What Animals Can You Hunt Without a License in California

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The hunting laws provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife require licensing for all kinds of game hunting. California boasts some of the strictest hunting laws in the United States. The laws provide a reliable measure into curbing any hunting malpractices. These strict laws and regulations govern how you should perform your art as a hunter. You can still go hunting in California, but be sure to undertake a thorough homework in understanding every law. 

The laws outlined to govern hunting in California allows hunting of wild game animals, either for food or trade. Though you can carry out hunting as a recreational activity, it can also serve other purposes.  For instance, when undertaken as a measure of wildlife control, there are fewer limitations on the type of game to hunt. Under normal circumstances, only mammal animals and birds can be pursued.

License Hunting in California

As a resident hunter in California, you have to possess a resident hunting license. You also need additional tags and licenses if you plan on pursuing large game animals such as elk and bear. The previous years have seen a drop in hunting activities across California. This is no less attributed to the stern regulations and high license fee charges. With the resident and non-resident hunting license fees standing at $50 and $175, respectively, only few can afford to acquire licenses.

Generally, every game hunting in California has to be licensed.  These hunting laws also apply entirely across America. California’s fish and wildlife department carries out licensing for both residents and non-residents of the state. The state of California outlines all the required qualifications before granting a hunting license.

License Provisions on Non-Game Hunting in California

Hunting in California goes beyond the usual licenses offered to the hunters. Some provisions govern all licensed hunters on what type of animals to hunt and the seasons in which the animals can be pursued. As a licensed hunter, you can hunt non-game animals, albeit under strict adherence to the laid down provisions. There are also regulations governing the hunting on non-game mammals in California. These regulations affects all hunters, including those with hunting licenses.

You also need not pursue the endangered species animals. These include the flying squirrels and all other furbearers. You can pursue all other non-game animals, except where the law cautions against. Some hunting conditions may also be relaxed when there are clear cases of encroachment from the animals. However, the following ways of taking down an animal cannot be used;

  • Poisoning of the animal
  • Use traps in strict adherence to the provision.
  • Don’t use any lead projectile firearm on an animal.

Conditions under Which You Can Kill an Animal without a License

There exist provisions that allow you to kill an animal in California. This also applies to any other licensed, and not licensed hunters. The law outlines that hunters found breaching these provisions may be charged with a felony. Though not considered as hunting, the law allows yuo to hunt down the following animals license-free.

Trespassing Animals

Cases of trespassing animals are not new in California, thanks to its rolling hills and the beautiful woodlands. The state is home to various wildlife, including the whitetail deer and fowls that are available in large numbers. If such animals trespass onto your private property , you are free to take them down any time as the law provides.

The law, however, states this shouldn’t be intentional. It only stands legal if the animal trespasses into your property and causes destruction. The Wildlife department advises that if affected, always consider other options before taking down the animal.

Attacking Animals

Dangerous animals with attacking instincts can also be taken down if they are dangerous to human life. Even without a valid hunting license, you can take down an animal if put in a dangerous situation. Animals such as bears that may stray into your way pose a huge danger if allowed to charge. Taking them down can be the only available self-defense option.

The California animal cruelty laws only justify actions taken against dangerous animals. Therefore, there needs to be no malice in the killing. These laws also apply to all other licensed and non-licensed hunters.

Obtaining California Hunting Licenses

A California hunter education certificate is a legal requirement you need when seeking for a hunting license. Children, law enforcement officers, and seniors must also complete the hunter training course before obtaining the certificate. The California hunter education regulations and laws offer guidance before any issuance of any hunting license.

Types of Hunting Licenses Available in California

All the California residents are eligible for resident hunting licenses. There are additional hunting tags for big game animals. Other hunting licenses include:

Youth Hunting Licenses

Hunters below the age of 18 years require the youth hunting license. The license applies to both residents and non-residents of California wishing to hunt mammals and birds. Youths of 12 years and above wishing to hunt big game need to obtain additional license tags.

Disability Licenses

California also offers license provisions if you possess any disabilities. Disabled hunters are all required to apply for the disabled archery permit before embarking on hunting activities within the state. The freely obtained Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit allows the visually impaired to also engage in hunting.

There are also licenses for the Military people and veterans. The California hunting licenses have a one-year expiry period. However, residents of California are eligible to purchase lifetime hunting licenses.


The Golden State of California prides itself as one of the wildlife-rich states of America. With its vast public lands, hunting in California provides both a means to earn livelihood and also as a recreational activity. Therefore, there is a general need to control hunting activities with the prohibition of non-licensed hunting. If you wish to go on a California hunting tour, be keen on adhering to the laid down regulations.

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