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Mother Lode Field Office

Target Shooting and Hunting

man shooting a rifle  Target Shooting is allowed on public lands with some exceptions.

 Public Land Closures and Restrictions

When target shooting, you must provide your own targets and remove your debris when you leave your site.  It is illegal to deface or destroy trees, signs, outbuildings, or other objects on federal lands that are for the public's enjoyment.  CFR 8365.1-5 (a) (1) & (2).

Please use paper targets only.  Shooting glass objects is prohibited. When you are finished target shooting, we require you to remove all your targets, gun shells, clay pigeons, and any and all items used for your target shooting.

The Mother Lode Field Office often receives requests from the general public on the location of good places on the public lands to go target shooting.

Much of the public land managed by the Mother Lode Field Office is technically available for target shooting. However, there are several problems:

  1. The public land parcels tend to be small, irregularly shaped, and scattered throughout the Sierra Foothills. It can be difficult to know with certainty when one is on public land or on private property.
  2. Over the past fifteen years, a great deal of urban development has taken place in the Sierra Foothills, much of it adjacent to the public lands. There are now roads, subdivisions, shopping malls, and homes where there used to be pastures or wildlands. Much of this development is occurring so quickly, the BLM staff isn’t aware of all of it.
  3. Use of public lands for outdoor recreation activities including walking for pleasure, hiking, horseback riding, mountain bikes, and off-road vehicles is increasing.

The bottom line is that we are very reluctant to recommend the places to shoot that we once did because of safety considerations due to population increases.

Citizens are certainly free to scout the public lands under our jurisdiction to find suitable sites for plinking. A good shooting area has legal access, an effective backstop that absorbs bullets without producing ricochets, an unobstructed view so that no one can wander into the line of fire without being seen, and no nearby buildings, especially occupied private residences.

All shooters, of course, are expected to always follow all principles of firearms safety, and to obey California State laws on the use of firearms.

Our recommendation is to either look for a good site in an area where there are very large parcels of Federal land with little development or choose to go to a shooting range.

Find a Shooting Range - National Shooting Sports Foundation 

BLM Surface Management Maps  - for locating public lands


man shooting a rifleHunting is allowed on all public lands with some exceptions. 

Public Land Closures and Restrictions

Hunting in California - CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Hunters are required to follow all state and local laws or ordinances which relate to the use of firearms, or to the taking of game.

Game animals known to be present on the public lands include deer, black bears, grey squirrels, black-tailed hares, valley quail, mourning doves, and wild turkeys. There are no huntable populations of feral pigs, or chukar partridges.

Not all parcels of public land contain habitat suitable for game animals. Many of the parcels have been severely impacted by past activities, and have yet to recover as good wildlife habitat.

The public lands within the Mother Lode Field Office are mostly small, irregularly-shaped, often isolated parcels scattered throughout the historic Mother Lode region from Yuba County in the north down through Fresno County in the south. This strange Federal land ownership pattern was not by deliberate design, but is an accident of history. Often, the boundaries of the Federal lands are not marked, making it difficult to know when one is actually on the Federal lands. This makes inadvertent trespass onto private lands rather easy.

Not all Federal parcels have public access. Adjacent private property owners are within their legal rights to prevent people from crossing their land to get to the public land.

Proper Access to public lands must be through public roads.  Crossing private lands to access public lands is not permitted unless you first obtain permission from the private landowner. Surface Management Maps may help you in locating public lands.

Private lands adjacent to the public lands are often closed to hunting, with trespassers prosecuted by the owner. Occupied residences--with children--on these private lands are common, as are livestock. Many landowners have reported some bad experiences with careless or thoughtless hunters in the past.

To successfully hunt public lands managed by the Mother Lode Field Office, one should scout the public lands well before the hunting season to find a parcel that is suitable. It is a very good idea to locate the boundaries of the Federal parcel to avoid trespass problems. It would also help if the hunter made an effort to contact the owners of adjacent private lands to let them know of their plans, and to avoid possible problems.

The quadrangle maps sold by the BLM show where the Federal lands are located; not only the BLM-administered lands, but also those of other agencies such as the Forest Service. However, not all the roads shown on the maps are open to public use. The BLM quads are most effective when used in conjunction with other maps, such as a road map or a USGS topographic map.

Hunters interested in wild pigs should contact the Hollister Field Office at: (831) 630-5000 or visit their website for Hunting and Shooting Frequently Asked Questions at www.ca.blm.gov/hollister/faq_hunting.

The California Department of Fish and Game can be contacted for information on areas which may support the best populations of game animals.


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