Wild Pheasant Hunting Season Opener Nears

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 hunt days has been reduced on some wildlife areas, opportunities are still available on state-managed lands.

The 2017 general pheasant season will open Saturday, Nov. 11 and extend through Sunday, Dec. 24. 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.

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 461 last year.

In an effort to address the decline, CDFW continues efforts to restore and enhance upland habitat on public areas. This is in addition to a multiyear collaborative research project with Pheasants Forever and the United States Geological Survey to better understand factors that limit populations. These field studies of wild pheasant survival and reproduction at locations around northern California will continue into 2018 and result in a report of findings and future management recommendations.

Preliminary results indicate that changing land use practices is one of the major drivers of wild pheasant declines on both public and private lands. An overall decline in annual acres of “unharvested cropland” correlate with pheasant declines as well as decreases in acres of planted barley, sugar beets, winter wheat and sorghum, and increases in acres of nut trees and rice. Pesticide use and increases in avian predator populations also appear to play a role.

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 (Little Dry Creek, Llano Seco and Howard Slough units) will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and the first Monday (Nov. 13) during the pheasant season.
  • Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and Grizzly Island Wildlife Area will only be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays 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 only be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the pheasant season.
  • The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Kesterson Unit blind area will only be open for pheasant hunting the first Monday (Nov. 13) and a special zone of the Freitas Unit will only be open on the first Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 11-12) of the pheasant season.
  • 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 on licensed game bird clubs. For more information please see the CDFW Nonlead Ammunition webpage.

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 public lands regulations for 2017-18 are available 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 offices and check the CDFW website.

Media Contacts:
Matt Meshriy CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 322-6709
Brad Burkholder, CDFW Lands Program, (916) 445-1829
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908