Pheasant, Wild Turkey, Second Dove Seasons Set to Open Nov. 9

The holidays begin early for many California hunters with the Saturday, Nov. 9 openers for pheasant, wild turkey and the second dove season.

Ring-necked Pheasant

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.

Additional Requirements

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.


CDFW Offering Free Tundra Swan Tours This Fall and Winter

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is offering free swan tours in Yuba County near Marysville on Saturdays beginning in November and extending through January.

Co-hosted by local rice farmers, the naturalist-led tours will focus on tundra swans in one of the premier locations for viewing swans in California. Ducks, geese, ibis, shorebirds, herons, egrets and raptors are also commonly seen in this area, which contains 23,000 acres of flooded rice fields.

Tours will be held on Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m, beginning Nov. 16. The driving tours also involve walking short distances. Carpooling is encouraged.

Pre-registration is required at Up to 30 people may register for each tour.

The tours are part of CDFW’s wildlife viewing services program, which includes outdoors opportunities at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.

For more information, please call (916) 358-2869 or email

Also mark your calendar for the 2019 California Swan Festival Nov. 8-10 in Yuba City. For more information, please visit

Media Contacts:
Laura Drath, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 591-1161
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908


Nimbus Hatchery Fish Ladder to Open Nov. 4

The salmon ladder at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Rancho Cordova will open Monday, Nov. 4, signaling the start of the spawning season on the American River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers will open the gates in the ladder at 10:30 a.m. and will take more than a half-million eggs during the first week alone in an effort to ensure the successful spawning return of fall-run Chinook salmon.

The three major state-run hatcheries in the Central Valley – Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Sacramento County, and hatcheries on the Feather River in Butte County and the Mokelumne River in San Joaquin County – will take approximately 24 million eggs over the next two months to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

Each hatchery has a viewing area where visitors can watch the spawning process. The visitors’ center at Nimbus Hatchery includes a playground with replicas of giant salmon. Nimbus Hatchery is open to the public free of charge from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at each hatchery, please visit the CDFW website at

There are eight state-run salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. These spawning efforts were put in place over the past half century to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.

Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, one-quarter of the stock will be marked and implanted with a coded wire tag prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart their survival, catch and return rates.

Media Contacts:
Laura Drath, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 591-1161
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

No Practical Joke Here: Snipe Season Gets Underway in October

California’s statewide snipe season opens Oct. 19, 2019, and runs through Feb. 2, 2020, offering California hunters both an exceptionally challenging upland game bird hunt and some exceptional table fare. The daily bag limit is eight and the possession limit is triple the bag limit.

“They’re real. They’re not just a practical joke,” said Scott Gardner, the senior environmental scientist who leads CDFW’s Upland/Small Game Program, referencing the countless children who have been duped into mythical snipe hunts.

“Snipe are well-distributed throughout the state, but they’re a very challenging bird to harvest. Not only are they a difficult target to hit, but they often hang out with other shorebirds that you can’t take. So you really have to know your stuff when hunting snipe.”

A California hunting license, Harvest Information Program (HIP) Validation and Upland Game Bird Validation are required to hunt snipe. Junior Hunting License holders do not need an Upland Game Bird Validation.

Wilson’s snipe are a plump brown-and-buff migratory shorebird with short, stocky legs and a long bill. They are the only shorebird legal to hunt in California. While they can be found throughout the state during California’s long snipe season, they are elusive and hard to spot on the ground, which means hunters need to be able to identify the birds quickly on the wing.

Snipe typically flush from the ground and fly away in a fast, twisting, zig-zag pattern. The word “sniper,” in fact, originally meant a hunter who was skilled at shooting the notoriously wily bird.

Snipe are frequently found probing muddy ground for earthworms and invertebrates. They prefer the muddy edges of ponds, damp fields and other wet, open habitats. Areas with low vegetation provide adequate camouflage and cover for snipe, but they can often be spotted by glassing the water’s edge with binoculars.

Because of their habitat and a hunting season that runs almost concurrently with California’s Balance of the State Zone waterfowl season, waterfowl hunters are most likely to encounter snipe in the field. Snipe, however, are best pursued with a light upland gun, an open choke and light loads such as #7 steel shot. Waterfowl hunters who take a poke at a fleeing snipe with their heavy guns, big loads and tighter chokes often find themselves punching holes in the air and risk damaging a snipe’s delicate, delicious meat with a shot that connects.

