quail

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

The 2019-20 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.

September openers include quail (Zone Q1 opens for mountain quail on Sept. 14, and Zone Q2 will be open for all quail on Sept. 28), sooty and ruffed grouse (general season will open in various northern and eastern counties on Sept. 14), white-tailed ptarmigan (which will open Sept. 14) and band-tailed pigeon (the northern hunt zone will open Sept. 21).

Please note that as of July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition is required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Please plan accordingly. For more information, please see the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (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. 14 in Zone Q1 and continues through Oct. 18, covering much of the mountainous region of northern and eastern California. On Sept. 28, 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. 19 and extend through Jan. 26, 2020. Finally, an additional two-day early hunt season will be open on Oct. 5-6 in Mojave National Preserve for hunters with junior hunting licenses.

CDFW is offering fall hunts for quail (and wild chukar) throughout the state. Special drawings for public land quail and chukar hunts through the Upland Game Wild Bird Hunt Program are available in Kern, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and San Diego counties, and drawings for hunts on private ranches (offered through the SHARE Program) will be available in Tulare and Santa Barbara counties. Hunters can apply for these opportunities online, at CDFW license sales offices, through retail license agents or by calling (800) 565-1458.

For all quail species, the daily bag limit is 10 and the possession limit is triple the daily bag.

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.

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. 14 to Oct. 14 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.

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. 14-22. 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.

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 northern California hunt zone season runs from Sept 21-29. The daily bag limit is two and the possession limit is triple the daily bag. The southern hunt zone does not open until December.

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.

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

mourning dove

Special Dove Hunting Opportunities Available for 2019 Season

California’s dove hunting season is rapidly approaching, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting applications for dove hunts throughout the state on both public land and private ranches.

Hunters are reminded that nonlead ammunition is now required for hunting doves and taking wildlife anywhere in California with a firearm.

The first half of the split dove season will be open statewide from Sept. 1-15, 2019. The second half will be open statewide from Nov. 9 through Dec. 23, 2019.

For mourning dove and white-winged dove, the daily bag limit is 15, up to 10 of which may be white-winged doves. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. There is no limit for spotted dove or ringed dove, but the season dates are the same as for mourning dove and white-winged dove. Eurasian collared-dove is the only dove species that can be hunted year-round, with no bag or possession limit.

Several dove hunting opportunities are available by drawing only throughout California for the upcoming dove season as part of CDFW’s Upland Game and SHARE programs.

Special drawings for public land dove hunting opportunities through the Upland Game Bird Hunting program will be available at the following locations:

  • Merced and Stanislaus counties: North Grasslands Wildlife Area (China Island and Salt Slough units), Los Banos Wildlife Area
  • Sacramento County: Cosumnes River Preserve
  • Fresno County: Pilibos Unit of the Mendota Wildlife Area
  • San Diego County: San Felipe Wildlife Area
  • San Luis Obispo County: North Chimineas Ranch, Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve

Drawings for limited public access to private lands through the SHARE Program will be available at the following locations:

  • Santa Barbara County: Harrington Farms, Jones Ranch and Sleepy Creek Ranch
  • Tulare County: Hart Ranch

Hunters can apply for these opportunities online, at CDFW license sales offices, through retail license agents or by calling (800) 565-1458.

Additional information can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds/hunts and www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Meshriy, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 322-6709
Victoria Barr, CDFW SHARE Program, (916) 445-4034
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

Pheasant in flight

CDFW Launches Automated Application Process for Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts

California hunters can now apply online for specially managed upland game bird hunting opportunities on private and public lands.

Starting with the 2017 fall hunting season, hunters will need to apply through the Automated License Data System (ALDS) for special hunt drawings for pheasant, chukar, quail, wild turkey and dove. The new, automated application process replaces the Special Hunts Application process for wild bird hunts.

Applications for apprentice pheasant hunts will remain in the current location at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/DFGSpecialHunts/Default.aspx. For updates and information on wild upland game bird hunts, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Upland-Game-Birds/Hunts.

All hunt applicants must have a valid California hunting license and adult hunters must also have a valid Upland Game Bird Stamp to hunt upland game birds.

A non-refundable $2.42 fee will be charged for each application. Hunters may select their top three hunt choices per application and apply in parties, but may only apply once for each available hunt date. Duplicate entries will be disqualified.

Applications may be purchased:

All hunters must abide by California’s nonlead requirements. Currently, nonlead ammunition is required for hunting doves on any CDFW-managed property, but is not required to hunt doves on private property or public lands not managed by CDFW. Starting on July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition will be required to take all wildlife anywhere in California.

