CA Ammo Background Checks, Fees Drive Hunters Away, Cutting Into Conservation Funding

california ammunition background check

Dan Z for TTAG

By Larry Keane

Go west, young man. That’s what California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is telling hunters and anglers.

That is, of course, as long as hunters are willing to pay a fee for the privilege to purchase ammunition in the Golden State and pass a state-required background check. There are a couple more minor stipulations. Hunters can’t bring their own ammunition into the state if they’re traveling there and they can only use expensive non-traditional ammunition.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is putting on a full-scale blitz to bring hunters out of the woodwork and back into the woods. The wildlife officials are noticing a crisis. Hunters and anglers are largely responsible for wildlife conservation funding. On the left coast, though, that funding pool is drying up.

It’s hardly a surprise. For decades, elected officials have scapegoated gun owners and hunters for political advantage. The state has some of the strictest gun control measures in the country.

State biologists blamed hunters’ use of traditional ammunition for the plight of the California condor and since banned the use of it throughout the state. They’ve levied increasingly burdensome regulations and squeezed out hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts. Now, the state’s wildlife and public lands are feeling the results.


Gavin Newsom smile

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Roughly five percent of Americans hunt. It’s why the NSSF created the +ONE campaign, to challenge hunters and recreational shooters to pledge to introduce someone new to the woods and shooting ranges. California’s participation, however, hovers around 1 percent.

A quick look at California’s oppressive gun control laws shows why. Along with the background checks for ammunition purchases, the nation’s most popular selling centerfire rifle, the AR-15, is banned in the state. “Precursor” parts used for repairs or upgrades require background checks. Fees to purchase guns in California climbed in 2020 and citizens under 21 face an age-based gun ban, meaning a 19 or 20-year-old hunter can’t buy a semiautomatic rifle.

These stifling policies do little to improve public safety, but it sends the message to Californians. Gun owners and hunters aren’t welcome.

It’s no wonder licenses sold to California hunters year decreased approximately 70 percent, from over 750,000 in 1970 down to 225,000 last year. Those licenses fund the state wildlife conservation and management efforts, along with the Pittman-Robertson excise tax paid by firearms and ammunition manufacturers. That fund has contributed more than $12.5 billion since 1937.

Biting the Hand

President's 100 competition ammunition options

Josh Wayner for TTAG

Compounding the problems, the state raised hunting fees to overcome the loss of hunters. This, along with increased fees to buy firearms and ammunition, is pricing would-be hunters out of the woods and marshes.

In fact, studies show that ammunition costs for hunters and recreational shooters in California could jump as high as 284 percent or higher just to meet the state’s strict ammunition regulations. It’s no surprise hunters feel spurned by their state, especially since it was hunters that contributed to wildlife populations growing to their healthiest levels in decades. Even iconic firearms maker Weatherby left its California roots for more friendly Western skies in Wyoming.

Policy Over Public Relations


This was predicted. California took its hunters and recreational shooters for granted. Actually, they did much worse. They marginalized them, instead of venerating them as the true conservationists they are.

State regulators and policymakers would be wise to recognize hunters overwhelmingly contribute the vital financial resources that have made California’s public lands some of the most attractive and bountiful in the country.

California’s wildlife and wildlands depend on it.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.


  1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    Haven’t made a single purchase (or attempt) in CA since this absurd law went into effect last year. Had previously stockpiled enough to last me through normal training for several years, and each time I travel out of state, I simply purchase ammo at my destination and consume it while there, to preserve my “grandfathered” stash back home.

    This law will be dismantled under court order soon enough. It’s too ineffective and dysfunctional to survive scrutiny.

    1. avatar Red in CO says:

      “It’s too ineffective and dysfunctional to survive scrutiny”

      *deep breath*

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Well played Red in Co, well played!

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          Haz, I hope I need to buy you that beer one day…

      2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        Bookmark this page, guys. You’ll be owing me a beer when AB63 is injunctioned one day. Everyone laughed at the premise of our “high cap” mag law being overturned – the one that was in effect for almost twenty years – and yet somehow we got Freedom Week, and the case is on course to be permanently adjudicated when the appeals by CA are exhausted.

        By laughing, you’re saying you believe the Lefties and their policies will win in the end.

