Pucker Up for Duck Calling!

duck calling_USFWS
(Photo courtesy of USFWS)

Question: This is my first year waterfowl hunting and while I am a pretty decent shot when I can get the birds to come in, I am a terrible caller! I can’t seem to get them to respond. I’ve found some electronic callers online that look pretty good and don’t cost too much money. I’d like to try them, but since everyone I’ve hunted with this year uses only the traditional calls, I wonder if these electronic calls are just new or if they might not be legal to use. What’s the answer? (Jake P.)

Answer: I’m afraid you’re going to have to just pucker up and keep practicing with the regular old duck calls found in most sporting goods stores. Electronic or mechanically operated calling or sound reproducing devices are prohibited when taking migratory game birds (CCR, Title 14, Section 507[c]).

To improve your technique, you might want to check out the many demo videos or “how to” techniques published online. The Ducks Unlimited Web site, for example, is loaded with lots of tips, videos and suggestions. Also, watch for duck calling seminars coming up in your area, such as through Wilderness Unlimited, California Waterfowl or other hunt clubs and sporting goods stores.

Best time for photographing big bucks?
Question: I would like to photograph big bucks and know the best times would be during the rut periods. Can you tell me when the rut starts and stops in zones D-3 through D-5? (Bob W.)

Answer: According to deer program manager Craig Stowers, in that area, rut (peak breeding period) will begin the first part of November, peak in late November/early December and finish at the end of December. The best time to photograph big bucks will probably be sometime around Thanksgiving.

Legal to bowfish for Humboldt squid?
Question: Is it legal to go bowfishing for Humboldt squid? (Brent D.)

Answer: No. Aside from the fact that Humboldt squid are rarely seen swimming around on the surface (they occur as deep as 1,500 feet), ocean fishing regulations only allow for spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle to be used for the take of some species of fin fish (CCR Title 14 Section 28.95). The regulations do not allow for the take of invertebrates by bowfishing.

Disposing of large game carcasses?
Question: What is the legal or proper way to dispose of a large game animal such as bear, deer or elk after the harvest? I have heard it is illegal to dump the remains out in the woods and even illegal to bury the remains in your backyard because of the water table. Throwing the bones in the regular trash can be a smelly problem if sitting in there for a week. I recently took a large carcass to the county rendering plant at a cost of $75 for disposal. Please help clarify any legal concerns about the proper way to dispose of an animal carcass. (Ben N.)

Answer: When it comes to any game animal or game bird, only the inedible parts not normally consumed by humans may be left in the woods (FGC Section 4304). During open season and the 15 days following, deer hunters must also retain the portion of the head that in adult males normally bears the antlers (FGC Section 4302).

The portions of the carcass that are packed out become the responsibility of the hunter to dispose of appropriately. Trash disposal restrictions and related costs are determined by individual municipalities and are not regulated by DFG. The unused portions of the carcass may not be brought back to the woods at a later date, as this could constitute illegal dumping.

Carcasses can be buried unless prohibited by local, state or federal ordinance. State Wildlife Areas prohibit depositing or burying hides on those properties (CCR, T-14 section 550[b][9][B]). There is also a law prohibiting disposals within 150 feet above the high water mark of any state water (FGC section 5652[a]). This law is also applicable on private property.

Why early season spinning blade ban?
Question: Why is there a Dec. 1 restriction on the use of spinning wing decoys for waterfowl? (Jack S.)

Answer: Studies have shown the spinning wing decoys are highly effective for attracting waterfowl (especially the young, inexperienced birds) into gun range. Early duck seasons most heavily impact locally produced ducks, and the Dec. 1 “start date” gives the migrant ducks from the north time to arrive and mingle with the local ducks before the decoys go into use. When more ducks are clustered together in the area, the hunting pressure on the locally produced ducks is reduced.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyones questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.