From even a cursory exploration of the subject, it would seem that there are a finite number of uses for a bicycle. Technically speaking, there are. But, just when it seemed as if we had exhausted all options, someone thought of a new use and had to inquire as to whether it was legal.
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine how any bicycle use could be “illegal.” Other than riding a bike on a sidewalk, which isn’t exactly “illegal,” even though it is prohibited, nothing else comes to mind. That is unless you are someone who does not fit the stereotype of a cyclist.
One such person, who actually bought a bicycle after he got this idea, came up with something novel; he wants to use a bicycle for hunting.
This interesting tidbit was found on The Modesto Bee’s website. Modesto is located in California.
They have a feature called “Wilson on Outdoors.” Wilson refers to “Carrie Wilson [who] is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.” She answers people’s questions in this column.
The bicycle question certainly must have gotten her attention, since the article says that she can’t answer everyone’s question, and some do not make the cut.
“Question: I will soon be taking off to the mountains to do some mountain quail and tree squirrel hunting. In past years, after I arrived at hunting camp, most of my hunting was done on foot so I couldn’t cover much ground in a day. Last year, I took my grandson with me to start teaching him a little about gun safety, hunting and camping in the wild. After walking for a while, he got tired and wanted to rest. We were walking along a logging road, and he told me he wished he had his bicycle with him. This got me to thinking that with a bike I could cover a lot more area, be basically silent, use no fossil fuel and get much-needed exercise. So, for my hunting trip this year, I purchased a mountain bicycle and got it geared up with saddle bags and a handlebar gun rack for my shotgun.”
He went on to ask a number of questions about California’s regulations about carrying a gun and whether this was permitted on a bicycle. He also wanted to know if he was allowed to shoot at the prey while stopped on his bike, as long as his feet were planted on the ground, or whether he had to dismount.
Obviously, even though he read the hunting laws and regulations, he could not find any information about this situation. Perhaps this is because most hunters do not ride bicycles, at least not while they are hunting.
This hunter sees a way to hunt and get exercise at the same time — not a bad idea. Hunting isn’t exactly a high energy sport, at least not the way it is done today.
As far as I know (having never gone hunting myself) hunters position themselves where they think they will come upon prey and when they spot an animal they shoot it with a gun. Such a process is a far cry from what our ancestors did.
In prehistoric times, humans chased down animals on foot. The animals were killed with spears, which clearly took a lot more effort than firing a gun.
I have fired a gun. Other than dealing with the gun kicking back at me after being fired, no physical effort was required. So, hunting with a gun does not appear to be much exercise.
Of course, some hunters do walk a fair distance to locate their prey. Covering such a distance is nothing in comparison to other outdoor endeavors, many of which are aerobic activities.
Hunters have to be quiet so as not to scare off the animals. Running would not be a good idea. One’s feet would be stomping loudly on the ground, a sure warning sign for an alert animal. And a good way to chase off the prey.
Although his questions appeared to be rather benign one in particular was unnerving. “Can I carry a holstered six-shot, black-powder pistol with five rounds capped on my bicycle, or do all the nipples have to be uncapped as in a motor vehicle?”
A loaded gun on a bicycle. Not a good idea, even if it is legal. Someone could dispossess you of your weapon and use it against you. Or you could fall off of your bike on difficult terrain and have the gun go off accidentally.
Wilson’s reply is informative. The most important part spells out the law with respect to bicycles.
“Shooting or taking game from a bicycle, whether on it or straddling it, is not specifically prohibited in California Fish and Game laws. However, section 374c of the Penal Code prohibits shooting a firearm from or upon a public road. A logging road is not a highway, but it may be a public road depending on multiple factors, including who owns and/or maintains the road. In any case, it is advisable to always be off any road before shooting, even if it is not expressly prohibited by law.”
While she does mention a few restriction, overall shooting wildlife from a bicycle is legal in California. Given the low probability of bicycle-hunting being mentioned in any state’s Fish and Game laws, the same probably holds true throughout the U.S.
Most cyclists are probably not hunters. However, if bicycles are even going to become mainstream in the U.S. we should not be averse to anyone adapting a bicycle for some use in their day to day life.
There is nothing wrong with hunting from a bicycle rather than hunting on foot. So, creative uses of bicycles should be encouraged, even if the use is something unusual and of little use to most bike riders.