Collecting Antlers from Carcasses

(UDWR photo)

Question:I was hiking on public land and came across a dead elk carcass that had been there a while and still had a huge rack attached to the skull. I know it’s legal to pick up shed antlers, but what about if they are still attached to the skull of an old elk carcass? Would it be legal for me to take the antlers? (Matt, Hollister)

Answer:  There is no provision in the Fish and Game Code prohibiting someone from picking up a set of antlers attached to a skull and carcass found on public land. However, this would likely appear suspicious to a game warden. Anyone who chooses to do so should be aware that pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 2000, possession of any part of a fish or mammal in or on the fields, forests or waters of this state while returning therefrom with fishing or hunting equipment is prima facie evidence the possessor took that fish or mammal.

Please note that there are exceptions for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuges and National Parks though. On these lands it is illegal to collect antlers or to take any animal or it’s parts unless they are taken legally while hunting or with a special use permit.

Winches for pulling sport traps and hoop nets
Question: Can sport fishermen who are fishing crab traps and/or hoop nets use winches to assist in pulling the gear?

Answer: There are no regulations prohibiting the use of manual winches by sportfishers to assist in pulling crab traps or hoop nets. Use of power-driven winches is prohibited north of Point Arguello, but there is an exception for handling crab traps or nets (see CCR Title 14, section 28.70.)

Junior hunter deer tag
Question: If my junior hunter is only 11 years old right now but his birthday is before opening day of the junior deer tag, may he apply for it now even though he is 11? He will be 12 on the day of the hunt? (Shawn R.)

Answer: Your son must be the required age (12) by July 1 to apply for an apprentice (junior) deer tag. He will, however, be eligible to hunt in the junior hunt as a 16 year old because he will only be 15 on July 1 during his last year of eligibility.

Gaffing salmon
Question: Is it legal to gaff a keeper salmon in the ocean instead of using a net?

Answer: Anglers fishing from boats are required to carry landing nets that are a minimum of 18 inches in diameter. It would be best to always land fish with minimum size limits or special regulations with a landing net to avoid killing the fish in case it must be released. Anglers can be cited for violating CCR Title 14, section 28.65(d) if they gaff an undersized salmon.

Selling an ocelot coat?
Question: I live in Santa Barbara and am the not-so-proud owner of a Brazilian ocelot coat that I inherited about 11 years ago from my mother’s estate. She purchased it in New York from Christie Bros. Fur Company in August 1973, just before the Endangered Species Act (ESA) became law in December 1973. I do have the receipt for it.

I don’t want the coat and have contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. I was advised to contact the California department for local ruling on such issue. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, because it was purchased by my mother before the ESA, and then inherited by me at her death, I would be able to sell it within state lines. Does it mean I could also donate it to a local nonprofit organization and take a tax deduction? I would greatly benefit from either the income from the sale or the tax deduction if I could donate it.

My first thought was to donate it to the Oregon Zoo in Portland, which I understand is the foremost center promoting the care and birth of Brazilian ocelots in captivity. I read somewhere that sometimes the fur from the same species is used to promote newborn kittens’ comfort. Would that be an out-of-state transaction, should they be interested? Are there any other options? (Maura Lundy)

Answer: No Fish and Game Code provisions are applicable. The California Penal Code does prohibit importing and selling the pieces or parts of ocelots (and other species), or even possessing them with the intent to sell (CPC, section 653(o)). But the law does not prohibit donating the item.

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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

One response to “Collecting Antlers from Carcasses

  1. Nice question answers.. Nice to read. 🙂

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