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Media Contacts:
Karen Fothergill, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 716-1461

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

First Dove Season Opener Approaches

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 Thursday, Sept. 1 through Thursday, Sept. 15 statewide, followed by a second hunt period, Saturday, Nov. 12 through Saturday, Dec. 26.

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 are no limits.

Please note that nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting on all wildlife areas and ecological reserves managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Use of lead shot is still legal for hunting dove, quail and snipe on federal properties, public lands not managed by CDFW and private lands, including licensed game bird clubs, until July 1, 2019. Please plan accordingly. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.

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.

Although parts of California are still in a serious drought, mourning doves are dry environment birds and are capable of exploiting many food types and sources. The 2016 statewide dove banding effort, which is still in progress, has indicated so far that there is no shortage of mourning doves for the opener. Hunters who encounter a banded bird are asked to report it to the USGS Bird Banding Lab (www.reportband.gov). Banded birds are part of important biological monitoring and reporting banded birds provides valuable data. Mourning and white-winged doves are migratory and the hunting regulation framework is determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). States are required to set hunting regulations within this framework. The migratory dove populations are managed similarly to migratory waterfowl and based on a flyway population. California is part of the Western Management Unit, which includes six other western states. In addition to banding data, breeding bird surveys, call count surveys, wing surveys and Harvest Information  Program (HIP) data all provide information that is included in the effort to monitor the population status by management unit. These results are used by the USFWS to establish hunting seasons, bag limits and possession limits.

Dove hunting is considered 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 an upland game bird stamp (if the hunter is 18 or older) and 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.

Most successful dove hunters position themselves in a known flyway for doves. These can be to and from roost sites, water, food sources or gravel. Doves are usually taken by pass shooting these 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 consider include the following:

  • Shoot time for doves is one half hour before sunrise to sunset.
  • All hunters — including junior hunters — 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 per day.
  • 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.

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.

A summary of the 2016-17 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

CDFW Holds Lottery for Apprentice Upland Gamebird Hunts in Bay Delta Region

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Contacts/Hunt Leaders:
Patrick Graham, CDFW Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, (707) 425-3828
Karen Taylor, CDFW Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, (707) 944-5567
Jeff Stoddard, CDFW Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, (530) 757-2431
Ryan Carrothers, CDFW White Slough Wildlife Area, (530) 757-1813

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a lottery for eight pen-raised pheasant hunts in the Bay Delta Region.

The hunts will be offered at four locations: Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, White Slough Wildlife Area and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.

Apprentice applicants must have successfully completed a hunter education course and possess a valid 2013 California junior hunting license. A non-hunting adult 18 years of age or older is required to accompany and supervise up to two apprentice hunters. Two hunters and a chaperone may submit a single application as one party. All participants, including chaperones, must wear shooting safety glasses and blaze orange clothing. Each apprentice hunter will be limited to two rooster pheasants.

The application can be found at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/DFGSpecialHunts/Default.aspx and the deadline to apply is Oct. 30 at 4 p.m.

To apply, follow this pathway online: CDFW special hunts online registration, login or create a new account if new to the site. From there, select apprentice hunts, pheasant, Jr. only pen-raised and follow the computer prompts. Successful applicants will be notified by mail or they can log on to view the status of the drawing. Any vacancies after the drawing will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

Grizzly Island Wildlife Area: (80 permits will be issued – 40 per hunt)
Hunt #1 Nov. 16 8 a.m. to noon
Hunt #2 Nov. 16 1 to 4:55 p.m.

Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area – Ringstrom Bay Unit and Valley of the Moon Trap Club: (20 permits will be issued – 10 per hunt) – (Practice shooting at the range prior to each hunt and lunch will be provided at noon for both groups – donated by volunteers of Valley of the Moon Trap Club)
Hunt #1 Nov. 16 8 a.m. to noon
Hunt #2 Nov. 16 1 to 4:55 p.m.

White Slough Wildlife Area: (20 permits will be issued – 10 per hunt)
Hunt #1 Nov. 16 8 a.m. to noon
Hunt #2 Nov. 16 1 to 4:55 p.m.

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (20 permits will be issued – 10 per hunt)
Hunt #1 Nov. 16 8 a.m. to noon
Hunt #2 Nov. 16 1 to 4:55 p.m.

Current regulations are available at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/. Questions concerning the apprentice hunts should be directed to the appropriate hunt leader or CDFW’s Bay Delta Regional Office at (707) 944-5500.

These special hunts are funded by CDFW’s Upland Gamebird Special Hunt Program, in cooperation with several volunteer organizations. They are meant to provide an engaging experience that supports hunter education.