Carrie Wilson


Question:  I am 17 years old and have my hunter education certification and license. I am wondering if it is legal for me to hunt by myself with a rifle or shotgun, without adult supervision. (O.R.)

Answer: For the most part, yes, it is legal, except for a few apprentice hunts the California Department Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hosts that require an adult chaperone. Pay attention to the hunt details if you are applying to different apprentice hunts, also known as junior hunts. If there are such restrictions, it will be noted in the application information.

We’re happy that you have taken the time and have the interest to pass your hunter education course and take up hunting. Although you are legally permitted to hunt on your own, we encourage you to go out with experienced hunters and soak up everything they have to teach you. There are many skills you need to develop – everything from hunting methods, to game care to cooking techniques. The fastest way to learn is to spend time with others who already have the expertise. And as you progress through your education, gain experience and develop confidence as a hunter, we hope you’ll encourage your friends to do the same. Maybe one day you can be their mentor.

Crabbing from a public pier — do you need marked buoy?

Question: The regulations say crab traps must possess a buoy and each buoy must be legibly marked with the trap operator’s GO ID number as stated on his or her sport fishing license. If I’m fishing my crab trap off a pier (not a boat), am I still required to use a buoy with a GO ID? (Alvin)

Answer: There are several gear types that can be used for crabbing on a public pier. Crab traps are rigid in structure and require a destruct device and escape ports and are only allowed north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County. These traps are required to have a buoy marked with a the operator’s GO ID number. A hoop net is differentiated from a crab trap by being comprised of one to three rigid rings connected to soft mesh material. If deployed south of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara, this gear type is required to have a buoy marked with the operator’s GO ID number unless the trap is deployed from shore or a man-made structure like a public pier.

Crab loop traps (aka crab snares) are generally operated on a fishing rod-type implement and don’t require a buoy.

More details on these gear provisions can be found in California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.80.

Submitting photos for publication?

Question: Proud mom here! I took some great photos of my daughter after her first successful deer hunt last season. I am wondering if you accept photos for publication. (Amy)

Answer: Congratulations to your daughter! And yes, CDFW does use photos submitted by hunters and anglers in the Big Game Hunting Digest, regulations books and other publications. Images considered for publication must be high-resolution TIFF or JPEG files, or prints that have been produced by a commercial quality photo processor. For big game photos, the animal must be in a natural setting (not in the bed of a pickup, for example) and properly tagged. Photos of non-tagged animals will not be considered. Please scan your photos and send them to

Dealing with bothersome woodpeckers

Question: Is it legal to hunt and kill woodpeckers? We’ve had woodpeckers peck holes in our house siding. We’ve tried metal flashing, attack spiders and foil tape. Next, we will try bird houses and feeders, fake hawks and fake snakes. As a last resort, if the law allows, I may want to shoot these birds. It sounds like they are considered non-game birds and are federally protected? (Josh)

Answer: Thank you for reaching out. You are correct that woodpeckers are protected under various state and federal laws that prohibit take, including Fish and Game Code, sections 3800 and 3513, and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Two species of woodpeckers — the Gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) and Gilded northern flicker (Colaptesauratuschrysoides) are also protected under the California Endangered Species Act, and thus may not be taken.

If the woodpeckers continue causing damage to your property you may take reasonable action to deter them from making holes as long as the activity does not result in take of the bird, its nest, or its eggs. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which published a Q&A to provide guidance on this question with respect to federal law, the best approach is to begin damage control as soon as you begin hearing the drumming on your house. Any holes should be filled in and painted over immediately. Physical exclusion (by putting up netting on the side of your house) can also be very effective.

Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at

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