Deer hunting in closed areas

Q: My son and I have drawn G37 tags. We have been trying for 15 years to draw this once-in-a-lifetime hunt. My concern is that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has closed a big portion of this area because of the Rim Fire and the El Portal Fire. Is there anything that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can do to get these closed areas open? We don’t want to exchange our tags for the G37 hunt, we would like the USFS to open the closed areas that are in the G37 zone that burned. A: Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to require them to reopen the burned area. The fire closures are implemented whenever the USFS decides they are warranted. The best we can do is to refer you to the USFS district office so you can talk directly to those making the decisions. That might be your best hope.

And regarding your tags, even if you did want to exchange your tags, there are no refunds for deer tags. There are no exchanges for premium tags either. We can exchange restricted and unrestricted deer tags provided the following: 1) the earliest season for their zone has not already started, 2) tag quota for the tag they want to exchange is not yet filled, 3) tags remain in the zone they want to exchange for, and 4) you pay the current exchange fee.

Q: While fishing off of Shelter Cove for salmon a while back, a large shark latched onto a salmon hooked on the line. After a few minutes of fight, the shark raised its head out of the water and bit through the salmon it had in its jaws, leaving the salmon head and 6 to 8 inches of flesh. My question is, by regulation, do we have to count the head as one of our take? We kept the head in the fish box and salvaged as much of the flesh as we could so as not to waste resources.

A: Since you landed the remainder of the salmon, you must count the fish toward your bag limit. However, since the fish was not retained in a whole condition, it would have been illegal to possess since it could not be measured to determine if it met the legal length requirement. So, while salvaging as much of the flesh as you could so as not to waste resources may have been the “right” thing to do, legally, you should have sent the head and remaining carcass back to the ocean to let other marine organisms utilize it. And if you had sent the carcass back down without salvaging the remainder of the fish, it would not count toward your daily bag limit.

Q: I won a G12 deer tag this year (either sex shotgun only, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area). Because this is a popular waterfowl hunting area, am I legally allowed to use lead slugs or do I need to use nonlead slugs?

A: Yes, you may use lead slugs. In 2014, the use of lead slugs to hunt on state wildlife areas is not prohibited.  However, this may be the last year that you can use lead ammunition for big game at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. In 2013, Assembly Bill 711was approved by the Governor and chaptered into law by the Secretary of State. AB 711 added several sections to the Fish and Game Code, one of which (3005.5(b)) requires a complete ban on the use of lead ammunition when taking wildlife for any purposes anywhere in the state by July 1, 2019. This section also requires the Fish and Game Commission to develop a phase-in regulation by July 1, 2015, designed to impose the least burden on California’s hunters while still implementing the intent of the law.

Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at



Published: Oct. 23, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 28