        1. avatar ChoseDeath says:

          My much embattled brother, I will literally send you a case if you’re right, just because you deserve it. It’ll be the best case I’ve ever purchased.

        2. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          Haz, I *hope* I need to buy you that beer one day…

        3. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          I’ve bookmarked and archived this page for a future conversation and good time laugh after it’s overturned and I return from the store with my (no BGC) purchase of shiny ammo. 🙂

          Save yer nickels and dimes, boys…Haz don’t drink no cheap Bud…he likes the good stuff on the top shelf.

  2. avatar Prndll says:

    Shooting themselves in the foot. They do the same thing with water and everything else.

  3. avatar Dwight Hansen says:

    That is a feature not a bug.

    The law is working exactly as intended.

    1. avatar Narcoossee says:

      Exactly. People like to make fun of these “soooo stoopid” gun control laws, but they’re missing the larger picture: It’s actually quite smart. While the anti’s would love a knockout punch, they’re patient, and willing to kill the 2A with a thousand cuts, instead. While pro-2A people

    2. avatar TheUnspoken says:

      They would love to get rid of hunting. If no one is using the hunting rifles they can get rid of those as well. Then they can just add some new wildlife conservation taxes to cover the loss. And hire some contractors to cull the surplus wildlife once it gets out of hand.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        +1 on wanting to get rid of hunting, not so much on wanting to get rid of hunting rifles. I am pretty sure that the Board of California Fish & Wildlife (Formerly fish & GAME) has not a single hunter on it. The last hunter was forced off after he posted pictures of a cougar he had legally taken in Idaho (hunting big cats is illegal here as the population is threatened). People were aghast that he would do such a thing!

    3. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Note to the people’s socialist Democratic Republic of Kalifornia. Be careful of what you want because you might get it with unintended consequences.

      Any bets on the numbers of feral pigs in state?

      1. avatar Dan says:

        There’s a lot of pigs in Sacramento.

        1. avatar Southern Cross says:

          With their snouts in the public trough.

      2. avatar Anymouse says:

        When I went to school there, hog limits were one a day, and one in possession. Nor Cal counties, like Mendicino were overflowing. Maybe the wildfires have barbecued the ones that aren’t dying of thirst.

    4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Dwight Hansen for the win!!!

      California Democrats are popping corks on champagne bottles all over the state because their new laws are accomplishing three important tasks:
      (1) Punish firearm owners for owning firearms.
      (2) Punish hunters for killing animals.
      (3) Reduce hunting as much as possible.
      (4) Reduce firearm ownership as much as possible.

      Their reason for (1) and (2) is obvious. Their reason for (3) is to make all the vegetarians and tree-huggers happy. And reducing hunting also reduces an important mechanism which gets people into firearm ownership who would not have otherwise taken the plunge. Of course the significantly increased costs also reduce firearm ownership simply because it becomes too expensive for some people.

      As with almost anything, it is fairly easy for a government to regulate and tax something out of existence. (Hint: excessive regulations and taxes increase the cost as well as the risk of a given activity.) Because owning firearms and hunting are inalienable rights, I would love, LOVE to see the United States Supreme Court effectively strike down almost all “regulations” and taxes associated with firearms.

      (Yes, I know that the United States Constitution does not enumerate a right to hunt. And it does not have to since we all have an inalienable right to eat.)

  4. avatar JIM ABRAHAM says:

    Liberalism always produces the exact opposite of its stated intent.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    Drive away an already small group of hunters in CA. Last couple of seasons I had public land practically to myself. Game populations are booming.

    I’m probably going to burn in hell for it but I like the lack of competition.

    1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      Curious what you hunt there. Also, any non-resident licenses offered? Business takes me frequently to Cali, usually SoCal but also up North. If there was something to hunt there I’d try to take advantage of it, bow or gun. Thanks for any insight.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I prefer quail and dove. We also have deer. They’re kind of small and not much to look at. Waterfowl, ducks and geese. Pheasant. Small game season is long and limits are decent. I’ve killed rabbit, squirrel and quail on the same day on the same hunt. Turkey.

        I’m not familiar with socal. I live in the bay area and hunt public lands in this region. I can be on good hunting land in 2 hours or less.

