Question: We own a duck club with two ponds on the property. Members shoot waterfowl over one pond while the other has a floating corn feeder for wood ducks on it. We want to keep shooting over the club pond, but we also want to keep the feeding station on the other pond for the wood ducks. Regulations say baiting for migratory birds is prohibited and that it is illegal to hunt over bait. What is the distance required between the feeding station and our shooting pond before feeding is considered baiting?
— Stacy M.
Answer: Waterfowl and migratory bird regulations are set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While there are no minimum distance requirements in the regulations, it's clear that you cannot keep the floating corn feeder on another pond if it in any way influences waterfowl to come into shooting range for hunting. Even if the feeder is just intended to be for wood ducks, anything that can be determined to be bait that influences waterfowl of any species could be considered bait and is illegal.
This principle applies even if the feeding station is on a neighbor's property. While hunters might not have control over what a neighbor is doing, they do have control over hunting on their own property or club. In addition, all feed or bait must be removed 10 days prior to hunting over it, and the responsibility to know it is all gone is on the person hunting.
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Q: When boiling a lobster, or otherwise prepping it for cooking, is there a humane way to kill the critter without inflicting unnecessary pain on the live lobster? I've tried inserting a knife on the triangle above the eyes where I expect the brain is, but am not sure this really dispatches it.
— John S.
A: Many people refrigerate lobsters for a while to slow them down before putting them in boiling water, according to Senior Invertebrate Specialist Kristine Barsky. It sounds like you are trying to pith the lobster, or destroy its brain, as is sometimes done with frogs in classroom experiments. Barsky says she hasnt heard of using that method on lobsters, and she thinks the quickest way to dispatch a lobster is probably still the traditional boiling water method.
Q: One of my favorite hunts is for upland game in Federal Wilderness (National Forest) Areas. Often I'll leave my spent shotgun shells on the ground or trail to mark the exact spot where I saw game earlier. The casings serve as a reminder for me when I later hike back out. I eventually pick up my casings but know that many hunters and other hikers disapprove of seeing the shotshell casings on the ground.
Aside from the stewardship and aesthetics issues, is this legal? It seems like a majority of hunters leave their spent casings of plastic and brass right where they land and don't bother to pick them up. Is this citable as littering? If so, is it ever enforced?
— Doug R.
A: Yes, this is a violation of both federal and state law. It falls under the sanitation law for U.S. Forest Service Wilderness Areas, which defines the failure to dispose of any personal refuse, debris, trash or litter in an appropriate receptacle as a citable offense. Spent shell casings are considered garbage. In addition, every state has general litter laws. In California, depending on how close to water the spent casings are dropped, you could also be cited for leaving litter where it may pass into the waters of the state.
The fact you "intend" to retrieve the casings is not a valid excuse, says retired Capt. Phil Nelms. Technically, if you are dropping the empty cases and leaving the area, you are violating the law. Instead, I suggest you mark your trail by clearing small spots of ground or by using natural objects that are readily available in the immediate area, like rocks or twigs.
Q: I recently found a duck decoy that has spinning feet that splash the water. From what I understand, no motorized spinning wings or spinning blade decoys may be used for the first half of duck season. Would a decoy (Wonderduck Super Paddle Wheel Motion Duck Decoy) with spinning feet be an exception?
— Mark V.
A: There's a wide variety of movement decoys on the market. Wind powered decoys and decoys that vibrate, flap, wiggle or produce a motion other than spinning are all legal at any time, but decoys that feature any type of motorized spinning blade are prohibited before Dec. 1.
Your motorized decoy is spinning a blade-like device that just happens to be in the shape of a duck foot ... so you'll have to wait to December to use it.
Send questions to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.