California Pheasant Hunting Forecast 2020


Favorable conditions for much of the year give reason for a positive outlook on California longtails this hunting season

By Andy Fondrick, Digital Marketing Specialist at Pheasants Forever​

Editor’s Note: If you’re reading this forecast, you must hunt pheasants. If you hunt pheasants and don’t belong to Pheasants Forever or you need to renew, it’s time. Since inception, PF has impacted over 19 million acres of habitat, and created over 200,000 acres of permanently public wild places to hunt and recreate. Upland habitat, public lands and hunting heritage need you. Join, renew or extend and for a limited time get a sweet PF Field Hoodie to boot!

Favorable conditions combined with timely rainfall has California’s 2020 pheasant forecast trending in the right direction. While habitat areas have shrunk in recent years and wildfires have impacted much of the state, there is still reason to be positive for the upcoming season.


While the presence of significant wildfires can be felt in California this year, weather conditions through much of the state have provided optimism for the upcoming fall.

“Winter got a good start statewide with normal rainfall through the new year, but the tap shut off in January and February,” says Matt Meshriy, environmental scientist for the Upland Game Program with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Rains in March and April blunted the sting of a below-average water year in the Central Valley and southern California while the far north remained much dryer than average. Temperatures were mild to average and survival was likely fair to good.”


The outlook for California pheasants looks good after semi-favorable conditions and timely rainfall, even though upland birds have experienced some challenges in recent years.

“Pheasant habitat continues to shrink in California’s Central Valley as sources of ‘dirty water’ are fewer each year,” says Meshriy. “Good spring conditions turned to a hot summer but water deliveries around the Central Valley were sufficient to support a good hatch where habitat conditions allow.”

According to Meshriy, spring rains proved timely and stimulated sufficient cover and insect forage. Conditions favored early nesters as the dry summer heat came early.


“The National Wildlife Refuges in the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin Valleys offer some of the best opportunities to hunt wild pheasants in the state,” says Meshriy. Be sure to check out the Sacramento River NWR Upland Game Hunting Page or the Kern NWR Hunting Page to learn about required licenses and season restrictions on these refuges.


California may throw some unexpected curveballs at upland hunters this season, and it may have nothing to do with the birds themselves. 

“California has already seen its second and third largest recorded wildfires this year among three major ‘complex fires’ currently burning due to lightning strikes,” Meshriy warns. “Be sure to be aware of the lingering impacts of wildfires when planning a hunt in California this fall.”


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