The California Gun Attorney

Hunting in California

Hunting in California


Published by The Law Offices of Bruce Colodny
By Bruce Colodny, The California Gun Attorney
Copyright © 2017

So here you are, a gun owner living in California, the State with some of the strictest and  certainly the most complicated and lengthy gun laws in the entire USA. But Fall is around the corner and that means it's almost hunting season. Hunting in California? Yes, you can still hunt in California but if you want to return without a citation to appear in court or having had your wallet considerably lightened by the cost of a bail bond, you better do your homework before you hit the road to bag that limit of dove or that buck with the big rack you've been dreaming about. Every year I receive calls from people whose California hunting trip turned into a legal disaster. Below is list of the common reasons why this happened and some tips on how to avoid becoming one of my clients.


1. Follow the Basic Rules

Make certain that you have, in your possession, the required license as well as any required tags or stamps.  Learn and follow the rules for completing and attaching tags and for making any required reports.

Planning to go waterfowl or bird hunting? Know and comply with bag and possession limits and remember to leave a wing or head if required.

Remember that the regulations change from year to year, so need to keep yourself current, I recommend that you visit the websites of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife ( and the California Fish & Game Commission (; both of these websites have the regulations and useful information.

Don't know how to use a computer or the Internet? How about prying that youngster away from their video game to help you, and then reward them by taking them hunting? Don't forget to allow time for the completion of hunter education requirements so they can be properly licensed, and if you are not the minor child's parent or legal guardian, have written permission that includes authorization to possess and use firearms and ammunition. Be sure to specify if you'll be hunting with a handgun. Remember that if hunting is to survive in California, we need to introduce young people to this tradition.


2. Confirm That the Land You Plan To Hunt on Is Actually Land That Is Open to Hunting

Obtain a good map and check the County ordinance regulating discharge of firearms. If you plan to hunt on land owned or managed by Government agency, such as the United States Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, check their website and/or inquire at the ranger station.

Don't ignore "No Trespassing" and "No Hunting" signs and don't ignore fences. If you plan to hunt on privately owned land, obtain written permission from the landowner, tenant or manager be prepared and carry blank "Entry Permit for Hunting" forms, so that you can show it if you are contacted by a game warden.


3. Do Not Load Your Gun Until You Are Standing On Land Where You Can Actually Hunt.


4. Do Not Shoot Before or After Hunting Hours

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has used decoys in "sting" operations to apprehend violators.


5. Do Not Cheat

Meaning, do not use someone else's tag or their bag or possession limits. Do not carry anyone else's license or tag to avoid an accusation of an unlawful transfer.


6. Possess and Use Only the Proper Gun & Ammunition

Do Not shoot waterfowl or game birds with a rifle; resist the urge to put a .22 pistol in your pocket for a few "Hail Mary" shots at those Canadian Geese that always seem to fly over you above shotgun range.

Do Not possess or use lead shot when hunting water fowl.

Do Not possess or use lead bullets while hunting in California areas where the use of lead ammunition is banned


7. Artificial Lighting and Night Vision Devices

Read and familiarize yourself with California Fish & Game Code section 2005. With few exceptions, in

California it is unlawful to use a flashlight or spotlight while fishing or hunting, and while possessing a firearm in areas where game and nongame animals are present. This prohibition includes the use of vehicle headlights to assist in hunting (but not for ordinary driving).

Handheld (i.e. not attached to firearm) two-cell, three volt flashlights are exempt. Lamps or lanterns

that don't case directional light are exempt.

It is unlawful to use or to possess night vision devices to assist with hunting and fishing


8. Hunting, Loaded Firearms and Vehicles

With some exceptions, in California it is unlawful to carry a loaded firearm (with a live round attached in a manner from which it can readily be fired; just having the an empty firing chamber is not compliant) on your person or in a vehicle in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or in any public place or on any public street in a prohibited area (meaning where the discharge of firearms is prohibited) of unincorporated county territory.

In those areas in which hunting with firearms is allowed, "It is unlawful to possess a loaded rifle or shotgun in any vehicle or conveyance or its attachments which is standing on or along or is being driven on or along any public highway or other way open to the public" California Fish & Game Code Section 2006.

CAUTION! There is a published California Attorney General's Opinion stating that the prohibition of Section 2006 also applies to the placing of a loaded rifle or shotgun on the exterior portion of vehicle as well as in the interior, for example, placing a loaded rifle or shotgun on the hood or in the bed of your pickup truck.


9. Do Not Shoot From Your Vehicle, Powerboat, Sailboat or Airplane, or, From or Across A Road

It is unlawful to shoot at any game bird or mammal, including a marine mammal, from a powerboat, sailboat, motor vehicle, or airplane. It is unlawful to shoot any firearm from or upon a public road or highway.


10. National Forests

It is unlawful to shoot a firearm in or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area; or across or on, a Forest Development Road or adjacent body of water; or in any manner or place where any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge.

Remember that the shooting regulations for some National Forests (for example, Angeles National Forest, Cleveland National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest) may be more restrictive than others.

Also keep in mind that, particularly in Southern California, during hunting season some National Forest areas may be closed due to fire danger or there may be prohibitions on camp fires or smoking.