California Hunting for Birds and Mammals

Beginning July 2016, we’re fetchin’ it up at www.legallabrador.ORG.

From this website, you’ll be directed to our new website. You’ll find reliable information about California hunting. Legal Labrador shares your passion for hunting! We fetch up laws for hunting birds and mammals in California. We retrieve them from federal, State, and local sources. We organize it for over 650 public and private hunting locations. We summarize it for hunters, taking out or explaining the legal mumbo jumbo. We provide links to the laws, though, so you can check it out yourself. We also give “Warning shots!!!” to make you aware of sticky situations. You’ll also find useful hunting tools, like custom maps, tips, and blogs. Finally, we offer legal summaries to people who provide service to hunters (e.g. taxidermists, meat  processors, and hunting guides). If you don’t find what you’re looking for, tell our lawyer to “Fetch in Up.”



Warning shot!!! There are more California hunting rules and restrictions when hunting on public land (e.g. see Public Hunting below).


To hunt any bird or mammal, you need a California Hunting License. There are different kinds depending on where you live, plus your age, location, profession, and/or ability. If you’ve never had one, you’ll need to complete the Hunter Education Program.


California hunting stampsIf you’re in California hunting birds, you usually need some sort of stamp. For Migratory Game Birds, you’ll need to complete a harvest survey. For Waterfowl, most people need a Federal Duck Stamp and California Duck Stamp. For birds that tend to be hunted over land (e.g. doves), most people need an Upland Game Bird Stamp. For some birds, you also need a special permit (e.g. Sage Grouse). Warning shot!!! Before hunting, review our page for the specific bird (e.g. Turkey).


California hunting tags for Big Game like antelope, bear, deer, elk, sheep, pig.

If you’re in California hunting Big Game, you’ll need to buy at least on hunting tag before you hunt. Choosing the right tag can be very complicated. For details, go to the tag section for antelope, bear, deer, elk, sheep, and pig. The type of tag you need depends on many things.

  • How you’re going to hunt them (e.g. muzzleloader tag).
  • The sex of the animal (e.g. buck tag).
  • The California hunting season (e.g. late season buck tag).
  • Your status (e.g. military personnel deer tags)/
  • The number of animals you’ve killed (e.g. second deer tag).
  • You’re age (e.g. apprentice tag).
  • The purpose of the hunt (e.g. fundraiser tags).
  • The area you’re going to hunt (e.g. Zone-A deer tag).  

The California hunting rules for getting a tag can be confusing, but here are the basics.  Tags are purchased from the CDFW. For all Big Game except pigs, you have to  get them through a random drawing. For all Big Game except sheep, you have to be at least 12 years old. (For sheep you have to be at least 16.) To qualify for an antelope tag, you also have to attend an informational meeting. Unsuccessful applicants can improve their chances through the Preference Point System. Warning shots!!!  Pay attention to tagging and reporting requirements. For details, go to the tag section for antelopebeardeerelksheep, and pig.


In general, California hunting is not allowed. In other words, unless there’s an authorized hunting season you can’t do it. Seasons vary for each bird and mammal. To find current seasons, go our pages for each Bird and Mammal.

California hunting seasons for birds and mammals like turkey.

Here are a few basis. Some animals have early and late seasons (e.g. doves, deer, geese, and turkey. There are special seasons for junior hunters (e.g. ducks and elk). Waterfowl seasons, in particular, depend on locations known as waterfowl zones). Finally, there are seasons for different hunting methods (e.g. chukar falconry season).

Hunting Methods

In general, you cannot hunt any bird or mammal except with “authorized methods of take.” California hunting laws use the word “take” to include things like shooting, trapping, and capturing. We just use the term “California Hunting Methods.”

California Hunting Methods, including shotguns, bow and arrows, crossbows, falcons, muzzleloaders, pistols, and rifles. In general, California hunting methods depend on the category for each bird and mammals. Common methods include shotguns, bow and arrows, crossbows, falcons, muzzleloaders, pistols, rifles, and traps. For birds, there are methods for Migratory Game Birds, Upland Game Birds, Waterfowl, and Nongame Birds. For mammals, there are rules for Big Game, Small Game Mammals, Furbearing Mammals, and Nongame Mammals.

