The holidays begin early for many California hunters with the Saturday, Nov. 9 openers for pheasant, wild turkey and the second dove season.
The pheasant opener on the second Saturday of November remains a strong tradition for many families. The flush of a wild, cackling, rooster pheasant is one of nature’s most thrilling moments.
The good news is that some of the best pheasant habitat in California is found on state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges open to public hunting.
Several CDFW Type A wildlife areas are especially popular with wild pheasant hunters, including Upper Butte Basin, Yolo Bypass, Los Banos, North Grasslands, Grizzly Island and Gray Lodge. These areas are all open to pheasant hunting on their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl shoot days during the pheasant season.
In addition, all three units of the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area – Little Dry Creek, Howard Slough and Llano Seco – along with Gray Lodge Wildlife Area will be open to a special pheasant hunt the first Monday of the pheasant season – Veterans Day, Nov. 11 – to provide additional hunting opportunities.
Type A wildlife areas in the San Joaquin Valley – Los Banos, Mendota and North Grasslands – will be open for pheasant hunting only on waterfowl hunt days during the pheasant season.
Several federal wildlife refuges are also popular destinations for pheasant hunters, including the Sutter, Colusa, Delevan and Sacramento national wildlife refuges. These refuges are open to pheasant hunting on their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl hunt days during pheasant season. Additionally, Colusa, Delevan and Sacramento national wildlife refuges will be open to a special pheasant hunt in their spaced waterfowl blind and assigned pond areas the first Monday of pheasant season.
The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County will open a portion of its Freitas Unit to pheasant hunting on opening weekend only, Nov. 9 and 10. The spaced blind area within the Kesterson Unit will open for a special one-day wild pheasant hunt on Monday, Nov. 11. Pheasant hunting is permitted in the free roam area of the San Luis Unit on the regular Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl shoot days during the duration of the wild pheasant season.
At the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, hunting is not permitted on Sundays. Pheasant hunting at this refuge is available on the free roam waterfowl hunt areas on Saturdays and Wednesdays beginning Nov. 9 and continuing through the duration of pheasant season.
The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern California are home to some of the most robust wild pheasant populations in the state. They are open daily for pheasant hunting throughout the season.
The 2019 general pheasant season runs from Saturday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Dec. 22. 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 limit. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Wild Turkey (Fall Season)
The chance to provide a wild turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is strong motivation for many fall turkey hunters. The fall season runs from Saturday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Dec. 8, and – unlike in the spring season – both males and females may be taken. The daily bag limit is one turkey of either sex with a season and possession limit of two birds.
For the first time, fall turkey hunting will be available to the public at several northern California national wildlife refuges.
Turkey hunters have several new opportunities in 2019 as the Sutter, Sacramento, Delevan and Colusa national wildlife refuges will open to fall turkey hunting for the first time. Turkey hunting will be permitted in the waterfowl free roam and pheasant hunting areas only at the refuges during their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday waterfowl shoot days during the turkey season.
Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Second Dove Season
California’s second dove season runs from Saturday, Nov. 9 through Monday, Dec. 23. The second dove season offers cooler weather, fewer crowds and the chance for a mixed bag of species – quail and rabbit, for example – that often share the same habitat.
Limits remain the same as the early season: Mourning dove and white-winged dove have a daily bag limit of 15, up to 10 of which may be white-winged dove. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. There are no limits on spotted dove and ringed turtle dove. Hunting for Eurasian collared dove is legal year-round and there is no limit. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
In addition to public hunting opportunities available at state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges, CDFW offers special hunts at the Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts page and through the SHARE program, which provides public hunting access to private land or other landlocked properties. New hunters should visit CDFW’s Apprentice Hunts webpage for additional pheasant hunting opportunities.
Both a valid hunting license and upland game bird validation are needed to hunt pheasant, turkey and dove. An upland game bird validation is not required for junior license holders, but all hunters are required to have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation when hunting migratory game birds such as mourning dove and snipe. A wildlife area hunting pass is required for adults to hunt on a Type A state-operated wildlife area and national wildlife refuge. Please check with the individual property for specific details and regulations on each area.
Please note that nonlead shot is now required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Hunters need to plan accordingly. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.