        There’s still waterfowl hunting right here in the bay area. When duck and geese are in season I can hear the pop, pop, pop of the 3 round limit from my bedroom window.

      2. avatar jwm says:

        They do offer non resident licenses here. I couldn’t tell you how much they cost or the hoops you have to jump through to get them. We have a non lead law here for hunting. I stocked up on ammo before the new regs came in for ammo purchases. I don’t think a non resident can buy ammo here. You have to be in their system for having purchased a firearm, i think.

        1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          Any pig hunting on public land in your area?
          Heck, I could drive there in about 10 hours or so. Ice chest at the ready!
          Non res license and tags don’t bother me as long as they are reasonable.

          Contrary to what is published, there’s no wild pigs up here.

        2. avatar jwm says:

          None worth hunting, Tom. Little guys. The nice ones are on private land. Where the desperate land owner will gratefully accept your offer to rid him of the pests. At 600 bucks a pig.

          So long as the state charges a tag fee per pig and the landowners are mercenary I see no reason to play their game.

        3. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Sometimes I forget how good I have it. While not the Midwest a nice buck here is 200+ lbs. Hog hunters, and their dogs, are welcome on the farm. No charge. We compete with other landowners for their time. Small game, waterfowl and turkey plentiful. Except for steel shot for waterfowl no ammo restrictions. $100 gets me a Sportsman Gold License. Fresh & salt water fishing. Hunting and all permits and and stamps except for federal waterfowl. If I lived in California I’d take my hunting and fishing money out of state. Hell, if I lived in California I’d take my ass and everything else I have out of state.

        4. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          GF, I’ve always enjoyed the abundant game here too.
          2 spieces of elk, 3 of deer, bear, cougar, turkey, chukar, quail, pheasant… and the fishing is pretty good too.
          Our sportsman pack runs a bit over $180.

        5. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Tom, swap you some off shore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and some hog hunting for a chance at one of those Roosevelt elk.

        6. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Oh! You can carry the firearm of your choice anywhere you want to except a federal courthouse. We just ignore those stupid little red circle with a cross bar through a Beretta 92 decals. No one carries those pieces of shit anyway.

        7. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Too. Damn! What’s wrong with me today? Edit button must be off.

        8. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Wait! That’s wrong. I’m going to bed.

  6. avatar enuf says:

    “These stifling policies do little to improve public safety”

    That statement is incorrect. Here, I like to help folks out, try it this way:

    “These stifling policies do NOTHING to improve public safety”

    Or, this also works:

    “These stifling policies do FUCKALL to improve public safety”

    Then there’s this approach:

    “These stifling policies do MUCH to REDUCE public safety”

    Always happy to help 🙂

  7. avatar Rusty - Molon Labe - Chains says:

    This should make the imbeciles with PETA happy and they are a Democrat constituency group. Remember the Democrats don’t really give a crap about the environment all they care about is power and control, the global warming scam is about nothing more than taxes and extending the reach of the government into every aspect of your life.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      But the pearl-clutchers at PETA may not realize that, as game populations grow, so do natural predators. So instead of a quick shot by a hunter, a game animal might now exit life’s stage when it’s sick or elderly, being chased down and ripped apart by a mountain lion, large bird of prey, bear, or pack of coyotes. In my neck of the woods, the coyote population has been booming and causing problems.

      1. avatar Kendahl says:

        PETA is perfectly happy with that. They are on record that the rodents you hire an exterminator to get rid of have has much right to live as you and your family.

        1. avatar Southern Cross says:

          Because once you treat animals like people, it is a very short step to treat people like animals.

  8. avatar Mark N. says:

    Larry Keane doesn’t know what he is talking about when it comes to California ammo laws. It is NOT illegal for hunters to bring their own ammo into the state but they are limited to 50 rounds of nonlead ammo. Practice ammo does not have to be lead free. The increased DROS fees for buying guns just went into effect January 1. AR-15s are NOT banned in California, but they are required to meet certain configuration limitations. So unless your AR is “California compliant,” you’d best leave it home. Precursor parts, except for receivers, are NOT currently regulated under California law. I recall that there was a proposed law, but don’t recall if it was enacted. If it was, it has a delayed effective date in recognition of the fact that there is no system in place for serializing gun parts or for regulating the sale of such items as the state is (attempting) to do with ammo.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      All correct. The only thing I would add is that our law states that the (max 50 rds) ammo brought back into the state must match the caliber of rifle(s) used for the hunting event.

