Q: Who needs a hunting license?
A: A California hunting license is required for any person taking birds or mammals. Hunters must carry licenses and be prepared to show them on request. Fish and Game Code, Section 86 defines “taking” as hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill.
Q: How long is a hunting license valid?
A: An annual hunting license is valid from July 1 through the following June 30. If the license is purchased after July 1 it is valid for the remainder of the license year.
Q: What do I need to do to get my hunting license?
A: Resident, nonresident, and junior hunters must present ONE of the following when applying for an Annual California Hunting License or Two-Day Nonresident Hunting License as proof of meeting California's hunter education requirements:
- Evidence of an Annual California Hunting License issued in any prior year;
- A Two-Day Nonresident California Hunting License issued after the 1999/2000 license year;
- A California certificate of hunter education completion or equivalency with a unique number imprinted on it (for example: AA00000) or a California hunter education certificate with no unique number imprinted and a California hunter education validation stamp affixed;
- A certificate of successful completion of a California-approved hunter education course from any state or province; or
- Evidence of a current hunting license or a hunting license being issued in either of the two previous years from any state, province, European Country or South Africa.
Q: What is the minimum age requirement to purchase a hunting license?
A: There is no minimum age requirement for purchasing a hunting license if the applicant can show proof of hunter education. However, hunter education instructors generally ask that students be at least 10 years of age. Students must be able to read, write and understand the questions given on the written test required to complete the course. Check with a Hunter Education Instructor in your area for his/her minimum age requirement.
Q: Where do I purchase a hunting license?
A: Hunting licenses are available Online, at any CDFW License Sales Office or License Agent.
Q: What type of hunting licenses, tags and validations are available or required?
A: See the Hunting License Fees and Descriptions page.
Q: What can you take with a Two-Day Nonresident Hunting License?
A: Two-Day Nonresident Hunting License are available to any nonresident, 16 years of age or older, for taking resident and migratory game birds, resident small game mammals, nongame animals and furbearers for two consecutive days. A Two-Day Nonresident Hunting License is not valid for hunting deer, bear, antelope, elk, bighorn sheep or wild pig.
Q: Can I purchase a Lifetime Hunting License?
A: California residents may purchase a lifetime hunting license. You can find information about the lifetime license application process online at wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Lifetime or any CDFW license sales office.
Q: How do I replace a lost or destroyed current hunting license?
A: You may obtain a Duplicate Hunting License Online, at any CDFW License Sales Office or License Agent and pay the appropriate fee. If you lose any additional validatons or tags, they must be purchased at a reduced fee. (Fish and Game Code, Section 1053b). A duplicate Disabled Veterans Reduced-fee Hunting License may also be purchased at locations listed above.
Q: Can I purchase a hunting license for my friend?
A: Yes. You must show your friend's California hunting license from any previous license year or his/her hunter education certificate as proof of meeting California's hunter education requirements. Your friend must sign the license before hunting (Section 700.3, Title 14, of the California Code of Regulations (CCR)).
Q: Do I have to complete a Harvest Information Program (HIP) Survey?
A: Yes. If you plan to hunt migratory game birds (ducks, geese, coots, dove, band-tailed pigeon, snipe, gallinules or black brant) you must complete a HIP survey and a FREE HIP validation must be printed on your California Hunting License. HIP surveys and validations are available at any license agent, CDFW license sales office or online. Hunters may be cited for hunting migratory game birds without a HIP validation printed on their license.
Q: Are there any types of free or reduced-fee hunting licenses?
A: The CDFW does not have a free or reduced-fee hunting license for senior citizens. However, if you are a disabled veteran, you may be eligible for a reduced-fee hunting license. Your initial application must be submitted to any CDFW License Sales Offices for approval and purchase. Subsequent year's hunting licenses may be purchased online at any CDFW license sales office or license agent. To qualify for this license, you must submit BOTH of the following:
- A letter from the Veterans Administration verifying that you have a 50 percent or greater service connected disability and were honorably discharged from the United States armed forces (Fish and Game Code, Section 3033); and
- Evidence of meeting California hunter education requirements (Fish and Game Code, Section 3050)
Q: What “resident small game” species can I hunt?
A: Section 257, Title 14, of the CCR states, “Resident small game" means the following resident game birds: Chinese spotted doves, ringed turtledoves of the family Columbidae, California quail and varieties thereof, gambel or desert quail, mountain quail and varieties thereof, blue grouse and varieties thereof, ruffed grouse, sage grouse (sage hens), white-tailed ptarmigan, Hungarian partridges, red-legged partridges, including the chukar and other varieties, ring-necked pheasants and varieties, and wild turkeys of the order Galliformes; and the following game mammals: jackrabbits and varying hares (genus Lepus), cottontail rabbits, brush rabbits, pigmy rabbits (genus Sylvilagus), and tree squirrels (genus Sciurus and Tamiasciurus).
