Question: I would like to help keep a long-time neighborhood friend out of trouble. This person is 73 years old and gradually trying to tidy up a lifelong accumulation of treasures, including a massive garage covered in deer and elk antler trophies and hides. This friend said he had some ideas for generating some revenue from them, including offering them up on for sale on the Internet. This set off an alarm in my head, so I suggested he make very sure of the legality of what he had in mind before going ahead with his possible plans. I believe that many of these antlers were from hunts in California, Colorado, and Wyoming over his lifetime. He is leaving shortly for another hunting expedition in Wyoming.
I recall some of your prior columns about selling animal parts. If you could clarify this matter of disposing of antlers for money, I will pass it along to this neighbor. I assure you I am not the party in possession of the antlers.
— Jim L., Lodi
Answer: Please advise your friend not to try to sell his deer or elk trophies. It is unlawful to sell, trade or purchase any species of bird or mammal (or their parts) found in the wild in California. Mule deer and elk are found in the wild in California, so unless his mounts are white-tailed deer or some other species such as caribou or moose that are not found in the wild in California, he would be breaking the law.
Generally, the sale of any (wild) bird or mammal or the parts thereof is prohibited. However, shed antlers or antlers taken from domestically reared animals that have been manufactured into products or handicraft items, or that have been cut into blocks or units which are to be hand-crafted or manufactured into those articles can be purchased or sold at any time.
On the other hand, complete antlers, whole heads with antlers, antlers that are mounted for display, or antlers in velvet cannot be sold or purchased, except for special conditions authorized for taxidermists.
In the scenario you describe, the antlers appear to be complete antlers and would not be legal to sell. If the antlers were sheds or had been made into products like belt buckles, for example, or cut up into blocks for the purpose of making such products, they could be sold.
One other exception: The law allows the sale of deer skins or hides. They can also be donated at any time to veterans' organizations or veterans' service committees for use by veterans for rehabilitation purposes. Your friend might want to check with his local veterans organizations to see if they will take the deer hides off his hands.
Q: If I own 1,000 acres and there is a pond in the middle, can game wardens drive across my land on private roads just to see if someone is fishing?
A: Wardens can enter if they believe hunting or fishing is occurring. According to Northern California Chief Mike Carion, if there is a violation in progress, they can drive in even if that means cutting a lock. However, for routine checks, if it is locked up, they enter on foot. If the road is open, they drive in.
Q: If I am spear fishing during the day and I see a lobster, can I pick it up? Or will DFG think I'm using my spear gun when I'm really not?
A: Lobsters can only be taken by hand or in baited hoop nets and it is illegal to use or possess any hooked devices while diving or attempting to dive for crustaceans. Given this, if your spear has floppers on the tip when folded out, it is a hooked device and is illegal. Though you may intend to use your spear only for spearing fish and not as a tool to help persuade a shy lobster to come out of the safety of its cozy cave or crevice, you should do your spear fishing and lobster diving on separate dives. When you do dive for lobsters, don't forget to carry a measuring gauge, too.
Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Send questions to: CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.