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How to Get a Hunting License in California – What You Need to Know!

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hunter holding pheasant bird
Image Credit: Steve Oehlenschlager, Shutterstock

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.

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Who Needs a Hunting License?

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.”

two man hunting birds in the wild
Image Credit: Steve Ikeguchi, Shutterstock

Who Needs Hunter Education?

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:

  • A formerly held California hunting license
  • Formal hunting education or certification
  • A current hunting license or a license issued during the two previous hunting years from any US state or province
man hunting in the wild
Image Credit: jackmac34, Pixabay

What Are the Requirements to Get a Hunting License in California?

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:

  • An annual California hunting license, issued in any prior year
  • A two-day, non-resident California hunting license, issued after the 1999/2000 license year
  • A California Certificate of Hunter Education completion or equivalent evidence with a unique imprinted number on the document, or a California hunter education certificate with no unique imprinted number and an affixed validation stamp of California hunter education
  • A California-approved hunter education course completion certificate from any US state or province
  • A current hunting license or a license issued within the 2 previous years from any US state and province or European country and South Africa.
Hunter aiming at target
Image Credit: Robert Nyholm, Shutterstock

How to Add a Hunter Education Certificate to CDFW Customer Profile

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:

  • Contact any CDFW License Agent or CDFW Sales Office.
  • Fax it to (916) 419-7585.
  • Request a “secure document upload link” from [email protected]. Soon, you will get a response email with a link to securely upload the required documentation. Keep in mind to never send your documents directly via email.

Required Documentation

The response email will ask you to upload the following documentation:

  • Any accurate personal identification, such as a driver’s license or state ID card. If you’re below 18, you can use a birth certificate or your Guardian’s ID document.
  • GO ID for existing customers (a permanent CDFW number imprinted on your every license)
  • An authentic form of Hunter education (listed above)
Father and son hunting with binoculars
Image credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

What Type of Hunting Licenses are Available?

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:

Resident Hunting

Fee: $54.00

It is required for every 16-year-old resident or older who takes mammals or birds.

Non-Resident Hunting License

Fee: $188.74

It is mandatory for every non-resident in California aged 16 years or older who takes mammals or birds.

Image Credit: mtorben, Pixabay

Junior Hunting License

Fee: $14.30

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).

One-Day Non-Resident Hunting License

Fee: $25.92

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).

Two-Day Non-Resident Hunting License

Fee: $54.00

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.

hunter carrying a turkey
Image Credit: Beau Leyse, Shutterstock

Disabled Veteran Reduced-Fee Hunting License

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.

Recovering Service Member Reduced-Fee Hunting 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.

Duplicate Hunting License

Fee: $11.62

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.

three elk hunters
Image Credit: melissamn, Shutterstock

What Is the Minimum Age to Purchase a Hunting License?

California hunting licenses don’t specify a minimum age requirement for purchasing one as long as the applicant has valid proof of hunter education.

How Long Does a Hunting License Stay Valid?

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.

scope crosshairs divider 2 The Bottom Line

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

About the Author Robert Sparks

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.