Q: What “big game” species can I hunt?
A: Section 350, Title 14, of the CCR states, “big game"means the following: deer (genus Odocoileus), elk (genus Cervus), pronghorn antelope (genus Antilocarpa), wild pig (feral pigs, European wild pigs and their hybrids (genus Sus), black bear (genus Ursus) and Nelson bighorn sheep (subspecies Ovis canadensis nelsoni) in the areas described in subsection 4902(b), of the Fish and Game Code.
Q: What “nongame” species can I hunt?
A: Section 472, Title 14, of the CCR states, except as otherwise provided in Section 478, Title 14, of the CCR and Section 485, Title 14, of the CCR, and subsections (a) through (d) below, nongame birds and mammals may not be taken.
- The following nongame birds and mammals may be taken at any time of the year and in any number except as prohibited in Chapter 6: English sparrow, starling, coyote, weasels, skunks, opossum, moles and rodents (excluding tree and flying squirrels, and those listed as furbearers, endangered or threatened species).
- Fallow, sambar, sika, and axis deer may be taken only concurrently with the general deer season.
- Aoudad, mouflon, tahr, and feral goats may be taken all year.
- American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) may be taken only under the provisions of Section 485 and by landowners or tenants, or by persons authorized in writing by such landowners or tenants, when American crows are committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance. Persons authorized by landowners or tenants to take American crows shall keep such written authorization in their possession when taking, transporting or possessing American crows. American crows may be taken only on the lands where depredations are occurring or where they constitute a health hazard or nuisance. If required by Federal regulations, landowners or tenants shall obtain a Federal migratory bird depredation permit before taking any American crows or authorizing any other person to take them.
American crows may be taken under the provisions of this subsection only by firearm, bow and arrow, falconry or by toxicants by the Department of Food and Agriculture for the specific purpose of taking depredating crows. Toxicants can be used for taking crows only under the supervision of employees or officers of the Department of Food and Agriculture or federal or county pest control officers or employees acting in their official capacities and possessing a qualified applicator certificate issued pursuant to Food and Agriculture Code, Sections 14151-14155. Such toxicants must be applied according to their label requirements developed pursuant to Sections 6151-6301, Title 3.
Q: I lost my California Hunter Education Certificate. How can I get a copy?
A: Duplicate hunter education certificates can be issued to any person who completed and passed a hunter education class after 1989. If the student took the class after that date, they should contact their nearest CDFW License Sales Office to obtain a duplicate.
CDFW does not have records prior to 1989. If the class was completed prior to 1989, the hunter should contact the original instructor, club, or organization where the course was taught to obtain a duplicate. If the hunter is unable to obtain a duplicate through these means, they will have to repeat the course.
Q: Who must show proof of hunter education when applying for a California hunting license?
A: California requires hunter education training for ANYONE who has not formerly held a California hunting license, who does not have a hunter education certificate of completion, or who does not have a current, valid, hunting license or a hunting license issued in either of the two previous years from any state, province, European Country or South Africa.
Q: Where can I find information about Hunter Safety/Education classes?
A: Visit CDFW's Hunter Education page or call your nearest Hunter Education District Staff.
Q: How old do you have to be to take a hunter education course?
A: There isn't a minimum age requirement to take the course, but young children may find the course demanding. A Hunter Education Instructor may be able help you decide whether your child is old enough to take the course.
Q: Can I take a hunter education course online?
A: Yes and no. California does have an on-line course, however, the on-line course will not get you a valid hunter education certificate. There are currently four options for you. Hunter-Ed.com, Huntercourse.com, California Hunter Ed Course, and the International Hunter Education Association. These sites have an on-line course that you can run through at your own pace. Once you have completed one of the above on-line courses, you will still need to attend a 4 hour follow-up class with a certified hunter education instructor. The benefit of taking the on-line course is having the ability to study at a pace that works for you and to only have to take a 4 hour follow-up classroom session versus a 10+ hour class. A list of home study/on-line instructors is located on the Class Schedule page.
Q: I don't have time to take a California Hunter Education course. What can I do?
A: CDFW offers a comprehensive equivalency testing program at CDFW Offices. You may request information on this method of testing from the regional offices. There is a non-refundable, administrative fee required to take the examination. If you fail the examination, you must take a hunter education class to become certified. Warning! Not all states accept the equivalency certificate as proof of hunter education. All states will accept the certificate of completion that is awarded upon completion of a hunter education class.
Q: Will you accept a Hunter Education Certificate from another state?
Q: I have a hunting license from another country. Why won't you accept it as proof of hunter education?
A: CDFW's Hunter Education Program Administrator determines which countries provide acceptable hunter education training. You may contact him by email at Robert.Pelzman@wildlife.ca.gov for more information.
