Category Archives: Hunting

General Deer Seasons Set to Open; Hunters Advised to Check Wildfire-Related Closures

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wants to remind deer hunters to check for wildfire-related closures before heading to their favorite hunting spots for the general deer season, which is set to open in many parts of the state Saturday, Sept. 15.

Deer season is already underway in California’s A and B4 zones along the coast and many coastal deer hunters have had to improvise and find new spots this season as a result of wildfire-related closures that upended hunting plans.

Please visit CDFW’s forest fire related closure page for information and resources.

The majority of California’s general deer hunting zones – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, D6 and D7 – open Saturday, Sept. 15, along with premium hunting zones X9a and X9b in Mono and Inyo counties along the eastern Sierra. Several other general deer hunting zones – D3, D4, D5, D8, D9 and D10 open the following week, on Saturday, Sept. 22, as does premium hunting zone X8 in Alpine County.

“California has experienced several very large wildfires this summer, many of which are in popular deer hunting zones,” said David Casady, an environmental scientist with CDFW’s Deer Program. “Hunting will be challenging this year – particularly in the B zones and the northern parts of the A zone – but the range should respond positively and hunting should be productive in the next three to five years.”

California’s deer population is generally stable with small year-to-year fluctuations. Current estimates put the population at approximately 533,000 deer statewide. California hunters harvested 29,394 deer in 2017 with an overall hunter success rate of 16 percent.

Hunters are reminded that deer tag reporting is now mandatory – even for hunters who are unsuccessful or those who did not have a chance to hunt at all. CDFW has produced a video on how to properly complete, attach and report your deer tag.

California is phasing-in the use of nonlead ammunition for hunting which will be required for all wildlife harvest beginning July 1, 2019. While nonlead ammunition is currently not required for hunting deer in California in 2018 outside of the California condor range, if you will be hunting on a CDFW wildlife area or ecological reserve, nonlead ammunition is required. For more information, please see CDFW’s nonlead ammunition page.

Additional deer hunting information, including hunt zone descriptions, maps and special hunts, is available at CDFWs deer hunting page.

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Media Contacts:
David Casady, CDFW Deer Program, (916) 445-3705
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

Registration Now Open for Waterfowl Hunting Clinic in Merced County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Advanced Hunter Education Program is offering a Waterfowl Hunting Clinic on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos. The clinic hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and there is no cost to attend.

Hunters of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, will take something away from this clinic. Topics that will be covered include hunter safety, duck calling, decoy placement, blind design, ballistics, game care, regulations, and hunting opportunities available at state and federal waterfowl management areas.

The clinic’s lead instructor will be Lt. Shawn Olague of CDFW’s Hunter Education Program. Olague is a veteran wildlife officer and lifelong waterfowl hunter with years of experience hunting in the grasslands area around Los Banos.

Participants can register for the clinic online or contact Lt. Alan Gregory at alan.gregory@wildlife.ca.gov for more information.

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Media Contacts:
Lt. Alan Gregory
, CDFW Law Enforcement, (209) 274-9923

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

California’s General Tree Squirrel Season to Open Sept. 8

The 2018-2019 general tree squirrel season will be open from Saturday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. Tree squirrels may be taken only in the open zone during the open season, from between one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. A map of the state’s tree squirrel hunt zones can be found on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website, along with the full tree squirrel regulations.

Four types of tree squirrels are game species and can be hunted in California. The Western gray squirrel and the Douglas squirrel are both native to California while the Eastern fox squirrel and the Eastern gray squirrel are introduced and not native to the state. These tree squirrels can be hunted in the open zone during the open season under authority of a hunting license in California. No other validations are required.

A fifth species of tree squirrel, the Northern Flying Squirrel, is not a game species and may not be taken. Flying squirrels are small, native tree squirrels that are seldom encountered due to their nocturnal nature and preference for mature forest habitats with complex canopy structure.

Tree squirrel population levels fluctuate from year to year based on prevailing weather conditions and the annual production of nuts, acorns and seeds for forage.

“Given favorable mast (acorn) production years in 2016 and 2017, we anticipate that population levels and opportunities for hunting should be good in 2018,” said Matt Meshriy, an environmental scientist with CDFW’s Upland Game Program. “We continue to see numbers of invasive Eastern fox squirrels and Eastern gray squirrels increasing as these species have expanded their range in and adjacent to urban centers. The native Western gray squirrels and Douglas squirrels are often displaced where they overlap with invasive eastern species, but the native squirrels are better adapted to California’s forest and woodland habitats.”

