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If you want to hunt animals in California, you need a hunting license from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). No matter how much of an experienced hunter you are, having an authentic hunting license is the only way you can legally begin hunting in California.
Whether a resident or a non-resident, you need to apply for an annual California hunting license or two-day hunting license after completing California’s hunter education course.
The duration of this course is usually a minimum of 10 hours of classroom, field instructions, and homework. The CDFW provides a list of hunting licenses with varying fee ranges and requirements.
So, go through this detailed post to clear all the legal checks before starting to fill your bag with Californian fish, birds, or mammals.
Any person (resident and non-resident) willing to take birds or mammals in California must have a hunting license. According to the Fish and Game Code, Section 86, hunters need to carry their hunting licenses when they are hunting and always show them on request.
The law defines “take” as hunt, capture, catch, pursue, or kill, or any attempt to hunt, capture, catch, pursue, or kill.
Section 70 of the same law defines “residents” as “a person who has lived in California consecutively for 6 months or more just before the date of their hunting license application, any active military person in the Armed Forces of the US or auxiliary branch, or a person enrolled in the Job Corps established under Section 2883 of the US Code Title 29.”
Many US states require hunters to have formal education in firearms management to qualify for legal hunting. California obliges hunter education training for every person who does not have:
To be legally qualified for hunting, hunters need to apply for an annual California hunting license or a two-day, non-resident hunting license. Whether a resident, non-resident, or junior, hunters must have one of the below items as evidence of fulfilling California’s hunter education requirements:
Upon completing your online-registered hunter education course, your certificate number automatically adds to your CDFW customer profile when your instructor uploads the results.
However, suppose your hunter education certificate is from any other US state or was issued before the online registration requirement (2016). In that case, you need to add it in one of the following ways:
The response email will ask you to upload the following documentation:
Hunters can purchase hunting licenses online or from any CDFW License Sales Office or a license agent. Here are all types of hunting licenses you can buy in California:
It is required for every 16-year-old resident or older who takes mammals or birds.
It is mandatory for every non-resident in California aged 16 years or older who takes mammals or birds.
It is required for every resident or non-resident aged below 16 years who takes mammals or birds at the start of the license year (July 1).
It is required only for non-residents who take resident and migratory game birds on licensed domesticated migratory game bird shooting areas (federal duck stamp and validation are also required) or licensed game bird clubs (upland game bird validation is also needed).
It allows a 16-year-old or above non-resident to take resident and migratory game birds, nongame mammals, resident small game mammals, and furbearers for 2 consecutive days maximum.
These hunters would need additional validations and tags for certain species. Remember that this license is not valid for taking deer, pronghorn antelope, bear, pig elk, or bighorn sheep.
Fees: $8.24 at CDFW Offices, $8.64 from a license agent
It is available, particularly for every disabled veteran resident or non-resident who has been discharged with honor with a 50% or higher service-connected disability. You need to prequalify for an initial disabled veteran reduced-fee hunting license to purchase this license.
Fees: $8.24 at CDFW Offices, $8.64 from licensed agents
It is only available to a recovering service member who is a part of the armed forces, including a National Guard member or a Reserve undergoing medical treatment, recovery, or therapy and is currently in an outpatient condition while being treated for a severe injury or illness associated with the member’s military service.
You need to prequalify for a recovering service member reduced-fee hunting license to purchase this license.
If you lose or misplace your current hunting license, you can easily obtain a duplicate online, at CDFW License Sales Offices, and through licensed agents.
California hunting licenses don’t specify a minimum age requirement for purchasing one as long as the applicant has valid proof of hunter education.
The annual hunting license remains valid from July 1 through June 30. However, if you’ve purchased it after July 1, it will stay valid for the rest of the license year. You can also buy a lifetime hunting license. Get more information from the CDFW’s official website.
California has a strict set of rules for obtaining a hunting license. Therefore, you need to enroll in a hunting education course to qualify for a California hunting license. The course only goes for 10 hours and enlightens the student with firearms safety and management, wildlife management and conservation, wildlife identification, sportsmanship and ethics, archery, black powder, first aid, game care, and survival.
The good news is that there is no age requirement for having a hunting license. The state also allows everyone, whether residents or non-residents, to start hunting without much trouble. Ensure you meet all the criteria mentioned above to stay safe from legal worries.
Featured Image Credit: Steve Oehlenschlager, Shutterstock
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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