Here, we fetch up California grouse hunting seasons, laws, and locations on public and private land.
- Bag and possession limits
- Hunting hours
- Upland Game Bird Stamp
- Hunting license
- Methods of Take
- Sage grouse permits
- Possession and transport
- Hunting forum and blog
- Regulations & Species
Regulations & Species
During the California grouse hunting seasons, there are three species that you can hunt:
- Ruffed grouse.
- Sage hens or sage grouse.
- Sooty or blue grouse (all varieties).
When hunting grouse, you must follow hunting rules for not only grouse but also for the following categories:
To hunt grouse during the California grouse hunting seasons, you have to have a Hunting License from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (“CDFW”). See FGC § 3031 and 14 CCR § 700(b). There are also licenses for disabled hunters, hunting with a falcon, guides and outfitters, hunting clubs, and junior hunters. Warning shot!!! You’ll also need an Upland Game Bird Validation and Permit (for sage grouse only).
If you’re a disabled hunter and want to hunt grouse, you can apply for a Recovering Service Member Hunting License, Disabled Veteran Hunting License, or Mobility Impaired Disabled Persons Motor Vehicle License.
If you’re going to use a falcon to hunt grouse during the California grouse hunting seasons, you have to have a Falconry License.
Guides and Outfitters
If you’re a commercial guide or outfitter that offers grouse hunting, you have to get a Guide License.
If you’re a Junior and want to hunt grouse, you have to get a Junior Hunting License.
Warning shot!!! You have to have your license and stamps with you while hunting. See FGC § 3031 [hunting license required], 14 CCR § 700(b) [possession of hunting license], and Upland Game Bird Stamp below.
Upland Game Bird Stamp Validation
In general, you need an Upland Game Bird Hunting Validation to hunt upland game birds, including grouse during the California grouse 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.
In addition to a hunting license and upland game bird stamp, you need a permit to hunt sage grouse. The permit is free and issued by the CDFW through through a random drawing. You have to choose a zone and submit only one application. Up to four hunters can apply as party. You submit the application online to the CDFW. The deadline is August 10. If you’re selected, you’ll receive notice in the mail. You cannot transfer your permit. For now, permits are only being issued in the North Mono Zone. (Click here for more info from the CDFW.)
If you want to use a falcon during the falconry-only season, you have to say that on your application.
There are several California grouse hunting seasons, which depend on what species you’re hunting and how you’re hunting them. You can double-check these seasons on the CDFW webpage.
Sooty and Ruffed Grouse
The general California grouse hunting season includes shotguns, muzzleloaders, air rifles, and crossbows with a Disabled Archer’s Permit, plus pistols and revolvers for Sooty (Blue) and Ruffed Grouse. The general grouse season is the second Saturday in September, extending for 31 days (September 10 – October 10, 2016), but only in the Sooty (Blue) and Ruffed Grouse. You can only hunt within the Hunting Zones pictured right. See 14 CCR § 300(a)(1)(E).
The archery-only California grouse hunting seasons is third Saturday in August, extending for 21 consecutive days (August 20 – September 9, 2016). You can also use a bow during the during the general season. See 14 CCR § 300(a)(2)(E).
The general California grouse hunting season includes shotguns, muzzleloaders, air rifles, and crossbows with a Disabled Archer Permit. The general season is the second Saturday and Sunday in September (September 10 – 11, 2016). Warning shots!!! You need a Sage Permit for the general, archery, and falconry season. You can only hunt in the selected Hunt Zone, which includes parts of Lassen, Mono, and Inyo counties. See 14 CCR § 300(a)(1)(D).
The falconry California grouse hunting season is the first Saturday in November, extending for 60 consecutive days (November 5 – January 3, 2017). You can also use a falcon during the general season. See 14 CCR § 300(a)(3)(F).
In general, shooting hours for all upland game birds, including grouse during the California grouse hunting seasons, are from one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise until sunset. Warning shot!!! Shoot times may be further restricted on public land, e.g. Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves, and there are exceptions are for pheasant and spring turkey seasons. See 14 CCR § 310.5.
Hawking hours during the falconry season for the Sooty (Blue) and Ruffed Grouse are from sunrise to sunset. See 14 CCR § 300(a)(3)(D) and (F).
CDFW Timetables (2015-2016)
Bag & Possession Limits
Sooty (Blue) and Ruffed Grouse
The daily bag limit for Sooty (Blue) and Ruffed Grouse, during the California grouse hunting season, is two (2) in combination. The possession limit for sage grouse is triple the daily bag limit. The same limits apply to archery season.
Warning shots!!! You can only hunt them in the following counties: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Inyo, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, and Yuba. All other counties are closed to the taking of sooty or ruffed grouse.
The daily bag limit for sage grouse, depends on the hunting zone and whether you can get a permit. In 2015, the only permits being issued are in the North Mono Zone. The limits are the same for archery season. The hunting zone includes parts of Lassen, Mono, and Inyo counties.
