Question: I am quite concerned about the health of our deer herds and would like to know how proper management of deer hunting will contribute to long-term protection of the herds. I know many people still believe hunting will decimate the herds, but I've been told that regulated hunting could also help control the population.
-- Bill B., Susanville
Answer: Managed hunting is designed to smooth out the highly dynamic population cycles of deer. They are a classic boom or bust species in that when habitat conditions are good, deer populations can rise very quickly, but when they are bad -- often because they've been overused by too many deer -- the population can crash. These crashes usually occur through starvation and/or disease. Managing the population through regulated sport hunting can minimize these crashes.
Another way that managed hunting contributes to herd protection is through the payment of fees for tags and licenses. The manager of the deer program, Craig Stowers, said funds from tags are used to develop habitat, movement data, information to monitor and research diseases and enforcement of the laws. Tag monies are also used for habitat projects to benefit deer herds in the state.
Deer are a resource owned by all citizens of California, but deer management is not supported by general taxes -- license and tag fees are basically user fees used to manage the resource. Hunters' dollars fund deer research and habitat work, and the harvest helps regulate population cycles.
Q: While hoop netting lobsters in the past, I have used a piece of old panty hose to keep the bait together. It's worked well, but recently I have been told this is illegal because a lobster can get entangled on the hose. This has never happened in the times I have hoop netted. Am I breaking the law by using this method?
-- Doug F.
A: Hoop nets are legal for taking lobster but traps are not. If hoop nets are modified in any manner that causes the lobster to become entangled or trapped, then the device ceases to be a hoop net and becomes a trap. The fabric used to make panty hose is known to be an effective trap for lobsters and is not recommended for use on any part of a hoop net.
Hoop nets may contain a bait container, but can in no way act to entangle or impede the movement of lobster while it tries to leave the net. If it does, the device is illegal -- no matter what material is used to construct the bait container.
Q: My friends and I were arguing over whether or not recreational shotgun shooters (skeet/trap) are bound in the same way as game hunters by the 3-round maximum shell restriction. I cannot find any Fish and Game regulations as to whether this holds true for nongame species (such as coyotes). Only game mammals and birds are listed specifically.
A: Regulations regarding magazine capacity only apply when "taking" game birds and/or mammals. The 3-round shell restriction does not apply when using a shotgun to take furbearing or nongame species, or when shooting targets, skeet/trap, sporting clays, etc.
Fish and Game Code section 2010 does limit shotguns to no more than six shells when taking "any bird or mammal" and there are Penal Code sections restricting large capacity firearms. Additional information regarding large capacity firearms is available from the Bureau of Firearms Web site at ag.ca.gov/firearms.
Q: I have a question about a new duck decoy I've found that is not mechanical or a spinning wing type but is one that operates with a string of flashing LED lights on the wings. Nothing on the decoy moves, but the flashing lights seem to attract ducks in the early morning. Are these legal before Dec. 1?
-- Mark L.
A: Unfortunately, these decoys cannot be used at any time during the waterfowl season because it is unlawful to use any artificial light to assist in the taking of game birds, game mammals or game fish -- except in ocean waters or other waters where night fishing is permitted.
Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. Send questions to: CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.