Two deer in Mariposa County.

Question: I photographed these two scruffy looking deer near my home in Mariposa. Are the disheveled, ratty hides caused by ticks and irritation? (Ralph)

Answer: We showed your photos to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologist Nathan Graveline, who has worked with deer populations for over a decade. He says there are several possible explanations for the way the deer look. Their scruffiness could simply be due to the time of year. In late spring, deer are shedding their winter coats, which are several months old and can start to look tattered. Other possibilities include old age, a copper deficiency or parasitic lice (or an overabundance of other external parasites).

But Graveline says his best guess is that the deer are being fed by locals. The deer in the front looks thin and drawn-in around the belly, which we often see in suburban deer that are being fed by residents. The deer digestive system can’t handle consumption of large amounts of grain. When a deer eats too much grain, its rumen (a chamber in its stomach) produces excessive amounts of acid, which can lead to ruminal acidosis, a disease that leads to declining health or even death. This is just one reason why feeding big game mammals is a bad idea – it’s also against the law, as per California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 14, section 251.3.

Fishing with cod liver oil

Question: I’ve seen people dip their bait in cod liver oil to catch trout in reservoirs. Is cod liver oil legal to use as a fish attractant? (Patrick)

Answer: Since cod liver oil is a fish oil, you should be fine using it to catch trout in reservoirs. There are also many commercially available attractants sold in sporting goods stores that you can use.

However, be mindful that there is a prohibition against putting any substance or material in the water that is deleterious to fish and/or wildlife, per Fish and Game Code, section 5650. You’ll want to make sure there are no additional ingredients in the cod liver oil that could be harmful. We see this issue come up when people use petroleum-based products like WD-40 as an attractant to catch fish. The statute specifically prohibits petroleum-based products, so using WD-40 is illegal.

Applying for the Big Game Drawing as a nonresident

Question: I have acquired 16 preference points for elk in California’s Big Game Drawing over the years. Last year, I moved to Oregon and now I’m thinking of applying for a California elk hunt as a nonresident. How does that work? Are nonresidents entered into the same pool as residents for the drawing of elk tags? Can a resident and nonresident apply together on the same party application? (Anthony)

Answer: Both California residents and nonresidents compete in the same pool for elk tags in California’s annual Big Game Drawing. The good news is that you keep all the elk preference points you acquired over the years, improving your chances of drawing a tag. The bad news for you is that nonresidents collectively are limited to one elk tag per year in the entire drawing, which makes the odds of drawing an elk tag pretty difficult. Nonresidents may not apply as a party. (CCR Title 14, section 708.11(b))

Other California elk hunting options you may want to consider are those hunts offered through CDFW’s SHARE program, which stands for Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement. These are public elk hunts that take place on private property through participating landowners and awarded via a separate lottery. These hunts are open to both California residents and nonresidents with no quotas or limits on nonresidents. Applications for these hunts go on sale June 16, 2020, after the Big Game Drawing results are announced. So, if you strike out in the Big Game Drawing, the SHARE hunts are additional elk hunting opportunities you can pursue. Preference points do not apply and are not gained or lost in SHARE hunts.

Utilizing a lifetime license

Question: I’m considering purchasing a California lifetime fishing license. My family may move out of California. If I too decide to move out of state, will I be able to utilize my fishing license? (Mike)

Answer: Good news! If you move out of California, your lifetime fishing license will still be valid. But make sure to get the license before you move out of state, as you must be a California resident at the time of purchase.