When 2020-21 California hunting licenses go on sale in mid-April, the state’s 16- and 17-year-olds will once again have to purchase adult hunting licenses and validations.
For the past five years, anyone under age 18 has been eligible for the more affordable junior hunting license, and many of the youth hunting opportunities that come with it. But the CWA-sponsored legislation that allowed this – AB 1709 by Jim Frazier, D-Oakley – sunsets on July 1. The Legislature insisted on the sunset provision as a condition of passing the bill in 2014.
CWA sponsored another bill last year to extend the junior hunting license age expansion permanently (AB 284, also by Frazier), but it died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee due to opposition from the chair, Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. For the 2020 session, CWA is sponsoring AB 3022 (Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia) to extend the sunset provision by one year. That bill, as currently drafted, would take effect immediately should it pass and be signed into law, but that could be as late as Sept. 30.
Because of the law sunsetting, 16- and 17-year olds will not only have to purchase adult hunting licenses, but also state duck and upland game stamps in order to hunt game birds. They also will not be eligible for special junior hunting opportunities, including junior-only big game tags and junior-only bird-hunting opportunities on public land offered through the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In addition, 16- and 17-year-olds will be required pay a fee via a daily or season-long pass in order to hunt Type A and B wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges.
The only thing that doesn’t change is that 16- and 17-year-olds may still participate in federal youth waterfowl hunt weekends, which is a change CWA fought for at the federal level.
Although the prospects of the current bill are uncertain, there may also be an opportunity to seek a permanent junior hunting license age expansion for if a hunting and fishing recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) bill materializes in this session. The expected vehicle for R3 is AB 1387 by Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa. As currently written, the bill would create fishing licenses that are good for 12 months from purchase instead of for the calendar year, but it could be amended with R3 legislation.
Studies not only suggest that nearly 80 percent of people start hunting as kids, but that multiple hunting experiences during that time are necessary in order for them become life-long hunters. Making licenses more affordable for youth and families and extending special opportunities to youth is critical to the future of hunting in California.