Finding Legal Target Shooting Areas

Target shooting improves one’s shooting skills and accuracy. It is also a great way to introduce someone new to safe gun handling practices and the shooting sports. In this photo, Harry Morse practices his skills at the “Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays Course” near Fairfield. (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: A friend used to own property just outside the city limits and we were able to legally shoot our rifles on his property. Times have changed though and we now need a new place where we can we still legally shoot our rifles and shotguns for sport. We’re not hunters; we just practice target shooting. How do we go about finding places where we can legally shoot? (Gracie R., Carlsbad)

Answer: Your best bet is to contact the closest Sheriff’s Office (S.O.) that patrols the area where you want to target shoot. According to Assistant Chief Mike McBride, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) does not regulate target shooting nor keep track of all the potential target shooting areas available to the public. This issue basically comes down to county shooting ordinances and landowner permission. I think you will find most cities do not allow discharge of firearms within their city limits, so contact the local S.O. to see what county areas may be open.

For public areas like U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, contact the applicable regional station or headquarters that oversees the area. Some USFS or BLM lands may have designated target shooting or plinking areas. They may also have other areas on their properties where target shooting is allowed, but it’s always a good idea to check ahead of time to be sure it is legal with the applicable county as well.

Otherwise, for public and private gun clubs or shooting ranges in your area, you might try from the National Shooting Sports Foundation Web site. I’ve used this site often and they make it easy to find a safe and licensed range in your local area to target shoot or to introduce someone new to the shooting sports.

Can You Fish with a Bow?
Question: Can I legally fish with a bow and arrow in lakes, streams and rivers in California? What are the regulations on this? (Ken T., Marysville)

Answer: Yes, in some locations for some species under certain conditions. Section 2.25 states: Bow and arrow fishing is permitted only for the taking of carp, goldfish, western sucker, Sacramento blackfish, hardhead, Sacramento pike minnow and lamprey, all year, except in:

1. Designated salmon spawning areas.
2. The Colorado River District where only carp, tilapia, goldfish and mullet may be taken.
3. The East Fork Walker River between Bridgeport Dam and the Nevada state line where carp only may be taken during trout season.

Bullfrogs may also be taken by this method but check Section 5.05 in the Freshwater Sport Fishing regulations for the details. Regulation booklets can be found online at, at DFG offices or wherever fishing licenses are sold.

Can You Harvest Abalone for a Handicapped Individual?
Just curious if there are any provisions in the abalone regulations to allow someone to assist a handicapped person. For example, if the person is unable to dive for them, can someone else harvest the catch for them? (Todd J., Milbrae)

Answer: No, an individual may only take or possess one daily limit of abalone (which is three). A diver could take three abalone one day, record and tag them with their abalone report punch card and tags, and then give them to a disabled person who is not able to dive. Then the following day, the diver may go out to get three more abalone for themselves, and again, report them on the punch card and tag them in accordance with the regulations.

There are no restrictions about gifting abalone, but abalone that are given away count toward the giver’s daily and annual limits (24).

Regulations on Imported Furs/Pelts/Trophies
What are the regulations on imported furs/pelts/trophies? If I’m buying from a source outside of California and they have a 3-177 form and proof that it was legally obtained, is it alright to have a wolf pelt shipped in? (Chelsea)

Answer: According to game warden Todd Tognazzini, the importation law-Section 2353 of the Fish and Game Code requires that a declaration be filed when importing wildlife legally taken or possessed elsewhere. Section 3039 generally prohibits the sale or purchase of any species of birds or mammals found in the wild in California. There are a number of laws related to imported furs and pelts, so it depends upon the species. For instance, no part of a mountain lion may be brought into California, regardless of whether it was legally acquired through a state that allows for the hunting or purchase of lions.

However, in most cases an animal that is legally acquired in another state and declared upon entry would be legal. Of course, that same animal and/or pelt may not be sold once in California if it is from a species found in the wild in California.

In addition, be sure to review the list of prohibited species in the California Penal Code section 653(o). None of the species listed are allowed to be possessed in California for sale or with the intent to sell. This includes wolf pelts.

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

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