California youth hunters have enjoyed a new benefit that took effect at the beginning of the 2015-16 hunting season, AB 1709, signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown in 2014, amended Fish and Game Code, section 3031, by extending the eligibility period for a junior hunting license by two years. This regulation change redefined a junior hunter from 15 years of age and under, to 17 years of age and under.
The change allowed for an extension of youth-specific hunting benefits including reduced fees, exemption from some endorsement requirements and access to special youth hunt opportunities. However, there remain special circumstances and exceptions to the new rule, which are particularly important to understand during waterfowl season.
The change to the age definition affected only California state code, and did not change the federal regulation definition. The federal definition of a youth hunter remains 15 years of age or younger.
Because waterfowl are migratory, the waterfowl hunting regulations fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. For this reason, waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older must possess a federal waterfowl endorsement stamp.
In addition, the federal age definition remains the standard for some special hunt opportunities, particularly those hosted, held or sponsored by federal agencies or on federal lands, and all youth-only waterfowl hunting days. For the upcoming post-season youth hunt weekend and future youth-only waterfowl hunting days, participants must be 15 years of age or younger and must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult 18 years of age or older.
CDFW is pleased by the new opportunities created for junior hunters with the change to the California state regulations, but reminds the public to be aware of and follow the federal regulations as well.
To read the complete language of AB 1709 and Fish and Game Code, section 3031, see http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB1709.