Rules for California Turkey Hunting Seasons

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.


Regulations & Species

California turkey hunting seasons.

California Turkey Laws

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:

  1. Birds
  2. Game Birds
  3. Resident Game Birds
  4. Resident Small Game
  5. Upland Game Birds

See FGC § 3500(a)(11) [resident game birds], FGC § 3683(a)(12) [upland game birds], and 14 CCR § 257 [resident small game].

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Hunting License

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 huntershunting with a falconguides and outfittershunting clubs, and junior hunters.

Disabled Hunters

If you’re a disabled hunter and want to hunt turkey, you can apply for a Recovering Service Member Hunting LicenseDisabled 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.

Hunting Clubs

If you’re a commercial hunting club that offers turkey hunting, you have to get a Commercial Hunting Club License. See 14 CCR § 600.


If you’re a Junior and want to hunt turkey, you have to get a Junior Hunting License.

Warning shot!!! You have to have your license and stamps with you while hunting.  See FGC § 303114 CCR § 700(b), and Upland Game Bird Stamp below.

Upland Game Bird Stamp Validation

California Upland Game Bird Stamp for the California turkey hunting seasons

Upland Game Bird 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.

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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.

Fall Season

The California fall turkey season was from November 14 through December 13, 2015.

Spring Season

The California spring turkey season is from March 26 through May 1, 2016.

Junior Season

There are a youth-only hunting seasons on March 19 and 20, 2016, and from May 2 through May 15, 2016.

Archery Seasons

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.

Wildlife Areas

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.

For juniors, the CDFW Regional Manager can set California turkey hunting seasons during the general turkey season (also see above). See 14 CCR § 550(i)(2) and 14 CCR § 551(e).

Hunting Hours

Shooting Hours

Fall Season

During the California fall turkey season, shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. See 14 CCR § 310.5.

Spring Season

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.

Hawking Hours

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 sunset.___

CDFW Timetables (2015-2016)

Shooting hours for Northern California turkey hunting seasons.

Northern California

Shooting hours for Southern California turkey hunting seasons.

Southern California

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Bag & Possession Limits

Fall Season

California turkey hunting rules, regulations, laws, and information

California Turkey 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.

Spring 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.

Falconry Season

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.

See 14 CCR § 300(a)(1)(G).

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Hunting Methods

Turkey hunting during the California turkey hunting seasons is allowed, but only with the following hunting methods and restrictions: air riflesarcherybaitboatsbow and arrowscallscomputerscrossbowsdecoys,, dogsfalconryharassmentlightsmotor vehiclesmuzzleloaderspistolsrifles, and shotguns.

Air Rifles

Pellet Size

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).


See “Bow and Arrows” and “Crossbows” below.

Bait and Baited Areas

In general, it’s illegal to take any resident game bird, including turkey, or any resident game mammal, within 400 yards of a Baited Area. See 14 CCR § 257.5 for any applicable exceptions.

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 watersFGC § 300214 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.

Warning shots!!!

Archery (bow and arrows) during the California turkey hunting seasons.Don’t shoot arrows from or across any highway, road, or place open to the pubic for vehicles.

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

It’s illegal to hunt turkey with a Computer-Assisted Remote or to operate a Computer-Assisted Remote Hunting Site. See 14 CCR § 251.9.


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.

Warning shots!!!

Crossbows for hunting turkey during the California turkey hunting seasons.Don’t shoot from or across any highway, road, or place open to the pubic for vehicles.

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.

See 14 CCR § 311(n)14 CCR § 354(d), (g) and (j), and our summary of archery-specific regulations. NOTE: you only have to use flu-flu fletching for migratory game birds and pheasant.


Live decoys are NOT allowed for hunting will turkey or any other resident game bird. See 14 CCR § 311(l).


Hunting dogs for the California turkey hunting seasonsIn general, you can use dogs to Take and retrieve wild turkey during the California turkey hunting seasons. See 14 CCR § 311(o). Click here for California dog hunting laws, including place to hunt.


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.

Motor Vehicles

Vehicle laws for hunting wild turkey during the California turkey Hunting SeasonsIn 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 § 3002FGC § 3003.5, and FGC § 3501; and 14 CCR § 251. Also see “Boats, Kayaks & Canoes” above.


Muzzle-loading shotguns for the California turkey hunting seasons.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).


Shotgun restrictions for California turkey hunting seasons.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).

Gauge Size

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.

Shell Capacity

California turkey hunting shotguns must be incapable of holding more than three (3) shells in the magazine and chamber combined.

Shell Shot

Shot Restrictions for the California Turkey Hunting Seasons

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 AreaEcological 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.

Shell Size

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).

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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).

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Hunting Areas

Image of geographical regions for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

CDFW Regions

There are many great opportunities for California wild turkey hunting on public land, as well as private land through the CDFW SHARE Programguideshunting 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

Region 1

Northern California Turkey Hunting

Del Norte, Humboldt, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties

Northern California Turkey Hunting

Region 2

Central Northern California Turkey Hunting

Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties

Northern California Turkey Hunting, North Central Region

Region 3

Bay Delta California Turkey Hunting

Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Sacramento, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties

Northern California Turkey Season, Bay Delta Region

Region 4

Central California Turkey Hunting

Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties

Central California Turkey Hunting

Region 5

South Coast California Turkey Hunting

Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties

Southern California Turkey Hunting, South Coast Region

Region 6

Inland Deserts California Turkey Hunting

Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino counties

Southern California Turkey Hunting, Inland Deserts Region

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California Turkey Hunting Forum and Blog

To participate in our California turkey hunting forum, leave a comment or reply below.

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About Legal Labrador

Legal Labrador is an advocate for and defender of California hunters’ rights. We provide legal support to all interested parties within the hunting industry, including Legal Labrador members, individual hunters, fish and game authorities, hunting organizations, and service providers. Legal Labrador consolidates and summarizes federal, state, and local hunting laws. Our California hunters’ rights attorney is here to provide legal advice and, if necessary, representation to hunters cited with hunting violations.
This entry was posted in 2015-2016, Air Rifles, Ammunition, Archery, Bait, Bird Identification, Birds, Boats, Calls, Canoes, Clubs, Computers, Crossbows, Daily Bag Limits, Decoys, Disabled/Impaired, Dogs, Falconry, Guides, Harassment, Hawking Hours, Kayaks, Lights, Los Banos Wildlife Area, Methods of Take, Muzzleloaders, Pistols, Possession Limits, Public Hunting Areas, Rifles, Shooting Hours, Shotguns, Stamps, Transportation & Storage, Turkey hunting, Upland Game Birds, Youth/Juniors and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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