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Outdoors Q&A: Why Doesn’t California Use Doe Hunts?

Read on for answers to your questions about state regulations on hunting and fishing.

Question: I know that many states incorporate a managed doe hunt as a method of controlling numbers and the health of deer populations. I have read literature regarding the benefits of removing older (past fawn-bearing years) female deer from populations. Why does California manage deer only through buck harvests? (David M.)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: The Busch Bill was passed in 1958 giving the authority to have antlerless deer hunts to the Boards of Supervisors in 37 of California’s 58 counties — and many of those 37 counties contain some of the state’s best deer hunting.

The Department of Fish & Game is required to notify the Boards of Supervisors of any planned antlerless hunts by Dec. 15 of each year. Once doing so, the Board of Supervisors in each county is then required to hold a public hearing to receive the information from DFG to justify the hunt, and to receive testimony from the public regarding the proposal. The process often ends at this point because of negative public perceptions and opinions requesting that no antlerless hunts be allowed.

While good science supports the use of doe or antlerless hunts as a valid deer population management tool, and although these hunts provide additional hunting opportunities, they also can be highly controversial. In many counties, emotions on the subject run high and public opinion often will not support the hunts. Thus, since members of the Boards of Supervisors are elected public officials who must answer to constituents, so supervisors often will reject any proposed antlerless hunts when the majority of public sentiment is negative.

“Sound data and scientific justifications support holding such hunts,” said Craig Stowers, senior wildlife biologist and deer management supervisor. “California’s deer population is now heavily skewed toward the female portion of the population, and amongst that group it is skewed toward older females. Until the time comes when DFG receives authority to offer these doe or antlerless hunts again, we will continue to see the pattern that has developed over the last 50 years.”

Question: We are taking a weekend camping trip to Mendocino, where we are planning to spend the first day free diving for abalone and the second diving with scuba gear and spearfishing. I am worried about our trip back when hopefully we will have abalone and spearfishing diving gear in the car. Will that be a problem? I’ve been told that having scuba gear and abalone in a car together is not prohibited, but I don’t want it to be misinterpreted. Just to be sure, should we drive two cars with abalone in one and the dive gear in the other? This would, however, create another possible problem because we would have six abalones in one car and it’s a four-hour drive. What should we do to be sure we aren’t unfairly cited? (Jack T.)

Answer: The regulations only prohibit having abalone and scuba gear together aboard a boat or vessel (Section 29.15[e] states “... abalone may not be taken or possessed aboard any boat, vessel, or floating device in the water containing SCUBA or surface-supplied air.”). The regulations do not mention anything about abalone and scuba gear in a car together, therefore there would be no violation committed. You should be aware that you most likely will be scrutinized if contacted by a warden who will be trying to ascertain if the abalone were taken legally.

As for the six abalone in one car, remember that each person may have only three in their possession. If you drive two cars, each person should have their own abalone with the required license, tags and paperwork with them in their car.

Question: Is it legal to relocate wild ducks and ducklings that have taken up residence on your property? (Nancy and Keith C.)

Answer: Wild ducks fall under the jurisdiction of the Migratory Bird Treat Act, and you are not supposed to move them without the proper permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

If you can be patient, the best thing to do would be to just leave them alone for now and don’t feed them, as this may cause them to want to continue hanging around. Instead, if you can give them a little time until the ducklings get large enough to fly, then the hen and her brood most likely will just pack up and leave on their own for more open water.

Question: Can I pick up and keep a shed antler if I find one in the woods?

Answer: That wouldn’t be a crime, although it is frowned upon by many biologists. Rodents consume the antlers a tiny bite at a time to gain valuable calcium. Everything in nature is recycled!

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 [email protected]

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