Outdoors: A gun among bow hunters will attract warden's attention

Question: I know that you can hunt pigs all year. I also know that if you are hunting deer during archery season, you cannot have any firearms with your archery equipment while out in the field. If I am out hunting with my friends, but I am hunting pigs with my gun while they are archery hunting for deer, is it legal for me to carry my gun with me while my buddies are bow hunting if we are in the same hunting area? Will a game warden cite us or be overly suspicious because we would have a mixture of hunting equipment in our possession during archery season, even though we have a non-deer hunter in our group? Thanks. — Tim P.

Answer: This is an age-old scenario that we hear often. According to assistant chief Mike Carion, while you are not prohibited from carrying a firearm because you are not an "archer," if you claim to be hunting pigs with your firearm during an archery-only deer season, you may draw the attention of a game warden.

If you are seen with archery deer hunters and you are carrying a firearm, and you are doing anything that could be defined as "hunting, pursuing, catching, capturing or killing'" deer, there is a good chance you will be cited for taking or attempting to take deer without a tag, and hunting with a firearm during an archery season.

Simply claiming you are hunting pig, coyote, ground squirrel or something else does not protect you from prosecution. So be sure your actions are consistent with the intended legal game you are hunting, that the game is obviously found in the area, and that you are carrying the correct tags and ammunition for the game you are pursuing.

There are people who take advantage of these situations, so game wardens pay close attention to mixed hunting groups. And by carrying a firearm you will be putting yourself and your group in the spotlight.

Q: Is it legal to spearfish at night? If so, what fish can be taken? This sounds intriguing to me since I enjoy night diving and it would give me another activity to enjoy while doing so. But I want to stay within the law. Just to be clear, I would be diving along the North Coast. — Anonymous

A: Generally, Fish and Game laws allow fish to be taken at night in all ocean waters that are open during the day, and by all methods authorized for day use. If it's legal to take fish in a specific area during the day with a spear, it's legal at night. Areas of the ocean in which spear fishing is prohibited include Marine Protected Areas and anywhere within 200 yards of the mouth of any stream. Taking fish with a spear is not allowed in inland waters of the North Coast Fishing District at any time.

Q: At what age can kids first take a hunter safety course, go on their first hunt, and what can they hunt for? — Bill A.

A: Since the Department of Fish and Game is a state agency, it can not discriminate by age. According to Capt. Roy Griffith of our Hunter Education Program, it is up to the parent or guardian to decide when their child has the maturity and upper body strength to safely manipulate a firearm. A junior hunter needs to attend a Hunter Education class and take a written test. Once juniors have passed the test, they can get a license and hunt any legal species (except big game, if they are under age 12; at 12, they can apply for big-game tags).

Q: If I have five trout on my stringer, can I continue to fish if I don't keep more than the five-fish bag limit? — Don B.

A: Good question, but the answer is no. The definition of "take" is to "hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill..." Therefore, catch-and-release fishing is not legal unless you're still under your bag limit.

Wilson writes for the Department of Fish & Game. Send questions to: CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.