Fly tying with Big Game and Waterfowl Parts?

Willow Creek brown trout caught on a “Muddler” fly. Mostly natural deer hair is used to make the head of this fly (Photo by Ken Oda).

Question: My friends that hunt big game and waterfowl often give me deer hide or duck wings and body feathers which I use to tie flies for fishing. In the past I have given them flies in return for the hair, fur and feathers. In addition, I have sold flies to a few local sport stores, which may contain materials provided by my hunter friends. Would I be violating Fish and Game laws by trading (bartering) or selling these flies? Granted, these hunters provided materials that make a very small portion of the fly materials used to make flies. However, I grew up among sportsmen in a culture that encouraged the sharing of the harvest (taken by hunting or fishing) and an ethic of utilizing the harvest to the fullest extent (meat, fur, hair and feathers). Please let me know. (Terry T., Davis)

Answer: Yes and No. If the flies you tie are made only with the deer hair your friends have given you, then you may sell them (Fish and Game Code, section 4303). Any of the flies you tie that contain bird feathers from birds lawfully taken in California may not be sold as this would be a violation of multiple sections of the Fish and Game Code (including sections 3039 and 3504).

The law does provide some exceptions for mammals that are taken under a Trapping License or that are raised under a Domesticated Game Breeding License.

Buying and selling parts of bird and mammal species that do not exist in the wild in California are not restricted under this law. For a list of the species that do exist in the wild in California, please go to

Baited and unbaited crab traps. How many count?
Question: If I go out alone and I have 10 hoop nets on my boat, but I only have five baited nets, am I ok or do I need to remove the unbaited nets to comply? (Anonymous)

Answer: No more than five hoop nets may be possessed by a person when taking spiny lobster or crab. However, if there are two or more persons on your boat, you may have up to, but not exceed, a total of 10 hoop nets on board when taking spiny lobster or crab (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 29.80(b)(1)(A) or (b)(1)(B)). These restrictions apply whether or not the nets are baited.

Methods of take
Question:In the big game regulations it states that shotguns capable of holding not more than three shells firing single slugs may be used for the taking of deer, bear and wild pigs. In areas where the discharge of rifles or shotguns with slugs is prohibited by county ordinance, shotguns capable of holding not more than three shells firing size 0 or 00 buckshot may be used for the taking of deer only. Does that mean buckshot may be used for deer anywhere hunting is legal? Slugs are not prohibited in my county, but I want to confirm buckshot is legal also. (Mike D.)

Answer: No, 0 and 00 buckshot are legal to use for deer ONLY and ONLY in areas where the discharge of rifles or shotguns with slugs is prohibited by county ordinance. Buckshot is not legal to use for taking big game otherwise.

Selling Eurasian starlings, English house sparrows and feral pigeon mounts
Question: Is it legal to sell or purchase Eurasian starling, English house sparrow or feral pigeon taxidermy mounts in California? I’m assuming it’s legal since they are not protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and they are not native to the state. However, they do fall under the “found in the wild” terminology used here: (section “a”). Since farm-raised game bird mounts are legal to sell (section “d”), are invaders like starling, pigeon and sparrow okay as well? (Terry T.)

Answer: No, these birds may not be purchased or sold in California (Fish and Game Code, sections 3039 & 3801 – 3801.6). Each of these species are found in the wild in California and the prohibition in Fish and Game Code, section 3039 against selling applies, even though there is no closed season and they may be taken without the person being required to have a  hunting license.

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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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