Every year, the second Saturday of November poses something of an omnivore’s dilemma for California hunters. That’s when the state’s wild pheasant, fall turkey and second dove seasons open, presenting California game bird hunters with lots of options in the state’s forests, uplands and wetlands.
Pheasant, fall turkey and the second dove seasons opened Saturday, Nov. 14. Combined with seasons already open for ducks, geese, quail, snipe, chukar, rabbits and squirrels, California hunters can find themselves with more opportunities than time afield.
This is also the time of year to transform holiday meals from the mundane to the memorable. Dove popper appetizers, a side dish of wild pheasant or a main course of wild turkey are guaranteed to enliven any holiday gathering while showcasing and sharing California’s wild bounty.
Land use changes and intensifying agricultural practices have not been kind to California’s wild pheasants, which prefer grasslands and rural farmland habitat.
The good news is that some of the best pheasant habitat and wild pheasant hunting in California is now found on state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges open to the public – from Tule Lake and Lower Klamath national wildlife refuges in northeastern California to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex down to the San Luis and Kern national wildlife refuges in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
Several CDFW Type A wildlife areas are especially popular with wild pheasant hunters, including Yolo Bypass, Upper Butte Basin, Los Banos, North Grasslands, Grizzly Island and Gray Lodge. These state areas are open to pheasant hunting on their normal Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday shoot days during the pheasant season.
The 2020 general pheasant season runs from Saturday, Nov. 14 through Sunday, Dec. 27. The daily bag limit is three males per day. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. Shooting hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Wild Turkey (Fall Season)
California’s wild turkey population continues to thrive and even expand its range after one of the state’s longest droughts. For wild turkey hunters, the fall season presents an additional opportunity by allowing the take of both males and females, unlike the spring season when only bearded turkeys may be taken.
The fall turkey season runs from Saturday, Nov. 14 through Sunday, Dec. 13. The daily bag limit is one turkey of either sex with a fall season and possession limit of two birds. Turkey hunting is permitted at many state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges where other hunting is allowed. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. For the Type A Wildlife Areas that allow turkey hunting, shoot days are limited to the normal Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday during the fall turkey season.
Second Dove Season
California’s second dove season runs from Saturday, Nov. 14 through Monday, Dec. 28. The second dove season offers cooler weather, fewer crowds and the chance for a mixed bag of species – quail and rabbit, for example – that often share the same habitat.
Limits remain the same as the early season: 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 is no limit. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Type A Wildlife Areas that allow dove hunting will be open the normal shoot days which are Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday during the second dove season. Remember to check the area regulations to see if any additional upland species might also be open. In addition to public hunting opportunities available at state wildlife areas and federal wildlife refuges, CDFW offers special hunts at the Upland Game Wild Bird Hunts page and through the SHARE program, which provides public hunting access to private land or other landlocked properties. Beginning hunters should visit CDFW’s Apprentice Hunts webpage for additional pheasant hunting opportunities.
Both a valid hunting license and upland game bird validation are needed to hunt pheasant, turkey and dove. An upland game bird validation is not required for junior license holders, but all hunters are required to have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) validation when hunting migratory game birds such as mourning dove and snipe. A wildlife area hunting pass is required for adults to hunt on a Type A and Type B state-operated wildlife areas and national wildlife refuge. Please check with the individual property for specific details and regulations on each area.
Please note that nonlead shot is required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Hunters need to plan accordingly. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.