both individuals can be cited. The individual who took the abalone can receive a citation for failing to tag abalone or improperly tagging abalone. The individual who receives the abalone can be cited for unlawful possession of abalone that are not tagged or improperly tagged. (Fish and Game Code, section 2002).

Q: Shasta Lake is so full this year and I am wondering if there are any laws against or regulating fishing from the dam. (Charlie K.)

A:It’s unlikely, but check with the folks who manage and operate Shasta Lake and Dam to see what their policies are. DFG does not make or regulate these laws, so such restrictions would come from the lake and dam managers. Boaters and anglers used to be able to boat right up to the ends of the dam wall, but because of concerns for homeland security since the 9/11 terrorist event, this is no longer allowed.

Q: I know that cow decoys may not be used for hunting birds.  Does this also apply to hunting deer or other big game? (Brent N.)

A: No, it is not prohibited when taking mammals (FGC, section 3502 ). There are no Fish and Game laws or regulations on the books regarding using any type of "blind" when taking mammals.

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

Photo: Hunters in the field. Credit: Eugene Hester / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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