California has the most progressive Airgun Hunting Rules & Regulations in the country but they are often misunderstood due to the overwhelming focus on Firearms Hunting in the great Golden State. One of the largest areas of confusion currently involves Airgun Hunting within the California Condor Range using lead pellets on non game animals such as ground squirrels.. As an Airgun Enthusiast and Hunter I decided to find the truth on this important subject as its much better to have solid facts vs. ones opinion/interpretation when having a discussion in the field with a Game Warden!
The other day I set forth on this mission and spent some time touching base with the California Department of Fish & Game that ultimately put me in contact with a Game Warden. I explained to the officer that I am an airgun hunter and that I wanted to get clarification with supporting details regarding the use of airguns to hunt non game animals like ground squirrels within the California Condor Range.
I let him know that in years past, the Rules & Regulations spelled it out clearly that Airgun Hunting with lead pellets was an exception to the lead ban but I could not find the same language in the current Rules & Regulations. What I did initially find in Big, Bold Print in the 2010 2011 Mammal Hunting Regulations Handbook was:
Get the Lead out of
California condor range
Bullets Banned for Hunting in Condor Range
Effective July 1, 2008, it is illegal to use or possess lead projectiles (bullets) while hunting big game and non game species in the range of the endangered California condor.
The Game Warden said let me get my books out and well walk through this and get you an answer!
To begin this hunt for info., we first go to the California Penal Code and to define What Is and What is Not a Firearm in the State of California.
So what is a Firearm?
In the California Penal Codes, Section 12001, (b) states:
(b) As used in this title, firearm means any device, designed to be used as a weapon, from which is expelled through a barrel, a projectile by the force of any explosion or other form of combustion.
Based on that definition of a Firearm, airguns dont fit that definition but there is more to clarify what is not a Firearm in the California Penal Code, read on!
In the California Penal Codes, Section 12001, (g) states:
(g) For purposes of Sections 12551 and 12552, the term BB device means any instrument that expels a projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, not exceeding 6mm caliber, through the force of air pressure, gas pressure, or spring action, or any spot marker gun.
Now lets take a look at what methods are not allowed for hunting non game animals within the California Condor Range.
In the 2010-2011 Mammal Hunting Regulations Handbook Section 475, (f), (1):
(f) Methods of take within the California condor range. Except as otherwise provided, it is un¬lawful to use or possess projectiles containing more than one percent lead by weight while taking or attempting to take any nongame birds or nongame mammals in those areas described in Section 3004.5, Fish and Game Code.
(1) For purposes of Section 475, a projectile is defined as any bullet, ball, sabot, slug, buckshot, shot, pellet or other device which is expelled from a firearm through a barrel by force.
The use of the word pellet above causes most readers, airgunners or not, to come to the conclusion that Well it clearly spells out that you cant use lead pellets for hunting, end of story, no hunting with airguns and lead pellets for non game animals like ground squirrels!
But wait, earlier we learned that the California Penal Code stated that a BB device includes pellet guns that fire projectiles 6mm or less through the force of air pressure, gas pressure, or spring action!!!
The Game Warden concluded that if your airgun is shooting a lead projectile that is 6mm or less, you are good to go with hunting non game animals inside the California Condor Range. If you need maps to outline the California Condor Range, they are on our website and elsewhere. Any other questions you have that I can help you with?
So if youre interested in taking your airguns out to hunt ground squirrels in the California Condor Range, it can be done legally with lead pellets provided you comply with the 6mm caliber or less requirement. Its best to call the local Game Warden for the area you are planning to hunt to verify if there are any exceptions that prevent you from using or having lead projectiles on your possession in that area.
If you have any questions, California Department of Fish and Game can be reached at:
Mailing Address: California Fish and Game Commission
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090 Physical Address: California Fish and Game Commission
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1320
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone Number: (916) 653-4899
Fax Number: (916) 653-5040
Department of Fish & Game Enforcement Division: (916) 653-4094