California’s 2018-2019 waterfowl hunting season is fast approaching, with one special early opportunity for young hunters in California’s Northeastern Zone. The weekend of Sept. 22 and 23 is designated as Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days in this zone only. Additional youth waterfowl hunting opportunities will follow in the other zones around the state on Feb. 2 and 3, 2019.
The majority of hunters will take to the blinds Oct. 20 in most zones. Specific opening and closing dates vary by zone. Detailed information about daily bag and possession limits can be found on the Fish and Game Commission website. Most season dates and bag limits remain similar to last year with the exception of pintail, which has increased to two birds per day. In addition, the Klamath Basin Special Management Area was created to maintain all goose hunting days during the general season while the Northeastern Zone has an extended late season for white and white-fronted geese.
Quality public hunting access can be found on more than two dozen national wildlife refuges and wildlife areas and ecological reserves managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Please note that nonlead ammunition is now required when hunting all species on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves. For more information, see the CDFW nonlead ammunition webpage.
It is also 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, Delevan National Wildlife Refuge, Little Dry Creek and Howard Slough. Hunt dates and applications for Sutter National Wildlife Refuge have not yet been finalized due to uncertainty of water availability. Call (530) 934-2801 for up-to-date information. Hunters should keep informed about current reservation and quota numbers, which are expected to fluctuate frequently. 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.
Hunters can follow the Twitter tag #cawildlifeareaclosures for updates on state-operated wildlife area closures.
A valid California hunting license, appropriate validations and a signed federal waterfowl conservation stamp or an electronic federal waterfowl conservation stamp must be obtained before entering the field. In addition, a wildlife area 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.