BEING A HUNTER IN CALIFORNIA IS NOT EASY. Sure, our prey is wary and difficult to harvest. But, the greatest challenge we face as a community is not the game we pursue.Over the course of the past couple of decades it seems that every type of hunting has been confronted with a political threat of some type. But, perhaps the greatest threat to ourability to stay in the field isn’t a proposal to stop what we hunt, rather one which challenges what we hunt with. California Deer Association’s (CDA) political team is always atwork – not only watching out for and confronting every new challenge to hunting in our state, but also pushing back with our own positive proposals to keep you in the field. Legislation CDA is currently co-sponsoring in California’s State Legislature is just one example.Even the most out-of-touch hunter has heard by now that recently passed legislation will soon make California the only state in the Union to require the use of non-lead ammunition for the taking of any wildlife, anywhere in our state. Specifically, Assembly Bill 711, legislation passed by the California State Legislature in 2013, mandates that non-lead ammunition be used for the taking of all wildlife – including all game mammals, game birds, nongame birds and nongame mammals – with any firearm by July 1, 2019. AB 711 left the dirty details of developing the exact schedule for phasing in the ban to the California Fish and Game Commission – giving them a full implementation deadline of July 1, 2019, buturging them to move much quicker. With nontoxic ammunition already required for waterfowl hunting for the past quarter century, the Commission did move quickly on placing the non-lead requirement on wildlife typically taken with “waterfowl size” shotgun loads. But aware that ammunition manufacturers would need more time to develop and produce effective big game loads, CDA worked with the Department of Fish andWildlife and the Commission to delay requiring non-lead ammo for deer and most other big game right up until the July 2019 deadline.
AB 711 is not the first bill banning the use of lead ammunition in California. In 2007, then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 821, legislation which banned the use of lead ammunition in all deer hunting zones within regions of the state inhabited by the California Condor. Admittedly, that ban has caused relatively minor problems, but only because hunters currently have choices. Presently, if you prefer to hunt with a rare caliber for which you cannot find non-lead ammo, you can put in for a tag for a zone outside the “condor range” and use your lead loads. If you shot a popular caliber such as 30.06 or .270, you’ll pay more, but you can currently find non-lead ammo on some store shelves – but only due to the present low demand. Yet, when the full mandate goes into effect in July 2019, everybody who hunts or takes wildlife for depredation purposes in California must use non-lead loads. The more popular your preferred caliber, the higher the demand, and the lower the chance you find it at your local retailer. The more unique your preferred caliber, the more likely non-lead loads may not even be in production.
With the 2019 statewide lead ban fast approaching, California hunters have taken some comfort in knowing that, when that time comes, they could look to out of state retailers to meet their sudden need for non-lead loads – that is, until just recently. Last summer’s passage of Senate Bill 1235 and subsequent approval of Proposition 63 on our November 2016 ballot, will prohibit
the direct internet and mail order purchase of all ammunition beginning on July 1, 2019 – Yep! The exact same day that California will require the use, statewide, of non-lead ammunition for all big game and other wildlife species. Thinking of driving up to Cabela’s in Nevada to buy yours? Think again. These new laws also prohibit bringing in ammunition purchased out of
state unless you go through a licensed ammunition vendor. If you can’t acquire the non-lead ammunition you need, you can’t hunt – period… regardless of the long-coveted tag you may have finally drawn.
Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke, signing Secretarial Order 3346, which repeals a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directive the Obama administration issued the day before Trump took office, barring the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in national parks and wildlife refuges. Despite this victory, the state of California, still faces the non-lead 2019 deadline.
With non-lead loads for big game sure to be toughest to find on local store shelves, CDA is aware that our members will be the absolute hardest hit by the collision of these two mandates. Not willing to sit idle, CDA is taking a stand. Earlier this year, CDA’s political team drafted language for legislation which, if passed, would provide big game hunters with critically needed relief – should the combination of these new laws make any caliber of non-lead ammo hard to find on California retailer shelves in 2019 and beyond.
Working closely with Assembly Member Brian Dahle (R-1st/Bieber) and Assembly Member Devon Mathis (R-26th/Visalia) – California Deer Association is proud to be a lead co-sponsor of Assembly Bill 1544, legislation intended to keep California’s hunters in the field. Currently, language in the Fish and Game Code allows the Director of Fish and Wildlife to temporarily suspend the prohibition on lead ammunition for a specific hunting season and caliber, if non-lead ammunition of that caliber is not commercially available because of federal prohibitions related to armor-piercing ammunition. Specifically,Assembly Bill 1544 proposes to substantially expand this exemption to allow the Director to suspend the prohibition for a hunting season and caliber should ammunition of that caliber not be available for any reason.
Introduced in the California State Legislature February 17th, Assembly Bill 1544 will first be heard in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. Although, at the time of this writing, the bill had not yet been scheduled for hearing, it will likely be first heard in early to mid-April. Make no mistake about it – passing this positive, pro-hunting bill in California’s often unforgiving Legislature will be very difficult. But CDA’s experienced political team is up to the task, and our members can help. Through California Deer magazine and other outreach, we will be pleased provide our members with updates on the progress of Assembly Bill 1544. CDA members can play a critical role in helping to pass this bill by contacting their elected representatives and urging them to strongly support this critically needed legislation, and/or attending committee hearings at our State Capitol and testifying in support.
California is well known for being ground-zero in the nationwide effort of animal-rights groups to take hunters out of the field. The California Deer Association is proud to be on the front-lines of this non-stop battle, fighting against the continual challenges to our outdoor traditions. Working with Assembly Members Brian Dahle and Devon Mathis on the introduction of Assembly Bill 1544 is just one of CDA’s many efforts on the political front. Working together with our members on this important proposal, as well as in addressing other issues of concern, CDA will ensure a strong and proud future for deer and deer hunting in California.