California’s 2016 general spring wild turkey hunting season will open statewide on March 26 and extend through May 1, with an extended archery season May 2 through May 15.
Hunters who have a current junior hunting license may also hunt the weekend before the opener, March 19-20, and after the general season, May 2 through May 15, using shotguns or any other legal method of take.
Shooting hours for wild turkeys are from 30 minutes before sunrise to 5 p.m. Both a hunting license and upland game bird validation are required, although a validation is not required for hunters with junior licenses. The bag limit is one bearded turkey per day and no more than a total of three turkeys during all seasons combined (general, archery and junior).
Hunters strive to be stealthy and frequently wear head-to-toe camouflage due to the keen eyesight and good hearing possessed by wild turkeys. In the springtime, the birds exhibit mating behavior and are more active than in the fall hunting season, making them susceptible to a strategic call made by a hunter.
“Spring is the most popular season for wild turkeys in California, in part because of the opportunity to call in a strutting gobbler,” said Scott Gardner, coordinator of CDFW’s Upland Game Program. “Hunters use calls and decoys, imitating female wild turkeys to call in the males.”
The statewide wild turkey population is estimated at 240,000. CDFW estimates that approximately 36,000 hunters bag about 28,000 turkeys during the spring season each year statewide. Wild turkeys are found in most counties in California, with the top 10 for spring harvest being Shasta, Butte, Placer, El Dorado, Tehama, Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada and Lake counties.
Rio Grande turkeys are the most widespread subspecies of wild turkey in California, occupying much of the mixed oak and pine woodlands of the Coast Ranges, Central Valley, Sierra Nevada and Cascade foothills. Merriam’s turkeys are found in habitats dominated by pines in northeastern California, but are also found in the Transverse Range in Kern County. The eastern subspecies can be found in isolated pockets along the northern coast and eastern/Rio Grande hybrids inhabit areas along the south coast.
Many populations range on private land, but turkeys can also be found on public lands administered by CDFW, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. A list of state wildlife areas and ecological reserves can be found on the CDFW website. Upland game hunters are reminded that as of July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting on these properties. For more information please visit CDFW’s nonlead ammunition page.
For more general information, hunters can visit the Upland Game Bird Hunting webpage.
Scott Gardner, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 801-6257
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958