When asked “How to prove the sex of a turkey” shot during spring turkey season, California Outdoors answered on behalf of the CDFW:
“Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body”.
While that’s a good idea, it’s not the law. During spring turkey season, you can only take “bearded” turkeys. For identification purposes, the law requires that you keep the head or wing attached until you’re about to eat it or reaching your destination, e.g. home, taxidermist. (See 14 CCR § 251.7(b) and our Possession & Transport section below.) In this blog, you’ll find rules for California turkey hunting seasons. We cover turkey seasons, public hunting, hunting methods, stamps, bird identification and much more.
Warning shot!!! If you get cited with a violation, contact our attorney immediately.
- Turkey seasons
- Bag and possession limits
- Hunting hours
- Hunting methods
- Hunting locations
- Upland Game Bird Stamp
- Possession and transporting
- Regulations & Species
- Hunting forum
Regulations & Species
During the California turkey hunting seasons, you can only hunt “wild turkey” of the order Galliformes.
When hunting wild turkey, you have to follow hunting rules for not only turkey but also for the following categories:
To hunt wild turkey during the California turkey hunting seasons, you must have a Hunting License from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (“CDFW”), formerly known as “DFG.” See FGC § 3031 and 14 CCR § 700(b). There are also licenses for disabled hunters, hunting with a falcon, guides and outfitters, hunting clubs, and junior hunters.
If you’re a disabled hunter and want to hunt turkey, you can apply for a Recovering Service Member Hunting License, Disabled Veteran Hunting License, or Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License.
If you’re going to use a falcon to hunt turkey during the California turkey hunting seasons, you must have a Falconry License.
Guides and Outfitters
If you’re a commercial guide or outfitter that offers turkey hunting, you have to get a Guide License.
If you’re a Junior and want to hunt turkey, you have to get a Junior Hunting License.
Upland Game Bird Stamp Validation
In general, you need an Upland Game Bird Hunting Validation to hunt upland game birds, including wild turkey during the California turkey hunting seasons. The only exception is for Juniors hunting with a valid Junior Hunting License.
Warning shot!!! You have to carry your license and validation with you while hunting. See 14 CCR § 313.
Seasons and Limits for California Turkey Hunting
California turkey hunting seasons are set according to the (1) time of the year, (2) hunter’s age, (3) method of hunting, and (4) location. There are fall and spring seasons, junior hunting seasons, archery and falconry seasons, and special seasons at certain areas.
The California fall turkey season was from November 14 through December 13, 2015.
The California spring turkey season is from March 26 through May 1, 2016.
There are a youth-only hunting seasons on March 19 and 20, 2016, and from May 2 through May 15, 2016.
There is an archery-only turkey season May 2 through May 15, 2016.
The 2015 fall season for falconry is from the second Saturday in November, extending for 30 consecutive days. The 2016 spring season is from the last Saturday in March, extending for 37 consecutive days.
Turkey hunting is allowed on some California Wildlife Areas. In general, it’s allowed on Type C areas, but NOT allowed on Type A or Type B areas. See “Hunting Locations for California Hunting Seasons” below.
During the California fall turkey season, shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. See 14 CCR § 310.5.
During the spring turkey season, shooting times are from one-half hour before sunrise until 5:00 PM. Note: In 2014, shooting hours ended at 4:00. See 14 CCR § 310.5.
Warning shot!!! Shoot times may be further restricted on public land, e.g. Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves. Note: For all other upland game birds except pheasant, shooting hours are from one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise until sunset. See 14 CCR § 310.5.
Warning shot!!! Check with the CDFW because 14 CCR § 300(a)(3)(G) is silent, but all other upland game birds are from sunrise to
CDFW Timetables (2015-2016)
Bag & Possession Limits
The daily bag limit for the California fall turkey season is one (1) wild turkey of either sex. The possession limit is two (2) turkeys per season.
The daily bag limit for the California spring turkey season is one (1) bearded/male wild turkey. The possession limit is three (3) turkeys during the general, archery and junior seasons combined.
In the fall, you can take one turkey per day (either sex) and no more than two per season. In the spring, you can take not more than one bearded turkey per day and no more than two per season. The possession limit is three person.
Turkey hunting during the California turkey hunting seasons is allowed, but only with the following hunting methods and restrictions: air rifles, archery, bait, boats, bow and arrows, calls, computers, crossbows, decoys,, dogs, falconry, harassment, lights, motor vehicles, muzzleloaders, pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
In general, air rifles are allowed for hunting turkey in California. However, the pellets must be at least 0.177. See 14 CCR § 311(f).
In general, air rifles are allowed for hunting turkey in California. However, only rifles powered by air or gas may be used. See 14 CCR § 311(f).
Bait and Baited Areas
Boats, Kayaks, and Canoes
There used to be a prohibition against shooting resident small game from boats, but the regulation was repealed. While you can shoot turkey from a boat, it’s illegal to use a motorboat, powerboat, airboat or sailboat to pursue, drive, or herd any bird or mammal in California. When hunting, the motor has been shut off, all momentum has ended, and the boat is either drifting, beached, moored, resting at anchor, or is being propelled by a paddle, or pole.
