In California, a hunting dog is considered an extension of the hunter, meaning that a dog may actually “take” game by catching a live bird or mammal. This means a dog that brings a wounded duck back to your blind has contributed to your bag limit, even if you didn’t shoot the duck. Under another scenario, a dog who “takes” game before legal shooting light can land you a fine for hunting before legal hours, but if you discard the bird you can be slapped with a fine for waste of game laws.
And if you’re out getting your dog some exercise after hunting season and he “retrieves” a wounded bird, you can be cited for illegal take, even if you weren’t hunting.
Make sense to you? Carrie Wilson from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) addressed this issue in her weekly Q&A column on March 18.
Question: Is it legal for a dog to grab a wounded duck on the way to the blind before shooting time? Last duck season a buddy and I were at Wister and at 4 a.m. we started for the blind and the dog was ahead of us going in and out of the water canals. When my buddy called him back, he showed up with a wounded duck that was still alive. Was it OK to keep that duck?
Answer: A dog is considered a legal method of take by DFG regulations. Dogs may be used to locate, retrieve and may actually “take” game by catching live game. According to DFG Northern California Chief Mike Carion, although it is legal for the dog to take game, you have to remember that any game it takes becomes part of the bag. In the scenario you have described, the dog’s take was done before legal hours and would be a technical violation of the law. In addition, if the hunter were to discard the bird it would be a violation of waste of game laws. In order to avoid issues of illegal take (for instance take before or after season, or before or after legal hours of take), your dog should be on a leash and under control so this scenario does not happen to you!