How does managed hunting benefit deer herds?


California Mule Deer

Question: I am quite concerned about the health of our deer herds and would like to know how proper management of deer hunting will contribute to long-term protection of the herds. I know many people still believe hunting will decimate the herds, but I’ve been told that regulated hunting could also help control the population. What is your take on this?  (Bill B., Susanville)

Answer: Managed hunting of deer is designed to smooth out the highly dynamic population cycles of deer. They are a classic “boom or bust” species in that when habitat conditions are good, deer populations can rise very quickly, but when they are bad (or over-utilized by too many deer), they can crash just as quickly. These crashes usually occur through starvation and/or disease issues.  Managing the population through regulated sport hunting can minimize these types of events.

Another way that managed hunting contributes to herd protection is through the payment of fees for tags and licenses. According to Deer Program Manager Craig Stowers, these funds are used for collection of population, habitat use and movement data, information to monitor and research disease issues, and enforcement of the laws and regulations that are the basis of managed sport hunting. Tag monies are used for habitat projects to benefit deer herds in the state as well.

Although deer are a resource “owned” by all citizens of California, deer management in this state is not supported by general taxes – the license and tag fees are basically “user fees” that are paid for by deer hunters and in turn used to manage the deer resource. Hunters’ dollars fund deer research and habitat work, and hunter harvest helps benefit California’s deer herds by regulating their population cycles.

Hoop netting for lobsters with panty hose?
Question: While hoop netting lobsters in the past, I have used a piece of old panty hose to keep the bait together. It’s worked well but recently I have been told this is illegal to do because a lobster may get entangled on the hose. This has never happened in the times that I have hoop netted. I’m trying to be legal at all times. Am I breaking the law by using this method? (Doug F.)

Answer: Hoop nets are legal to use to take lobster but traps are not. If hoop nets are modified in any manner that causes the lobster to become entangled or trapped, then the device ceases to be a hoop-net and becomes a trap. The fabric used to make panty hose is known to be an effective trap for lobsters and is not recommended for use on any part of a hoop net when it is used to take lobster.

Hoop nets may contain a bait container but may in no way act to entangle or impede the movement of lobster while it tries to leave the net. If it does, then the device would be illegal, no matter what material is used to construct the bait container.

Are target shooters limited to the 3-round max shell capacity?
Question: My friends and I were arguing over whether or not recreational shotgun shooters (skeet/trap) are bound in the same way as game hunters by the 3-round maximum shell capacity restriction. I also cannot find any Fish and Game regulations as to whether this holds true for nongame species (such as coyotes). Only game mammals and birds are listed specifically. (Ken)

Answer: Regulations regarding magazine capacity only apply when “taking” game birds and/or mammals (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 311, 353 and 507). The 3-round shell restriction does not apply when using a shotgun to take furbearing or nongame species, or when shooting targets, skeet/trap, sporting clays, etc. (CCR Title 14, sections 465 and 475).

Fish and Game Code section 2010 does limit shotguns to no more than six shells when taking “any bird or mammal” and there are Penal Code sections restricting large capacity firearms. Additional information regarding large capacity firearms is available from the Bureau of Firearms Web site at

Are duck decoys with flashing LED lights legal?
Question: I have a question about a new duck decoy I’ve found that is not mechanical or a spinning wing type but is one that operates with a string of flashing LED lights on the wings. Nothing on the decoy moves but the flashing lights seem to be an attractant in the early morning. Are these legal to use before Dec. 1? (Mark L.)

Answer: Unfortunately, these decoys may not be used at any time during the waterfowl season because it is unlawful to use any artificial light to assist in the taking of game birds, game mammals or game fish, except in ocean waters or other waters where night fishing is permitted. (FGC, section 2005).

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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

2 responses to “How does managed hunting benefit deer herds?

  1. I don’t know if I agree but to each his own. It is a good article though.

  2. First let me say that Mule Deer can be found over the western half of the US, southwest Saskatchewan and some say they have been seen in Minnesota and Missouri. Mule Deer are very adaptable to most kinds of terrain.

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