Duck Hunting Season in California: Season Dates, Bag Limits, and More

Written by Emilio Brown
Published: November 29, 2022
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California is one of America’s most beautiful states and is home to various wildlife. Fall and winter in the Golden State are when the leaves begin to drop, and temperatures start to cool. These seasons are also the time of year ducks migrate to the state. If you plan on going out to duck hunt there is a lot to know including California season dates, bag limits, and more so you can be prepared.

It is estimated there are around 4 to 6 million ducks living in California, living in freshwater habitats like ponds, streams, and lakes. Duck hunting is a rewarding sport that may be challenging, but with hard work, anyone can learn to enjoy it.

Duck hunting also helps support the state and federal conservation programs that allow for the preservation of California’s wetland habitats. If you plan on getting out into nature, and going duck hunting it is important to understand the regulations, and the rules of the area you are in, which include things like season dates, and daily limits.

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Duck Hunting Season Dates in California

Eagle Lake California

Duck

hunting is a rewarding sport that may be challenging, but with hard work, anyone can learn to enjoy it.

©Micheal Lee/Shutterstock.com

Waterfowl hunting season in California is also the time to hunt for games like ducks, scaup, and geese. There are  5 waterfowl zones in California, and each of them has different season dates, and limits that you should know. 

You can use a waterfowl zone map of California to see the various zones, and should always know the zone you are in when hunting. 

Here are the season dates in California for ducks, and other waterfowls.

Waterfowl ZonesSeasons Dates 
Northeastern Zone Ducks: (Oct 1 – Jan 11)
Scaup: (Oct 1 – Nov 27/ Dec 15 – Jan 11)
Canadian Geese: (Oct 1 – Jan 8)Southern San Joaquin Valley Zone Ducks: (Oct 22 – Jan 31)
Scaup:(Nov 7 – Jan 31)
Geese: (Oct 22 to Jan 31)
Southern California Zone Ducks:(Oct 22 – Jan 31)
Scaup: (Nov 7 – Jan 31)
Geese:
(Oct 22 – Jan 31) 
Colorado River Zone Ducks: (Oct 23 – Jan 31)
Scaup: (Nov 7 – Jan 31)
Geese: (Oct 23 – Jan 31)
Balance of State Zone Ducks: (Oct 22 – Jan 31)
Scaup: (Nov 7 – Jan 31)
Early Geese Season: (Oct 1 – 3) 
Regular Geese Season: (Oct 22 – Jan 29)

Other Important California Duck Hunting Dates

In California, there are other important dates for duck hunting that you should know about for youth and veteran hunters. The youth hunting days in California occur during Sept 17- 18 in California’s Northeastern Zone, and on Feb 4-5 in the rest of the zones of the state. Duck hunters 17 and under are allowed to hunt during this day, while others are not. Youth hunters should be accompanied by a non-shooting adult. 

Veterans and active duty military also have a designated day just for them to duck hunt. In the Northeastern zone in California, this day is on Jan 14-15. The Balance of State, Southern San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California Zone days occur on Feb 11-12. Hunters active during this period must have identification like a Veternas ID Card, military ID, or other similar identification.

When hunting in California during these dates you are still required to follow the regulations of the state such as the daily bag and possession limits. 

Duck Hunting Daily Bag and Possession Limits in California

Scaup

The bag limit for ducks in California is 7 ducks of any species with no more than 2 females.

©Brian E. Kushner/Shutterstock.com

In California in you are allowed to bag 7 ducks which may include 7 mallards, with no more than two females. You may only bag 1 pintail, 2 canvasbacks, 2 redheads, or 2 scaups daily. The possession limit for waterfowl is triple the daily bag, for example, you are allowed to have in possession 21 male mallards. Ducks species not restricted or listed in California’s waterfowl regulations go towards the daily bag limit of 7. 

Since duck hunting season also occurs with over during the seasons for other waterfowl you should know the regulations for them. Coots and moorhens season follows during duck season dates across California, and you are able to bag 25 a day.

Geese’s daily bag limits depend on the waterfowl zone you are in. The Northeastern, Southern San Joaquin Valley, and Balance of State zones have a daily bag limit of 30 geese, which can include 20 white, and 10 dark. The Southern California zone has a daily limit of 23 bags, which includes 20 white and 3 dark geese. The Northeastern Zone has requirements that you can bag no more than 2 large Canadian Geese. 

While it may be confusing for new hunters, the daily bags and possession limits should always be followed to hunt legally. Regulations may change and are available in full by California’s Fish and Game Commission. You should always be sure to double-check before your hunt the daily bag and possession limits of the different animals you plan to hunt

Requirements for Duck Hunting in California

Along with following the season dates, and possession limits in California there are other things the state requires from its hunters. All hunters in the state are required to obtain a hunting license, with new hunters in the state required to take California’s hunter education course. When hunting you are also required to have the correct duck stamps and tags. You should also be sure to only duck hunt in areas where it is allowed, and there are several wildlife refuges where you can hunt in the state. 

Gear for Duck Hunting

Duck Hunting Gear

The right gear can make a big difference between a miserable cold, wet, duckless day and a well prepared exciting day of meeting your bag limit.

©Denise Lett/Shutterstock.com

Along with following California’s hunting regulations, you should also know the gear you need on your trip to have a successful hunt. Here are a few things that you need on your duck hunt:

Waders-Waterproof clothing like knee or chest-high waders allows you to traverse water comfortably.

Shotgun-The 12-gauge shotgun is the most common gun used for duck hunting, but some may use a 20-gauge.

Ammo- The ammo used for waterfowl hunting is lead-free to prevent pollution from hunting. 

Blind bag- This bag holds items like shells, gloves, snacks, hunting licenses, and other small items, keeping them dry.

Decoys– Mimicking a duck’s appearance in the water, only around 12 decoys to attract passing ducks nearby. 

Duck Call- Qaucking is used by ducks to communicate, and duck calls are used to copy their sounds.

Dog-Dogs trained for duck hunting are hunters’ best friends, as they help track, and retrieve fallen ducks. 

Finding the right gear may be difficult at first, but asking fellow duck hunters what they use is a good way to get recommendations on the best types of duck hunting gear. The gear that you use varies depending on the specific game you are searching for, and the method you are using to hunt. 

What kind of Ducks Live in California

Animals That Play Dead duck

The wood duck or Carolina duck, Aix sponsa, is a species of perching duck found in North America. It is one of the most colorful North American waterfowl.

©Rudolf Ernst/Shutterstock.com

There are around 30 species of ducks living in California. The most common duck species in California is the mallard, and other species include:

  • Northern Pintail
  • Canvas Back Duck
  • Redhead Ducks
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Wood Ducks
  • Gadwall 
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Northern Shoveler

The large state is filled with wildlife, and it is also a stopping point for migrating waterfowl. Learning the ducks of the state is essential for having a successful hunt, and knowing what species you can bag. With a lot to learn about duck hunting, following the regulations is one of the first steps to becoming a successful hunter.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Tom Reichner/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can you duck hunt in California?

Yes, you can duck hunt in California. Hunters must have the proper stamps, and licenses, and also follows the rules put in place locally for waterfowl hunters.

When does duck hunting season start in California?

The Northeastern zone is when duck hunting season first begins in California, starting on October 1, and ending on January 11. Each region begins its duck hunting season at a different time of the year, and there are also different dates for other types of waterfowl.

What is the most common duck in California?

Mallards are the most common duck in California. Other common species in the state include wood, gadwall, ring-necked, and common goldeneye duck.

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