Shooting birds on the water or on the ground?

January 7, 2014 

Question: Is it lawful to shoot a bird that is on the water, or if I'm field hunting, to shoot a bird that is standing on the ground? I do not consider it sporting, but I was with a group of hunters that took part in the above actions.

Answer: It's not illegal, but it's certainly not sporting as it violates the Fair Chase Principle. "Fair chase" is the ethical, sportsman-like, lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an unfair advantage over such animals. In addition, it can also be unsafe to shoot birds on the ground or on the water because nearby hunters might be in your line of fire.

Question: My son and I fish from our private boat almost exclusively and keep our sport fishing licenses aboard so they are always present. On rare occasions we will attempt to fish without the boat, and a few times have forgotten to bring our licenses. To prevent us from mistakenly being without our fishing licenses, can we show a photo copy of our licenses or can the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issue more than one copy to a sport fisherman?

Answer: Good questions, but the answers to both are no. You must have a valid fishing license in your possession when fishing or attempting to take fish, and you must present it to a game warden upon request. Additionally, only one license may be issued to a person per year.

Question: Are there any restrictions on importing buffalo hides or buffalo art productions into California?

Answer: No. American buffalo (bison) are considered a domestic breed of bovine, like cattle, goats and sheep, and thus no Fish and Wildlife laws regulate them. American buffalo hides are not restricted by CDFW and so they may be imported or possessed as long as they were obtained legally. However, the live importation of other species of true buffalo (African Cape Buffalo) or their hides is restricted by law.

Question: I recently read a post from people saying they had caught carp by hand in a lake. Is this legal in California? I have caught trout by hand in streams when I was younger, but wasn't sure if that was legal either.

Answer: There are no freshwater fish species that can be legally taken by hand from any California lake waters within the state (only exception: a few fish species are allowed to be caught by hand during specific times in a few non-lake areas).

Question: Is there any law against mounting a camera to the scope of a rifle to record my hunting experience?

Answer: No, there is no law against this as long as there is no light emitted from the camera.

Question: Is it legal for one person to have two shotguns in a duck blind?

Answer: Yes, but while it's legal to have more than one shotgun in your blind, keep in mind there is a 25 shell limit on most public shooting areas (state and federal refuges). Hunters often forget this and bring a box of shells for each gun they have but then find themselves in violation of the 25 shell limit. Also required, each gun must be plugged and not capable of holding more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined, and lots of times nothing larger than 10 gauge shells are allowed in these areas. For more information, please check the Upland Game Bird Regulations available at

Question: I want to apply for a fishing guide's license but am worried because I had a hunter trespass citation many years ago. It was a case of poor mapping and unmarked fence lines. I paid my fine and it never went any further. Does my single-hunter trespass ticket exclude me from applying for guide status in this state?

Answer: Because your citation was your only citation and you took care of the fines, you should not have a problem getting a guide's license. Applicants are evaluated mostly for recent activity (within five years), or repetitive activity. And for applicants who apply but are denied, any application fees are refunded.

Question: What is the legal and proper way to measure a fish, particularly largemouth bass? Is it with an open mouth, closed mouth, fanned tail or pinched tail? I would appreciate some fish measuring guidelines to determine whether a

Answer: The first rule when measuring fish is to lay the fish flat on its side and always pinch the mouth closed. All freshwater fish, including largemouth bass, are measured to total length. This is the longest straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail.

The most accurate method is to place the fish's snout against a perpendicular surface and then measure along the intersecting horizontal surface to the end of the tail. Don't measure using a flexible "tape" over the fish itself or you will be given a longer false reading. All freshwater fish with a minimum size limit are measured this way.

Question: Once I shoot my limit of pheasants, can I give one of my birds to another hunter in the group and continue hunting?

Answer: No. Once you reach your bag limit you are finished hunting for the day. You can give your birds away to other hunters but that does not then allow you to continue hunting that day.

src="" width="13" height="11"> Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. She can be contacted at

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