Eastern and Central Lassen Zones
In the Eastern and Central Lassen Zones, the daily bag limit is two (2) sage grouse per day, and two per season. The possession limit is two sage grouse per season. Warning shot!!! No permits are being issued in 2016. See 14 CCR § 300(a)(1)(D)(3) and (4) [zone descriptions].
North and South Mono Zones
In the North Mono and South Mono Zones, the daily bag limit is one (1) sage grouse of either-sex per day, and one per season. The possession limit is one sage grouse per season. Warning shot!!! In 2016, only 30 permits are being issued for the North Mono Zone, and zero are being issued in the South Mono Zone. See 14 CCR § 300(a)(1)(D)(3) [zone descriptions].
Grouse hunting during the California grouse hunting seasons is allowed, but only with the following hunting methods and restrictions: air rifles, archery, bait, boats, bow and arrow, calls, computers, crossbows, decoys, dogs, falconry, harassment, lights, motor vehicles, muzzleloaders, pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
In general, you can use an air rifle to hunt resident small game, including grouse during the California grouse hunting seasons. While you can use any caliber of pellet (except for turkey), the air rifle can only be powered by air or gas. See 14 CCR § 311(f).
Bait and Baited Areas
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 grouse 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 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 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 waters, FGC § 3002, 14 CCR § 251, and 14 CCR § 311.8 [repealed].
Bow and Arrow
In general, Bow and Arrows are allowed for hunting grouse 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.
- 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 grouse 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 grouse (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
In general, you can hunt resident small game, including grouse, 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.
- 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.
Live decoys are NOT allowed for hunting grouse or any other resident game bird. See 14 CCR § 311(l).
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.
In 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 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 § 3002, FGC § 3003.5, and FGC § 3501; and 14 CCR § 251. Also see “Boats, Kayaks & Canoes” above.
In general, you can use to muzzle-loading shotguns to hunt grouse during the general California grouse hunting season. The same is true for all resident small game. See 14 CCR § 311(c).
Rifles and Pistols
The species determines whether you can hunt grouse with a rifle or pistol. They are allowed for hunting sooty and ruffed grouse. It does not appear you can use them for hunting sage grouse. For other resident small game, they’re allowed only for hunting squirrels and rabbits everywhere except in Los Angeles County.) See 14 CCR § 311(g) and (m).
In general, you can use a shotgun to hunt grouse, during the California grouse 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).
In general, no shotgun larger than a 10-gauge may be used to hunt grouse 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.
Shotguns must be incapable of holding more than three (3) shells in the magazine and chamber combined.
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 Area, Ecological 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 § 250.1.
You can only use shell shot that is “No. BB” or smaller. Warning shot!!! Don’t even take larger shells with you.
Possession & Transport
After you kill any bird in California, including grouse, 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).
During the California grouse hunting seasons, there are a lot of great hunting opportunities on public and private land, including: BLM property, ecological reserves, hunting clubs, forests, wilderness areas, and wildlife areas. Warning shot!!! Follow the links below for any restrictions on hunting days, shoot times, hunting areas, etc.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Property
Grouse hunting is authorized at the following BLM properties during the California grouse hunting seasons (also see “Wilderness Areas” below):
- Alturas (lands near Alturas)
- King Range National Conservation Area
- Surprise Valley Field Office
- Susanville (lands northeast of Susanville)
- Bishop Field Office (Inyo National Forest)
- Bodie Hills Management Area
- Bridgeport Management Area
- Coleville Management Area
- Long Valley Management Area
- Owens Lake Management Area
- West Slinkard Valley Management Area
Grouse hunting is offered at the following hunting clubs during the California grouse hunting seasons:
- Honker Inn Lodge (Modoc County)
Grouse hunting is authorized in the following national forests and state forests during the California grouse hunting seasons:
- Eldorado National Forest
- Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
- Lassen National Forest
- Jackson State Forest
- Klamath National Forest
- Inyo National Forest
- Latour State Forest
- Mendocino National Forest
- Modoc National Forest
- Mountain Home State Forest
- Plumas National Forest
- Sequoia National Forest
- Shasta-Trinity National Forest
- Sierra National Forest
- Six Rivers National Forest
- Stanislaus National Forest
- Tahoe National Forest
Grouse hunting is authorized at the following Wilderness Areas during the California grouse hunting seasons:
In general, grouse hunting is allowed on all Type C Wildlife Areas during the California grouse hunting seasons. The CDFW emphasizes grouse hunting on the following areas:
- Antelope Valley Wildlife Area
- Biscar Wildlife Area
- Buttermilk Country Wildlife Area
- Collins Eddy Wildlife Area
- Coon Hollow Wildlife Area
- Crocker Meadows Wildlife Area
- Dutch Flat Wildlife Area
- East Walker Wildlife Area
- Green Creek Wildlife Area
- Heenan Lake Wildlife Area
- Hope Valley Wildlife Area
- Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area
- Kinsman Flat Wildlife Area
- Monache Meadows Wildlife Area
- Pickel Meadow Wildlife Area
- Pine Creek Wildlife Area
- Red Lake Wildlife Area
- Slinkard-Little Antelope Wildlife Area
Grouse hunting is authorized at the following ecological reserves during the California grouse hunting seasons:*
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