Tag Archives: upland game

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

The 2016-17 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 from Sept. 10 through Oct. 14, and Zone Q2 will be open for all quail from Sept. 24 through Jan. 29); sooty and ruffed grouse (general season will be open in various northern and eastern counties from Sept. 10 through Oct. 10); white-tailed ptarmigan (general and archery seasons will be open from Sept. 10-18); and band-tailed pigeon (the northern hunt zone only will be open from Sept. 17-25).

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 game birds with a shotgun elsewhere in California, with the exceptions of dove, quail and snipe, or any game bird taken on a licensed game bird club. Please plan accordingly. For more information please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.

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


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 also widespread in higher elevation habitats. Gambel’s quail are California’s most desert-adapted species and can be found in the very arid lands of southeastern California.

The early mountain quail season starts on Sept. 10 and continues through Oct. 14 and covers much of the mountainous region of northern and eastern California (the Q1 zone map can be found on the CDFW website). On Sept. 24, the early general quail season opens in Zone Q2 for several coastal counties between Marin and Mendocino counties. The remainder of the state will open to quail hunting on Oct. 15. Finally, an additional two-day early hunt season will be open on Oct. 1-2 in Mojave National Preserve for young 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 2019 unless hunting on CDFW Wildlife Areas or Ecological Reserves. Quail currently are exempted from the new nonlead requirement because lighter shot sizes used on these smaller birds is not as widely available as larger shot that has been used for many years on waterfowl.

All three native species of quail are characterized by high reproductive potential that can only be realized through adequate and well-timed winter and early spring precipitation. Despite the ongoing drought, conditions were good for in 2015-16 for quail, resulting in good hatches in most part of the state.

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. Hunting dogs can be useful for both locating and retrieving birds in the field.

Quail can be successfully hunted with 20, 16 or 12 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 2014-15 season, approximately 470,000 quail were bagged across all three species by 69,000 hunters over the course of 550,000 hunter-days. Not surprisingly, California quail is the most frequently bagged of the three species. (Data is not yet available for the 2015-16 season.)


California has two species of native forest-dwelling grouse: the sooty (or blue) 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. 10 to Oct. 10 this year. For sooty and ruffed grouse, the daily bag limit is two (all of one species or mixed) and possession limit is triple the daily bag. A third species, the greater sage-grouse, can be hunted by permit only.

Although they are fairly large birds, grouse camouflage themselves very well and will flush quickly when frightened, flying in a zigzag pattern away from the hunter. Dogs are useful companions to help hunters find and retrieve bagged grouse. A light gun is helpful because a fast swing is often necessary. Nonlead shot is required for all grouse statewide.


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 live in high elevation alpine habitats at low densities from the area around Sonora Pass in Tuolumne County to the area surrounding Kings Canyon National Park.

Hunting these birds can be challenging because of the high elevation, steep terrain. Hunting is permitted from Sept. 10-18. The daily bag limit is two per day and the possession limit is two per season. Many hunters prefer using a 20-gauge shotgun and a hunting dog to pursue ptarmigan. Nonlead shot is required for 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 domestic (feral) pigeons that are common in urban areas. Band-tailed pigeons are found in mountainous terrain throughout the state, using coniferous forests as well as oak woodlands.

The band-tailed pigeon is locally abundant at times but populations are migratory and movements can be unpredictable. The federal Harvest Information Program (HIP) estimates that in 2014, 10,700 pigeons were harvested in California, comprising nearly 90 percent of the total Pacific Flyway harvest.

The northern California hunt zone season runs from Sept 17-25. 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 hunters with a valid junior hunting license. A HIP validation is also required to hunt band-tailed pigeons.


Media Contacts:
Scott Gardner, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 445-5545

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.


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

SHARE Program Offers Big Game, Upland Hunts in Santa Barbara County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) program will provide public access for big game and upland game hunts this fall at several locations in Santa Barbara County.

For the fourth year, fall hunts for deer, bear, turkey, quail and dove at Jones Ranch and Sleepy Creek Ranch will be offered to the hunting public. These remote ranches in West Cuyama Valley encompass 1,000 acres between them and will offer separate hunting opportunities. The terrain offers miles of trails through oak savannah, riparian, juniper-sage woodland and chaparral habitats. The ranches are adjacent to public lands, providing additional hunting opportunities not easily accessible to other hunters.