California hunting methods and restrictions related to ammunition, arrows, bait, boats, crossbow bolts, dogs, decoys, lights, motor vehicles, and sights. Warning shot!!! For many birds and mammals, there are additional methods that either restrict or expand the rules for each category. Common restrictions relate to the use of ammunition, arrows, bait, boats, crossbow bolts, dogs, decoys, lights, motor vehicles, and sights. Before hunting, review our pages for the particular bird or mammal, which include both general and specific hunting methods.

Shooting Hours

Shooting hours for California hunting.

Bird Hunting in Northern California

Now that you’re ready for California hunting, you need to know Shooting Hours. Shooting hours vary for each category of bird and mammal. For birds, there are shooting hours for Migratory Game BirdsUpland Game BirdsWaterfowl, and Nongame Birds. For mammals, there are rules for Big GameSmall Game MammalsFurbearing Mammals, and Nongame Mammals.

Shooting hours for California hunting.

Bird Hunting in Southern California

Shooting hours can also change for some species (e.g. Spring Turkey). They can also change for some locations (e.g. Morro Bay). Finally, they can change on public hunting areas (e.g. Wildlife Areas). Warning shot!!! While the CDFW publishes shooting hours for Northern and Southern California, the sunrise and sunset is based on your exact location.

Bag & Possession Limits

Another basic you need to know is that you can only take a certain number per day. California hunting laws refer to it as the Daily Bag Limit. The limit can vary for some species of birds and in your hunting location (e.g. ducks and geese). There’s also a limit of the number of animals you can have in your possession at a particular time. This is known as the Possession LimitWarning shot!!! There’s also a season limit on some animals. For details and exceptions, go to our page for the specific Bird or Mammal that you’re hunting.

Cleaning & Handling

After killing a bird or mammal, you have to know what you can and can’t do with it. California hunting rules depend on what species you’re hunting. For more detail, go to our page for the specific Bird or Mammal or find it on our menu above. Here are few basics to keep in mind.

California hunting tag requirements for transportation

Migratory Bird Transportation Tag

For most birds, California hunting rules require you to keep the head or a fully-feathered wing attached. For doves, though, you have to keep a fully-feathered wing attached. In general, you can only remove the head or wing after getting the birds home or you’re about to eat them. You also have to be careful with possession limits. You can have more than your limit at your home, provided you donated them to someone living there. The tags have to specify who the birds belong to. In general, no one can receive more than one possession limit. There are exception related to service providers like taxidermist and for charitable donations.

For Big Game, there are very specific tagging and reporting requirements (e.g. deer). For details, go to the tag section for antelopebeardeerelksheep, and pig.


Public Hunting

There are nearly 650 public areas for California hunting. Hunting rules change depending on which government agency (or agencies) is responsible for the hunting program. Listed below are links to our summaries of local hunting rules for each location.


Private Hunting

There are a lot of great opportunities to hunt on private land as well. Some of these are available to the public. Most of these areas have special hunting rules. Follow these links for specific locations, hunting opportunities, and special rules.


Special Hunts

Special hunting opportunities in California by ladies.

Special Hunting Opportunities

There are California hunting rules based on physical needs, age, gender, and status. Follow the links to our summary of the rules, including special hunting opportunities.


Hunting Maps

General Zone Map from the CDFW for California waterfowl hunting California hunting maps are hard to come by. Most of the ones distributed for public land are for general guidance only. The real coordinates are usually located in the regulations and in Sacramento. For as many hunting areas as possible, provide maps of legal boundaries. We also prepare custom maps for things like hunting zones, special management areas, and areas of special interest (e.g. driving directions, parking lots, check stations, boat launches, etc.)


Hunting Services

The California hunting industry is supported by many services. Our attorney has prepared legal briefs for the Service Providers listed below.

California hunting services.


Hunting Forums

Northern California hunting maps.

Please visit and “like” our California hunting Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.  We invite you to participate by submitting California hunting maps, wildlife photography, hunting videos, and leave a reply or comment on our California hunting forum and blogs.



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