Question: I have some questions about mule deer and black-tail deer. How often does a deer have to drink water? How far will they travel to get water? How far from a water source will they go? What time of year do the bucks rut in the San Diego area? Thanks for any help with this. (Ed S., San Diego)

Answer: Water demands for deer in California (or anywhere else) depend on many factors, so the answers may not be as straightforward as your question, which is usually the case when dealing with biological/management issues related to wildlife.

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Carrie Wilson

According to Department of Fish & Game deer program coordinator Craig Stowers, the season, local climate conditions and the moisture content of available forage are probably the most important factors. Deer that inhabit moist, cool regions and feed on forbs and/or other vegetation with high moisture content will require less water than those deer that inhabit desert regions and feed primarily on brushy vegetation.

The literature we’re familiar with indicates that deer inhabiting southeastern Oregon drank only about 0.8 gallons of water per day, while desert mule deer in Arizona drank on the average about 6.3 gallons of water per day. Typically, deer will drink water once or twice a day.

Stowers says more studies are available on the distance deer will travel for water. The literature indicates that 1.5 to three miles is about the maximum distance most will travel for water. Water is indeed a limiting factor in the distribution of deer. Much work has been done on this in California and other Western states to provide artificial water sources (guzzlers), which have helped to expand or open up otherwise unsuitable habitat, as well as to help increase local deer density.

Deer in the San Diego area are typically in rut (breeding season) during September/October, which is much earlier than in other herds located in the northern portion of the state. The peak of their rut probably occurs sometime around mid-October.

Question: If I am diving with my speargun and hunting for fish, but then happen to see a lobster walking along the sand, is it legal for me to grab it? In other words, is it legal for me while out diving for the purpose to spear fish to also take lobsters on the same dive if I happen to encounter them? (Mike P.)

Answer: Lobsters may be taken only by hand or in baited hoop nets. 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, an argument could be made that your spear may be a hooked device. The game warden would have the final determination.

Even though you may intend to use your spear only for spearing fish and not as a tool to assist in persuading a shy lobster to come out of the safety of its cozy cave or crevice, just to be on the safe side, you should probably do your spearfishing and lobster diving on separate dives.

Question: I’m a little confused regarding gifting fish and whether the person who receives the gift can be cited for being in possession of an overlimit. Let’s say some lucky fellow has 10 friends who each gift him one limit of fish. This person doesn’t have a fishing license but because of the generosity of his friends, he is now in possession of 10 limits of fish with some in his freezer. Would he be in violation? If he doesn’t hold a fishing license, would he even be signatory to the conditions of the regulations? (Robert S.)

Answer: Good question. However, the regulations are clear on possession limits whether the fish are gifted or caught by a licensed individual. The definition for “Bag and Possession Limit” provides that no more than one daily bag limit of each kind of fish, amphibian, reptile, mollusk or crustacean named in these regulations may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized; regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen or otherwise preserved (Title 14, CCR, Section 1.17).

The wording “any one person” includes anyone, licensed or not, and doesn’t necessarily apply to anglers who caught the fish.

Question: My son and I will be fishing the lobster opener together (a family tradition) with hoop nets, and then cooking up whatever we catch on the barbecue that night for friends and family. Since my son is just 15 years old, I know he still doesn’t need a fishing license, but what about this new lobster report card? Will he need to buy his own report card? Or can he wait until next year when he buys his fishing license? Or should he list any bugs he catches while with me on my card? (Daniel C., Oceanside)

Answer: Both lobster report cards and abalone report cards now require that everyone pursuing either of these invertebrates must purchase their own report cards. This now goes for those younger than 15 who are not required to have a California fishing license.

In addition, opening day of lobster season this year (Sept. 27) also falls on the DFG’s second free fishing day of the year when people may fish without having to buy a sport fishing license. While no license may be required on this date, everyone who will be pursuing spiny lobsters, sturgeon or abalone must still have or purchase the respective report cards and fill them out as usual when pursuing any of these species.

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Her DFG-related question-and-answer column appears weekly at She can be reached at