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California Hunting Seasons

California hunting seasons vary depending on the type of animal being hunted, the California region in which the hunting takes place and the type of hunting method. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) sets the hunting seasons and regulations each year.

California Hunting Seasons

Approximate California Hunting Seasons

AnimalGeneral SeasonArcheryApprentice HuntsFalconry
DeerAug. 13-Nov. 6July 9-Oct. 23N/AN/A
BearAug. 13-Dec. 16Aug. 10-Sept. 11N/AN/A
Prolong AntelopeAug. 6-Sept. 11Aug. 5-14Aug. 20-28N/A
ElkSept.7-Jan. 1July 30-Nov. 13Aug. 18-Jan. 1N/A
Desert Bighorn SheepAug. 20-Sept. 25/Dec. 3-Feb. 5N/AN/AN/A
Wild PigOpen SeasonN/AN/AN/A
WaterfowlSee scheduleN/AN/AN/A
Upland Game BirdsSee scheduleSee scheduleN/ASee schedule
Tree SquirrelSept. 10-Jan. 29Aug. 6-Sept. 9N/AAug. 6-Sept. 9
Rabbits & HareJuly 1-Jan. 29N/AN/AN/A
JackrabbitOpen SeasonOpen SeasonN/AJan. 30-March 19
Non-GameSee schedule

These are general season dates. For specific dates, bag limits, license requirements and more, see the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

California Animals to Hunt Year-Round: Eurasian Collared-Doves, Wild Pigs, Jackrabbits.

California Free Hunting Days

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife annually designates two Free Hunting Days each license year. The next Free Hunting Days will be Saturday, November 25, 2023 and Saturday, April 13, 2024.

California residents must register and meet specific requirements to participate.

Orange County Hunting Season

Hunting in Orange County is limited to areas of the Cleveland National Forest and according to the current season schedule and hunting regulations set by the CDFW.

The following animals are found in the Cleveland National Forest:

  • Cleveland National Forest Game Birds: Band-tailed Pigeons, California and Mountain Quail, Ducks and Geese, Mourning Dove, Turkey.
  • Cleveland National Forest Mammals: Brush and Cottontail Rabbits, Jack Rabbits, Black-tailed and White-tailed Deer, Mule Deer, Wild Pig.
  • Cleveland National Forest Fur Bearing Mammals: Badger, Gray Fox, Raccoon.

Deer season is open on the second Saturday in October and extends for 30 consecutive days with a bag and possession limit of one buck.

Type of California Animals to Hunt

These animals are permissible to hunt provided the hunter has a valid hunting license, is hunting in a legal hunting zone, and during hunting season. Always consult the CDFW website for a full list of regulations prior to hunting.

  • Black Bear
  • Elk
  • Pronghorn Elk
  • Wild Pig
  • California Deer
    • Columbian Black-tailed Deer
    • California Mule Deer
    • Inyo Mule Deer
    • Burro Deer
    • Rocky Mountain Deer
    • Southern Mule Deer
  • Small Game
    • Rabbits & Varying Hare
    • Jackrabbit
    • Tree Squirrel
  • Non-game
    • Coyote
  • Waterfowl
    • Black Brant
    • Coots & Moorhens
    • Ducks (mallard, pintail, canvasback, redhead, etc.)
    • Geese (white, dark, Canada, etc.)
    • Scaup
  • Upland Game Birds
    • Band-tailed Pigeon
    • Chukar
    • Dove
    • Greater Sage-grouse
    • Pheasant
    • Quail
    • Ruffed Grouse
    • Snipe
    • Sooty (blue)
    • White-tailed Ptarmigan
    • Wild Turkey

Mountain lions (cougars), bobcats, and other protected species cannot be hunted in the state of California.

Hunting Tips and Things to Know

  • Slingshots may only be used to take nongame birds and mammals, and jack rabbits are not included in that list. Rabbits and tree squirrels are game mammals, and their take with a slingshot is illegal.
  • Non-game animals such as coyotes, opossums, weasels, skunks, moles and rodents (excluding tree and flying squirrels, and those listed as furbearers, endangered or threatened species), ground squirrels and orange-belly marmots can be hunted with a hunting license in a designated hunting zone.
  • Coyotes are considered non-game animals and have no legal protections in the state of California. However, a hunting license is required, hunting is only allowed in certain zones and generally is not allowed in residential areas.
  • The following nongame birds and mammals may be taken at any time of the year and in any number except as prohibited in Chapter 6: English sparrow, starling, domestic pigeon.
  • Aoudad, mouflon, tahr, and feral goats may be taken all year.
  • Fisher, marten, river otter, desert kit fox and red fox may not be taken at any time.
  • Badger, beaver, racoon, muskrat, gray fox and mink may be taken in season plus any additional CDFW regulations.

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Monique McArthur
Monique McArthur is a mother of two, writer, and creator of delicious recipes. In her spare time she enjoys exploring all that Orange County has to offer, traveling, shopping, running with her dogs and spending time with family.