Hunting Deer and Elk Out of State

Rocky Mt Elk_Yellowstone_USFWS_Bauer_11440_102.3.18
Rocky Mountain mule deer. USFWS file photo.

Question: Two hunting buddies and I were drawn to hunt elk for the first time in Colorado. We are planning a trip the second week in October. This will be our first out-of-state trip. What should I know, and how do I go about keeping all of my paperwork in order to make sure everything is legal when I come back? (Ross)

Answer: Planning and going on one’s first major big game hunting expedition is an exciting step in a hunter’s life, especially if it is out of state. Dividing the responsibilities of the trip between your hunting partners is part of the enjoyment of the trip. Those responsibilities include map acquisition, learning the local regulations, food planning and preparation, learning what you can about the terrain and many other things. One often overlooked aspect of the trip for new hunters is how to legally bring those game animals back from the hunt – so we appreciate you thinking ahead!

There are two primary things you should keep in mind when hunting elk or deer out of state. These are Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) precautions and having your Declaration for Entry upon your return.

CWD is a contagious neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. The disease has never been detected in California’s deer or elk populations and it is incumbent upon every hunter to do his or her part to prevent inadvertently transporting the agent that causes CWD into California. You can find background information, additional links and updates on California’s efforts to fight CWD at

To prevent the accidental importation of CWD-infected tissues into the state, California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 712 prohibits hunters from importing or possessing carcasses with a skull or backbone still attached. If you are hunting out of state, please make sure to review the regulations related to CWD for that state. Also, if hunting in a state where CWD is present, make sure to check with that state’s wildlife agency for information about hunter check stations and how to get your animal tested in the state where it is harvested. An animal that is taken in a CWD endemic zone should be processed in that area or state. Bringing back packaged meat is the best and safest approach. If a harvested animal tests positive for CWD, CDFW supports the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to not consume the meat. The hunter should contact a CDFW office or the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory to have all remaining tissues incinerated.

Failure to comply with section 712 is a misdemeanor offense that will result in a citation by a California wildlife officer. Compliance is easier than you may think. CDFW created a video to show you how. You can also find background information, additional links and updates on California’s efforts to fight CWD at

Declaration for Entry is another item that needs to be on your checklist. California Fish and Game Code, section 2353 requires all hunters to declare any elk brought into California. Specifically, the law states that birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians shall not be imported or possessed in this state unless all of the following requirements are met: (1) The animals were legally taken and legally possessed outside of California, (2) No laws or regulations expressly prohibit their possession in this state (mountain lions are an example), and (3) A declaration is submitted to CDFW or a designated state or federal agency at or immediately before the time of entry, in the form and manner prescribed by CDFW.

We suggest you print out the form ahead of time so you can fill it out before you arrive to save time. You can find the Declaration for Entry form on the CDFW website.

You may photocopy the form. The original should remain with the person importing the fish or game into the state. One copy should be mailed to CDFW (1416 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814) within 24 hours after entering the state. One copy should be deposited at the point of entry with any state or federal agency or officer, and one copy should remain with the fish or game if transported by a person other than owner or common carrier.

These hunting trips frequently create memories of a lifetime. We wish you and your hunting buddies luck on your elk hunting expedition!

Catching a Great White?

Question: What do I do if I catch a Great White Shark on accident? (Anonymous)white shark fishing prohibited sign

Answer: What the public refers to as a Great White Shark is known in the scientific community and in statute as simply a “white shark,” or even more specifically by its genus and species, Carcharodon carcharias. California Fish and Game Code, section 5517 states that it is unlawful to take any white shark except under a permit issued by CDFW for scientific or educational purposes. If you catch a white shark by accident, the law requires you to immediately release it.