Warning shots!!! There may be area-specific restrictions when hunting on public land, like Wildlife Areas. There are exceptions related to agriculture, landowners, tenants, and depredating animals. See our summary of rules for hunting on navigable waters, FGC § 3002, 14 CCR § 251, and 14 CCR § 311.8 [repealed].
Bow and Arrows
In general, Bow and Arrows are allowed for hunting wild turkey in California. Any type of arrow can be used except arrows with (1) lighted nocks with a beam of light, (2) an explosive head, (3) tranquilizers, or (4) poison. See 14 CCR § 311(e) and (k) and 14 CCR § 354(c)-(i) and “Crossbows” below.
Your bow has to be capable of killing the bird from at least 130 yards.
In general, you’re not allowed to have a firearm while hunting turkey during any archery season.
Don’t put a bow in your vehicle if it’s nocked or the end of an arrow is fit to the notch.
NOTES: You only have to use flu-flu fletching for migratory game birds and pheasant. In general, archery isn’t allowed on Type A or Type B Wildlife Areas during pheasant (or waterfowl) seasons. The only exception is at the Los Banos Wildlife Area and only as authorized in Section 551(u). See 14 CCR § 550(cc)(4)(F)].
Calling “devices” are NOT allowed for hunting turkey (or any other resident small game). This includes: “Electronic or mechanically-operated calling or sound-reproducing devices.” See 14 CCR § 311(i).
Computer-Assisted Remote Hunting
In general, you can hunt resident small game, including turkey, with a Crossbow (which is a type of “firearm”). Any type of crossbow bolt can be used except crossbow bolts with (1) lighted nocks with a beam of light, (2) an explosive head, (3) tranquilizers, or (4) poison.
Your crossbow has to be capable of casting a legal arrow at least 130 yards.
In general, you’re not allowed to have a firearm during archery season or with an archery-only tag (the only exception is with a Disabled Archer’s Permit).
Don’t put a crossbow in your vehicle if it’s nocked or the end of an arrow is fit to the notch.
Live decoys are NOT allowed for hunting will turkey or any other resident game bird. See 14 CCR § 311(l).
In general, you can use a falcon to hunt turkey. The same is true for all resident small game. See 14 CCR § 311(d).
In general, Animal Harassment is illegal and includes any disruption of the animal’s normal behavior patters (e.g. breeding, feeding, sheltering). There is an exception for landowners and tenants trying to prevent property damage. See 14 CCR § 251.1.
In general, it’s illegal to use artificial lights to hunt game birds, mammals, and fish.
While in possession of a firearm or weapon, it’s also illegal to use spotlights, headlights, or other lights (1) on a highway, (2) in a field, woodland, or forest where they are commonly found, or (3) on the animal or fish itself–even if you don’t shoot at it.
It’s also illegal to use or possess night vision equipment to help you take any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, or fish (e.g. infrared and binoculars).
There are exceptions for sport fishing, commercial fishing, animals causing property damage, three-volt flashlights, lamps, lanterns, and farmers).
See 14 CCR § 2005.
In general, it’s illegal to pursue, drive, or herd any bird or mammal with a motorized vehicle (e.g. airplane, motor vehicle, powerboat, sailboat, snowmobile). This includes driving them toward another person for the purpose of taking them. Likewise, it’s illegal to shoot any game bird or mammals from a powerboat, sailboat, motor vehicle, or airplane. The only possible exceptions are with a permit from the CDFW and landowners / tenants to prevent private property damages. See FGC § 3002, FGC § 3003.5, and FGC § 3501; and 14 CCR § 251. Also see “Boats, Kayaks & Canoes” above.
In general, you can use to muzzle-loading shotguns to hunt wild turkey during the general California turkey hunting season. The same is true for all resident small game. See 14 CCR § 311(c).
Rifles and Pistols
Rifles and pistols are NOT allowed for hunting wild turkey. (For resident small game, they’re only allowed for hunting squirrels and rabbits everywhere except in Los Angeles County.) See 14 CCR § 311(g).
In general, you can use a shotgun to hunt wild turkey, during the California turkey hunting season. However, there are restrictions for the shell capacity and type of gauge, plug, and shells. The same is true for all resident small game. See 14 CCR § 311(a) and (b).
In general, no shotgun larger than a 10-gauge may be used to hunt turkey in California. However, no shotgun larger than a 12-guage may be used on, over, or adjacent to the waters of Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo County. Warning shot!!! There are similar restrictions at California Wildlife Areas. See 14 CCR § 311(a).
If a plug is used to reduce the shell capacity, the plug has to one piece that can’t be removed without taking the gun apart.
California turkey hunting shotguns must be incapable of holding more than three (3) shells in the magazine and chamber combined.