For the first time, Baeke Ranch will offer deer, quail and wild pig hunts. Overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley just northwest of Solvang, Baeke Ranch is located in Ballard Canyon Ranches, known locally as “Hog Valley.” The property is approximately 20 acres surrounded by open space and encompasses maze of game trails winding through chaparral scrub and coyote brush with large oak and pine cover.

Hunters with a valid California hunting license may apply online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/online-sales. An $11.37 non-refundable application fee will be charged for each hunt choice. Successful applicants for each property will be allowed to bring a hunting partner or a non-hunting partner depending on the hunt.

These opportunities were made possible by the SHARE program, which offers incentives to private landowners who allow wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities on their property. Participating landowners receive monetary compensation and liability protection for providing limited public access to or through their land. The goal of the SHARE program is to provide additional hunting, fishing and other recreational access on private lands in California. For more information about SHARE opportunities please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

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Media Contacts:
Victoria Barr, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-4035

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

Applications for December Apprentice Hunts and Workshop Due on Nov. 18

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is offering a number of special hunt opportunities for young hunters, women, families and mobility-impaired hunters this fall and winter. All hunt opportunities are now listed on CDFW’s website. Below are the December hunts – and one workshop – with application due dates in the latter half of November:

Due by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18:

Merced County: A total of eight pen-raised pheasant hunts will be held over the weekends of Dec. 5-6 and Dec. 12-13. Each day will have a morning and an afternoon hunt that can accommodate 25 hunters each; all afternoon hunts are junior-required.

Fresno County: Two junior-only pen-raised pheasant hunts will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5 at the Mendota Wildlife Area. Each hunt (morning and afternoon) can accommodate 25 hunters.

Kern County: Two wild quail and chukar hunts will be held the weekend of Dec. 5-6 at the Canebrake Ecological Reserve. The Saturday hunt is a junior-required hunt, while the Sunday hunt is a general apprentice hunt. Each can accommodate 10 hunters.

Ventura County: An upland game workshop for apprentice hunters will be held on Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Boy Scouts of America Camp Three Falls in Frazier Park. Participants will learn about shotgun safety and range, shotgun cleaning, proper game care cleaning and transportation methods and how to hunt with dogs. This workshop will accommodate 12 hunters.

Los Angeles County: Two family pen-raised pheasant hunts will be held at Peace Valley on Saturday, Dec. 5 (early morning and late morning), and one junior-only hunt will be held on Sunday, Dec. 6. The Saturday family hunts can accommodate 18 hunters each and the Sunday junior hunt can accommodate 12 hunters.

Riverside County: One junior-required pen-raised pheasant hunt will be held over the weekend of Dec. 5-6 at Robinson Farms. This hunt allows junior hunters to hunt on consecutive days (alone on the first day and with up to three guests on the second day). Applications will be drawn to fill the hunt quota of 100 totals for Sunday; junior hunters who are drawn will also be allowed to participate in the Saturday hunt.

Riverside County: One pen-raised pheasant hunt will be held on Sunday, Dec. 13 at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. This hunt can accommodate 65 hunters.

Imperial County: One family pen-raised pheasant hunt will be held on Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Imperial Wildlife Area. This hunt can accommodate 35 hunters.

Please note that many of these opportunities will be held on  state wildlife areas or ecological reserves. As of July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting on these properties. For more information please see CDFW’s nonlead ammunition page.

CDFW’s Upland Game Bird Special Hunts are intended for beginning hunters or those with limited experience. Apprentice applicants must have successfully completed a hunter education course and possess a valid 2015-2016 California junior hunting license. Adult hunters (18 or older) must also have an upland game bird validation. A non-hunting adult 18 years of age or older is required to accompany all junior hunt participants.

Proper clothing and safety gear, including blaze orange, is required for department-sponsored hunts. All hunts include gun safety review, easy-to-hunt topography, a high ratio of volunteers to hunters, experienced dog handlers and clay shooting for practice.

Hunters can find more information and apply for any of these hunts online at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/DFGSpecialHunts/Default.aspx. There is no charge to apply. Please note that additional hunts in January and February are listed on the website and are also open for registration.

New hunters can use their Hunter Education Certificate number for priority registration for apprentice hunts. Applicants with priority will be automatically placed in a hunt before the random drawing takes place.

The full upland game bird hunting regulations and a summary for 2015-2016 can be found on CDFW’s website.

Media Contacts:
Linda Sandoval, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 445-3452
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

General Pheasant Hunting Opener Nears

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.


Media Contacts:
Scott Gardner, CDFW Upland Game Program, (916) 445-5545
Brad Burkholder, CDFW Lands Program, (916) 445-1829
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988