California Outdoors for the week of 8/31/2011

Validating weekend game

Question: The California Hunting Digest states that, “Only Department of Fish and Game (DFG) employees may validate bear tags. Bear tags must be validated before the bear can be transported, except for the purpose of taking it directly to the nearest person authorized to validate the tag.” Why? This requirement caused me to lose the edible portion of my bear last year.

For the last few years I have tagged my bear very early on the morning of the start of archery season via pre-season game cameras. Last year, knowing that I would fill my tag early, I arranged to have a few game wardens’ cellphone numbers ready, but because of the hectic nature of the archery opener, no wardens could tag my bear until the next day. While it waited on ice for someone to validate it before my game processor would take it, the carcass rotted and the game processor destroyed it.

When I called to complain, a game warden from Sacramento called me back and told me that I should have had any peace officer validate it, according to Fish and Game Code, Section 4755.

This section says, “Any person legally killing a bear in this state shall have the tag countersigned by a fish and game commissioner, a person employed in the department, a person designated for this purpose by the commission, or by a notary public, postmaster, postmistress, peace officer or by an officer authorized to administer oaths, before transporting that bear except for the purpose of taking it to the nearest officer authorized to countersign the tag, on the route being followed from the point where the bear is taken.”

I am not asking about the odd-numbered tags that must also provide the head for a tooth extraction. Why does the department publish information that conflicts with state law? Thank you for your response in advance.

—Jon Reid

Answer: Bears are a strictly regulated big game species. An extensive environmental assessment process is required to plan a hunting season. Seasonal harvest data is critical to this process. For this reason, a DFG employee is required to validate a bear tag once the bear is killed. DFG has required hunters to present bears to a DFG employee for many years. The employee pulls a tooth for analysis and collects the report portion of the bear tag. In recent years, the tooth extraction requirement has been reduced to half of the statewide bear harvest, but validation of the tag is still required to maintain harvest data integrity. For the 2011 season, biologists need the sample tooth from all bears instead of every other bear as in recent years.

According to Game Warden Patrick Foy, if a hunter kills a bear over a weekend when DFG offices are not open and a warden is not available, they have until the first business day to get the bear validated. There is nothing that prevents you from caring for your meat. It is reasonable for the hunter to process the bear by skinning it and processing the meat. This often occurs in the field prior to transporting the bear. You may then bring the skull and hide in for tooth extraction and validation. This extraction may occur on a fresh bear, a refrigerated or iced bear or a frozen bear (please keep in mind if you decide to freeze the bear skull, freeze it with the mouth open so the tooth can be pulled).

Hunters must ensure they can appropriately care for their meat once they’ve reduced game to their possession. Persons who possess game mammals may not allow it to go needlessly to waste (Fish and Game Code, section 4304).

The Fish and Game Commission established section 708(e)(5) of the California Code of Regulations Title 14, which requires bear hunters to have DFG employees validate their bears. This law supersedes section 4755 of the Fish and Game Code. This type of system allows critical data needed for bear management, which includes necessary statistics that provide for the current quota system that closes bear season once the quota has been reached instead of a set season with specific dates.


Using compressed air for fishing

Question: I would like to know if compressed air bait launchers and/or pneumatic fishing line casters are legal to use and operate in California while fishing in saltwater, as well as in freshwater.


Answer: According to retired DFG Capt. Phil Nelms, generally, these devices would be legal in California in both marine and freshwater areas that are open to taking fish with bait. In addition, when fishing with these devices, the fish must be taken by a closely attended line held in the hand.


Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. Contact her at

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