Whether you can use lead shot depends on your location, what you’re hunting for, and the date. As of July 1, 2015, it has been illegal to use or possess anything other than non-toxic shot at any California Wildlife Area, Ecological Reserve, and the Condor Range.
Beginning July 1, 2016, you’ll only be able to use non-toxic shot for hunting any upland game bird (except for dove, quail, snipe, and any game bird taken at a licensed game bird club), resident small game mammal, furbearing mammal, nongame bird or mammals, or any wildlife with a depredation permit).
As of July 1, 2019, it will be illegal to use lead for taking all wildlife in California. See 14 CCR § 205.1.
While turkey hunting in California, shot size larger than No. 2 may not be used or possessed. All shot shall be loose in the shell. The California turkey shell size restriction is located at 14 CCR §§ 311(b).
Possession & Transport
After you kill any bird in California, including turkey, it has to be identifiable by the CDFW until it reaches your Personal Abode or Commercial Preservation Facility, or is being prepared to eat it right away. To be “identifiable,” the general rule is that you either have to keep a fully feathered wing or head attached. One exception is that for doves, you have to keep a fully feathered wing attached. See 14 CCR § 251.7(b).
There are many great opportunities for California wild turkey hunting on public land, as well as private land through the CDFW SHARE Program, guides, hunting clubs, and game bird clubs. For your convenience, we’ve organized public hunting areas by the six regions of the CDFW (see below). Follow the links to our summaries of area-specific turkey hunting rules, regulations and procedures.
- Region 1: Northern California Turkey Hunting
- Region 2: North Central California Turkey Hunting
- Region 3: Bay Delta California Turkey Hunting
- Region 4: Central California Turkey Hunting
- Region 5: South Coast California Turkey Hunting
- Region 6: Inland Desert Turkey Hunting
Northern California Turkey Hunting
- Black Butte Lake
- Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area
- Jackson Demonstration State Forest
- Kinsman Flat Wildlife Area
- Klamath National Forest
- Lake Mendocino
- Lassen National Forest
- Latour Demonstration State Forest
- Merrill’s Landing Wildlife Area
- Modoc National Forest
- Mouth of Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area
- Sacramento River Bend ONA (Paynes Creek Recreation Area)
- Sacramento River Management Area
- Shasta – Trinity National Forest
- Shasta Management Area
- Sheepy Ridge Wildlife Area
- Six Rivers National Forest
- Tehama Wildlife Area
- Trinity Management Area – Tunnel Ridge and North of Trinity River (BLM)
- Whiskeytown National Park
Central Northern California Turkey Hunting
- Antelope Valley Wildlife Area
- Auburn State Recreational Area
- Black Butte Lake
- Cache Creek Natural Area
- Cache Creek Wilderness
- Cache Creek Wildlife Area
- Consumnes River Ecological Reserve
- Collins Eddy Wildlife Area
- Consumnes River Preserve
- Cow Mountain Recreation Area
- Daugherty Hill Wildlife Area
- Eldorado National Forest
- Englebright Lake
- Feather River Wildlife Area
- Fremont Weir Wildlife Area
- Gray Lodge Wildlife Area
- Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
- Indian Valley Wildlife Area
- Indian Valley/Walker Ridge Recreation Area
- Lake Oroville State Recreation Area
- Mendocino National Forest
- New Hogan Lake
- North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve
- Oroville Wildlife Area
- Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge
- Spenceville Wildlife Area
- Stanislaus National Forest
- Sutter Bypass Wildlife Area
- Tahoe National Forest
- Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area
Bay Delta California Turkey Hunting
- Canada de los Osos Ecological Reserve
- Cedar Roughs Wildlife Area
- Knoxville Recreation Area
- Knoxville Wildlife Area
- Lake Sonoma Wildlife Area
- Putah Creek Wildlife Area
- Rector Reservoir Wildlife Area
- Laguna Mountain
Central California Turkey Hunting
- Camp Roberts
- Clear Creek Management Area
- Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area
- Fort Hunt Liggett (US Army)
- Hunter Valley Mountain Recreation Area
- Kinsman Flat Wildlife Area
- Los Padres National Forest
- New Melones Lake
- Pine Flat Lake
- Pleasant Valley Ecological Reserve
- Red Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern
- San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area
- Sequoia National Forest
- Sierra National Forest
- Stanislaus National Forest
- Tuolomne Planning Unit
South Coast California Turkey Hunting
- Boden Canyon Ecological Reserve
- Cleveland National Forest
- Los Padres National Forest
- McCain Valley
- San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area
Inland Deserts California Turkey Hunting
- Cadiz Dunes Wilderness
- Jacumba Wilderness
- Juniper Flats
- Perris Reservoir State Recreation Area
- San Bernardino Mountains
- San Jacinto Mountains
- San Jacinto Wildlife Area (Davis Road Unit)
- Sutter Bypass Wildlife Area
California Turkey Hunting Forum and Blog
To participate in our California turkey hunting forum, leave a comment or reply below.