What are lawful methods of take for turkey?

ARE BLOWGUNS A LEGAL METHOD OF TAKE?

Q: I saw a news story on TV about a turkey near Sacramento that was shot with a dart from a blowgun. Would that be a legal way to hunt turkeys? What are the lawful methods of take?

A: No, a person may not use a blowgun to hunt wild turkeys, nor is it legal to possess a blowgun at all. The mechanisms by which a person may hunt or “take” wild turkeys are covered in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 311. Lawful methods of take for turkey include shotgun, muzzleloading shotgun, archery, crossbow and air rifle. The regulations are in place to ensure the quickest and most humane kill and to minimize the chance of suffering. Blowguns are not authorized anywhere in the code section. Note that subsections to section 311 outline further restrictions for each method of take. 

Additionally, blowguns are specifically prohibited—not just for hunting, but for any purpose—by California Penal Code section 20010. The code section states: “Any person who knowingly manufactures, sells, offers for sale, possesses, or uses a blowgun or blowgun ammunition in this state is guilty of a misdemeanor.” There are a few exemptions for professional use of blowguns, including for some California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) personnel, as blowguns are sometimes the best choice in very specific zoo or wildlife management applications. 

Lastly, hunting in most parks, including the park in Sacramento County where the turkey incident occurred, is prohibited. The turkey in the photo above was saved by a permitted wildlife rescue volunteer. Anyone with information about this incident, including reporting  persons who appear to be hunting with a blowgun, should call CDFW’s 24/7 CalTIP hotline at 888-334-2258. 

Photo credit Ben Nuckolls (note: Ben is also the guy who rescued the aforementioned turkey). 

REHABBING INJURED WILDLIFE 

Q: I recently came across a severely injured crow in the middle of a road. I carried it to a safe place on the sidewalk, but it died before I could get help. Would it have been legal for me to take the bird home and rehabilitate it on my own?  

A: No. First of all, it is illegal for a member of the general public to possess wildlife, per California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 679(a). Also note that CCR, Title 14, section 671(c) prohibits the importation, transportation or possession of crows, except under a Restricted Species Permit issued by CDFW for scientific or educational purposes. However, section 679(b) states that a person may temporarily confine injured wildlife if they notify CDFW within 48 hours. Notifications should be made to the appropriate CDFW Regional Office. That being said, we suggest trying to find a permitted wildlife rehabilitation facility that can treat the animal as soon as possible. You can also contact your local animal control agency. The rehabilitation of wildlife is only allowed by permitted wildlife rehabilitation facilities. While we appreciate your desire to help the injured bird, wildlife rehabilitation is regulated in California to ensure animals are cared for and housed properly and that their reintroduction into the wild is done carefully. It may be worth entering the CDFW Regional Office contact information and the nearest rehabilitation facility contact information into your phone ahead of time in case you are confronted by a wild bird or animal in distress like this again.  

RELEASING ANIMALS INTO THE WILD 

Q: A friend of mine told me that someone in our community purchased a Maine lobster and released it into the ocean in order to “save” the lobster. That would be illegal, right? 

A: Yes, it would be illegal. California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 671.6 covers release of animals into the wild. Section 671.6(a) makes it unlawful to release any non-native species, including domestically reared stock, into the wild without permission from the California Fish and Game Commission. 

Also see California Fish and Game Code section 6400, which prohibits the planting of any live fish, fresh or saltwater animal, or aquatic plant, into any state waterway without first securing permission and/or inspection by CDFW. FGC section 6401 states that there may be situations where planting of fish, animals or aquatic plants is lawful with a permit obtained from CDFW. These rare situations might include replenishment of fish populations—but again, a permit is required. 

There are multiple reasons why releasing an animal into state waters without authorization—and this includes both fresh and saltwater environments—is dangerous: 

  1. The release may harm the animal, as the receiving waters might not be ideal for its survival.  
  2. If it should survive and become established, the animal may act as an invasive species and harm native organisms and the surrounding ecosystem.  
  3. Introducing non-native species into new waters may also harm other native species as the non-natives may introduce parasites/diseases into the environment. 

Anyone with information about an unauthorized release should call CDFW’s 24/7 CalTIP hotline at 888-334-2258. 

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