Wilson: It's not fair — or legal — to hunt near a watering hole

Question: I have a question about hunting big game around watering holes or guzzlers in northeastern California. I see tree stands and even camps around many of them, but some of my friends say these are illegal. Are there any restrictions as to how close you can be?

-- Ken

Answer: Generally, it is illegal to hunt within 200 yards of watering holes (or wildlife watering places) while on public lands or within a quarter mile of specified wildlife watering places (wells) in Lassen and Modoc counties. The regulations regarding wildlife watering places specifically prohibit "establishing or inhabiting a camp; resting; picnicking; sleeping; parking or inhabiting any motor vehicle or trailer; hunting; or engaging in any other recreational activity for a period of more than 30 minutes at a given location."

Wildlife watering places are waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices (guzzlers), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size. Game Warden Jason Chance says an ethical hunter should treat watering holes the same as bait piles, knowing there is no fair chase or challenge in hunting animals around waterholes or guzzlers.

Q: Is it legal to take female Dungeness crab in California during the season? I was sure it was illegal but could not find anything in the regulations confirming this.

-- Walt D.

A: Sport fishermen can keep female Dungeness crabs; it's only commercial crabbers who are required to discard them. Though females can be retained by sport fishermen, the crabs are often smaller in size and have smaller pincers (and less meat altogether) so many fishermen choose to let them go. The larger females that meet or exceed the minimum size limit can also produce the most young, so many people feel it is a good investment in the fishery to keep only the males and to let the females go.

Q: My son and I fish from our private boat almost exclusively and keep our sport fishing licenses aboard. On rare occasions we will attempt to fish without the boat and a few times have forgotten to bring our licenses. To prevent us from mistakenly being without our fishing licenses, can we show a photo copy or can the DFG issue more than one copy to a sport fisherman?

-- Murray C.

A: Good questions, but the answers to both are no. You must have a valid fishing license in your possession when fishing and you must present it to a game warden upon request. Additionally, only one license may be issued to a person per year.

Q: Are there any restrictions on importing buffalo hides or buffalo art productions into California?

A: American buffalo (Bison bison) are considered a domestic breed of bovine (like cattle, goats and sheep) and thus no Fish and Game laws regulate them. American buffalo hides are not restricted by DFG and so they may be imported or possessed as long as they were obtained legally. However, the live importation of other species of true buffalo (e.g. African Cape Buffalo and Asian Water Buffalo) or their hides is restricted by law.

Q: If I hunt deer with a 30-30, can I carry a .22 pistol at the same time (not to shoot deer)? And if I wound a deer with the .30-30, can I finish off the wounded deer with the .22?

-- John D.

A: Yes and no. Though it might be legal to carry a .22 pistol while hunting deer during an open rifle season, a .22 caliber rim-fire rifle is not legal for the take of deer. Being in possession of an illegal method of take will certainly cause a great deal of suspicion if a game warden questions you. Since you are not allowed to use it to finish off the deer, it would be best to not carry it at all.

Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Send questions to: CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star