Saturday, November 28 , 2015, 9:55 am | Fair 57º

Outdoors Q&A: Nonhunters Retrieving Game

To avoid raising red flags with a game warden, plan ahead to take the whole carcass immediately out of the field

John Nores with a 350-pound black bear from the northern Sierras.
John Nores with a 350-pound black bear from the northern Sierras.  (California Department of Fish & Game photo)

By Carrie Wilson |

Q: I went hunting with my brother-in-law recently. He was hunting for bear, and I was hunting for mountain quail and gray squirrels. He had a bear tag; I didn’t. Fortunately, he was lucky enough to shoot a nice one that was 200 to 250 pounds. At the time, we were unable to take the whole bear home, so he decapitated the bear, stuffed the head in his backpack and gave me about 50 pounds of meat to take home in my backpack. We left the rest of the body there and agreed to go back for it later.

Carrie Wilson
Carrie Wilson

When we got home, he asked me and his brother to pick up the rest of the body because he had to go to work. I refused because I thought it would be illegal since I was not the shooter. He told me it should be all right and that if I was stopped by the Department of Fish & Game, I should just call him at work to verify the kill. I still didn’t go. In this situation, could I have been cited for taking the bear meat without the shooter being present? (Alex V.)

A: If you accompany a person in the field who is legally hunting bear and you have a firearm, archery equipment or other means capable of taking a bear, then it is reasonable to assume you are also taking bear. In addition, you also could be cited if you don’t have a valid bear tag of your own. Your explanation that you were hunting squirrels most likely would not be acceptable to a game warden, especially given that you helped transport some of the bear.

According to Assistant Chief Mike McBride, by leaving much of the bear carcass in the field as your brother-in-law did, he risked having the meat spoil, which would be a violation of the Fish & Game law that prohibits wasting game (CCR Title 14 Section 4304). You and/or another person returning the next day to retrieve the remainder would not have been a violation unless you also brought firearms or another method of take. A warden would consider your possession of a firearm to be prima facie evidence — meaning that the facts of the situation appear to be self-evident to a reasonable person — that you illegally took the bear pursuant to Fish & Game Code Section 2000.

At the time a bear is shot, the bear tag must be validated and immediately attached to the ear of the bear. If that was done and you had with you 1) a copy of the original tag showing it had been properly filled out and validated, 2) a copy of your brother-in-law’s license and all contact information for him, and 3) a note authorizing you to retrieve the remainder of the animal for him, you probably would have had sufficient evidence to prevent you from being cited (a counter-signature from DFG on the tag would be even better).

Be aware that the whole scenario would send up red flags to any game warden, and we would expect him or her to fully investigate the situation. Hunters who can allocate time to kill an animal also must plan ahead and allocate appropriate time to take it completely out of the field.

In short, we do not recommend what your brother-in-law proposed, but it can be done legally if reasonable decisions are made and appropriate methods utilized. In hindsight, your brother-in-law should have been prepared to transport the bear out immediately.

Why No Fishing in San Francisco Bay at Night?

Q: Why is it unlawful to fish from a boat at night in San Francisco Bay? I’ve asked several people, but nobody knows. It could be a safety issue because of the large container ships, but the large container ships travel upriver into Sacramento and Stockton, too. Could it be the ferries?

A: Yes, conflicts with other vessel traffic is the most likely reason. CCR Title 14 Section 27.56 states that “there are no closed seasons, closed hours or minimum size limits on fin fish in the Pacific Ocean, including all saltwater bays except that in San Francisco Bay between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Carquinez Bridge and in saltwater tributaries to the bay ... Fin fish may not be taken between one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise except from shore or piers.” The earliest reference we could find for this restriction was the 1959 CCR Title14 Section 55.

— Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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