CDFW Seeks Authority to Refund Elk, Pronghorn Tags for Areas Impacted by Wildfires, Forest Closures

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pursuing a regulation change that would allow elk and pronghorn (antelope) hunters whose seasons were cut short or eliminated due to wildfires and forest closures to receive a refund of their 2020 tag fees along with a restoration of their preference points used to acquire their tags. Eligible hunters would also receive an additional preference point for elk or pronghorn for the 2020 season.

“We need to do right by these hunters who have lost most if not all of their hunting opportunity in 2020 due to these unprecedented forest closures and wildfires,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These are expensive tags that can take many years – sometimes a lifetime – to draw. Refunding tag fees and restoring preference points is the least we can do for this group that does so much to fund our scientific research and conservation of these iconic California species.”

The proposed change to the California Code of Regulations must be approved by the California Fish and Game Commission. On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Commission’s Wildlife Resources Committee approved the proposed regulation concept, which is expected to be taken up by the full Commission in December and if approved, would go into effect in April 2021.

The proposed regulation identifies 14 elk hunts and two pronghorn hunts whose tag holders would be eligible for a refund of tag fees and a restoration of their preference points after submitting their unused tag along with a signed statement that they were unable to hunt for the entire season or a significant portion of the season due to the statewide closure of national forests and other affected lands as a result of the September 2020 wildfires.

The 14 elk hunts eligible for tag refunds would be:

  • Marble Mountains Either-Sex Apprentice (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Northeastern California Archery Either Sex (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 2-13
  • Marble Mountains Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Marble Mountain Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Northwestern California Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24
  • Northwestern California Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24
  • Siskiyou Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Siskiyou Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • East Park Reservoir Antlerless (Tule), Sept. 5-Oct. 1
  • East Park Reservoir Bull (Tule), Sept. 5-Oct. 1
  • Lake Pillsbury Period 1 Antlerless (Tule), Sept.9-18
  • Northeastern California Either-Sex Apprentice (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 16-27
  • Northeastern California Bull (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 16-27
  • Northwestern California Either-Sex (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24

The two pronghorn hunts eligible for tag refunds would be:

  • Zone 4 Lassen Period 2 General Buck, Sept. 5-13
  • Zone 3 Likely Tables Period 2 General Buck, Sept. 5-13

The proposed regulation does not include a refund for deer tag holders, whose hunting seasons generally are longer and whose tags are less expensive. Some premium deer tags may be returned to CDFW with a request to have preference points reinstated and one preference point awarded for the species for the current hunt year prior to the season opening. Tag return and preference point eligibility requirements and additional information is available on CDFW’s website.

A California resident elk tag costs $461.50, not including application and processing fees. A California resident pronghorn tag costs $155.27, not including application and processing fees. Application and processing fees would not be eligible for refunds. Hunting license fees similarly cannot be refunded.

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Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

California’s National Forests Temporarily Close Due to Wildfires; Hunters and Recreational Users are Urged to Stay Away

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, the U.S. Forest Service announced the temporary closure of all national forests in California due to unprecedented and historic fire conditions. These properties are closed to the public, effective immediately, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is urging hunters to follow the order and keep away.

“We know that hunting opportunities will be impacted throughout the state, but no hunting opportunity is worth a human life,” said Chief David Bess, Deputy Director and CDFW Law Enforcement Division Chief.

California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 708(2)(b) prohibits CDFW from refunding deer tag application fees, but refunds may be issued for select elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep tags. Additionally, some premium deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep tags may be returned to CDFW with a request to have preference points reinstated and one preference point awarded for the species for the current hunt year. Tag return and preference point eligibility requirements and additional information may be found on CDFW’s website.

CDFW will continue to monitor and close areas as needed. National forests and evacuation zones will remain closed until authorities allow them to re-open. Because the situation is rapidly changing, CDFW strongly encourages hunters to use the following links to research closures and open areas prior to leaving for any hunt:

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Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

Small gray bird standing on fence post.

September 2020 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

All calendar items are subject to change as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various Days — General Bear Season Opening in Select Deer Zones. General black bear season will open concurrently with the general deer hunting season in deer zones A, B, C, D, X8, X9a, X9b, X10 and X12 and extend through Dec. 27. Please note these deer zones have varying opening season dates. General season for black bears opens in deer hunting zones X1-7b on Oct. 10 and extends through Dec. 27. CDFW shall close the season earlier if 1,700 bears have been reported taken. For daily updates on reported bear harvest, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/bear or call toll-free (888) 277-6398. Please visit fgc.ca.gov/regulations/current/mammals for a description of the current mammal hunting regulations. Tooth collection is not required this year, but all hunters must present their bear head and get their tag validated by CDFW personnel.