Q: What will I learn in the Hunter Education Course and how long will it take?
A: The Hunter Education Course consists of a minimum of 10 hours of classroom, homework, and field instruction in the following areas: firearms safety and handling, sportsmanship and ethics, wildlife management and conservation, archery, black powder, wildlife identification, game care, first aid, and survival. After a student has successfully completed the course of instruction and passed the final examination, they are awarded a Certificate of Completion. Parents are encouraged to participate with their children in the course and its related activities. There is not a minimum age requirement to take the course, but young children may find the course demanding.
A fee may not be charged for an instructor's service; however, fees may be used to cover the purchase of training aids such as slides, flip charts, targets, and other training aids. The Hunter Education Instructor makes the final decision in determining whether a student is qualified to receive a Certificate of Completion. A student who is unsafe, or fails to demonstrate good sportsmanship will not be issued a Certificate of Completion.
Q: Are senior citizens exempt from having to take a hunter education course?
Q: Is a law enforcement officer (active duty, reserve or retired military) required to take a hunter education course even if he/she had firearms training?
A: Yes. All first time California hunters must successfully complete a hunter education training course or pass an equivalency exam. Visit the Hunter Education page for more information.
Q: If I cannot use my hunting license can I get a refund?
A: No. Hunting license fees are nonrefundable.
Q: Why are hunting license fees nonrefundable?
A: Hunting licenses may be used for hunting any legal game bird or mammal. The purchase of hunting licenses and tags is an investment in the continued existence of California's hunting heritage. Funds raised from the sale of these items are used to conduct surveys and research, perform habitat maintenance and improvement projects, and meet the administrative requirements necessary to conduct all hunting seasons. Any reduction in this funding impacts CDFW's ability to perform these duties.
Q: I have a general deer zone tag (Zones A, B, or a non-premium D tag) that I want to exchange but the archery season has already begun, can I still exchange it?
A: No. Once the earliest season for that tag has begun, you cannot exchange it. You will have to purchase a Second Deer Tag. (Section 708.4, Title 14 of the CCR)
Q: Can I get a refund if the specific area where I hunt has been closed because of fire?
A: No. Refunds will not be issued for emergency area closures due to fire, weather or other natural disasters. (Section 708.2(b), Title 14 of the CCR)
Q: I cannot use my hunting license or tag. Can I give them to someone else?
A: No. By law you cannot transfer a license or tag to another person (Fish and Game Code, Section 1052(a)).
Q: I thought premium draw tags could only be returned with a request to reinstate preference points before the first date the tag was valid. Why has this changed? Is this a one-time opportunity or is it long-term?
A: The catastrophic and unprecedented 2021 fire season that temporarily closed all national forests in California in early September impacted many of the deer, pronghorn antelope and elk hunting seasons and resulted in a loss of opportunity for many hunters who had “once in a lifetime” hunting tags. To address the temporary closures of entire forests, regulations were required to allow hunters to return their premium draw tags after the season started. In addition, CDFW took this opportunity to implement a long-term solution for future hunting seasons.
Q: What hunting tags are eligible to be returned?
A: The 2021 tags listed below are eligible for post-season tag return.
Eligible for Preference Points and/or Refund
- Elk Hunts:
300, 301, 302, 304, 305, 331, 401, 408, 409, 411
- Bighorn Sheep Hunts:
- Pronghorn Antelope Hunts:
710, 720, 730, 732, 734, 740, 742, 745, 750, 755, 760, 766, 780, 790
Eligible for Preference Points Only
- Deer Hunts:
A1*, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A11, A12, A13, A14, A15, C*, D14, D16, X1, X4, X8, G1, J21
*Only tags acquired through the Big Game Drawing as the customer’s first choice are eligible for preference point reinstatement.
Q: What do I need to do to return my tag to get my preference points back?
A: You must mail your unfilled tag(s) to us with a written request for preference point reinstatement (and/or refund for elk, pronghorn or bighorn sheep tags only). Your tag and written request must be postmarked prior to May 1, 2022 (i.e., no later than April 30, 2022). Tags and written requests postmarked after the deadline will not be accepted.
Mail the tag and the request to:
License and Revenue Branch
Attn: Big Game Hunting Desk
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
Although not required, tags and written requests may also be returned via overnight and other expedited delivery methods (e.g., UPS, FedEx, OnTrac, etc.) to:
License and Revenue Branch
Attn: Big Game Hunting Desk
715 P Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Q: Why isn’t my tag eligible to be returned for preference point reinstatement and/or tag refund?
A: California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, section 708.14 specifies the eligibility requirements for tag returns. If your tag is not listed as an eligible tag, it is because the specific hunt was not identified as meeting the eligibility requirements.
Q: Is there a specific form or format that should be used for the written request?
A: There is no specific form or format that you are required to use. Although the regulations do not specify the manner in which a request must be written or provide a comprehensive list of the information it must contain, the following are some general recommendations:
- Include a typed or legible handwritten request, asking for reinstatement of your preference points. Include your name, address, GO ID, and your contact information (phone and/or email address) in the event we have a question about your request. If you are requesting a refund of your elk, pronghorn or bighorn sheep tag fees, indicate that you want a refund in your request.
- Include the tag you are returning.
Q: Why is there a short deadline to return our tags?
A: We realize that the deadline does not provide affected tag holders with a lot of time to submit their eligible tags and written requests prior to May 1, 2022 (i.e., no later than April 30, 2022). CDFW was constrained by the regulatory calendar and opted to pursue implementing regulations for the 2021 license year and beyond instead of implementing changes during the 2022 license year. This was due to the profound effect the unprecedented public land closures had on hunters during the 2021 calendar year as a result of wildfires. The deadline was established to provide CDFW staff with adequate time to receive and process up to 12,000 expected tag returns before the 2022 Big Game Drawing deadline of June 2.
Q: My preference points have not been reinstated yet. How will I know they’ve been reinstated in time for the 2022 Big Game Drawing?
A: You may apply in the 2022 Big Game Drawing before your request is processed. If your request is approved, your reinstated preference points will be applied to your Big Game Drawing application at the time the drawing is conducted in early June 2022. If you have a valid email address on file and opted into Licensing Reminders, you will automatically receive an email after your preference points have been reinstated. You may also check to see if your preference points have been reinstated by visiting CDFW’s Online Sales and Service website and signing in to your customer record using your name, date of birth and GO ID as it appears on your hunting license. After you log in, select “View My Drawing Application/Preference Points” from the list of menu items at the top right side of the page.
Q: Will I receive a refund for my deer tag fees?
A: No. Pursuant to CCR Title 14, section 708(2)(b), deer tag fees are nonrefundable once a deer tag application has been entered into the Big Game Drawing or a deer tag has been issued, regardless of the cause of any zone closures.
Q: Will I receive a refund of my elk or pronghorn antelope tag fees?
A: Yes. Eligible elk and pronghorn tag holders may request a refund of their tag fee. If you request a tag refund in addition to preference point reinstatement, a nonrefundable processing fee of $31.93 will be deducted from your tag refund pursuant to CCR Title 14, section 708.14(k). Please allow six to eight weeks after your request is processed for a refund check to be mailed to you from the State Controller’s Office.
Q: Hunters have frequently had to deal with fires and closures, so why change now?
A: Fire is not a new phenomenon; it is a natural event that has impacted hunting access. The conditions of the last couple of years have, however, necessitated the complete closures of public lands, which unfortunately eliminated all public access. As a result, CDFW and the California Fish and Game Commission sought to revise the regulations to allow big game hunters to return their tags after a season starts in order to have their preference points reinstated and tag refunded in certain circumstances.
Q: I already mailed my tag to your office but missed the deadline to return the tag prior to the season opening, which was before the new regulations were implemented to allow tags to be returned after the season started. What do I need to do now?
A: If we received your returned tag and written request, and the tag is now eligible for return, there is nothing you need to do. We will process your request.
If you returned your tag but did not include a written request, you are still required to submit a written request for preference point reinstatement (and/or refund for elk, pronghorn or bighorn sheep tags only). To assist us in quickly locating and matching your previously mailed tag to your written request, we suggest that you describe the tag, delivery method used (e.g., USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.), and timeframe you to mailed it to us. Additionally, we suggest you review our FAQ “Is there a specific form or format that should be used for the written request?.” Your written request must be postmarked prior to May 1, 2022 (i.e., no later than April 30, 2022).
Q: What do I do if I already mailed my tag to CDFW to comply with harvest reporting requirements?
A: If CDFW received your unfilled tag after you mailed it to report that you did not hunt or that you hunted but were unsuccessful, you are still required to submit a written request for preference point reinstatement (and/or refund for elk, pronghorn or bighorn sheep tags only). To assist us in quickly locating and matching your previously mailed tag to your written request, we suggest that you describe the tag, delivery method used (e.g., USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.), and timeframe you to mailed it to us. Additionally, we suggest you review our FAQ “Is there a specific form or format that should be used for the written request?.” Your written request must be postmarked prior to May 1, 2022 (i.e., no later than April 30, 2022).
Q: What do I do if I lost my 2021 tag or threw it away after the season ended?
A: The regulations (PDF) require the unfilled tag to be returned to CDFW with a written request prior to May 1, 2022 (i.e., no later than April 30, 2022). CDFW cannot process requests if the regulatory requirements are not met.