Question: I need reading glasses to fill out my abalone tags, and so do my friends. We used to be able to fill out the cards at the car, which was fine. With the new tags and regulations, we are required to fill out the tags as soon as we leave the water, but we can’t see the fine print on the tags to fill them out. Our glasses are expensive and we have no way of bringing them with us when we dive. What can we do? (David Gaon)

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Carrie Wilson

Answer: I can understand the challenges presented by small print and the difficulty you describe in trying to bring that very small print into focus without assistance. Unfortunately, there are no alternatives in the new regulations for either the diver or the game wardens. The report cards must be filled out immediately once coming ashore or boarding a boat.

The good news is that the tags and report cards are being redesigned for use next year in an effort to make them more user friendly. Hopefully, that will include larger print. In the meantime, you might want to consider including nonprescription reading glasses and/or a small magnifying glass in your dive bag. Either can be purchased at many convenience stores for less than $15. At least with these you would not have to risk losing or breaking your prescription glasses, and you will be able to comply with the regulations to legally continue taking abalone.

Question: I have been invited to accompany my grandson (and a guide) on a wild boar or deer hunting trip in California. I would like to go on this hunt with him. If I were to go simply as an observer, not as a hunter, do I need a California hunting license? If I carry my .45 revolver strictly as a backup weapon, do I need such a license? (H. Janin V., France)

Answer: According to Department of Fish & Game retired Capt. Phil Nelms, a hunting license is not required to accompany a person into the field as an observer. However, if you are carrying a weapon capable of taking game and you are with someone who is hunting, it can be assumed you are hunting and a license is required. Leaving the weapon behind while your grandson is hunting is the best way to reduce the risk of being prosecuted for hunting without a license.

Question: I recently found a small hawk in my front yard that had been attacked by another bird (it ripped its head off). The dead hawk has bands on each leg. I have the bird frozen and would like to know where to turn in the bands and to receive information on the species and where it was banded. Do I send the whole bird or just the bands? (Dennis P., Alameda)

Answer: You will not need to send the bird or the bands anywhere. Banding information for migratory birds is compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey through its Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. You should be able to report the banded bird directly to its National Bird Band Laboratory at 800.327.BAND (2263), or send information through its Web site at Once you report the band information and fill in the questionnaires, it will be able to provide you with basic banding information on the bird you are reporting, including the state or province where the bird was banded, the date it was banded and the species.

Question: Why are we being charged $7.90 for the lobster report cards to gather information for the government? Why is the report card not good for a full year like the fishing license? (Ray C.)

Answer: The report card is good for a calendar year just like the fishing license. However, since there was late implementation on this first card, the 2008 card is good only through Dec. 31. Next year’s card will be good for all of 2009.

We’re not making money on the report card. We’re paying for printing, distribution and administration costs (including entering the return card data). We’re trying to determine how many recreational lobster fishermen there really are and how successful they are. If we can’t answer basic questions such as these, California anglers may be forced to purchase the federal fishing license in the future.

Question: I have an arrow rifle that’s powered by CO2 high-pressured gas that I’ve had for the past 15 years. It’s not a crossbow. I thought it would be cool to hunt with it but didn’t see anything in your regulations about it. Can I hunt with it? It was made for SWAT teams or something, I don’t know. (Wes H.)

Answer: No. The weapon you describe would not be legal for taking fish or wildlife in California.

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