As California’s big game hunting seasons open throughout the state, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) urges hunters to plan ahead in order to get their big game tags validated in a timely fashion as required by law.
CDFW has closed many of its high use public areas – including fish hatcheries, license counters and other office locations – to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many successful big game hunters rely on these facilities and the CDFW staff there to validate (countersign) their big game tags. Hunters this year are strongly advised to plan ahead and contact their nearest CDFW facility in advance of their hunt to understand the tag validation locations, hours and procedures this season, which will differ from facility to facility.
Deer and elk tags need to be validated before transporting a harvested animal – except for the purpose of taking it to the nearest person authorized to validate the tag. Persons authorized to validate deer and elk tags include CDFW employees but also a long list of other state, federal and local agents, including firefighters, public notaries, peace officers, meat processors, USDA Forest Service staff and others. A listing of those authorized to validate deer and elk tags is available on page 23 of the 2020 California Big Game Hunting Digest.
Bear tags, on the other hand, can only be validated by a CDFW employee. Bear tags must be validated prior to transporting the bear – except for the purpose of taking the bear to the nearest person authorized to validate the tag en route to the hunter’s home. CDFW will not require a bear tooth extraction this season.
A list of CDFW offices that will validate bear tags along with their contact information is available on page 57 of the 2020 California Big Game Hunting Digest. Hunters must contact these offices ahead of time as many of these facilities and hatcheries are closed.