1­ — Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Spotted Dove and Ringed Turtle Dove Early Season Opens. Season extends through Sept. 15. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

5 — Free Fishing Day. The second of two Free Fishing Days being offered by CDFW in 2020 is scheduled Sept. 5. While all fishing regulations – such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures – remain in effect, anyone can fish without purchasing a fishing license on Free Fishing Days. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days.

5 — Weaving Yesterdays: A Live History Series Virtual Event, 1 to 1:30 p.m. Reserve naturalists and historians will host a Facebook Live series exploring the cultural heritage of Elkhorn Slough. At 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, participants will hear the backstory of a new location around the area. Please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/weaving-yesterdays-a-live-history-series to view the series schedule and find recordings of previous installments.

7 — California Biodiversity Day. This annual event celebrates our state’s exceptional biodiversity, while also encouraging actions to protect it. For this second official celebration, there will be public events from Sept. 5-13, hosted by a variety of entities. Due to the pandemic, many events will be virtual this year in addition to a few in-person events. Please visit resources.ca.gov/biodiversityday2020 to learn more about how you can get involved!

9 — Science-ing at Home: An iNaturalist Tutorial Virtual Event, 3 to 3:30 p.m. Learn how to turn your everyday nature explorations into scientific expeditions. Elkhorn Slough Reserve staff will introduce participants to the iNaturalist community science network and share tips and tools for engaging in community science projects. Please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/biodiversity-week to find out how to view the tutorial and explore other activities from the Elkhorn Slough in honor of California Biodiversity Day.

9-13 — iNaturalist Scavenger Hunt at Nimbus Hatchery. As part of California Biodiversity Day, download the free iNaturalist app to participate in a self-directed scavenger hunt along the River Discovery Trail at Nimbus Hatchery. For more information, please visit resources.ca.gov or www.inaturalist.org/projects/california-biodiversity-day-events-2020.

9-13 — iNaturalist BioBlitz at North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. As part of California Biodiversity Day, download the free iNaturalist app to participate in a self-directed BioBlitz on the Reserve. How many species will you find? For more information, please visit resources.ca.gov or www.inaturalist.org/projects/california-biodiversity-day-events-2020.

12 — California Biodiversity Day BioBlitz at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, 9 a.m. to noon, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, 45211 County Road 32B (Chiles Road), Davis (95618). Celebrate California Biodiversity Day 2020 by participating in an in-person BioBlitz at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area! Registration is required and is limited to 20 participants. Participants will meet at 9 a.m. for a short overview and will then split into two groups, led by CDFW staff, to explore different parts of the wildlife area. The BioBlitz will conclude by noon. All participants will be required to supply and wear a face mask for the duration of the event and maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet from individuals of different households. For more information, please contact James Phillips at james.phillips@wildlife.ca.gov or visit www.inaturalist.org/projects/california-biodiversity-day-2020-yolo-bypass-wildlife-area. To RSVP, please go to the California Biodiversity Day 2020 Yolo Bypass BioBlitz Registration Page.

12 — Sooty (Blue) Grouse General Season Opens. Season extends through Oct. 12. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

12 — White-tailed Ptarmigan General and Archery Season Opens. Season extends through Sept. 20. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

12 — Mountain Quail Season Opens in Zone Q1. Season extends through Oct. 16. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

12 — Tree Squirrel General Season Opens. Season extends through Jan. 31, 2021. For more information on small game seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/small-game.

14 — Feather River Fish Hatchery Ladder Opening, 5 Table Mountain Blvd., Oroville (95965). The ladder will open and salmon spawning will begin later in the week and will continue through approximately mid-November. The west side of the hatchery is closed to the public. The east side of the hatchery with the underwater viewing windows and the observation deck at the base of the fish barrier dam is open daily from sunrise to sunset. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries/feather-river.

17 — California Fish and Game Commission Wildlife Resources Committee Meeting, time to be determined. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2020.

19 — Band-tailed Pigeon Season Opens in the North Zone. Season extends through Sept. 27. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

19 — General Deer Season Opens. General deer season opens in zones D6-7, B1-3, B5-6, C1-4, X9a, X9b and X12. Hunters should check for area closures and restrictions before heading to their destination. For information on land closures, please contact the agency in charge of the land you will be hunting. Tag reporting is required as the reports are vital to estimating populations and tag quotas. Please visit www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/customersearch/begin for information on reporting. Tag holders may also submit reports by mail to CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002. For general information on deer zones, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer#54774-zones–hunts.

