Thursday, May 13, 2010

CA DFG Q&A - What's Your Opinion?
Each week I get emailed the recent California DFG Q&A's from their website. Today I got this one and it really tweaked me the wrong way. Read through it and see my opinion at the end.

Question: Near the end of this past duck season, DFG wardens visited two of my friends' homes requesting to see the contents of their freezers. They said when they cooperated and showed the contents of their freezers, they were cited for violating the Fish and Game Code for exceeding the waterfowl in-possession limit regulation. Like thousands of other hunters statewide, they each had dozens of legally harvested waterfowl from the three-month waterfowl season stored in their freezers for future consumption.

What is the law regarding the number of waterfowl one can legally keep in their possession in their freezer during and after the waterfowl season? It would seem that any interpretation that limits persons to no more than double the daily bag limit in ones possession at any time will result in wanton waste of game that is discarded in the field and from hundreds of freezers statewide directly in violation of another Fish and Game Code provision which prohibits wanton waste of game.

How can DFG rectify these two provisions when they cite people for their freezer contents like this? Because it is such a widespread practice among thousands of hunters in California to save and consume their game after the season, nearly every hunter faces the potential of this citation.

Answer: Though this may be a common practice, it does not make it legal. According to Northern California Enforcement Chief Mike Carion, some states limit the possession limit to the field; however, in California the possession limit per person is two daily bag limits.

The law does not allow a hunter to possess more than one possession limit (two daily bag limits) at their house or at any time. A possession limit can be donated to others who live in the household too even if they are not hunters. There is no minimum age for a person to retain a possession limit of waterfowl. For example, a person who has a spouse and two children all living in one house may possess one possession limit for each of the four people (eight daily bag limits). A single person living alone is limited to one possession limit and in order to legally continue to hunt, he or she must gift the birds to someone else or consume them.

Waterfowl bag and possession limits are federally regulated. States may only adopt the same or stricter regulations than those authorized by federal law. In California the possession of two daily bag limits regardless of whether a hunter has hunted for two straight weeks during a trip, or has hunted daily and taken the birds home applies in the field as well as the home. The possession limit is the maximum allowed to be possessed by one individual. Keep in mind, the intent to give birds away does not justify possessing more than the daily bag limit.
After reading this I wonder how many other species violations people fall victim to. Really California? I am not a duck hunter, but if a hunter goes out on a given day and gets his limit you are going to make him eat or give away both birds before he can ever go duck hunting again? That is ridiculous! So what DFG is saying is that a guy trying to feed his family over the Winter will have to eat both ducks before any more hunting. Right? Maybe I am just way too wound up on this today. I wonder what Holly thinks over at NorCal Cazadora. Maybe Hank over at Honest Food could give some insight as to how many ducks he prepares in a season.

On the other hand, I see where the DFG is legitimately trying to reduce spoilage and keep the animals from being wasted. You certainly don't want a hunter shooting a bunch of birds, letting them get freezer burned and tossed at the end of a season. Still, they can't just leave it so open-ended.

To me it sounds like there needs to be an addition to the law before tickets can be handed out. Something like there is a two-a-day bag limit AND an 8 duck-in-your-freezer maximum. Anything over that and you could get fined. This is just an example, but I am sure you can see my point. When I used to live in NY we had to abide by the one year rule. You were supposed to eat all of your venison from the previous year BEFORE the start of the next deer season. That worked well there, so why not try that here in CA?

How do you duck hunters feel about this and what are your suggestions to remedy this incredible gray area?


  1. I am well aware of that law, and we make sure to have only our legal limit at the end of each season; this year I tore my achilles in December, so we barely made it. And as frustrating as the law might seem at first, what the possession limit does is force you to cook more seasonally -- over the 100-day season, we eat a lot of duck.

    The downside? You can't save 50 ducks for a big party in June, unless you have a large family. The upside is that food is meant to be eaten in the here and now, and to me duck in summer is not as attractive as duck in winter or fall.

    Laws forcing us to not hoard our ducks are a good thing - think about it: How many people do you know, or maybe it's been you (the generic "you" who is reading this), who have a bunch of ducks in the freezer in September?

    It happens. We get our ducks, then move on to spring turkey, maybe a spring bear, then fishing all summer long. We like to eat seasonally even if we do so unconsciously.

    All this said, however, I think a good compromise would be to allow possession of 3x the daily bag limit, not just double as it is now.

    Anyway, that's my $0.02.

    -- Hank

  2. Hank, I appreciate your response. I now have a clearer understanding of what the law is aiming for. Your suggestion of 3X the daily limit should be plenty for any hunter. I wouldn't want to see a hunter keep 50 ducks in his freezer for a June dinner. that just leads to waste. Planning ahead and having a dinner during the duck season would be a better plan for said hunter.

    Hoarding is not something I am trying to promote. I would just like to see a compromise with the way the law is currently. Excellent suggestion for the DFG.