Game hunters across California have geared up for the opportunity to bag their Thanksgiving dinner, as the 2015 general fall wild turkey hunting season opened statewide on Saturday, Nov. 14.
The season extends through Sunday, Dec. 13, with a bag limit of one turkey (either sex) per day and no more than two per season.
"Wild turkey is very healthy alternative to store bought turkey, as it's low in fat and has no additives,” said Scott Gardner, manager of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Upland Game Program. “You can't get much more natural than that. It's harder to hunt it than buy one in a store, but any hunter will tell you it's worth the extra effort."
Wild turkeys are found in most counties, with the top five for fall harvest being Placer, El Dorado, Shasta, Sonoma and Tehama. Both a hunting license and upland game bird stamp are required to hunt turkeys, although an upland stamp is not required for hunters with junior licenses.
Rio Grande turkeys are the most widespread wild turkey subspecies in California, occupying much of the mixed oak and pine woodlands of the coast ranges, Central Valley, Sierra Nevada and Cascade foothills.
Merriam's turkeys can be found in habitats dominated by pines in northeastern California, but can also be found in the Transverse Range in Kern County. The eastern subspecies can be found in isolated pockets along the northern coast and eastern/Rio Grande hybrids from the Midwest inhabit areas along the south coast.
The statewide population of wild turkeys is estimated at about 250,000 birds. The fall season is open statewide for wild turkeys, and CDFW estimates about 20,000 hunters bagged 10,000 turkeys last fall.
Many populations range on private land, but turkeys can be found on public lands administered by CDFW, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. A list of state wildlife areas and ecological reserves can be found on the CDFW website. Upland game hunters are reminded that as of July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition is required when hunting on these properties. For more information, please see the CDFW nonlead ammunition page.