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Fish and Game Q&A: Is it unlawful to use night-vision equipment while legally hunting?

December 30, 2010 |  2:27 pm


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 have an important question regarding the use of "passive" night-vision equipment when legally night-hunting nongame mammals and nongame birds in the state of California. My research indicates that it is perfectly legal to hunt nongame mammals (e.g. coyote and bobcat) using passive (which means it does not project an infrared beam of light or other artificial light) night-vision equipment (e.g. rifle scopes, binoculars, etc.) that do not conflict with the California Penal Code for legal possession.

If you believe that my conclusions are in error, please state the applicable regulation and specific verbiage in the law. For the record, is it illegal to use any type of night-vision equipment in the state of California while legally hunting big game or nongame animals? Yes or no? (Rick B.)

Answer: Yes, 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 or optical devices. According to Department of Fish and Game Ret. Capt. Phil Nelms, this includes but is 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 (Fish and Game Code section 2005(c).

The answer could be no if you consider nine-volt lights, handheld flashlights, red-dot scopes, etc. to be night-vision equipment. Fish and Game Commission regulations do authorize the use of lights in some circumstances (see California Code of Regulations, sections 264 and 264.5 starting on Page 9 in the 2010-2011 Mammal Hunting Regulations booklet or online at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/).

Please note that the restrictions in this law apply when taking all birds and mammals and includes all such devices that are either electrical- or battery-powered, including when using lights to take nongame and fur-bearing mammals in accordance with CCR sections 264 and 264.5 in the current mammal-hunting regulations.

This means using any type of night vision equipment (whether attached to the firearm or not) that uses light-amplifying circuits that are electrical- or battery-powered to assist in the taking of birds, mammals, amphibians or fish is strictly illegal, even when hunting nongame animals.

Q: Is it legal to spear leopard sharks from a kayak with a pole spear (better known as a Hawaiian sling)? I know that I can fish for them here in Morro Bay and in the surrounding waters legally. I have also read that the same rules and regulations for fishing apply to spear fishing. The shark must be 3 feet long and you can’t take more than three a day (at least that is what the regulations said last summer).

My question is: Can I actually spear them while sitting in my kayak? They cruise about six to 12 inches below the surface, about five to 20 yards offshore. I know that I would probably need to enter the water with the shark after it has been speared in order to land it (many of them have been 5 feet long), but nonetheless I believe it can be done. Please e-mail me the answer even if you don’t want to put it in the column so I know what is legal and what is not. (Dan W.)

A: Yes, it is legal to spear sharks (excluding white sharks) from a kayak (CCR Title 14, sections 28.90 & 28.95).

Q: I know I can’t hunt over bait, but what is the definition of bait? (Thomas P., Redding)

A: A "baited area" is defined as … any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, and such area shall remain a baited area for 10 days following complete removal of all such corn, wheat or other grains, salt, or other feed (CCR Title 14, section 257.5 (a)). No game bird or mammal may be taken within 400 yards of a baited area.

Q: I have seen someone in our rural area who repeatedly drives wild turkeys off their property with random gunfire. Is this legal? (Eileen W.)

A: Yes, as long as they aren’t shooting the turkeys out of season and are in an area where they can legally discharge a gun, then it is legal to haze the wild turkeys in this manner.

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

Photo: Bobcat sitting in a tree. Credit: Gary Kramer / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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