In recent years, approximately 10,000 to 15,000 hunters have reported hunting tree squirrels annually and their combined statewide bag has ranged from 50,000 to 75,000.

National forests provide some of the best opportunity to hunt tree squirrels in California. Bureau of Land Management lands and CDFW wildlife areas may also provide opportunity for squirrel hunting. Please note that nonlead shot is required when taking tree squirrels and all resident small game mammals anywhere in California. Please plan accordingly. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Meshriy, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 322-6709
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

Quail, Forest Grouse, Ptarmigan and Band-tailed Pigeon General Seasons to Open Soon

The 2018-19 general upland game bird hunting season will open in mid-September for several species in specific zones around the state, providing hunters with many opportunities to bring home some delicious table fare for the upcoming holiday season.

September openers include quail (Zone Q1 opens for mountain quail on Sept. 8, and Zone Q2 will be open for all quail on Sept. 29) sooty and ruffed grouse (general season will open in various northern and eastern counties on Sept. 8); white-tailed ptarmigan (which will open Sept. 8); and band-tailed pigeon (the northern hunt zone will open Sept. 15).

Please note that nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting on California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves. As of July 1, 2016, the nonlead shot requirement is extended to include the take of upland game birds with a shotgun statewide, with the exceptions of dove, quail and snipe, or any upland game bird taken on a licensed game bird club. Please plan accordingly. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.

Zone maps and information about daily bag limits and possession limits for each game bird species can be found on the CDFW Upland Game Bird Hunting webpage. Additional information about each species can be found below.

Quail

Quail are some of the state’s most popular native game birds. There are three species of quail found in California: California quail, mountain quail and Gambel’s quail. California quail (the state bird) are common and widespread throughout the state in low to mid-elevation brushy habitats with good cover and abundant food. Mountain quail are found in higher elevation habitats. Gambel’s quail are California’s most desert-adapted species and are found in the very arid lands of southeastern California.

The early mountain quail-only season starts on Sept. 8 in Zone Q1 and continues through Oct. 19, covering much of the mountainous region of northern and eastern California. On Sept. 29, the early general quail season opens in Zone Q2 for all quail species in several north coast counties. The remainder of the state will open to quail hunting on Oct. 20 and extend through Jan. 27, 2019. Finally, an additional two-day early hunt season will be open on Oct. 6-7 in Mojave National Preserve for hunters with junior hunting licenses.

For all quail species, the daily bag limit is 10 and the possession limit is triple the daily bag. Hunters can still use lead shot for quail until July 1, 2019 unless hunting on CDFW Wildlife Areas or Ecological Reserves.

All three native species of quail are characterized by high reproductive potential associated with adequate and well-timed winter and early spring precipitation. Northern California experienced increased precipitation this spring, benefitting quail habitat and productivity. Hunters should experience good populations of quail this fall.

All three species of quail are most active in the early morning and later afternoon and move in large coveys throughout the day. Quail have distinctive calls that can provide clues to the birds’ location. Quail are more apt to run than flush, making them a more challenging game bird to hunt. Hunting dogs can be useful for locating, flushing and retrieving birds in the field.

Quail can be successfully hunted with legal gauge shotguns. A modified or improved cylinder choke is recommended to avoid damage to the bird. Because of the dense brush habitats where they are usually hunted, downed quail can be hard to find. Despite this challenge, CDFW reminds hunters that wasting game is both unethical and illegal.

CDFW estimates that in the 2016-2017 season, 51,281 hunters bagged 320,913 quail over the course of 184,541 hunter-days. Not surprisingly, California quail is the most frequently bagged of the three species.

Forest Grouse

California has two species of native forest-dwelling grouse: the sooty grouse and the ruffed grouse. Sooty grouse occur in the Sierra Nevada, Cascade and northern coast ranges while the ruffed grouse is restricted to the northwestern part of the state. The general hunting season for both species extends from Sept. 8 to Oct. 8 this year. For sooty and ruffed grouse, the daily bag limit is two (both of one species or mixed species) and possession limit is triple the daily bag.

Although they are fairly large birds, grouse camouflage themselves well and generally hold tight to their location even when hunters are nearby. They flush quickly and fly off in a zigzag pattern, requiring a quick and accurate response from a hunter. Dogs are useful companions to help hunters find, flush and retrieve bagged grouse. Nonlead shot is required for all grouse statewide.