      I’ve been back and forth over state lines multiple times since the ammo law took effect, and not once was I stopped, or asked anything, or even given a side glance. I think this is a moot issue nobody cares about except zealous District Attorneys who are eager to tack on as many charges as possible to convince an arrested suspect to take a plea deal. Otherwise, nobody cares about that box of cartridges you have in your car’s trunk.

      …or two, or three…

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        Or 27 in various calibers and weights

    2. avatar Hush says:

      Doesn’t matter………..california is still the pits relative to the 2nd amendment!

  9. avatar Keith Pallo says:

    The California leftists are now migrating to other states after creating such a crap hole of a state and are starting to push the same stupid stuff legislation about guns they enacted in their once home state. Hence we see Arizona now trying to become California II on gun control. Washington and Oregon are now appendages of California and even Texas is getting a huge influx of these sick people. The only reason many of them left was that their stupid liberal ideas made taxes go through the roof along with crime. Like any leftist, they never learn from their mistakes so they think if they just move elsewhere and try again they will get it right thereby destroying yet another gun friendly State. The same thing is happening all up and down the lower East Coast with New Yorkers, people from Connecticut and Massachusetts moving into the Carolinas and Florida bringing with them the same crap they created in the states they left thereby destroying the proud gun heritage each of their new home states had for a very long time. They are like a cancerous tumour. Destroy and spread.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Nope, gonna have to call you out on that lie, Keith. Nearly all the former Californians I’ve personally known over the years (friends, neighbors, relatives) who have left this state were central-conservative to far conservative. Leftists love this state and aren’t eager to leave because they feel accepted when they want to vape, smoke weed, talk about their gay trysts and sexual experimentations, and all-things-anti-Trump.

      The conservatives are the ones doing most of the relocating. The state of Idaho itself has openly recognized that it transformed from a purple state in the early ’90s to a deep red state today precisely because of all the conservative Californians who got tired of Sacramento’s caca and left for Boise or Ceour de’Alene.

      Your argument is invalid. All your pork-n-beans are belong to us.

      1. avatar Rusty - Molon Labe - Chains says:

        “All your pork-n-beans are belong to us.”

        Thank God I wasn’t drinking coffee, or I would have sprayed a brand new laptop! HAZ wins the intertubz for the day for the most creative adaptation of a computer game quote! Thanks for the laugh…

      2. avatar Hydguy says:

        Not the case in Tx, where Cali libtards have fled the onerous taxes and regs, and then went to places like Austin and have wrecked it by voting in the same stupid shit they fled.
        We have the same problem with libtard Yankees moving here to Fl. Flee the shitholes they created, and then start making the places they move into the same shitholes they ‘fled’.

      3. avatar Curmudgeon says:

        It depends on where you are at. Tell the natives in Austin TX, or Denver CO that. Californians are a cancer who relocate, then turn their new home into the same place they left. A tenant from a dump of an apartment is not one you want moving into one you own.

        Bottom line, they need to prove they can fix their own mess before they are allowed out of quarantine. Otherwise anywhere they flock is going to turn into the goobacks episode of South Park.

        1. avatar Curmudgeon says:

          Also I’m not sure that the change from purple to red for Idaho was because of new residents from Cali, or just realizing what a shit state is next to them and preemptively avoiding it… If anything they are most likely sick of the Californians who moved there, and are trying to push them back.

          I would certainly push back if tens of thousands of people from 3rd world dumps like California wanted to move into my state.

        2. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          Haz, he has a *point* about Texas being turned blue thanks to the Si-valley tech community relocating to Austin and Houston, and increasingly, even ‘D’ is going Leftist…

      4. avatar GS650G says:

        Plenty of other states are being turned blue by the liberal locusts. I’d say it’s a 70% rate of contamination.

        I’d rather have a thousand Wuhan flu refugees than 10 liberals because the flu can at least be treated.

        1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          …but you can take a liberal to the range and treat him/her to a day of fun and enlightenment. I’ve done it myself multiple times, and every time without exception they wanted to come back again for more. 🙂

        2. avatar Hydguy says:

          While they may have enjoyed shooting, did they actually stop voting Democrat? If not, all you did was waste ammonia and time on them.

