Question: We were hunting doves in Imperial County recently when the game wardens came in asking for inspections. I set my 12-gauge shotgun on the hood of the car, gave the officer my hunting license, and then went back to check the guns to make sure they were unloaded. The officer stopped me and told me not to touch any gun at that point. He then checked the guns and found both my gun on top of the hood and another gun leaning on the front hood were loaded. I was given a ticket for Fish and Game Code Section 2006 "loaded gun in a vehicle." I tried to argue that my gun was not "in" the vehicle but "on" the vehicle, but the officer said I have to argue in court.
Is this a valid citation? Was the officer in a position not to allow me to have a chance to unload our firearms before his inspection? Do you have any court cases regarding loaded guns on top of the vehicle? I plan to plead not guilty on the charge. — Grace C.
Answer: The situation you describe did warrant a citation. According to game warden Todd Tognazzini, when a vehicle is on or alongside a public roadway, guns placed in or on a vehicle or its attachments cannot be loaded.
The origin of this law came from a 1972 Attorney General's Opinion. There is much discourse within the opinion, but the final paragraph sums the information: "a violation does occur ... when a person in possession of a loaded rifle or shotgun places such loaded weapon on the hood, fender or top of a motor vehicle, or in the bed or cargo carrying space or a pickup truck or its attachments thereto, when such vehicle is standing on or along a public highway or other way open to the public."
Placing the loaded gun on the hood of the car is very dangerous and could lead to an accidental discharge if the gun slipped off the hood. Game wardens must always consider their own safety and are trained not to allow a person to handle firearms until they are confirmed unloaded. Yours were loaded.
The warden followed the law in writing the citation.
Q: Can you please describe the legal and proper way to measure a fish, particularly largemouth bass? Is it with an open mouth, closed mouth, fanned tail or pinched tail? I would appreciate some fish measuring guidelines to determine whether a catch is legal. — Rick B.
A: The first rule when measuring fish is to lay the fish flat on its side and always pinch the mouth closed. All freshwater fish, including largemouth bass, are measured to total length. This is the longest straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. The most accurate method is to place the fish's snout against a perpendicular surface and then measure along the intersecting horizontal surface to the end of the tail. Don't measure using a flexible "tape" over the fish itself or you will be given a longer false reading. All freshwater fish are measured this way.
On the ocean side, most saltwater fish with minimum size limits are measured to total length, but there are some that are measured to fork length instead (bonito, albacore, barracuda and yellowtail). Fork length is the straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the center of the tail fin (CCR Section 1.62). So again, lay the fish flat on its side, pinch the mouth closed and take your measurement from the tip of the head to the center of the fork of the tail. These are the only two measurements you need to know for the purposes of regulations.
Q: While hunting pheasants, once I shoot my limit can I give one of my birds to another hunter and continue hunting? — Jerry
A: No. Once you reach your bag limit you are finished hunting for the day. You can give your birds away to other hunters but that does not allow you to continue hunting.
Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Send questions to: CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov