Hunting Licenses and Tags

CDFW Wildlife Area operational changes due to COVID-19: The Department plans to operate wildlife areas to provide recreational opportunities while keeping the public and Department staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue to check the Emergency Closures page for updates.

Effective February 1, 2021, camping activities on CDFW lands resumed for those areas where camping is permitted.

License Items and Fees

Purchase these items ONLINE or at any CDFW License Sales Office or License Agent.

Valid JULY 1, 2022 through JUNE 30, 2023

Fish and Game Code Section 70 defines "Resident" as any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior to the date of their application for a license or permit, any person on active military duty with the Armed Forces of the United States or auxiliary branch thereof, or any person enrolled in the Job Corps established pursuant to Section 2883 of Title 29 of the United States Code.

Fish and Game Code Section 86 defines "Take" as hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill.

License fees include a 3% nonrefundable application fee, not to exceed $7.50 per item.

Licenses issued from license agents include a 5% nonrefundable license agent handling fee.

Hunting Licenses

Title Fee Description
Resident Hunting License $54.00 Required for any resident 16 years of age or older who takes birds or mammals.
Nonresident Hunting License $188.74 Required for any nonresident 16 years of age or older who takes birds or mammals.
Junior Hunting License $14.30 Required for any resident or nonresident less than 16 years of age who takes birds or mammals. To qualify, hunter must be less than 16 years of age at the beginning of the license year (July 1).
One-Day Nonresident Hunting License $25.92 IMPORTANT! This license is only available for nonresidents taking resident and migratory game birds on Licensed Game Bird Clubs (Upland Game Bird Validation is also required) or Licensed Domesticated Migratory Game Bird Shooting Areas (Federal Duck Stamp and California Duck Validation are also required).
Two-Day Nonresident Hunting License $54.00

Allows a nonresident 16 years of age or older to take resident and migratory game birds, resident small game mammals, nongame mammals and furbearers for two consecutive days. Additional validations and tags may be required for certain species. IMPORTANT! This license is NOT valid for deer, bear, elk, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, or pig.

Disabled Veteran Reduced Fee Hunting License $8.24 at CDFW Offices
$8.64 from License Agents

Available for any resident or nonresident honorably discharged disabled veteran with a 50 percent or greater service-connected disability. After you prequalify for your first Disabled Veteran Reduced Fee Hunting License, you can purchase a disabled veteran license anywhere licenses are sold.

Disabled Veteran Reduced Fee Hunting License

Recovering Service Member Reduced-Fee Hunting License
$8.24 at CDFW Offices
$8.64 from License Agents
Available to any recovering service member. A recovering service member is defined as a member of the armed forces, including a member of the National Guard or a Reserve, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy and is in an outpatient status while recovering from a serious injury or illness related to the member's military service. After you prequalify for your Recovering Service Member Reduced-Fee Hunting License, you can purchase a recovering service member hunting license anywhere licenses are sold.

Recovering Service Member Reduced-Fee Hunting License
Duplicate Hunting License $11.62 Available Online, at any CDFW License Sales Offices and License Agents.

Big Game Tag Drawing Applications

More information about Applying for the Big Game Tag Drawing

Title Fee Description
Resident First-Deer Tag or First-Deer Tag Drawing Application $35.38

Hunters may obtain two deer tags per license year. Applicants for deer tags must be age 12 as of July 1, of the current license year or at the time of purchase if purchasing after July 1. A First-Deer Tag Drawing Application or First-Deer Tag must be purchased before or at the same time as a Second-Deer Tag Drawing Application (junior hunters only) or Second-Deer Tag. See the Big Game Hunting Digest for more information.

Resident Second-Deer Tag or Second-Deer Tag Drawing Application $44.28
Nonresident First-Deer Tag or First-Deer Tag Drawing Application $317.00
Nonresident Second-Deer Tag or Second-Deer Tag Drawing Application $317.00
Elk, Pronghorn Antelope and Bighorn Sheep Tag Drawing Applications $8.13 per application

See the Big Game Hunting Digest for more information about the Big Game Drawing.

Big Game Tags

Title Fee Description
Bear Tag
$28.34 Resident Junior
$52.41 Resident
$334.05 Nonresident
Resident and nonresident licensed hunters age 12 or older as of July 1 of the current license year, may purchase. One bear tag per license year.
Elk Tag
$23.50 Resident Junior
$512.05 Resident
$1,568.05 Nonresident
Resident and nonresident licensed hunters age 12 or older as of July 1 of the current license year, may enter a drawing for this tag. Each person may submit only one Elk Tag Drawing Application per license year.
Pronghorn Antelope Tag
$23.50 Resident Junior
$172.29 Resident
$527.50 Nonresident
Resident and nonresident licensed hunters, age 12 or older as of July 1 of the current license year, may enter a drawing for this tag. Each person may submit only one Pronghorn Tag Drawing Application per license year.
Bighorn Sheep Tag
$468.75 Resident
$1,736.75 Nonresident
Resident and nonresident licensed hunters, age 16 or older as of July 1 of the current license year, may enter a drawing for this tag. Each person may submit only one Bighorn Sheep Tag Drawing Application per license year. Hunters can not apply as a party. Applicants can not apply if they have previously been issued a California Bighorn Sheep Tag through the Big Game Drawing.
Wild Pig Tag $25.92 Resident
$86.97 Nonresident
Resident and nonresident licensed hunters, 12 years of age or older at the time of application, may purchase an unlimited number of Wild Pig Tags. Tags are nonrefundable and nontransferable.

Bird Hunting Validations

Title Fee Description
California Duck Validation $34.56 Required for any person taking waterfowl, excluding juniors hunting under the authority of a Junior Hunting License.
Upland Game Bird Validations $21.60 Required for any person taking upland game bird species, excluding juniors hunting under the authority of a Junior Hunting License.
Federal Duck Stamp $25.00 Required for any person hunting waterfowl. Hunters under the age of 16 are exempt from the Federal Duck Stamp requirement. Federal Duck Stamps are not sold at CDFW offices. Federal Duck Stamps can be purchased at many post offices and some license agents. More information about the Federal Duck Stamp (USFWS).
Harvest Information Program (HIP) Validation NO FEE Required for any person hunting ducks, dove, gallinules, geese, band-tailed pigeon, black brant, coots, and snipe. This validation is free to hunters who complete the Harvest Information Program (HIP) Survey. The validation is available where hunting licenses are sold. The HIP Validation is imprinted on your hunting license document when you answer the HIP Survey questions. If you hunt migratory game birds, verify that a HIP Validation has been printed on your hunting license. The HIP Survey provides wildlife biologists with data needed to make wildlife management decisions and formulate hunting seasons. More information about HIP

Passes for State-Operated Hunting Areas

Title Fee Description
Type A One-Day Pass $24.33 Allows a licensed hunter to hunt on a Type A State-operated Wildlife Area for one day if space is available. Junior hunters are exempt from permit requirements.
Type A Two-Day Pass $39.14 Allows a licensed hunter to hunt on a Type A State-operated Wildlife Area. This pass may be used as follows: 1) by one person for any two authorized shoot days; or 2) by two persons on any one authorized shoot day. Junior hunters are exempt from pass requirements.
Type A Season Pass $183.34 Allows a licensed hunter unlimited season access to Type A and Type B State-operated Wildlife Areas for one person if space is available. Junior hunters are exempt from permit requirements.
Type B Season Pass $61.56 Allows a licensed hunter unlimited season access to Type B State-operated Wildlife Areas for one person if space is available. Junior hunters are exempt from pass requirements.

Reservation Applications for State-Operated Hunting Areas

Title Fee Description
Reservation Application $1.34 per application Allows a licensed hunter to apply for reservation drawings to hunt on State-operated Wildlife Areas.

Lifetime Hunting Licenses

Title Fee Description
Ages 0-9 $594.75

Available to any resident showing proof of completion of hunter education training. Lifetime hunting licensees receive an annual hunting license each year for life. Lifetime Hunting Packages must first be purchased from a CDFW License Sales Office. See Lifetime License application and information for more detail.

Ages 10-39 $972.50
Ages 40-61 $876.00
Ages 62+ $594.75
Lifetime Bird Hunting Privilege Package $345.50 Lifetime licensees who purchase the Lifetime Bird Hunting Privilege Package receive Upland Game Bird and California Duck Validations each year for life.
Lifetime Big Game Hunting Privilege Package $723.75 Lifetime licensees who purchase the Big Game Hunting Privilege Package receive a One-Deer Tag Application and five Wild Pig Tags each year for life.

Permits for Hunters with Disabilities

Title Fee Description
Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle Hunting License Application NO FEE Available to any resident or nonresident for mobility impaired disabled hunter who must use a motor vehicle to pursue game. A person must be either permanently or fully confined to a wheel chair, a single or double amputee above the knee or double amputee below the knee or depend upon the aid of a walker, crutches, etc. to walk. Certification from the hunter's physician is required. The license is only available from the CDFW's License and Revenue Branch.

Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle Hunting License (PDF Form).
Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit NO FEE Available to any resident or nonresident visually impaired hunter having a permanent loss, significant limitation, or diagnosed disease or disorder, which substantially impairs the vision of a hunter, preventing the hunter from viewing and aligning the sights of a muzzle-loading rifle with the target in order to hunt deer. A visually disabled hunter may use a scope of no more than one power while hunting under the conditions of a muzzle-loading deer hunt tag. Certification from the hunter's physician or optometrist is required annually, except if the physician or optometrist indicated on the initial application that the hunter's disability is permanent the hunter will be able to provide a copy of their previously issued Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit to renew the permit. The permit is only available from the CDFW's License and Revenue Branch.

Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit Application (PDF Form).
Disabled Archer Permit NO FEE Available to any resident or nonresident hunter's having permanent loss, significant limitation, or diagnosed disease or disorder, which substantially impairs one or both upper extremities preventing a hunter to draw and hold a bow in a firing position. Allows the hunter to hunt with a crossbow or other device to draw and hold a bow in a firing position under the conditions of an archery tag or during archery season. Certification from the hunter's physician is required annually, except if the physician indicated on the initial application that the hunter's disability is permanent the hunter will be able to provide a copy of their previously issued Disabled Archer Permit to renew the permit. The permit is only available from the CDFW's License and Revenue Branch.

Disabled Archer Permit Application (PDF Form).

Tag Reporting

REPORT YOUR HARVEST

To report your harvest, log into the Online License Service by using the "Report Your Harvest" button above.

Tag Reporting Requirements

If you have not reported your big game harvest report card(s) by the regulatory deadlines, please mail your harvest report card to the Department's Wildlife Branch at:
CDFW Wildlife Branch
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Harvest Report Type Reporting Requirements Program Information
Antelope Tags All tag holders must submit a harvest report. Successful hunters must report immediately. Unsuccessful hunters must submit a report within one week after the close of the pronghorn antelope season. (CCR, T14 Section 708.10) Pronghorn Antelope
Bear Tags Successful hunters must report immediately after take. Unsuccessful hunters must submit a report by February 1 of the license year. (CCR, T14 Section 708.12) Bear
Bighorn Sheep Tags Successful hunters should report immediately. All tag holders must submit a report within 10 days after the close of the season. (CCR, T14 Section 708.09) Bighorn Sheep
Bobcat Tags Successful hunters must immediately submit a harvest report to the Department. (CCR, T14 Section 478.1) Bobcat
Deer Tags Successful deer tag holders are required to report deer harvested within 30 days of the date of harvest or by January 31, whichever date is first. Unsuccessful deer tag holders, whether they hunted or not, are required to report no harvest by January 31 (CCR, T14 Section 708.5) Deer
Elk Tags All tag holders must submit a harvest report. Successful hunters must report immediately. Unsuccessful hunters must submit a report within one week after the close of the elk season.  (CCR, T14 Section 708.11) Elk
Wild Pig Tags Successful hunters must immediately submit a harvest report to the department. (CCR, T14 Section 708.13) Wild Pig

Reduced-Fee Hunting License and Disabled Entitlements

To qualify for a for Free or Reduced-Fee Sport Fishing License, anglers must meet the criteria described below.

2021 Disabled Veteran Hunting License – Fee $8.38

Reduced-fee licenses are available for any honorably discharged veteran of the US Armed Forces with a service–connected disability rating of 50% or greater.

To prequalify to purchase a disabled veteran license, submit a letter from the Veteran’s Administration documenting that you were honorably discharged from the US military and have a service–connected disability rating of 50% or greater. After your eligibility has been verified, your customer record will be updated. Once you receive notification from the Department that your customer record has been updated, you will be able to purchase a low cost disabled veteran sport fishing license and/or hunting license anywhere licenses are sold.

2021 Recovering Service Member Hunting License - Fee $8.38

Reduced-fee hunting licenses are available for recovering service members. A recovering service member as a member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or a Reserve, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy and is in an outpatient status while recovering from a serious injury or illness related to the member’s military service.

Submit a letter from your commanding officer or from a military medical doctor verifying your eligibility as a recovering service member. Please have your commanding officer or military medical doctor include the expected recovery date in your verification letter. The Department will enter this date into your customer profile and allow you to renew your license until this date without submitting another letter from your commanding officer or doctor.

How to Prequalify for a Disabled Veteran or Recovering Service Member License

Send a photocopy of your identification and documentation of eligibility by:

  • Mail or apply in person at any CDFW license sales office
  • Fax at (916) 419-7585
  • Secure document upload - To upload your documentation, you must request a secure document upload. Send your request for a secure document upload to LRB@wildlife.ca.gov. You will receive a response with a link to upload your documentation securely. DO NOT send your documents via email.

Include:

  • Identification - one of the following:
    • Your GO ID (from your previously issued ALDS hunting or fishing license); or
    • Other form of identification (driver’s license, military ID). Identification must include your address, height, weight, eye color, hair color, gender, and date of birth.
  • A letter documenting your eligibility.
    • Disabled Veterans must submit a letter from the Veteran’s Administration
    • Recovering Service Members must submit a letter from their Commanding Officer or a military doctor).
  • Telephone number
  • E-mail address (optional, but may expedite issuance)
  • For hunting licenses only - proof of hunter education (Proof is not needed if you purchased a California hunting license after 2011. CDFW will have your hunter education on file.)

Disabled Entitlements

Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle Hunting License - NO FEE

Available to any resident or nonresident for mobility impaired disabled hunter who must use a motor vehicle to pursue game. A person must be either permanently or fully confined to a wheel chair, a single or double amputee above the knee or double amputee below the knee or depend upon the aid of a walker, crutches, etc. to walk. Certification from the hunter's physician is required. The license is only available from the CDFW's License and Revenue Branch.

Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle Hunting License Application (PDF Form)

Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit- NO FEE

Available to any resident or nonresident visually impaired hunter having a permanent loss, significant limitation, or diagnosed disease or disorder, which substantially impairs the vision of a hunter, preventing the hunter from viewing and aligning the sights of a muzzle-loading rifle with the target in order to hunt deer. A visually disabled hunter may use a scope of no more than one power while hunting under the conditions of a muzzle-loading deer hunt tag. Certification from the hunter's physician or optometrist is required annually, except if the physician or optometrist indicated on the initial application that the hunter's disability is permanent the hunter will be able to provide a copy of their previously issued Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit to renew the permit. The permit is only available from the CDFW's License and Revenue Branch.

Visually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permit Application (PDF Form)

Disabled Archer Permit- NO FEE

Available to any resident or nonresident hunter's having permanent loss, significant limitation, or diagnosed disease or disorder, which substantially impairs one or both upper extremities preventing a hunter to draw and hold a bow in a firing position. Allows the hunter to hunt with a crossbow or other device to draw and hold a bow in a firing position under the conditions of an archery tag or during archery season. Certification from the hunter's physician is required annually, except if the physician indicated on the initial application that the hunter's disability is permanent the hunter will be able to provide a copy of their previously issued Disabled Archer Permit to renew the permit. The permit is only available from the CDFW's License and Revenue Branch.

Disabled Archer Permit Application (PDF Form)

Frequently Asked Questions

General License Questions

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.

  1. 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).
  2. Fallow, sambar, sika, and axis deer may be taken only concurrently with the general deer season.
  3. Aoudad, mouflon, tahr, and feral goats may be taken all year.
  4. 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.

Hunter Education

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?

A: Yes.

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?

A: No.

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.

Pre-Season Tag Returns

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)).

Post Season Tag Returns

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:
    None
  • 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:

CDFW
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:

CDFW
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.

Exchanges, Returns, Preference Points

Post Season Tag Returns

California Fish and Game Commission Adopts Regulations to Allow Return of Premium Deer, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope, and Bighorn Sheep Tags for Areas Impacted by Public Land Closures Caused by Wildfires

The California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) recently adopted regulations that would allow premium deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep tag holders whose seasons were cut short or eliminated due to public land closures caused by wildfires to return their unfilled premium tags and appeal for reinstatement of their preference points. Eligible tag holders would also earn a preference point for the species for the affected season. In addition, eligible elk, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep tag holders may request a refund of their tag fees. The adopted regulations were approved by the Office of Administrative Law and became effective April 18, 2022.

Premium tag holders whose seasons were cut short or eliminated during the 2021 hunting license year due to public land closures are encouraged to view the list of eligible tags (PDF) for return and preference point reinstatement. Eligible tag holders may return their unfilled premium tags with a written request to CDFW, postmarked prior to May 1, 2022 (i.e. no later than April 30, 2022), to be eligible for preference point reinstatement and/or tag refunds. Tags and written requests postmarked on or after May 1, 2022 (i.e. no later than April 30, 2022), shall not be considered for preference point reinstatement and/or tag refunds.

CDFW is in the process of notifying eligible tag holders of the tag return opportunity with instructions to surrender their unfilled tags and request for preference point reinstatement and/or tag refunds.

Pre-Season Tag Returns

Tag Returns/Exchanges and Preference Points

Elk, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep tags can be returned to the CDFW License and Revenue Branch by mail before the season starts for a refund (minus the 2022 nonrefundable processing fee of $32.70) if the hunter is unable to hunt. A written request must accompany the tag surrendered. The tag and written request must be postmarked before the season starts. If approved, preference points will be reinstated and one preference point will be awarded for the species for the hunt year ((CCR T14-708.14(k)(1)).

Resident deer tag fees are nonrefundable regardless of closures due to fire, weather, or other natural disasters (CCR T14-708.2). Preference points used to obtain a premium deer tag may be reinstated if the premium tag is returned to CDFW before the season starts (see below for more information and list of eligible deer tags).

Nonresident deer tag fees may be partially refunded as follows (CCR T14-708.2(b)):

  • The difference between the fee paid for a nonresident deer tag application and a resident deer tag application may be refunded for a nonresident deer tag application for which a deer tag was not issued.
  • CDFW may refund the difference between the fee paid for a nonresident deer tag and a resident deer tag for a nonresident deer tag issued if all of the following conditions are met:
    • The deer tag is not a premium tag.
    • The deer tag is returned prior to the earliest opening date for the hunt.
    • The tag quota has not been filled for the hunt.

Requests for nonresident deer tag refunds shall be submitted to the CDFW's License and Revenue Branch on or before March 1 of the license year.

Premium deer hunt tags cannot be exchanged but preference points may be reinstated. Customers unable to hunt may surrender their tag via mail to the CDFW License and Revenue Branch before the season starts, along with a written request to have their preference points reinstated. The tag must be postmarked prior to the earliest date that the tag is valid for hunting. If the request is approved, preference points will be reinstated and one preference point will be awarded for deer for the hunt year ((CCR T14-708.14(j)(1)). Premium deer tags are defined as any hunt in which the quota filled on or before the first business day after July 1 of the previous year.

Mail tags and written requests to:

CDFW License and Revenue Branch
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Restricted and unrestricted deer tags may be exchanged by mail at any CDFW license sales office if all of the conditions below are met (CCR T14-708.4).

  • The earliest season for the tag to be exchanged has not yet opened. In most cases this is archery season, but check season dates for confirmation.
  • The tag quota for the tag to be exchanged has not filled.
  • Tags are still available for the zone to be requested. View a list of available deer tags (PDF).
  • The exchange fee of $11.33 for the exchange tag accompanies your request.

If all of the tag exchange conditions above are met, you must contact a CDFW license sales office via telephone or email to arrange your tag exchange.