Hunting and camping around wildlife watering holes

Generally, it is illegal to hunt within 200 yards of wildlife watering places while on public lands (Photo © Carrie Wilson)

Question: I have a question about hunting big game around watering holes or guzzlers in northeastern California. I see tree stands and even camps around many of them, but some of my friends say these are illegal. Are there any restrictions as to how close you can be? Thanks for the info. (Ken)

Answer: Yes, there are restrictions.  Under the provision of CCR T14 Section 730(c) the following prohibitions are established:

(1) Camping/Occupying is prohibited within 200 yards of the following:

(A) Any guzzler or horizontal well for wildlife on public land within the State of California.

(B) Any of the wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area as depicted on the Bureau of Land Management maps of “Calif. Federal Public Lands Responsibility,” “Calif. Desert Conservation Area” and the new “Desert District, B.L.M.”

(2) Camping/Occupying is prohibited within one-quarter mile of the following wildlife watering places:

(A) Butte Well -T31N, R14E, Section 28, NE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.

(B) Schaffer Well -T31N R14E, Section 25, Center, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.

(C) Tableland Well -T31N, R14E, Section 17, SE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.

(D) Table Mountain Well -T31N, R14E, Section 32, SE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.

(E) Timber Mountain Well -T44N, R6E, Section 33, M.D.B.M., Modoc National Forest, Modoc County.

(F) Belfast Well -T31N, R14E, Section 31, NE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County

Camping/Occupying Defined. For purposes of this Section, camping/occupying is defined as establishing or inhabiting a camp; resting; picnicking; sleeping; parking or inhabiting any motor vehicle or trailer; hunting; or engaging in any other recreational activity for a period of more than thirty (30) minutes at a given location.

In addition, section 730 defines “Wildlife watering places” as waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.

According to Game Warden Jason Chance, an ethical hunter should treat watering holes the same as bait piles. Like bait piles, watering holes attract game, especially in arid areas. Ethical hunters know there is no fair chase or challenge in hunting animals around waterholes or guzzlers because this provides the hunter with an unfair advantage over wild game.

Legal to take female Dungeness crab?
Question: Is it legal to take female Dungeness crab in California during the season? I was sure it was illegal but could not find anything in the regulations confirming this. Can you help? (Walt D.)

Answer: Sport fishermen may keep female Dungeness crabs; it’s only the commercial crabbers who are required to discard them. Although females may be retained by sport fishermen, the crabs are often smaller in size and have smaller pincers (and less meat altogether) so many fishermen choose to let them go. The larger females that meet or exceed the minimum size limit may also produce the most young, so many people feel it is a good investment in the fishery for the future to retain only the males and to let the females go.

If license is forgotten, will a photo copy of  license do?
Question: My son and I fish from our private boat almost exclusively and keep our sport fishing licenses aboard so they are always present. On rare occasions we will attempt to fish without the boat and a few times have forgotten to bring our licenses. To prevent us from mistakenly being without our fishing licenses, can we show a photo copy of our licenses or can the DFG issue more than one copy to a sport fisherman? Thanks. (Murray C.)

Answer: Good questions, but the answers to both are no. You must have a valid fishing license in your possession when fishing or attempting to take fish, and you must present it to a game warden upon request. Additionally, only one license may be issued to a person per year.

Is it legal to import buffalo hides and products?
Question: Are there any restrictions on importing buffalo hides or buffalo art productions into California?

Answer: American buffalo (Bison bison) are considered a domestic breed of bovine (like cattle, goats and sheep) and thus no Fish and Game laws regulate them. American buffalo hides are not restricted by DFG and so they may be imported or possessed as long as they were obtained legally. However, the live importation of other species of true buffalo (e.g. African Cape Buffalo, etc.) or their hides is restricted by law (CCR T-14 Section 671).

Legal to carry a .22 pistol while deer hunting?
Question: If I hunt deer with a 30-30 cal., can I carry a .22 pistol at the same time (not to shoot deer)? And if I wound a deer with the .30-30 cal., can I finish off the wounded deer with the .22 cal.? Thanks. (John D., Ramona)

Answer: Yes and no. Although it may be legal to carry a .22 pistol while hunting deer during an open rifle season, a .22 caliber rim fire rifle is not legal for the take of deer. Being in possession of an illegal method of take will certainly cause a great deal of suspicion if you are contacted by a game warden. Since you are not allowed to use it to “finish off” the deer, it would be best to not carry it at all.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone’s questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at

One response to “Hunting and camping around wildlife watering holes

  1. A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you ought to publish more about this issue, it might not be a taboo subject but typically folks don’t talk about these issues. To the next! Kind regards!!

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