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Turkey Hunting in California




Wild Turkey Population

Rios, Merriam's and Easterns

Turkey Subspecies

Not available

Number of Licenses Sold Annually


Cost of Resident License and Permit


Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

Image: rio_4

Photo by Russell Graves

Turkey hunting in California? You bet. The Golden State has almost everything a hunter needs, resident or nonresident, for a great season. Excellent turkey population densities cover many areas of the state, and hunters enjoy a long season. Licenses are reasonable, and there's a good amount of public accessible ground. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that 20,795 birds were taken during spring 2022.

Rio Grande turkeys are the most widespread subspecies in California and, as mentioned, are found along the Coast Ranges, plus the Sierra Nevada and Cascade foothills. Although in much smaller numbers, the Merriam's subspecies roost in the northeast and along the Transverse Range in Kern County. Additionally, Easterns were released along the northern coast and Eastern/Rio Grande hybrids from the Midwest have been transplanted along the southern coast. Although the introduction of turkeys in California started around 1877, and subsequent stocking programs continued from 1928 to 1951, results were poor, and the program was eventually stopped. However, in 1959, the program was reignited, and during a 40-year period, almost 3,800 turkeys were released in more than 200 locations throughout the state. Because of those efforts, California’s first fall turkey season occurred in 1968, and in 1971, a spring season was added. Turkey abundance indices are highest in the Sierra Nevada, San Francisco Bay and central coast, and Central Valley.

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