        3. avatar I Haz A Question says:


          Sounds like you’ve given up and don’t advocate taking Lefties to the range to introduce them to the *true* realities of POTG and gun ownership. Besides, the rest of us don’t like wasting ammonia either.

        4. avatar Hydguy says:

          You can thank the iPhone for the ‘auto-correct’.
          But the point still stands.
          If a liberal shoots your guns and ammo, claims to like guns, but still votes for democrats, they have done nothing but waste your time and AMMO.

  10. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

    I don’t live in California and I’m glad I don’t. If I did, I’d certainly be looking at the cost offset of the higher non-resident hunting fees in Az, NM, and Utah to start with and pay the difference on principle. Including the travel and lodging expenses.

  11. avatar Rand says:

    Just wishing them a boat load of rabid coyotes to wander the hills and valleys.

    1. avatar Curmudgeon says:

      Trust me, they already do. They also call them “border smugglers”.

  12. avatar UpInArms says:

    Hunters are basically conservationists, and hunting requires taking land out of the hands of the extractive class, principally Big Oil and Big Agriculture. In spite of all the grand talk about conservation and environmental responsibility, California is really one of the worst offenders. I don’t have the list right at hand, but it can be found if you want to look for it, and the amount of money that goes in to the California gubmint from interests groups is astonishing. The worst offenders are the oil companies – Chevron is close to the top of the list, as is the Western States Petroleum Association. It’s a staggering amount of cash, and it’s pretty solid proof that Sacramento has been completely bought and paid for. Oil leases granted under gubner Moonbeam and Gruesome number in the tens of thousands, and state leases outnumber federal leases by a huge margin. In addition, all the state regulatory agencies are packed with industry lobbyists.

    When California says they want hunters and anglers, don’t believe it. When they cry about the environment and global climate change, don’t believe it. The gubmint is on the payroll, and all they’re interested in is sucking the last penny of profit out of every square inch of the state.

  13. avatar possum says:

    Iz good strategy, no hunters money, close parks,open parks to resource exploitation.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      Build homeless camps for the new arrivals!

  14. avatar Ted Parrish says:

    Still free, locked and loaded here in Missouri. There’s something wrong with those people out there. This is why I advocate buying ammunition by the 1,000 round box…a lot cheaper, and not likely to run out. Those liberal morons want to ban all assault rifles, like the “ugly black” AR-15, which is mostly .223 ammo. So another .223 semi-auto is OK if it has “pretty” polished furniture on it (???), but just as deadly??? Duh! Here’s where they are going with that. A .22 single shot rifle can be considered an “assault rifle” if you assault someone with it, therefore, if all “assualt rifles” are banned, the ALL RIFLES are banned. Do they think that all of the “deplorables” are stupid. They can have my guns….when I run out of bullets, and that’s not likely. I also have an AK-47 with two thirty round mags., and 1000 NATO rounds. I did not buy that for hunting.

  15. avatar GS650G says:

    Despite vast wilderness resources CA is the last state I would consider hunting if I was looking to go out of state and pay the elevated fees. Most states charge several times an instate license fee for the privilege of hunting and to tack on the ammo and gun rules makes it the last choice. Even in state i imagine finding a butcher to process a deer is a challenge, surely processors are regulated as stiffly as commercial houses. And then you have the scorn of the anti hunting rabid left to deal with.

    On top of everything else are high sales taxes, gas prices, and I bet the motel rates are higher too thanks to lots of fees and taxes.

    California, where the American dream goes to die.

  16. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    So, the people (by and large) who use wild life and wild areas, were supporting their hobby and preference through fees on what they use. Now, not so much.

    You can’t have people paying their own way to do what they like — they might decide indermediaries aren’t needed. And where’s the angle in that?

  17. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    It won’t be long before people in california start being eaten by lions, bears, hogs and other Apex predators. Trail cameras are recording Lions in the city limits now in california.

    Only when the “wrong” people are being attacked and eaten will things change.

  18. avatar Curmudgeon says:

    “It won’t be long before people in california start being eaten by lions, bears, hogs and other Apex predators.”

    We can only hope.

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