Upland game hunters statewide are geared up for the opportunity to bag their Thanksgiving dinner, as California’s 2016 general fall wild turkey hunting season is now open statewide. Opening as of Saturday, Nov. 12, the season extends through Sunday, Dec. 11, with a bag limit of one turkey (either sex) per day and no more than two per season.
“Turkey populations are doing very well in many areas of the state despite recent drought years,” said Scott Gardner, manager of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Upland Game Program. “Not only are they plentiful, but they’re also a very healthy alternative to store-bought turkey. Wild turkey meat is low in fat and has no additives. You can’t get much healthier than that.”
Wild turkeys are found in most counties in California, with the top five for fall harvest being Placer, El Dorado, Shasta, Sonoma and Tehama. Both a hunting license and upland game bird stamp are required to hunt turkeys, although an upland stamp is not required for hunters with junior licenses.
Rio Grande turkeys are the most widespread wild turkey subspecies 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 can be found in habitats dominated by pines in northeastern California. The eastern subspecies can be found in isolated pockets along the northern coast and eastern/Rio Grande hybrids from the Midwest inhabit areas along the south coast.
Today, California’s wild turkey population is estimated at about 250,000 birds. CDFW estimates that about 10,000 turkeys are harvested by about 20,000 hunters in the fall.
As of July 1, 2016, nonlead shot is required for wild turkeys statewide, unless taken on the grounds of a licensed game bird club. For more information, see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.
Many populations range on private land, but turkeys can 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.