Outside Questions & Answers: Does CDFW offer hunting season dates only for muzzle loaders? | Outside


Muzzleloading hunts

Question: Hi. I won a charger by mouth in a drawing but have never drawn one before or have never been familiar with the rules. Are there specific hunting season dates in California for muzzle-only magazines, so we’re not competing with modern rifles and scopes?

A: For the 2021 deer season, CDFW has offered 10 muzzle-loading rifle hunts which can be found via the “Additional Hunts (PDF) (opens in a new tab)” link under the “Seasons” tab of our Deer hunting Web page. You can also find them on page 33 of the CDFW 2021 Big Game Hunting Compendium (PDF, opens in new tab).

The letter “M” denotes a muzzle-loading rifle hunt and “MA” denotes a muzzle-loading / archery rifle hunt.

During these two types of hunts, only open or “peep” type sights can be used. Litters are not allowed. Season dates and the number of available beacons are listed. Hunters must request a tag by Large annual drawing of the CDFW before the application deadline in June.

Muzzleloading hunts are for limited areas and are usually scheduled for the end of the year, making them desirable but more difficult to draw. For deer hunting, familiarize yourself with the Authorized Methods of Catching Big Game regulation section (opens in a new tab).

You can also use your muzzleloader rifle during a general season for which you have a tag. You could even use a scope during a general season and you wouldn’t be limited to open or “peep” type sights. If you are interested, there are other opportunities such as the Resident Small Game Muzzleloading Shotguns.

The CDFW reminds hunters that unleaded ammunition is required to take wildlife with any firearm in California, including muzzleloaders.

Delta blob

Question: I love to recharge in the Delta, and sometimes on my walks I see those gelatinous brown spots in the water that look a bit like jellyfish. They seem to appear in the summer. What are these?

A: The creatures you see on your walks are freshwater bryozoan. The scientific name is Pectinatella magnifica. They were originally found on the east coast and headed west. Scientists wrote in 2005 about the discovery of freshwater bryozoans in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it is likely that the bryozoan arrived in the delta years earlier.

Bryozoa are very common seasonally in the Delta and probably in all lowland freshwater reservoirs in California. We often hear them called “blobs”, but in reality, they are a colony of small, individual animals in a gelatinous matrix.

As you mentioned, they are usually found in warmer waters from June to September. They are not poisonous and do not sting, but we suggest washing your hands if you come in contact with one. To see the United States Geological Survey website (opens in a new tab) for more information and links.

Big game rifle

Question: Could you help me with some information regarding the use of an AR 556/223 rifle for hunting? It is a California compliant rifle with a five round magazine. Would this be a legal setup for hunting?

A: Yes, you can use the rifle you described as long as it is California Compliant (opens in new tab) by the California Attorney General’s Office. California hunting regulations limit the type of cartridge and bullet for big game hunting, but not the firearm itself.

In short, big game can only be taken with firearms using centerfire cartridges with a soft nose or expansive projectiles, per California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 14, section 353 (c). Take extra care to make sure your .223 bullets fit this description, as most .223 bullets are made with full metal casings, which would be illegal to use.

Your other consideration is the mandatory use of unleaded ammunition for all hunts in California, which is typically a specialized type of ammunition for the .223 or similar 5.56.

Based on your own assessment, it appears you’ve determined that your AR 556/223 is California Compliant and that you have unleaded ammunition. Verify in this third box that the bullets are soft-nosed or expanding projectiles, and you are good to go. Your five-cartridge magazine is also legal to use. See CCR, Title 14, Section 353 for more details on the permitted catch methods for big game.

Dove Opener

Q: I’m planning to hunt the Dove Opener in Imperial County on September 1st. I understand that CDFW produces maps that show which fields have been planted. Where would I find them? And do you have any predictions on how the season might look like this year?

A: Yes. The CDFW publishes maps of the fields planted in Imperial County (PDF) (opens in a new tab) on its website. Wheat and sunflower were the main crops planted, and some fields have additional Sudan, Bermuda and alfalfa.

It has been a hot and dry year, and the drought has certainly affected agriculture, which in turn affects the presence and movement of doves. We’ve had mixed reports across the state, with some areas seeing high numbers of first-year birds and others very few.

As always, we look forward to an exceptional hunting season and wish our hunters in the field good luck this year.


Helen L. Cuellar

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