California’s 2019-20 waterfowl hunting season opens Oct. 19 throughout much of the state and waterfowl hunters are encouraged to stock up on their favorite duck and goose loads sooner rather than later so as not to miss out on any hunting opportunities.
“Waterfowl hunters tend to be very generous people, and one of the best things about the season are those special invitations to be a guest at a private duck club or a last-minute offer to join in on a waterfowl reservation at a public hunting area,” said Melanie Weaver, who oversees the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) waterfowl program. “We don’t want any of our waterfowl hunters to miss out on these experiences because they had difficulty finding or buying ammunition the night before their hunt.”
New, more stringent ammunition purchasing regulations took effect in California July 1, 2019, requiring background checks, often multiple forms of personal identification, and a current and accurate record within the California Department of Justice’s Automated Firearms System. Hunters who haven’t purchased a shotgun or rifle in California since 2014 or had one transferred or recorded through a licensed firearm dealer in California may have difficulty purchasing ammunition. More information is available at the California Department of Justice website.
Specific opening and closing waterfowl season dates vary by zone. Detailed information about daily bag and possession limits can be found on the Fish and Game Commission website.
Quality public hunting is available on more than two dozen national wildlife refuges and state wildlife areas and ecological reserves managed by CDFW. Nontoxic shot certified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been required nationwide for waterfowl hunting since 1991. For more information, see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.
It is common for waterfowl hunting areas to close periodically throughout the season due to safety concerns caused by flooding. Areas that most commonly experience flood closures include Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Sutter National Wildlife Area, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, and Little Dry Creek and Howard Slough Units of Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area. Hunters should keep informed regarding potential closures on the public area status website, which will be updated throughout the season. Reservations for state-operated wildlife areas that are closed due to flooding will not be accepted at other hunting areas, and refunds will not be issued for applications submitted to areas that are closed or where reservations are not available.
A valid California hunting license, appropriate validations and a signed federal duck stamp or the electronic duck stamp must be obtained before entering the field. In addition, a wildlife area hunting pass is required to hunt on many state-operated wildlife areas. Licenses, validations and passes are not sold at wildlife areas, so hunters must purchase these items in advance.
California hunters are required to complete a hunter education training course before purchasing a hunting license for the first time in California. Approximately 30,000 students complete this requirement annually.