Upland Game Bird Hunting in California: Pheasants
Pheasant in California
The truth is in California there are two types of areas to hunt Pheasants. The first area is public lands the second is private property. The good news is there are plenty of pheasants to hunt if your willing to travel. But I will admit, the old days of pheasant hunting in California have somewhat dried up. There are fewer birds and they are harder to locate.
Your First Option, Public Land
If you are looking for public land for pheasants, you can find them on several of the wildlife areas. Sacramento National Wildlife Area, Delevan and Gray lodge and Shasta Valley all have plenty of Birds they are Type A and Type B Wildlife Areas. And for the first week of pheasant season you can hunt them almost every day. But unfortunately, you still have to fork out some money. During the 2019 season a day pass for a wildlife area was about $22.00 a day or you could buy a Season pass for about $168.00 a year. The season pass is actually a good deal because its good all year for all the wildlife areas and that means you can hunt during waterfowl, pheasant and dove season and you can hunt any refuge you want.
(some public land birds)
There are a few Type C Wildlife areas that hold a few pheasants and I am not sure which ones they are but if you find some birds, I wouldn’t tell the world where they were, I would keep that to myself.
Now for a tidbit of information that may help you loads when it comes to public hunting for pheasants.
The DWF along with several different organizations puts on Special Hunts for Pheasants every year. These hunts are usually for Women, Youth or Disabled. You can find a list of these hunts and actually apply for them every year and most of the people I know who put in for these hunts are drawn. But let’s say you aren’t drawn, or you want to take advantage of this information.
About two months before the drawing they advertise the hunts on the Special Hunts page of their website. Print up the page, it will have the dates of all the hunts, then watch and the day after the hunt go to that wildlife area or public land and go hunt pheasants as long as the seasons open and your legal you should do very well. I know of one of these hunts near Red Bluff that has a morning hunt for Youth and an afternoon hunt for women two days in a row. The have 25 slots for the youth hunt and 25 for the women’s hunt and they plant 50 bird in the morning and 50 in the afternoon, two days in a row. That’s 200 planted birds and I can tell you from experience maybe and I mean maybe 30 birds are shot each day. The rest sneak off, hide in the berry patch or fly a couple hundred yards away. On Monday after the DFW hunt, the local guys show up and it’s a slaughter. They have these hunts all over the state from Northern California in Shasta Valley Wildlife Area, to Honey Lake Wildlife Area and all the way down to Kern. Most of these hunts are for women and youth but there are a few Family Bird hunts of up to four people two adults (women or men) and two women or youth. And that my friend is how most people successfully hunt pheasants in California on public land.
Pheasant Hunting Private Property
Pheasant hunting private property is the way most successful pheasant hunters hunt in California and may be allot cheaper than you think.
There are way too many private bird clubs in this state for me to list them all and some are very affordable, and some are just downright ridiculously expensive. But I kind of think that in this state if you want to hunt pheasants and I mean seriously hunt pheasants you’re going to have to fork out some money.
The average price for a pheasant runs about $25.00 to 38.00 a bird if you are just hunting one day here and one day there. Most of your bird clubs give you several choices. You can hunt daily and you pre-pay for three birds lets call it $125.00 or you can buy a Pheasant Card for the club. Cards usually start at 10 to 20 birds per year but they give you a small price break so you can get a bird card at some clubs for around about $21.50 per bird but that’s a 10-bird minimum. The bad news is that all the clubs that sell bird cards, to my knowledge are all “Pre-Punch”.
What is “Pre-Punch”? This means that you show up at the club office on the day you have scheduled to hunt (yes you usually have to make a reservation) tell them you want your three birds put out and hand them your card, they take a hole punch and punch out three holes in your card, then they go get three birds out of the bird box and go plant them in the field you are going to be hunting. That’s all fine and dandy if you go and shoot all three birds but usually one will sneak off or fly out as your walking in and you may be able to go after it or you may not. If it flies out or runs onto someone else’s property your out of luck and one bird. If it flies onto another field where some else is hunting on the club, you usually are not allowed to go after it. By the same rules if their birds fly into your field they are not allowed to go after their bird in your field, but you can. This can work in your favor if your hunting near a big group of hunters but in all likelihood, you should expect that you will have a few birds wonder off. Some clubs restrict you to some very small acreage. I know one club their hunting areas are maybe 200 yards wide and 500 yards long. This sounds like a big area, but a rooster can pop up and fly a half mile with little effort.
But some clubs put your birds out in one area of the club and after you hunt that area your allowed free roam of the club and you can finish off your bird limit if you haven’t finished it off already.
Then there is the less popular but preferred method of spending way less money for the same or better results. The reason its less popular is because the people that do it don’t generally brag about it because they don’t want the competition from other hunters, and this is the “Pheasant Association” type hunts.
Taking a break
(she never takes breaks, shes always "on")
You find these scattered all over the state and they are usually very small clubs or associations that put-on pheasant hunts for a particular cause like a volunteer fire department or high school or church fundraiser.
Basically, it goes like this, a few people get together, they form an association to raise money for a cause, the more people they get to join the more money they can have come in and the more birds they can buy for hunters. This sounds very expensive but its actually the cheapest route, some of them are even cheaper than hunting the refuges.
An example is the Willows Pheasant Association. http://www.willowspheasant.org/
This is a church in Willows, and they raise money for different causes and it’s a really nice program. Members of the church allow the pheasant hunting on their land and all you have to do is pay for your membership and show up.
They have several hundred acres to hunt. Its not huge but its more than you can hunt in one season, the season lasts from opening day in November to the last day of the season and you can hunt every day of the season. They only allow 500 memberships a year and get this, in 2018 they planted a total of 1600 birds, I believe it was 1200 the day before the season opened and another 400 the second Friday of the season. That is a bunch of birds!
They also have an excellent ham dinner on Saturday of opening weekend, and they have a gun raffle and games for the kids. The kids actually get to win live pheasants to take home or whatever a kid does with a pheasant.
(my grandson with a live pheasant he won}
This sounds very expensive but its really not. The membership is $125.00 a year for you and your spouse. I’m not sure if they allow to friends to hunt on one membership but even if they didn’t its still an excellent price.
You can find these pheasant associations all over the state just Google it. If you are having trouble locating one send me a note just select the contact me link on the main and ask me for something in your area.
Good luck and happy hunting