Ptarmigan

The white-tailed ptarmigan is a non-native grouse that was introduced by CDFW to the Sierra Nevada in the early 1970s. This is the smallest species of ptarmigan and the only one found in California. They inhabit the high elevation alpine habitats at low densities from Sonora Pass in Tuolumne County to Kings Canyon National Park.

Hunting these birds can be challenging because of the high elevation and steep terrain. Hunting is permitted from Sept. 8-16. The daily bag limit is two per day and the possession limit is two per season. Hunters should prepare for difficult hiking conditions and be familiar with the area before heading out after this game bird. Nonlead shot is required for hunting ptarmigan.

Band-tailed Pigeon

The band-tailed pigeon is California’s only native pigeon and is a close relative of the extinct passenger pigeon. They look similar to the introduced domestic or rock pigeons that frequent urban areas. Band-tailed pigeons are often found in mountainous terrain throughout the state, using coniferous forests as well as oak woodlands, but populations are migratory and movements can be unpredictable. The federal Harvest Information Program (HIP) estimates that in 2017, 2,500 hunters spent 5,600 days afield in California and harvested 5,600 band-tailed pigeons.

The northern California hunt zone season runs from Sept 15-23. The daily bag limit is two and the possession limit is triple the daily bag. The southern hunt zone does not open until December. Nonlead shot is required for band-tailed pigeons statewide.

CDFW reminds hunters that an upland game bird stamp is required for licensed adult hunters (18 years and older) but not for hunters with a valid junior hunting license. A HIP validation is also required to hunt band-tailed pigeons.

Media Contacts:z
Scott Gardner, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 801-6257
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

A Saturday First Dove Season Opener Will Generate Big Numbers

The first of two opening days of California’s dove hunting season is fast approaching. This year’s season for mourning dove, white-winged dove, spotted dove and ringed turtle dove will run from Saturday, Sept. 1 through Saturday, Sept. 15 statewide, followed by a second hunt period, Saturday, Nov. 10 through Monday, Dec. 24.

Mourning dove and white-winged dove have a daily bag limit if 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.

Please note that as of July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting upland game birds on all California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands. Please plan accordingly. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.

A dove identification guide can be found on the CDFW website, along with a map of upland game fields in Imperial County, the state’s hub for dove hunting.

Following two years of increased precipitation in northern California, abundant forage and water availability has provided mourning doves with the basics for a productive nesting season. Early banding data show high numbers of hatch year birds reported around the state. Mourning doves are generally short-lived and can respond with high reproductive success given ideal habitat conditions. This, paired with a Saturday opening day, should draw many hopeful dove hunters to the fields.

Dove hunting is a great starting point for new hunters. There is very little equipment required and just about any place open for hunting will have mourning doves. Minimum requirements are a valid hunting license with upland game bird stamp (junior license holders are not required to have an upland game bird stamp) and Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation, good footwear, a shotgun, shotgun shells and plenty of water. Hunters should be careful not to underestimate the amount of fluids needed, especially during the first half of the season or when hunting in desert areas.

Many dove hunters like to position themselves in a known flyway for doves. Flyways can run to and from roost sites, water, food sources or gravel. Doves are usually taken by pass shooting along flyways, but hunters may also be successful jump shooting. Dove movement is most frequent in the early mornings and late evenings when they are flying from and to their roost sites (this is when the majority of hunters go into the field). Late morning to early afternoon can be better for jump shooting. Hunters should scout out dove activity in the area a few times just prior to hunting.

Important laws and regulations to be aware of include the following:

  • Shoot time for doves is one half hour before sunrise to sunset.
  • All hunters, including junior hunting license holders,  are required to carry their hunting license with them.
  • Hunters must have written permission from the landowner prior to hunting on private land.
  • Bag limits apply to each hunter and no one can take more than one legal limit.
  • It is illegal to shoot within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling.
  • It is illegal to shoot from or across a public roadway.

It is the responsibility of every hunter to know and follow all laws, including identifying game species.

Safety is the most important part of any hunting adventure. Although wearing hunter orange (blaze) is not required by law, it may be required in specific areas. Wearing a minimum of a hunter orange hat is recommended, especially when sitting or when hunting in deep vegetation. Safety glasses are a simple way to protect the eyes and are available in many shades for hunting in all types of lighting situations.

The weather throughout the state on Sept. 1 is expected to be hot and dry. CDFW urges hunters to drink plenty of fluids, wear sun protection and have a plan in case of an accident.

Full dove hunting regulations can be found on CDFW’s website.

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Media Contacts:
Karen Fothergill, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 716-1461
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988