19 & 20 — Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days for Northeastern California Zone. To participate, hunters must be 17 years of age or younger and be accompanied by a non-hunting adult 18 years of age or older. People should contact the wildlife area or national wildlife refuge they wish to hunt for details. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

22 — California Fish and Game Commission Meeting to Discuss Western Joshua Tree, time to be determined. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2020.

26 — Great American River Clean Up 2020, 9 a.m. to noon, Nimbus Hatchery, 2001 Nimbus Road, Rancho Cordova (95670). Protect your happy place! Join us to remove trash along the American River Parkway and riverbanks near Nimbus Hatchery. We will practice physical distancing during this event. Trash bags will be provided. Please bring your own gloves as well as water, sunscreen and snacks. For more information or to register, please visit www.facebook.com/nimbushatchery or email laura.drath@wildlife.ca.gov.

26 — Elkhorn Slough Virtual Open House, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The annual Open House at Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve is going virtual this year. Follow along with nature craft tutorials, explore reserve lands with drone footage and hear from researchers about the science of the slough. For a full lineup of activities and information about participating, please visit the online calendar of events at www.elkhornslough.org/calendar

26 — General Deer Season Opens. General deer season opens in zones D3-5, D8-10, X8 and X10. Hunters should check for area closures and restrictions before heading out to their hunting destination. For information on land closures, please contact the agency in charge of the land you will be hunting. Tag reporting is required as the reports are vital to estimating populations and tag quotas. Please visit www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/customersearch/begin for information on reporting. Tag holders may also submit reports by mail at CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002. For general information on deer zones, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer#54774-zones–hunts.

26 — Quail General Season Opens in Zone Q2 (all quail species). Season extends through Jan. 31, 2021. For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

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Media Contact:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

CDFW Soliciting Recommendations for Bay Delta Wildlife Areas

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold an online public outreach meeting to solicit comments and recommendations from licensed hunters on hunting programs in the Bay Delta Region. State lands that will be discussed include Grizzly Island and Yolo Bypass wildlife areas.

The meeting will be accessible via Microsoft Teams on Thursday, Aug. 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. To attend the online presentation, please RSVP to Joe.Hobbs@wildlife.ca.gov and a link will be sent with instructions on how to submit comments and questions.

Staff will provide updates on habitat conditions, availability of water for wetlands and possible impacts to hunter access on public lands resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation will also cover CDFW’s statewide plan to keep hunters and department staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and continued efforts to provide recreational opportunities.

California Fish and Game Code, section 1758, states CDFW shall annually provide an opportunity for licensed hunters to comment and make recommendations on public hunting programs including anticipated habitat conditions in the hunting areas on Type A Wildlife Areas, as defined under the commission’s regulations, through public meetings or other outreach. In compliance with this section, CDFW may hold regional meetings on its hunting programs for several different wildlife areas.

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Media Contact:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

CDFW Urges Big Game Hunters to Plan Ahead to Validate Tags

orange deer tag

As California’s big game hunting seasons open throughout the state, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) urges hunters to plan ahead in order to get their big game tags validated in a timely fashion as required by law.

CDFW has closed many of its high use public areas – including fish hatcheries, license counters and other office locations – to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many successful big game hunters rely on these facilities and the CDFW staff there to validate (countersign) their big game tags. Hunters this year are strongly advised to plan ahead and contact their nearest CDFW facility in advance of their hunt to understand the tag validation locations, hours and procedures this season, which will differ from facility to facility.

Deer and elk tags need to be validated before transporting a harvested animal – except for the purpose of taking it to the nearest person authorized to validate the tag. Persons authorized to validate deer and elk tags include CDFW employees but also a long list of other state, federal and local agents, including firefighters, public notaries, peace officers, meat processors, USDA Forest Service staff and others. A listing of those authorized to validate deer and elk tags is available on page 23 of the 2020 California Big Game Hunting Digest.

Bear tags, on the other hand, can only be validated by a CDFW employee. Bear tags must be validated prior to transporting the bear – except for the purpose of taking the bear to the nearest person authorized to validate the tag en route to the hunter’s home. CDFW will not require a bear tooth extraction this season.

A list of CDFW offices that will validate bear tags along with their contact information is available on page 57 of the 2020 California Big Game Hunting Digest. Hunters must contact these offices ahead of time as many of these facilities and hatcheries are closed.

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Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858