Thursday, 02 December 2021

California Outdoors: Does CDFW offer hunt season dates for muzzleloaders only?

A buck deer. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Muzzleloading hunts

Q: Howdy. I won a muzzleloader in a drawing but have never shot one before or been acquainted with the regulations. Are there specific hunt season dates in California for muzzleloaders only, so we’re not competing with modern rifles and scopes?

A: For the 2021 deer season, CDFW offered 10 muzzleloading rifle hunts which can be found via the “Additional Hunts” link under the “Seasons” tab of our Deer Hunting webpage. You can also find them on page 33 of CDFW’s 2021 Big Game Hunting Digest.

The letter “M” designates a muzzleloading rifle hunt and “MA” designates a muzzleloading rifle/archery hunt. During both of these types of hunts, only open or “peep” type sights can be used. Scopes are not permitted. Season dates and number of tags available are listed.

Hunters must apply for a tag through CDFW’s annual Big Game Drawing before the June application deadline. Muzzleloading hunts are for limited areas and are usually scheduled late in the year, which make them desirable but harder to draw. For deer hunting, be familiar with the Methods Authorized for Taking Big Game regulation section.

You can also use your muzzleloading rifle during a general season that you have a tag for. You could even use a scope during a general season and you wouldn’t be restricted to only open or “peep” type sights. If you’re interested, there are other opportunities such as muzzleloading shotguns for resident small game. CDFW reminds hunters that nonlead ammunition is required when taking wildlife with any firearm in California, including muzzleloaders.

Delta blob

Q: I enjoy recreating in the Delta, and occasionally on my walks I see these gelatinous brown blobs in the water that look a little like jellyfish. They seem to appear in summer. What are those?

A: The critters you see on your walks are freshwater bryozoan. The scientific name is Pectinatella magnifica.

They were originally found on the east coast and made their way west. Scientists wrote in 2005 about discovering freshwater bryozoan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it is likely that bryozoan arrived in the Delta years earlier.

Bryozoan are very common seasonally in the Delta and probably in all lower elevation freshwater reservoirs in California. We often hear them referred to as “blobs,” but really they are a colony of small individual animals in a gelatinous matrix.

As you mentioned, they are usually found in warmer waters from June through September. They are not poisonous and do not sting, but we’d suggest washing your hands if you come into contact with one. The U.S. Geological Survey has more information and links on its website.

Big game rifle

Q: Could you help me with information regarding the use of an AR 556/223 rifle for hunting? It’s a California compliant rifle with a 5-round magazine. Would this be a legal setup for hunting?

A: Yes, you can use the rifle you described as long as it is California compliant per the California Attorney General’s Office. California hunting regulations restrict the cartridge and bullet type for hunting big game, but not the firearm itself. In short, big game may only be taken by firearms using centerfire cartridges with soft nose or expanding projectiles, per California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 14, section 353(c). Pay close attention to be sure your .223 bullets fit this description, as most .223 bullets are manufactured with full metal jackets, which would be unlawful to use.

Your other consideration is required use of nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California, which is usually a specialty ammunition type for the .223 or the similar 5.56. By your own evaluation, it sounds like you have determined your AR 556/223 is California compliant and you have nonlead ammunition.

Check that third box that the bullets are soft nose or expanding projectiles and you are good to go. Your 5-round magazine is also legal to use. See CCR, Title 14, section 353 for more details on authorized methods of take for big game. Good luck on your hunt!

Dove opener

Q: I am planning to hunt the dove opener in Imperial County on Sept. 1. I understand that CDFW produces maps that show the fields that were planted. Where would I find those? And do you have any forecast for how the season might look this year?

A: Yes! CDFW posts maps of the planted fields in Imperial County on its website. Wheat and sunflower were the primary crops planted, and some fields have additional Sudan, Bermuda and alfalfa.

It has been a hot, dry year and the drought has certainly affected agriculture, which in turn affects dove presence and movement.

We have had mixed reports across the state, with some areas experiencing high numbers of first year birds and some with very few.

As always, we hope for an exceptional hunting season and wish our hunters the best of luck in the field this year.

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