The second weekend of November brings a popular tradition for many families in California – the opening of pheasant season. Although the overall wild pheasant population has been decreasing in recent years and the number of shoot days has been reduced on some wildlife areas, opportunities are still available on state-managed lands.
The 2016 general pheasant season will open Saturday, Nov. 12 and extend through Sunday, Dec. 25. The daily bag limit is two males per day for the first two days of the season, and three males per day thereafter. The possession limit is triple the daily bag. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Native to Asia, the ring-necked pheasant was introduced to California as a game bird species in the late 1800s. Though they flourished in California for decades, numbers have been dropping since the most recent high in the late 1990s. Total pheasant harvest on public areas in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys declined from a high of 4,828 roosters in 1998 to 629 last year.
In an effort to address the continued decline, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) continues efforts to restore and enhance upland habitat on public areas. This is in addition to the ongoing collaborative research with Pheasants Forever and the United States Geological Survey to improve our understanding of factors limiting their populations. A recent article about declines in the Central Valley and more information about ongoing research is available on CDFW’s website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/pheasant.
In 2010, CDFW reduced the number of days that certain wildlife areas will be open for pheasant hunting due to a decline in the number of hunters targeting pheasant and the cost to operate check stations during the first week of the season. For the upcoming season, hunters should be aware of the following restrictions on wildlife areas:
Type A wildlife areas in the Sacramento Valley (Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area and Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area’s Little Dry Creek, Llano Seco and Howard Slough Units) will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and only the first Monday (Nov. 14) during the pheasant season. Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and Grizzly Island Wildlife Area will also be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only during the pheasant season.
Type A wildlife areas in the San Joaquin Valley (Los Banos Wildlife Area, Mendota Wildlife Area, North Grasslands Wildlife Area, Volta Wildlife Area and San Luis National Wildlife Refuge free roam area) will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only during the pheasant season. The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Kesterson Unit blind area will be open the first Monday (Nov. 14) and a special zone of the Freitas Unit will be open only on the first Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Nov. 12-14) of the pheasant season.
In the event some units experience closures for waterfowl hunting as a result of the drought, the goal will be to open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the general pheasant season. Permits for entry will be issued at the check station through a morning lottery. Specific information will be available from affected wildlife area offices. Additional entry will be available through first-come, first-served lists at the check station.
The Wister Unit of Imperial Wildlife Area in Imperial County and San Jacinto Wildlife Area in Riverside County will continue to be closed to pheasant hunting this year.
Type C wildlife areas will remain open as normal.
Nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting pheasants anywhere in the state, except Licensed Game Bird Clubs. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.
All hunters must carry a current California hunting license in their possession. Adult hunters (18 or older) must also have an upland game bird validation. The full upland game bird hunting regulations and a summary as well as the lands regulations for 2016-2017 can be found on CDFW’s website.
The modifications of the shoot days on Type A wildlife areas are pursuant to the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 550(i)(1).
For more information on specific hunting opportunities, hunters should contact their regional CDFW office and check the CDFW website.