October 10, 2021

California’s “Free Hunting Days” Legislation Signed into Law

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Assistant Manager, Pacific States


Why it Matters: California’s hunting and fishing license sales have been declining over the last several decades, which has resulted in decreased funding for conservation and wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays — public benefits” structure, California’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife through license and tags sales. To combat these declining numbers, state wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, and hunting/fishing organizations have all invested heavily in R3 efforts and continue to identify strategies to increase participation in outdoor activities.

Modeled after California’s successful “Free Fishing Days”, Assembly Bill 804 will establish two “Free Hunting Days” each year—one in both the Spring and Fall. As part of a recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) effort to recruit new hunters, AB 804 aims to encourage new participation in hunting by those interested in the experience, but that might otherwise be deterred by an unfamiliar licensing process or by cost.  On these designated days, an unlicensed hunter who has completed the Hunter Safety Course would be allowed to hunt without a license if accompanied by a licensed hunter, 21 years or older, who has held a valid license for at least the last three consecutive years. 

Over the last several decades, California’s hunting and fishing license sales have been declining, which in turn has meant less funding for conservation and wildlife management efforts. To combat these declining numbers, California Department of Fish and Wildlife released California’s Statewide R3 Implementation Strategy that focuses on R3 efforts for both hunters and anglers. Once implemented, AB 804 will supplement these efforts by providing an incentive to new hunters to participate in these outdoor opportunities.

AB 804 was introduced by Assemblymember Dahle, with California Outdoor Sporting Caucus Co-Chairs Senators Dodd and Jones co-authoring the bill. AB 804 passed the California Legislature with strong bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 30. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation testified in support of the bill in both chambers and joined with coalition partners to submit a letter to Governor Newsom to encourage his signing.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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