California – From a Deer Hunter’s POV

Posted: 08/06/2012 in Archery, Hunting, Legal, News, Regulations, Scouting
Tags: , , ,

This is an ongoing series looking at each state from the point of view of a nonresident hunter trying to find information about deer hunting, the basic explanation is HERE.


Is the information easy to find?

The California Department of Fish and Game was at the top of the results.

Grade: A

Website: is it easy to use and understand?

You may want to hire a lawyer to read California’s hunting regulations.  Here is an example:


The Deer Archery segment is 2,803 words all by itself.

This is a total misery to read, and almost a guarantee that ANYONE hunting in California could be found to have violated some regulation or another.  Barring being invited by some major professional hunters, California would be very low on the list of ‘where to hunt as a nonresident.’

Grade: D

Does the state hold a lottery system for non-residents or are over the counter licenses available?

The system in California appears to be entirely based on a drawing – the Big Game digest, with the regulations for California Big Game, is 80 pages long.

Grade: D

How much does it cost to hunt, and is there a short term license available?

Resident hunting licenses are $44.85 compared to the nonresident license of $155.52 (rogue accountants again.)  Resident deer tag drawing applications have a two tier cost, first drawing is $29.98, second is $36.98, nonresidents are $263.01 per tag.  So the costs are reasonable for a single deer, but two deer tag applications and the basic license together works out to $681.54, much higher most hunters want to pay for two deer tags, and remember, that would be the output for two chances to get deer tags, you may get both, one, or none.  It seems like your fee is returned if you aren’t drawn (which is the standard practice in these types of drawings) however the rules involved are amazingly Californian. Note the section below, the state keeps a portion of your application.

“Deer Tag Refunds

Deer Tag and Deer Tag Drawing Application fees are nonre­fundable, regardless of closures due to fire, weather or any other conditions (T14-708.2). Except that a portion of Nonresi­dent Deer Tag Fees (the difference between the fee paid for a nonresident deer license tag application and a resident deer license tag application) may be refunded if a nonresident deer tag drawing application was submitted and a deer tag was not issued or if a nonresident tag is issued, and all of the following conditions are met:

1. The deer license tag is not a premium tag

2. The deer license tag is returned prior to the earliest open­ing date for the hunt

3. The tag quota has not been filled for the hunt

Nonresident deer tag drawing application requests for refunds shall be submitted on or before March 1, each year, to DFG’s License and Revenue Branch, 1740 N. Market Blvd., Sacra­mento, CA 95834. If the deadline to submit the request for refund falls on a weekend or holiday requests will be accepted until the close of business on the first state business day follow­ing the deadline to submit the request.”

Grade: C-

Are the hunting seasons easy to find and laid out in a logical manner?

California’s hunting seasons can be found with minimal searching, for example the archery deer season summary. It encompasses 37 different hunt numbers, and is somewhat complicated because of that, but provided you have your hunt number, its fairly straightforward.

Grade: B

Is public hunting available, if so, are the rules different? If the rules are different, are they easy to understand?

The web site states that there are 711 Department of Fish and Game wildlife areas in the state. Click a region on the map of California, which is broken into six areas, and a color topographical map of that region comes up with a list of the wildlife areas below. This, however, is where the web site fails to follow through: there is a link on the region page “Wildlife Area Regulations” that leads to an error.  If you click on an actual wildlife area, such as Buttermilk Country, near the bottom is a link to ‘Hunting and Other Public Uses on State and Federal Areas,’ which you would think would be a direct link to that publication.  It isn’t, it’s a link back to the starting page.

Grade: C

Are there major issues in hunting this state as a non-resident?

Chronic Wasting Disease does not appear to be present in California at this time, however the data appears to be somewhat outdates, as one page lists ‘8 states’ that have confirmed CWD, and the main CWD page lists 12. Other than CWD, California has multiple issues for a nonresident hunter.  Firearm restrictions, hunting regulations that read like fire safety code on the international space station, high taxes, and a lottery system that only refunds part of the hunters’ application for big game licenses.

Grade: C

Summary: Final Grade D+

These regulations are difficult to read and complicated, with the apparent intent to prevent out of state hunters rather than encourage the business those hunters bring to the state.

Previous states:  AlabamaAlaskaArizona, Arkansas


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