Monday, 30 November 2020

California Outdoors: Can you use a blowgun to hunt big game?

A California Department of Fish and Wildlife staffer illustrates use of a blowgun. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hunting with a blowgun?

Question: I know someone who works at a zoo and they sometimes use blowguns when they need to tranquilize their animals. I am wondering if I can use a blowgun to hunt big game. Not to tranquilize, but to actually hunt. (Robert)

Answer: No, a person may not use a blowgun to hunt big game, nor is it legal to possess a blowgun at all.

The mechanisms by which a person may hunt or "take" a big game mammal are specifically defined by the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 353. The section is lengthy because the methods authorized for take are as permissive as they can be and may be quite different for different types of game. Blowguns are not authorized anywhere in that section.

Also, blowguns are specifically prohibited by California Penal Code section 20010 - not just for hunting, but for any purpose. This code section states: "Any person who knowingly manufactures, sells, offers for sale, possesses, or uses a blowgun or blowgun ammunition in this state is guilty of a misdemeanor."

The one exception in the Penal Code for possession of a blowgun is for those professionals who work with wild, domestic or zoo animals. The exception is defined in Penal Code section 20015, which states: "Nothing in this division shall prohibit the sale to, purchase by, possession of, or use of any blowgun or blowgun ammunition by zookeepers, animal control officers, Department of Fish and Game personnel, humane officers, or veterinarians in the course and scope of their business in order to administer medicine to animals."

Blowguns are an important tool for California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel when tranquilizing (also known as chemically immobilizing) an animal in a confined or restricted space. Blowguns are quieter than standard tranquilizing guns, which makes them less startling to the animal.

Blow darts also hit with less force, typically use smaller needles and inject drug with less pressure which can provide a very safe and humane option for biologists, veterinarians or wildlife officers, when used appropriately.

However, their range is limited so one must get very close to the animal to be accurate and ensure an adequate injection.

Don't eat the fish

Question: Why is there a sign saying do not consume bass or striper caught in the river at the Rio Vista Pier? (Donn)

Answer: That sign was based on an advisory developed by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, or OEHHA, the agency responsible for issuing consumption advice for recreationally caught fish.

On May 20, 2020, OEHHA updated this advisory to include advice for 18 fish species in the Sacramento River and northern Delta, based on mercury and other chemical contaminants in the water.

OEHHA provides separate safe eating advice for members of the public who are likely to be sensitive to contaminants (women 18-49 years and children 1-17 years) and the general population (women over 50 years and men over 18 years).

The advice for striped bass remains the same, although the age range for the sensitive population has changed: women 18-49 and children 1-17 should not eat striped bass and women 50 years and older and men 18 years and older can eat up to 2 servings per week of striped bass.

The advisory covers the Sacramento River from just below Shasta Lake to where it joins the San Joaquin River in Pittsburg, and also applies to creeks, sloughs and other water bodies in the northern Delta that are north of Highway 12. The area includes portions of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Shasta, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Tehama and Yolo counties.

You can find more details about that advisory (including two posters) on OEHHA's website.

Saltwater fishing license

Question: Why does CDFW charge for a saltwater fishing license? Do you stock the Pacific Ocean?

Answer: California Fish and Game Code (FGC) section 7145(a) requires that "every person 16 years of age or older who takes any fish, reptile, or amphibian for any purpose other than profit shall first obtain a valid license for that purpose." One of CDFW's primary roles is to manage California's fish and wildlife resources for use by the public. Saltwater fishing license fees help support law enforcement and scientific research and management of marine resources. In addition, CDFW does operate some hatchery and stocking programs for marine fish, such as ocean salmon and white seabass.

If you have a question for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. While they cannot answer every question, they will answer a few in each column.

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