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Fish and Game Q&A: Is a loaded firearm in a parked car legal?

November 18, 2010 |  1:12 pm

Firearms 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: Is it legal to have a loaded firearm in a parked vehicle while hunting? (Scott D. Beyer)

Answer: No. Possessing a loaded rifle or shotgun (live round in the chamber) in a vehicle, even when parked and you are away from your vehicle for any purpose, is still prohibited (Fish and Game Code, section 2006). This law applies when you are on a public roadway or other way open to the public. This means any place the public can go, including roadless or "off road" areas.

Q: I just went through the validation part of the Department of Fish and Game site and can’t locate the following requirement. What happened was a friend stopped Saturday at a California Highway Patrol office to have his deer tag validated. The carcass was in the truck in a deer bag and the horns were cut off. The officer told him he was in violation of the law as the head must be attached to the deer until dropped off at a butcher shop or cut up at home. I’ve never heard of this before in California. Is this the case? If so, it’s a severe imposition on successful hunters. The book says the head must be retained in case a warden asks to see it after the fact, but what if you want it mounted and must skin it as soon as possible? I cannot locate anything referring to the horns-attached issue. Why not require proof of sex be left on the carcass instead? (Bill A.)

A: For hunters who backpack into roadless areas, they are required to pack out of the field all edible meat and the portion of the head which normally bears the antlers (skull cap) with the tag attached. The remainder of the skull may be discarded at the kill site. The tag must be filled out and attached to the antlers prior to transportation to the nearest person authorized to validate the tag. Hunters are then required to maintain the portion of the head which normally bears the antlers with the tag attached during the open season and for 15 days thereafter, and it must be produced upon demand to any officer authorized to enforce the regulations (California Code of Regulations, Title 14 sections 708(3)(4) & (5) and FGC sections 4302, 4304 & 4306).

Q: I see on many websites that you cannot take female Dungeness, but I see in the regs no comment about females. Have the rules changed now allowing females can be kept? (E.J. K.)

A: Recreational fisherman may keep the female Dungeness crab – commercial fishermen must throw them back. Since the females are often so much smaller and less meaty than the males, many fishermen toss them back so they can reproduce more young for future generations. The larger females that meet the minimum size requirements also carry the most eggs and produce the most young, so it makes sense to let females go as a matter of course. However, there is no law that compels you to do so.

Q: Can you tell me the reason why anglers are not required to display their fishing licenses anymore? How are wardens supposed to catch poachers and unlicensed people? I know we have fewer wardens than needed, but this just makes their job harder and decreases revenue for the state in the form of fines. (Danny F.)

A: The Fish and Game Commission agreed to do away with the required display law this year because fishermen have been asking for it to be overturned for a number of years. People were constantly complaining about losing their licenses or finding it to be a big hassle. Our enforcement staff too said this law didn’t help them that much because they still had to walk up to the person to see the license to make sure it was valid. Many people were making copies of licenses and displaying the illegal license while fishing. The theory that more people would purchase a license due to peer pressure did not prove to be true. Many people would be upset when a game warden asked to see the license because it was already visible, yet the only way to check if it was valid was to have it removed from the case.

While it may cause a decline in fine revenue, it was the predominant voice of the anglers in California to not have to display their licenses above their waist anymore, and so the Commission finally agreed. Although it’s no longer the law, many anglers do still choose to proudly display their licenses.

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

Photo: A loaded firearm in a car is illegal anywhere the public the can go. Credit: DFG

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