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 shoot days have been reduced on some wildlife areas, opportunities are still available on state-managed lands.
The 2015 general pheasant season will open Saturday, Nov. 14 and extend through Sunday, Dec. 27. For 2015, 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.
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 1990’s. Total pheasant harvest on public areas in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys declined from a high of 4,828 roosters in 1998 to 1,120 last year.
“Wild pheasant populations have declined in the Central Valley due to a number of factors – changing agricultural practices and loss of upland habitats combined with increased use of insecticides and predation,” said Scott Gardner, Upland Game Bird Coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). “There are still enough pheasants to sustain a rooster-only hunting season, but the numbers look nothing like they used to.”
In response to the continued decline, CDFW is entering the third year of working with Pheasants Forever and the United States Geological Survey to implement pheasant population assessments and identify factors limiting their populations to develop potential management actions. Initial findings were presented at a pheasant workshop earlier this year and information on the workshop and ongoing research can be found on CDFW’s website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/pheasant.
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) and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays, and only the first Monday (Nov. 16) during the pheasant season. Grizzly Island Wildlife Area will also be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only 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) will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only during the pheasant season. Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, Freitas Unit will be open for pheasant hunting on the first Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the pheasant season (Nov. 14-16). The Kesterson blind area will be open for pheasant hunting on the first Monday of the pheasant season (Nov. 16).
- In the event some units experience closures for waterfowl hunting as a result of the drought, the goal will be to open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the general pheasant season. Permits for entry will be issued at the check station through a morning lottery. Specific information will be available from affected wildlife area offices. Additional entry will be available through first-come, first-serve lists at the check station.
- 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.
Upland game hunters are reminded that as of July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting on all CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page .
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 lands regulations for 2015-2016 can be found 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 the CDFW office in their region and check the CDFW website.
Scott Gardner, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 445-5545
Brad Burkholder, CDFW Lands Program, (916) 445-1829
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988