While snipe have a wide wingspan, they are smaller than quail and it may take several birds to make a single meal. They are often roasted or pan-fried whole or breasted out and cooked with butter or bacon. Hunters who enjoy eating dove or duck will likely love the taste of snipe.

Snipe have a small but devoted following among some California hunters. The following tips and suggestions should inspire hunters to give snipe a try this season:

*Snipe hunting can be really good when the duck hunting is poor. Those warm, bluebird days in November make for a great opportunity to go snipe hunting.

* Snipe hunting is great for getting away from the crowds and enjoying some quiet time outdoors. So few people hunt snipe that snipe hunters often have all the boggy, upland fields to themselves.

*Snipe make for an exciting hunt. Snipe flush like a wild pheasant but can provide an abundance of shots and opportunities. A good snipe field can provide hunters with dozens of flushes.

*It helps to go on your first snipe hunt with someone who has hunted snipe before. You’ll be a lot more confident about your identification.

*If you miss a snipe you can often go after it again. A flushed bird will sometimes land again after a short flight.

*Snipe can be difficult and painstaking to pluck whole but it’s often worth the effort. The legs are especially delicious.

*You will almost never see a snipe on the ground before it flushes. Once you learn to identify snipe on the wing, however, it’s easy to distinguish snipe from other shorebirds. Snipe rarely fly in flocks. The vast majority of snipe flushes are single birds. Snipe often make a high-pitched call when they flush, sometimes described as a scaipe.

*Many snipe hunters don’t use hunting dogs. The low, erratic flight typical of a flushed snipe means a lot of low shots that can put a hunting dog in danger.

*Snipe are migratory birds and move. Snipe can be in one day in big numbers and gone the next. A good snipe field one day can be vacant of snipe the next.

*Snipe hunting regulations are available online at CDFW’s website within the 2019-20 bird hunting and public lands regulations booklet.

Please note that nonlead shot is now required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Please plan accordingly. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.






Hunters Encouraged to Purchase Ammunition Now as California’s 2019-20 Waterfowl Season Is Fast Approaching

California’s 2019-20 waterfowl hunting season opens Oct. 19 throughout much of the state and waterfowl hunters are encouraged to stock up on their favorite duck and goose loads sooner rather than later so as not to miss out on any hunting opportunities.

“Waterfowl hunters tend to be very generous people, and one of the best things about the season are those special invitations to be a guest at a private duck club or a last-minute offer to join in on a waterfowl reservation at a public hunting area,” said Melanie Weaver, who oversees the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) waterfowl program. “We don’t want any of our waterfowl hunters to miss out on these experiences because they had difficulty finding or buying ammunition the night before their hunt.”

New, more stringent ammunition purchasing regulations took effect in California July 1, 2019, requiring background checks, often multiple forms of personal identification, and a current and accurate record within the California Department of Justice’s Automated Firearms System. Hunters who haven’t purchased a shotgun or rifle in California since 2014 or had one transferred or recorded through a licensed firearm dealer in California may have difficulty purchasing ammunition. More information is available at the California Department of Justice website.

Specific opening and closing waterfowl season dates vary by zone. Detailed information about daily bag and possession limits can be found on the Fish and Game Commission website.

Quality public hunting is available on more than two dozen national wildlife refuges and state wildlife areas and ecological reserves managed by CDFW. Nontoxic shot certified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been required nationwide for waterfowl hunting since 1991. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.

It is common for waterfowl hunting areas to close periodically throughout the season due to safety concerns caused by flooding. Areas that most commonly experience flood closures include Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Sutter National Wildlife Area, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, and Little Dry Creek and Howard Slough Units of Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area. Hunters should keep informed regarding potential closures on the public area status website, which will be updated throughout the season. Reservations for state-operated wildlife areas that are closed due to flooding will not be accepted at other hunting areas, and refunds will not be issued for applications submitted to areas that are closed or where reservations are not available.

A valid California hunting license, appropriate validations and a signed federal duck stamp or  the electronic duck stamp must be obtained before entering the field. In addition, a wildlife area hunting pass is required to hunt on many state-operated wildlife areas. Licenses, validations and passes are not sold at wildlife areas, so hunters must purchase these items in advance.

California hunters are required to complete a hunter education training course before purchasing a hunting license for the first time in California. Approximately 30,000 students complete this requirement annually.

CDFW Photo: Black brant hunting in Humboldt Bay.