Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Hunting on National Wildlife Refuges

Hunting is one of our nation's most valued outdoor traditions. The Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation found that more than 12.5 million Americans aged 16 and older (281,000 in California, 81,000 in Nevada) hunted in 2011. Hunters spent $34 billion on trips, equipment, licenses and other items to support their hunting activities in 2011.

Several National Wildlife Refuges in California, Nevada and Oregon’s Klamath Basin offer opportunities for excellent hunting. In general, refuges open areas to fishing and seasonal hunting of migratory game birds (waterfowl) upland game or big game when compatible with sound wildlife management, and the purposes for which the refuge was established.

National Wildlife Refuges open to hunting

General Requirements for Hunting on Refuges

The following provisions apply to each person while engaged in public hunting on areas of the National Wildlife Refuge System:

a. Possess the required State license.
b. Waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older must possess a Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) Federal Duck Stamps can now be purchased online .
c. Comply with the applicable State laws, unless further restricted by federal law or regulation.
d. Comply with regulations authorizing access or use of wildlife refuges, including the terms and conditions under which hunting permits are issued.
e. Comply with refuge-specific regulations governing hunting on the refuge. Regulations, special conditions, and maps of the hunting areas for a specific wildlife refuge are available at the refuge headquarters. Refuge specific hunting regulations are also available on the web for refuges in California, Nevada and Oregon.
f. The use of any drug on any arrow for bow hunting on national wildlife refuges is prohibited. Archers may not have arrows employing such drugs in their possession.
g. Distribution of bait and the hunting over bait is prohibited.
h. The use of nails, wire, screws or bolts to attach a stand to a tree, or hunting from a tree into which a metal object has been driven to support a hunter is prohibited.
i. The use or possession of alcoholic beverages while hunting is prohibited.

Refuge-Specific Hunting Regulations

Refuge specific hunting regulations include information about wildlife species that may be hunted; seasons; bag limits; methods of hunting; areas open/closed to hunting and other information. Refuge-specific regulations are subject to change. To help ensure a good hunting experience, it's highly recommended that hunters familiarize themselves with current refuge-specific regulations before the season begins. You can download refuge-specific regulations at these links for refuges in California, Nevada, Oregon.

Use of Non-Toxic Shot

National Wildlife Refuges in California and Nevada require use of non-toxic shot (as described in 50 CFR20.21(j)) for hunting waterfowl, upland game birds and small game. While the Service encourages the use of non-lead ammunition for big game hunting there is no prohibition on lead in slugs/bullets for big game hunting on refuges that conduct big-game hunts. Refuges in Region 8 that allow big game hunting include: Clear Lake NWR (antelope), Sacramento River NWR (black-tail deer) and Desert NWR (bighorn sheep).

Lead-Free Hunting in California

On July 1, 2008, the State of California enacted special regulations requiring the use of lead-free ammunition when hunting within the California condor range in areas of central and southern California. More information about these regulations are available from the California Department of Fish and Game.

Federal Duck Stamp

What are Duck Stamps? Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps,commonly known as “Duck Stamps,” are pictorial stamps produced by the U.S. Postal Service for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. They are not valid for postage. Originally created in 1934 as the federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl, Federal Duck Stamps have a much larger purpose today. Federal Duck Stamps are a vital tool for wetland conservation. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Understandably, the Federal Duck Stamp Program has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated and is a highly effective way to conserve America’s natural resources.

Buy a Federal Duck Stamp: 1-800-STAMP 24 (1-800-782-6724) Waterfowl hunters aged 16 and older are required to possess a Federal Duck Stamp while hunting. However, the duck stamp is not just for hunters. Anyone can purchase a $15 duck stamp, and it is one of the most efficient ways to support fish and wildlife conservation. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Besides serving as a hunting license and a conservation tool, a current year’s Federal Duck Stamp also serves as an entrance pass for National Wildlife Refuges where admission is normally charged. Duck Stamps and the products that bear duck stamp images are also popular collector items.

Since 1934, sales of Federal Duck Stamps to hunters, collectors and conservationists have raised more than $700 million that has been used to acquire more than 5.2 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Learn how proceeds from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps help National Wildlife Refuges in California, Nevada and Oregon